Every year, I participate in my city’s Community Reading Day, and every year I bring a big bag of comics to whatever class is lucky enough to get me as their reader. This year it was a fifth-grade class, and I thought their take on comics was pretty interesting — and should be troubling to publishers and marketers.
I always start by asking the kids what comics they read. Calvin & Hobbes is the one constant from year to year — often it’s the only comic most of them can think of. No one seems to read current newspaper strips, or monthly comics, or many graphic novels, but everyone knows Calvin & Hobbes. There is usually one kid who reads superheroes, but this year there were none (although one likes to draw them). Someone had a copy of Big Nate, and two girls who were obviously friends mentioned the manga +Anima. “It’s on the Internet,” one of them explained. Not legally, of course, but I didn’t have the heart to tell them that. If I worked for Tokyopop, though, I’d be worried — they were obviously reading it on a bootleg site, and what’s more, it’s the only manga they read. Whatever marketing Tokyopop is doing is missing the core audience. (Maybe they should buy ads on the bootleg sites.)