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Hey, guys! With the imminent demise of The Dandy, comics are in the spotlight in a huge way, people are expressing their love for them, and it's time for us to think hard and share our ideas! How can we make comics relevant to kids today?


Kids love comics, and comics get them reading, but they need introducing. If kids don't see comics, they can't fall in love with them. There's a lot of talk about comics apps, but I think we need to think more widely than that. Comics don't just need a future, they needs lots of futures. I've never been to Japan, but from what I hear, comics are EVERYWHERE there, not just in books. And people of all ages can't get enough of them.

So The Fleece Station studio is starting off the brainstorming session. Come on, jump in! Here's our first idea:



I've actually had this idea for a long time, but I was reminded as I was eating my cereal this morning. If you're anything like me, you're a complete zombie in the morning and will just stare fixedly at whatever's in front of you. I did this as a kid. I read that cereal box front to back. I had no idea what the words 'Niacin', 'Folic Acid' or 'Riboflavin' meant, and gosh, were those boxes boring, but I still read them. Over and over and over, every morning. I always thought, very vaguely, puhleeze, couldn't the great cereal makers in the sky print something more interesting on this box?



WHAT IF THERE WERE COMICS PRINTED ON THAT BOX???



I had a mix of two cereals this morning. Granted, it's not a cereal aimed at kids, but the packaging on this one... I guess they couldn't figure out what to put on the back so they just printed the front again on the reverse.



Imagine if cereal boxes all had AMAZING COMICS printed on the backs? Imagine the joy of going to the cereal section! You could spend ages in there! And you could read amazing comics each morning. You could look at them, study them, figure out how they work, write and draw your own. (Because that's the magic of comics, for some reason kids who like them almost always want to make their own!) Maybe the boxes could have 'Finish this story' or 'draw this character' competitions printed down the strip on one side of the box. That would help the companies ensure that kids didn't just read the boxes and put them back on the store shelves; they'd need the competition details. People might even want to collect the boxes, and not miss out on the latest episode. Cereal people, this is a way to sell your product more effectively! Comics people, this is a way to get paid work!



I don't think this idea is entirely new, I've noticed the occasional link between books and cereal. For awhile, some boxes of cereal came with Roald Dahl books. And this morning's cereal had something about a Reading Scheme printed on the back. But it's very much aimed at adults, it's not an interesting read for kids, and involves sending away for books that look fairly educational. Why bother with sending away, why not have the reading material - the comics - printed right on the box? If I was a kid, I wouldn't pester my Mum or Dad to buy it because it had 'Reading Scheme' info.



One of the hitches in this plan is that people who make cereal and package it probably aren't big comics experts, and if they commission rubbishy, lame comics, the scheme's not going to work very well. But that's where editors come in; if cereal companies and supermarkets got together and had chats with publishers who are already making top-notch comics, such as The Phoenix Comic, The Dandy, The Beano, Walker Books, Comical Animal website, NoBrow Press, Anorak magazine, they could have quick access to stuff kids would love. Perhaps they could also run competitions, judged by editors, which would allow indie comics people to pitch their ideas and be a great way for the cereal companies to share their product, because inevitably, the comics people would want to show off their pitch ideas on their blogs and in their portfolios.

I think this idea could be of particular interest to supermarkets that produce rather generic-looking cereal boxes. It could be part of their schools and reading schemes and they'd win, because they'd get better-looking boxes and kids wouldn't shun them as fast for the branded cereals.

So if you're looking for comics work, why not pitch to a supermarket or cereal company? Or if you're a cereal company or supermarket, just think of the potential selling power you'd get by tapping into our pool of amazing British comics creators!

Okay, that's Idea No.1. Don't stop with cereal. Any other ideas?

Don't miss comics creator and contributor to The Dandy and The Phoenix comic, Jamie Smart, talking about the future of comics on Al Jazeera news yesterday:



And here's comics expert Paul Gravett and Fleece Officer, comics creator Gary Northfield talking on Sky TV yesterday!



(Gary's off talking comics with Vanessa Feltz at BBC Radio 2 right now, or he'd say hello.)

Comments

( 22 comments — Leave a comment )
jabberworks
Aug. 15th, 2012 01:14 pm (UTC)
First Facebook comment:
grrrreat idea, but with the big cereal companies that have made their own charcters icons of each product would they only be interested in a comic story based upon them?

My response: They'd have to work it out! But the generic supermarket cereals could really use sprucing up. And yes, people could make comics with the product character, too. I think if it was a decently paid gig, there'd always be comics creators who'd be up for doing something with Tony the Tiger, the Snap Crackle Pop elves, etc.
Adam_T_Murphy
Aug. 15th, 2012 01:32 pm (UTC)
I remember this!
When I was a kid, I remember being totally stoked about a comic on the back of I think Somerfield Bran Flakes that was called something like "The Legend of Bran" (can't find it on Google) and it was about a hunter-gatherer cave-boy who had adventures and grew up to develop the first domesticated cereals. I was always excited to see if they had brought out a new episode (I was admittedly a total little nerd who was into that sort of thing). It did fizzle out - after while I think they stopped doing it, and it did seem like a bit of a niche topic, but in a sense it doesn't seem to matter what you put on there - you're going to read it over and over. And I used to eat as many Bran Flakes as physically possible in hopes of getting another episode. I think they would need to have good turnover - not so quick that you miss episodes and lose interest, quick enough that you are likely to find a new episode next week.
jabberworks
Aug. 15th, 2012 01:34 pm (UTC)
Re: I remember this!
Awesome! Thanks, Adam! And there could be a website link on the box, if they wanted to provide more comics. Gosh, to get kids going over to the cereal's website, that would be quite a marketing feat.
Jamie Roberts
Aug. 15th, 2012 01:37 pm (UTC)
Coffee table comics
Maybe this isn't the best idea, but I'm willing to put it out there.

For a while, I've been planning on opening a comics-themed coffee shop. One of the things I wanted to do to make it unique was to create my own comic (and get local artists to create their own too) to be placed on the tabletops, under perspex or glass to protect them. They could be refreshed every time a new strip was finished, some tables may have a continuing story (good for business?) and archived strips could be either plastered on the walls or eventually collected in print and sold at the counter.
jabberworks
Aug. 15th, 2012 01:39 pm (UTC)
Re: Coffee table comics
Oo, great idea! And it could be a great marketing thing for the coffee shop website, too. You could have some tasters of the comics online, and then it would promise more comics when people got to the shop. Cool!
Jamie Roberts
Aug. 15th, 2012 01:43 pm (UTC)
Re: Coffee table comics
Considering it's looking unlikely I'll ever own a coffee shop now, the big question would be who's comic-friendly enough to go for it. Can't see any of the major names adopting it. That said, who's to say it wouldn't go down well with McDonalds or some other establishment where kids gather?
jabberworks
Aug. 15th, 2012 01:45 pm (UTC)
Some comic-cereal links from Anna J:

It's not like it hasn't been done before, either :) http://theimaginaryworld.com/bxback.html  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Morning_Funnies …
Also DC gave away comics with cereal last year http://mediadecoder.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/10/13/serving-up-comics-in-specially-marked-boxes/ … more stuff if you google "cereal box comics"
Jamie Roberts
Aug. 15th, 2012 01:54 pm (UTC)
I hadn't considered the downside of having the character work in some reference to how tasty the cereal is. If that can be avoided, it would be great.
mr_sadhead
Aug. 15th, 2012 01:52 pm (UTC)
No more Dandy? OH NO
jabberworks
Aug. 15th, 2012 02:01 pm (UTC)
I hope not!
jabberworks
Aug. 15th, 2012 02:01 pm (UTC)
Another Twitter comment: Maddalena ‏@CelandineFleury

@jabberworks @Waitrose @sainsburys @TescoMedia @glinner Re: packaging guidlines and advertisng to kids see @foodgov main site archive.

I'm sure this would need to be researched more! But there's nothing to say the comics can't go on healthy cereals; they don't have to be selling sugar-coated cardboard to kids.

kirstymcallister.blogspot.co.uk
Aug. 15th, 2012 02:22 pm (UTC)
It's weird - when I was young the healthy cereals had kid-friendly stuff on them:

E.g. The Weetabix gang which were a bunch of fun characters shaped as Weetabix. I remember you could cut out and make 3D models of them.

And Shreddies used to have really good cardboard models to make of animals. They also had 3D pictures to make of famous people (Amelia Earhart, Captain Scott) although they got a bit repetitive after a while.

Now only the more unhealthy cereals have characters and things. Why?
jabberworks
Aug. 15th, 2012 05:09 pm (UTC)
The cardboard is perfect for cut-out models! Ha ha, I can imagine a Desperate Dan out of cardboard with those two holes in the bottom where you stick your fingers through to make his legs. :D

Yeah, I'm also puzzled as to why the sugar cereals get amazing packaging while the healthy ones are so generic. Weird.
ednapurviance
Aug. 15th, 2012 02:32 pm (UTC)
Hello Sarah, Exactly what I was thinking about, since selling more junk cereals to kids, isn't a good goal. I believe kids will eat good food, if they are guided to do so, especially at a young age. I would think there are companies out there, who sell healthier cereals, who might go for something like this. It would be away to lead kids to eating healthier cereals. (And maybe some adults and parents too, who haven't kicked the overly sugary foods.) By making it more fun.

Might be away to boost their sells too and give comics a new platform, (as you so well pointed out).

The big name cereal companies have used characters for years. So would be nice if this comic idea was from the companies who sell healthier products and could use a new marketing tool. And parents may find their little ones wanting the good healthy cereals, with the fun comics, instead of the overpriced, sugar filled junk ones. (Love your idea, just though I pass that on.)

It would be nice, if your doing this to make money, to help make a positive change, for the better for the kids health and minds, in eating and creating interest in reading and drawing.
jabberworks
Aug. 15th, 2012 03:42 pm (UTC)
Exactly! It seems strange that only the sugariest cereals seem to get the good characters. :)
ednapurviance
Aug. 15th, 2012 05:10 pm (UTC)
They make so much profit. Doesn't cost much to make a cereal full of sugar, salt and chemicals, with a bit of real grain, mixed in. Make an eye catching character, with a catchy tune or ad, appealing to kids, and you make your stockholders very happy, and peoples kids, very sick, with bad eating habits for a lifetime. Love to see this idea support good eating habits. :-) Might be the kick that side needs to compete with the big guys.

(Anonymous)
Aug. 15th, 2012 02:35 pm (UTC)
Great idea Sarah! I would always do the same puzzles over and over on the backs of cereal boxes when I was little, I would've loved having a comic to read on there.
jabberworks
Aug. 15th, 2012 05:10 pm (UTC)
Me, too! It wouldn't just make the kids happy. :)
spleenal
Aug. 15th, 2012 05:18 pm (UTC)
the breakfast reading plot
Backs of cereal packets is a great place for strips!
Or even up the side for little newspaper type ones?
I haven't seen it for a while but I'm sure I remember printing happening on the inside of boxes too?

"Story finishes inside this box!" ?
jabberworks
Aug. 15th, 2012 06:16 pm (UTC)
Re: the breakfast reading plot
Oo, that would be very cool! The brown cardboard inside is so lovely, I like drawing on it, too.
tortipede
Aug. 16th, 2012 09:00 pm (UTC)
I did this as a kid. I read that cereal box front to back. I had no idea what the words 'Niacin', 'Folic Acid' or 'Riboflavin' meant, and gosh, were those boxes boring, but I still read them.

Apparently, I learnt to read from my brothers and my parents before I ever went to school. I told my parents I could read my story-books, and they didn't believe me — they reckoned I just remembered the words. They realized I could actually read one morning when I asked over breakfast, "Mummy, mummy, what does 'riboflavin' mean?"

Edited at 2012-08-16 09:00 pm (UTC)
ednapurviance
Aug. 22nd, 2012 12:02 pm (UTC)
Reading your post for teaching in schools, I just searched and found our local Art Council is teaching a class called 'The Art of the Comic Book' this week! It's four days, 3 hours each day for anyone ages 8-12. They learn everything from starting to finishing a printed comic book. Being the Art Council they are charging $90 for the course. (That's a bit on the high side for some parents, so limits the students who can get in.) Would be nice if somehow kids could be offered a chance, with talent or drive, if they don't have enough money, to take part.)

They work with the school districts, a lot (and library), to help fill in, where art classes have been taken out of the public school programs. The building they have, is a donated historic train depot, turned into an art studio for mainly children art classes (but adult classes are held there too).

But if there are community art councils, that could work with the comic creators, in creating more workshops and help teach the teachers (and the administrations not keen on it), to show them how positive it can be, could help. Takes each local community to help and the right person in that community to 'drive' it for the long haul.
( 22 comments — Leave a comment )