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.)