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So back to brainstorming: How can we make comics relevant to kids today?

Well, comics in libraries - public libraries and libraries in schools - are one obvious solution. Let kids read good comics and they'll want to read more. I remember in my school library, there was always an enormous waiting list for the Garfield books. It drove the librarian crackers; a whole library full of other books and the kids only wanted the Garfields.

And boy, when it was my turn, WOW. I'd read it through at least once every day until I had to turn it back in at the end of the week. I used to think, why can't we just have a whole library full of these kinds of books?

Well, loads of librarians have caught on, a lot of libraries have excellent comics/graphic novel sections. That's great if you're a librarian who loves comics and you're itching to share them with your readers. But what if you're a librarian whose read a few comics and thinks they're a great idea, in theory, but there are so many out there that you don't know how to start ordering them? Maybe you've stumbled upon a few with risqué or complicated subject matter and worry about handing one of these to a six-year-old kid by accident?

I think this is where a great review database could be our best friend in making librarians feel comfortable adding new books to their collections. A trusted website that, as new books come out each season, lets us know what's good, and what's appropriate for a primary school collection, for a secondary school collection. A detailed review of each would be excellent, but even just these things: a picture of the cover, creator credits, a short synopsis, page length, publisher, publication date, key words that could help tie it in with curriculum, age appropriateness (say, 'primary school', or 6+). This wouldn't be the kind of age banding that would put off kids, because they'd never even see it; the categorisation would just be a helpful reference for librarians. Parents could tap into it, too. Hey, we could all have a look! I'd love to know what's out there that's kid-friendly.

Again, this isn't something I want to organise, I think it needs funding - possibly a Kickstarter fundraising campaign - and someone who knows a lot about age ranging, perhaps someone who's worked in schools, perhaps someone with librarian training, or someone very organised. The people running it could work with the publishers to get review copies and suggestions from them about which ages they thought it was aimed at. The database could have a whole team of dedicated, trusted reviewers, like Nikki Gamble has for her Write Away/Just Imagine book reviews. (Click on the two listings if you want to read the reviews; I used to write for her.)

Perhaps something like this already exists. Does anyone have a link to it? I know Richard Bruton has done a lot of great reviews of comics suitable for kids, and reviews of comics BY kids in his school. (Hurrah for Forbidden Planet International blog, we love you!) And they also get creators to write about their work (for example, Andi Watson writing about Gum Girl) But the articles are mixed in with all the reviews of adults comics on the FPI website, so not easy for quick and systematic referencing if that's only what you're looking for.

One part of the database could also vet and list websites which post kid-friendly comics, such as Comical Animal:

Speaking of which, each entry to the database could have room beneath the adult listing for kids to review the comic, too. This would take more work, because it would need to be moderated, but it could be a great way to get kids feeling included. Here's a sample kid's review from the FPI blog:

And if we got that database of comic creators available for workshops (the one I mentioned in my last blog post), why not link their creator page to their book page? So you find a good book on the comics database, order it for your library; kids love it, you click on the link to find the creator and get him or her to come in to do a workshop. Easy-peasy and wow, the possibilities!

Following on some earlier stuff, my fab studio mate Lauren O'Farrell (aka Deadly Knitshade) has been on the Fleece Station studio blog responding to and compiling some of the responses to brainstorming ideas by comics creators Jamie Smart and Neill Cameron. Everyone's thinking, jump in!

And I just saw there's a new British comic starting up, aimed at kids 9-12 years old, called LOAf. I don't know much about it yet, but it looks exciting! It doesn't look anything like The Phoenix comic (which is wonderful, go subscribe!), it has a very different feel to it. I just pledged some support money, why not have a look and think about helping them out, too? Here's their website, and their pledge funding page with PeopleFund.it. You can follow its team on Twitter at @LOAfmagazine.

Edit: With so many comics clubs starting up around the country, it would be great to include those in a database. Then parents and kids could find out who's meeting locally and join up!


( 1 comment — Leave a comment )
Aug. 25th, 2012 09:16 pm (UTC)
Rambling thoughts and thinking out loud, warning may not make sense
Something to maybe consider from the small press con pov would be a simple rating system similar to film rating system. I don't mean to go towards the comics code style but think about some of the cons you've done and the range of work that's on sale and there is little to no content control of what people put on their tables and it can be very confusing for parents who aren't use to comics as there is stuff that can look very like something kid friendly when it's anything but. I remember a chat with JP from the London Horror Comic after his first UK Thing show several years back were he felt uncomfortable at the amount of kids coming up to his table as his comic is most certainly adults only but just because it has horror in the title didn't mean parents or kids got that because you've comics like the Simpsons Treehouse of Horror that are aimed at kids and the London Horror Comic covers tend of be very colourful and american superhero in their look and as they are covers there isn't anything explicit on them. Most exhibitors try their best to keep adult stuff covered but from the parents view point it must be just so overwhelming to walk into these rooms filled with all this super shinny stuff and not knowing up from down.

It could be a giant pain the ass to organize or maybe it wouldn't be, always hard to judge these things - to have colour stickers/signs exhibitors can add to their tables - very basic traffic light system of green orange and red to make it easier for parents to know what comics are good. Similar to several years back when Liz Baillie made the trade buttons [a white badge with a black lower case t] for exhibitors to wear at US small press shows so they could see straight away what exhibitors were open for trading thus making it less embarrassing to go up and ask.

Some cons do put the main kiddie comic people together but there are plenty of creators whose comics are fine for kids, they just aren't viewed as a 'kids comic' person or some of their stuff is all ages friendly and others aren't. I know some of my work isn't all ages but things like my Underground comic and the stuff I did in Japan while not aimed at kids isn't adults only. Easy to say they can just go up and ask but anyone whose been to a con knows that's easier said then done sometimes. I see parents wander around and bypass amazing stuff because they are just confused and overwhelmed by everything. Treat it like going to the movies where there is a clear rating system to help and then they can go ask for more info on films.
( 1 comment — Leave a comment )


Sarah McIntyre

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