I was sitting on the subway train trying to finish up the second issue of "Desolation Jones" that I copped off Ebay before I got to work and stepped into reality again and I began to reflect (which really screws you up when you are trying to finish something)...
Kids still don't read comic books anymore.
When did that happen? How did I get hooked into like this when I was a kid and children today only know about Pokemon, Yu-Gi-Oh or whatever the latest “if you like the cartoon, then buy the cards” phenomenon is ?
I remember going to the comic shop with my boys and looking for that 18th cover of X-Men #1 or Spider-Man #1 waiting to see how long it would be before which X-Men had recently died would magically return or how McFarlane would find a way to get Mary Jane Watson-Parker into lingerie. Before we were allowed to ride the bus, we walked some 6 miles to get to the closest comic shop. That was my childhood.
Out of all of my friends, I am the only one who still hits up the comic shop every week for the latest releases but they will ask me what's up with their favorite X-Men and did they ever say what Wolverine’s origin is (to which my response is usually “They’re dead” and “No”)
Sorry, I digress...
Did Marvel/DC price kids out of the market? I mean I have a decent job and pay rent and I can barely afford all the comics I have but a pack of Pokemon cards cost $3.50.
Maybe it was the sex and violence that finally turned the kids away. I will admit in the 90’s things did get a little bloody. I remember seeing Batman carrying Robin’s bloody body out of the wreckage and seeing McFarlane’s bloody Spider-Man face off against Calypso but that was nothing compared to what I saw on TV then and what I see on TV now. And since when did sex and violence turn away children. (Side note, a little kid tried to look over my shoulder while I read Desolation Jones and I covered up faster than…well, Desolation Jones in sunlight. Wasn’t my place to expose that little boy to things he wasn’t ready for.)
It could be availability. When I was a kid, while my parents went to the supermarket, I went to the cigar shop and bought Batman comics with my allowance or whatever loose change I stole from my brother’s room (Sorry, bro). Only recently have you seen comic books getting back into 7-Eleven’s. Virgin Megastore and B. Dalton, on top of carrying a lot of trades, regularly have a comic book racks.
Maybe it's that kids these can't read. What a lot of people who knock the art form don't understand is that it is written by adults for a semi-intelligent constituency. I mean, reading comic books when I was nine years old and going to the dictionary trying to figure out what Reed Richards, Dr. Doom or Thanos was babbling on about helped my vocabulary greatly. Most of the malapropisms I made in grammar school, for better or worse, I got from Frank Miller, Jim Stalin, Chris Claremont, John Byrne and Peter David. Today’s kids don’t read anything that isn’t on a website.
It can’t be that kids have outgrown superheroes. According to Box Office Mojo, 9 of the 100 top grossing films of all-time are comic book adaptation or based on comics (Yeah, I counted The Incredibles). We currently have cartoons for Justice League Unlimited (R.I.P.), Teen Titans (R.I.P.), The Batman & Krypto The Superdog (seriously, who greenlighted this?) and, coming soon, The Legion of Super-Heroes and another Superman cartoon (like The Batman unfortunately so Lex Luthor will probably be president of Google or something). Smallville is the only real hit the WB has and it is spawning an Aquaman spin-off (stop laughing). I’m sure Marvel and DC thought “This will get the kids back into the comic shop”. Maybe they need to have Levar Burton in the Reading Rainbow studio at the end of each of these shows and say “If you like these adventures, please check out ____ in your local comic book store).
Maybe it’s our (the comic book fans) fault. Are we too insular? Are we not reproducing and handing down our collections to our offspring? There are two people responsible for my comic book addiction: my older brother and a family friend, Dan. My older brother would constantly be leaving comic book around the house and I would read them here and there, mostly Batman and X-Men comics. Then one BBQ at Dan’s house, I went into Dan’s room and went into his dresser and started reading his comic stash. Dan, who was 25 at this point, asked me “Yo, do you want all of those? I’m moving out and my mom is just going to throw them away.” I just sat there stunned because it had taken me 3 years for Dan to actually ALLOW me to read his comics and now here he was giving them to me. I ran downstairs with the box of comics (probably 200) before he changed his mind (or sobered up). In there was all of the David/McFarlane Hulk run, a bunch of Silver Surfers, a bunch of Wolverines and other stuff I didn’t know existed up until that point. To this day, I will always buy a comic with Silver Surfer on it.
Do these geeky rights of passage still go on? Or are we telling kids “If you touch my comics, I will kill you” when they come over for family functions? Are we handing this down to the next generation?
I guess were aren't sharing because when I go into the comic book shop, all I see are grown adults...adults who 18 years ago were getting yelled at by the Comic Book Guy to not read the comics in the store and you bend, you buy. The same guys who had posters of Punisher drawn by Mike Zeck and Wolverine drawn by Frank Miller.
Well, not me. When (if…I still have a framed Batman poster on my wall, it’s gonna be a while) I have children, I’m going to buy them some children friendly comics with Batman and Wolverine in it and I’m going to watch my Batman: The Animated Series with them. Because I want to ground my son and have him tell me, “You will rue the day you grounded Sean Andre Campbell the Second!”Whatever it is, the powers that be better figure out something soon. As it stands now, comic has until my generation dies out. Whether it be digital comics or more Free Comic Book Days, something's got to happen. I want my great-grandchildren to come to my tombstone and let me know if they ever sorted out Wolverine's origin.