Head of DC Comics: "We don't publish comics for kids. We publish comics for 45-year-olds"

I don’t perceive this refusal of DC to cater to kids as a refusal to coddle them and sanitize their stuff. I see it more as a reticence to explore diverse genres in general.

Kid-friendly, when done properly, isn’t ‘simplistic’ and ‘patronizing’ but inclusive to a broad range of readers. Many kid-friendly comics (and fiction in general) are wonderful pieces of storytelling. For instance, Jeff Smith’s Bone is a majestic piece of work all around. It’s a story written for everyone; it is not puerile by any means. I could name many other such works but they are- not surprisingly- not examples of American comics…

I personally don’t care if DC wants to cater to a narrow fan-base and not further explore the medium. I do think it’s their own loss and a bit of a loss for the US comic market, making it less vibrant and diverse as it could be. But I’m not in the US and I read other languages; so I can find lots of different styles and genres from other comic markets.


I’m not sure why people are surprised by this.

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They actually publish comics for 45 year old straight men with particular sexual fetishes.

The pivotal moment was when Marvel took over its own distribution and ended drugstore and supermarket comic book sales. Comic book stores were always a bit louche, and they were out of the way. You had to make a special trip to get to one. Comic book sales went from the millions down to the tens of thousands cutting out a huge chunk of the market.

That is my point. I don’t underestimate them. A sharp divide between “kids stuff” and “adult stuff” isn’t terribly useful. The very reason why I went straight to sci-fi novels and skipped comics entirely when I was young was because I perceived comics as unsophisticated kids stuff. I think the sharp divide is a bad idea and results in tropie crap that even young folks hate.

Fair enough, but my point was that some “kids stuff” that is marketed as such can be quite smart and sophisticated and there is plenty of “adult stuff” is tripe. Maybe this is due to kids who like you reject the culture aimed at them and reached for more interesting and challenging pop culture.

Perhaps you’re right that the “genrification” is in part to blame for the state of affairs? Keep in mind, too that plenty of Sci-fi is substandard in quality. For every Asimov or Delany, there is a ton of poorly written and boring mass market sci-fi series. The label “sci-fi” doesn’t automatically mean “good”.


When was this exactly and who was in charge? Any historical background there?

Marvel bought comic distributor Heroes World and switched to exclusive distribution in 1995. It was a massive cluster from the beginning, and ended with Marvel going back to Diamond Distributing two years later, the resultant kerfuffle having made that company he only game in town by that point. At the time, Ron Perelman was in charge, I believe.

It’s hard to accurately gauge, but currently, the #1 book in any given month sells somewhere between 100-200 thousand copies, on the higher end if it’s a big event book, lower if it’s just a normal issue that’s really popular. Now, obviously, not every fan is reading the #1 book. But the dropoff from #1 is also pretty steep, once you get past the top 10 or so you’re around 60k I think (these numbers are off the top of my head, so I might be wrong, but you can look up sales figures by month if you’re interested in the exact numbers). Books that are in the cancellation territory at DC or Marvel sell around mid-20k or less.

I grew up reading comics in the 80s and still do to this day. I liked everything from Disney comics , Archie (Betty’s Diary being my favorite), Spiderman, Elfquest, Judge Dredd, Tales From the Crypt, the list could go on. Some were juvenile some weren’t, different parts of me needed to be fed at different times. I think this narrow minded view of publishing comics does a disservice to young readers who might get turned on to other things.
One of the reasons I started reading more science fiction and other types of books was because of this:

In the past comics where sold at supermarkets, drug stores, and gas stations. Where kids would access them and spend a dime or two for a comic book

There are still some comics sold at supermarkets, drug stores, and gas stations, but not like they used to that era is over. That said, comics are being sold in locations outside of comic bookstores all over world, but it’s now digital and via smartphones and tablets. I saw reports on a panel at San Diego Comic Con that publishers within the industry say digital comics make up around 12% to 15% of sales and continues to grow and reach a new audience without it cannibalizing physical copies.

However, even digital comics are a lot more expensive costing around $2 to $4. There are some going for as little as 99 cents but they tend to be older issues. Either way, for those prices kids can get a new mobile game, so I think find a younger market there is going to be tough.

Jeff Smith’s Bone is an great comic made for kids but can be enjoyed by adults. It starts off very small and is quite funny, but nothing too serious. Then the story expands, getting a very epic feel to it and becoming a big more mature in nature, but still not too much for kids. There are other good kids comics out there, but the really good ones should for the most part hold up for adults as well as kids, like say a good Pixar movie.

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So, the headline for this article says “Head of DC Comics”…yet, in the paragraph that precedes the article, it says it was an “unnamed executive”…I’m confused.

It’s the standard path of any pop-culture medium – what was once mass entertainment becomes an obscure niche by devotees – see also: opera, plays, jazz.

Based on the current run of titles from DC I can only guess that its a policy still firmly in place.

You should check out Paul Pope’s latest book from First Second - “Battling Boy” (I think Boing Boing had a write up on it recently) - It’s action-packed, tons of fun AND it’s a kids comic.

I’ve seen numbers suggesting that Superman was selling upwards of a million copies decades ago, back before the decline in comics sales. (I’m assuming that’s a single issue.) But I’d guess there are a lot more titles now than there were then, but also that the reader of one comic is also reading others, so the sales don’t add up to give the total number of comic book readers. It seems like comics are, ironically, less culturally relevant than the media they’ve spawned…

In the 1990’s there were a number of superhero comics that managed to break million copies. Unfortunately, that wasn’t because of an influx of readers, but the result of a collectors marketplace. Both comics and sports cards had big sales increases from collectors because of how much older comics and cards were going for. People thought this would be a good investment but all these older comics were worth so much because they were so rare. Selling comics in record figures meant they were so incredibly common that they weren’t very rare. Now there’s a lot of other factors involved (look it up on Wikipedia if you are interested) but that was a major one, resulting in a comic crash in the late 1990’s. Sales of comics collapsed and a large number of comic book stores went out of business over just a few years.

That said, while the final years of the 1990’s were definitely a low point, sales climbed back up in the early 2000’s and for the most part have continued upwards. Not to the point where comics are selling millions of copies, but the industry is a lot more healthier. Sales are increasing in the digital and since the 1990’s the graphic novel and trade paperbacks side of the market have become a lot more established. Every few years there is a new big seller in book stores.

Also outside of superheroes, the industry continues to grow into other genres that are more successful these days.

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