*Please note that this article is an opinion-editorial.
Dear Marvel and DC,
I’m a huge fan. I read a lot of your books and a lot of books from other “indie” publishers. In general, I’m just a big fan of comic books altogether. I’m 26 and my particular fandom started when I was 7 years old. My Saturday mornings and every day after school were dominated by Batman: The Animated Series and the X-Men cartoon; however, the fun didn’t stop there for me. My parents knew I was a big fan and started to buy me comics at the grocery store, the newsstand, and eventually at a local comic book store. I spent my formative teen and college years with a wonderful assortment of different characters and stories to enjoy. I even had my dark phase in my early 20s where I read a lot of Alan Moore and Frank Miller, but it always came back to superhero books for me.
I’ve had the opportunity to work in a comic book store and even in an editorial office of a small publisher before trying my hand at some of my own comics. Now, I’m a married man, who happily reads comics with his awesome wife. We’re at that part of our lives where we are starting to think about having kids, and this is where I get concerned about your comics. This is because, right now, your comics aren’t very good for kids. They tend to be very violent and sometimes sexual. They tend to go for shock value, and sometimes that means being unnecessarily gruesome. Now, I’ve heard all of the arguments about having to meet sales expectations and about demographics, but I’d like you to just take a moment to hear me out.
You should be making all-ages comics. First off, what is an all-ages comic? It is not the spin off of the cartoon that you currently make, or the awesome work that Art and Franco do on Tiny Titans and Superman Family Adventures. A real all-ages book should be entertaining to adults and to kids, and should treat kids like they are smart and mature. A real all-ages book would be like Batman the Animated Series or the X-Men cartoon in comics form. You should be making intelligent, dramatic comics with amazing art that tell their stories without relying on cheap thrills like sex and violence.
Last year, DC re-launched their entire line with 52 new titles, and they were all rated teen or up. They had four titles starring Bruce Wayne as Batman, and not one of them was appropriate for a seven-year-old, not even the one that stars a young boy in the Robin costume. This year, Marvel knocked it out of the park with a PG-13 Avengers film that kids flocked to the theaters to see with parents in tow, and yet Marvel did not put a book on comic shelves that could entertain kids and parents alike. Marvel is currently re-launching their comics line with Marvel NOW!, and there doesn’t seem to be an all-ages book anywhere in the lineup. If I had a ten-year-old kid who watched The Avengers DVD with me, I sadly couldn’t give them one of my many Avengers comics to read.
Now, I know it is scary to think about marketing books to someone outside your 18 to 35-year-old male target demographic, but your readers are getting older and having kids, and if you don’t make comics as exciting for their kids as they were for them, you are going to lose readers. So, take a chance. Of the thirty to fifty books you put out each month, why not make five to ten of them all-ages. Take each of your 5 biggest characters or teams and try it out for a while. You may find that you create a new audience and a new way for families to spend time together. You may just revitalize your industry. Now, I’m still a few years off from having kids of my own to read comics with, but I really hope that by the time I do, there will be some books for them to read, and we can create a new generation of comic fans together.