Every time there’s some sort of kids’ comics-related kerfuffle like the recent Power Puff Girls cover thing, you can count on an appearance by one of the online comics community’s perennial gadflies: the “kids’ comics denier.” Much like his brethren (and it is pretty much always a he) the climate change deniers, moon landing deniers, etc., the kids’ comics denier is able to convince himself–in spite of overwhelming evidence and logic to the contrary–of his most closely-held belief : that they don’t make comics for kids any more.
The error in this thinking is pretty easy to spot: when these people say, “they,” what they really mean is “Marvel and DC” and when they say “comics for kids,” what they really mean is “superhero comics for kids that I can find in a direct market comics shop.” This is unfortunately symptomatic of a larger variety of insular blindness that I see with a lot of comics folks: the conflation of “comics” the medium/art form with the direct market. The most widely read comic in the world right now is most certainly Homestuck, but I’d be willing to bet most denizens of your local comic shop have never even heard of it. Even confining things strictly to print comics (and I have no idea why you should do that), I doubt most folks at the local Android’s Dungeon could correctly identify the comics section of Parade as the most widely-read comics in the United States.
Sadly, kids’ comics (or “all ages” comics as they’re oddly referred to in the industry) seems to fall into this same weird blind spot with even people in the comics industry. But let’s be clear. Not only are there plenty of kids’ comics being produced and read right now, but all ages comics comics are produced, purchased and read in such vast quantities that they constitute one of maybe three areas in comics that are financially successful enough to provide the people who make them with viable full-time wages. (The other two areas that I’d cite would be serialized monthly superhero comics and “graphic novel memoir.”)
Does comics have a “break out” creator who’s known beyond the comics community and out in the “real world.” I can only really think of one: all ages comics superstar Raina Telgemeier. How many books does she sell? Her second book, Drama, debuted at #2 on the NY Times Graphic Novels TPB bestseller list. It likely would have been #1, but her previous book, Smile, was holding down that spot.
The one all ages comic that “regular” comic book readers might be able to cite (’cause, you know, it was originally sold in individual issues in direct market comics shops) is of course Jeff Smith’s Bone. Scholastic Graphix, Scholastic books’ comics imprint, has sold over two million copies of the Bone books. Even independent kids’ comics publishers are doing tremendous business. As of last year Papercutz, for example, had sold over a million Ninjago comics, 700, 000 Geronimo Stilton comics and 350,000 Smurfs comics. Jennifer and Matthew Holm’s Babymouse series has sold over 1.2 million copies. And on and on…
Also: note that these are sales numbers, not readership numbers. Much more so than comics for adults, kids’ comics are circulated through libraries–both school libraries and public libraries–which means that any one book sold can wind up being read over and over again by many, many kids.
If you want to really get a handle on the breadth and depth of all ages comics being produced today, I wholeheartedly suggest picking up Scott Robins and Snow Wildsmith’s A Parent’s Guide to the Best Kids’ Comics.
I have a six year-old who reads comics, I have many friends who make their livings drawing all ages comics, I know librarians who’ve written entire books cataloging the current wealth of kids’ comics out there (see above). Just like Buzz Aldrin knows the moon landing was real, most comics folks outside the insular world of direct market superhero comics know there are tons of great kids comics being made–and read–right now. I suggest that from here on out, when we encounter the “kids’ comics denier,” we give ’em the Buzz Aldrin treatment: