back to article What happened to comics for kids? Hell, what happened to COMICS?

In central London, there’s a giant-sized superheroes, space ’n’ science fiction shop. Among the pricey objects on offer – £479.99 for a replica Alien egg, for example, or £152.99 for a Star Wars dart board – there are action figures, t-shirts, books, DVDs and - even now - comics. On packed shelves of glossy colour mags, we have …

COMMENTS

This topic is closed for new posts.
  1. ukgnome Silver badge

    Totally agree

    Every Saturday I used to but the Eagle (the 1980's one)

    I think that the psychotic computer Max from the thirteenth floor had a huge influence on my career choice. I would even go as far to say that Max of Maxwell towers was the first BOFH.

    And don't get me started on Doomlord - I think I might of cried when Doomlord realised that mankind wasn't that bad and he went back to live at Mrs Sousters guest house.

    Nowadays comics seem so expensive, and less clever - although I still buy X-Men (for my sons, honest) and spiderman (for the wife)

    1. squintsideways
      Thumb Up

      Re: Totally agree

      Noticed on iBooks the other day that there are 2 volumes of The Thirteenth Floor available to read on the iPad.

    2. Andrew Moore Silver badge

      Re: Totally agree

      For me, it was Starlord. I only started reading 2000AD when it merged. Strontium Dog and Robusters (and to a certain extent the ABC Warriors) all started there.

    3. fung0
      Thumb Up

      Re: Totally agree

      Ditto. I really miss 'comic books.' Never imagined a future in which they'd cease to exist, replaced by bloated, over-priced, collectable brochures.

      By the way, the article neglects to mention the great work of the 1980s-1990s independents: Nexus, Zot!, Dalgoda, Elric, and many others, plus the whole Jim Shooter Valiant universe. Shooter was the last publisher who actually understood that comics were about fast-paced *storytelling*. And that period - the heyday of publishers like First, Eclipse, Kitchen Sink and Pacific - was just about the last hurrah for comics as pure narrative entertainment.

  2. Neil Barnes Silver badge

    Four words

    Alan Moore - Halo Jones.

    1. Christine Hedley

      Re: Four words

      I remember that one with a lot of fondness. I think I've finally given up hope that I might see the rest of the story, but what they did complete was legendary.

    2. Jelliphiish
      Thumb Up

      Re: Four words

      and the Ian Gibson artwork is still wonderful. along with the Sam Spade stuf.. absolutely my fave bits. shading past Simon Bisley, but only just.

      1. Loyal Commenter Silver badge

        Re: Four words

        It has to be Simon Bisley for me, if only for the full-page frame in 'Judgement on Gotham' where the Sandman, from Batman's universe inflicts Judge Death's greatest fear on him, and he is surrounded by cutesy cartoon characters.

      2. Darren Barratt
        Thumb Up

        Re: Four words

        Never such a fan of Bisley. Good cover artist, but his flowing, multicolour work didn't work as well it strips.

    3. Kristian Walsh Silver badge

      Add two more

      Ian Gibson

      His artwork on Halo Jones, especially towards the end of Series 3 (the last one published in 2000AD) was superb.

      Great comics need a great writer and a great artist. Dredd is another example, and I'm mildly shocked to not see one name among the list of "great artists" cited as working on the story: Carlos Ezquerra - the co-creator of the strip!

    4. tirk
      Happy

      Re: Four words

      Halo Jones was and is indeed brilliant.

      Can I add Warren Ellis - Transmetropolitan? Or indeed Ministry of Space, for the Dan Dare retro feel?

      Like all art, there ARE good ones out there if you look hard enough.

      1. Gordon 10 Silver badge

        Re: Four words

        Am I the only one who was left cold by Halo Jones? It just didnt reach me.

        1. This post has been deleted by its author

        2. This post has been deleted by its author

        3. simon gardener

          Re: Am I the only one who was left cold by Halo Jones? It just didnt reach me."

          Yes.

    5. Neil 23
      Thumb Up

      Re: Four words

      Bought a hardback reprint of that a few years ago - the ending still brings a tear to my eye.

    6. riparian zone

      Re: Four words

      I once bumped into Alan Moore in Charing Cross, and not wanting to be the fawning fanboi acolyte that I am, just asked if he was the man. He confirmed, and then I thanked him from a heartfelt place for writing Halo Jones...he seemed pleased.

    7. Andrew Moore Silver badge

      Re: Four words

      I bought that for my daughters 10th birthday.

  3. The Real Dave
    Thumb Up

    2000AD

    2000AD is as good as it ever has been in the past, over the last few years the quality of the stories has been excellent. It's now available as same week, DRM free, digital downloads and there's an excellent iPad subscription available too - if you're looking for great comics then head over to http://www.2000adonline.com/

    Disclaimer: I am in no way affiliated with 2000AD, just a comics fan who would be happy to see more people reading it.

    1. JimC Silver badge

      Re: 2000AD

      I miss some of the subtlety of the old days in 2000AD. Its no longer a comic you would give to a bright 6 year old because some writers are being deliberately "edgy" with lots of blatant sex and nudity, as opposed to implied sex, which there was never any shortage of.

      Sometimes there's a lot to be said for creative limitations, and that one seemed to me to have some considerable advantages.

    2. Darren Barratt

      Re: 2000AD

      I'll give that a go. The article has inspired me to give 2000 ad another shot after 10 years away.

  4. This post has been deleted by its author

  5. Captain Underpants
    Happy

    Engaging comic-book-guy mode....

    I get that, since El Reg is a mainly-tech-focused site, you have to write that piece with someone who knows little or nothing about comics in mind, but it would help if you didn't, along the way, ignore various massively important factors in the comics marketplace.

    For example - the issues you talk about here affect only the anglophone comic marketplace. Go take a look at the FrancoBelgian, Spanish or Italian markets and you'll see a different picture. Even more so in Korea or Japan (ignore the whole "manga"/"manwha" thing, they are all collectively comics).

    Factors that have screwed over anglophone comics:

    1) in the 50s, in the US, Fredric Wertham's "Seduction Of The Innocent" - this preposterous load of old bollocks lead to the effective dominance of the superhero genre by killing off then-massively-popular horror and crime comics on the basis that they were a bad influence on children (and clearly comics are only for children, despite their origins being rooted at least partially in mainstream newspapers aimed at all ages).

    2) shortly afterwards, the UK government had a similarly-themed moral panic and passed similarly-daft legislation banning the distribution of US comics, which had a massively beneficial effect on UK comics.

    3) fast-forward around 20 years and television starts to kick the crap out of comics in the UK, as kids begin to lose interest. TV-themed comics are the response, and they hold off the inevitable doom for a while longer.

    4) In the US, the same thing is happening; all the exciting and interesting stuff is happening in underground counterculture stuff (Robert Crumb, Gilbert Shelton, etc). Anti-drug legislation shuts down headshops, killing off distribution channels for underground comics, but the industry sees a bit of growth in non-superhero comics.

    5) A move towards more-action oriented comics happens in the late 70s and early 80s in the UK, showing two contrasting responses - in the UK, a number of publishers are growing up who want to push creative boundaries, leading to the likes of Warrior, Deadline, Crisis and more - these comics being intended to exist with entirely separate audiences to long-term stalwarts like the Dandy or Beano. Conversely, in the US, the rise of the Direct Market model (whereby comic specialist shops are the "customers" as far as the publishers are concerned, and all good comics feature superheroes) led to an increasing tendency to try and catch trends. See for example the effect that the release of Watchmen and Dark Knight Returns in 1986 had (every superhero going was now being reinvented as a dark, grim and gritty character). Eastman & Laird's release of TMNT as an independent comic was another high-profile creator-oriented comics title, alongside the positively loopy Dave Sim's Cerebus, that established a merit to publishing outside of the generally-conservative US publishers.

    6) A bit more background here - the Direct Market in general is predicated in part on the notion that comic shops can operate at a profit by selling back issues at a markup (see every news story ever about an issue of Action Comics #1 or Tales of Suspense #15 selling for stupidly large sums of money). US publishers were targeting collecting-oriented readers, occasionally playing silly buggers with things like sprawling stories that crossed over into other titles (the notion being to encourage collectors to buy things they wouldn't ordinarily read to get "the full story") or variant covers (again, encouraging multiple purchases to get "a full set"). This peaked in the 90s with the Marvel of the time (who was, corporately speaking, a different entity to the Marvel of today, who in a lot of ways is different enough to share only the name and legal ownership rights with the 90s iteration) gaming the market hugely with a frankly daft preponderance of variant covers of "New instant-collector-item issue 1" titles for comics like X-Men. They massively saturated the market with crap, and a whole load of barely-competent comic shop retailers took an enormous bath in the resultant collapse of the collector market. There are numerous accounts of UK specialist retailers being wiped out in this way, so it wasn't just a US issue.

    7) Fast forward to 2012 in the UK when the Dandy, after several attempts to reinvigorate itself, finally announced that it was ceasing paper publication (but likely continuing to exist in digital only form). Meanwhile UK newsagents still carry the Beano, Simpsons comics, Transformers magazine (including comics) and several other kid-oriented comics on a weekly or fortnightly business. There's also the Phoenix, which has hands down the strongest creative team I've seen on a kid-oriented comic.

    The reason I mention all of this is that the article berates an entirely non-existent "adultification of comics", which is incorrect. In some markets (particularly the anglophone one), some publishers (particularly Marvel & DC) decided to focus on what they call "mature" audiences - though in doing so frequently they were actually targeting adolescent audiences who wanted Naughty Things like Boobs, Swearing and Violence in their comics. Some of them also published genuinely mature comics - Sandman and Hellblazer spring to mind as titles which ticked all the Naughty Things boxes but managed to tell nuanced & sophisticated stories with magnificent art at the same time. Kids comics have struggled to retain the interest of their audience in the face of more interactive entertainment, but they still exist.

    The fact that when you go into a heavily US-comics-oriented comic shop, you are confronted with product aimed at the US comics marketplace is more a commentary on the relative profitability of the ever-dwindling adult collecting-oriented US comics fan who has the money and willingness to spend it on what amounts, these days, to 32-page pamphlets featuring 10-14 pages of adverts and a cover price of just shy of £3. That is not a problem with All Of Comics - it's a problem with the part of the market you've chosen to examine.

    If you want to look at modern UK comics publishers aiming at kids, look at the likes of the Phoenix or the Thought Bubble Anthology (published by the organisers of the annual Leeds-based Thought Bubble Festival). Go and check out the ComICA festival, including their comics mart, the Comiket. Take a look at the magnificent books being published (on real paper, no less) by the likes of Nobrow Press. And for Christ's sake don't bother with the over-rated tat-bazaar that is Forbidden Planet, and instead get yourself along to either Orbital or Gosh! Comics, both of which are great shops that carry a wide range of material.

    1. dogged
      Thumb Up

      Re: Engaging comic-book-guy mode....

      Wow.

      That was fascinating.

      Thanks.

      1. Captain Underpants

        Re: Engaging comic-book-guy mode....

        @dogged

        You're welcome :) It's not often that my knowledge of comics is actually put to any use (every now and then it comes up in a pub quiz context, but that's about it) so it's nice for it to be of some relevance to a conversation now and then. The history of comics is generally a lot more interesting than the in-story histories of the characters that are most widely known - and the history of comics involves a lot more villainy too, of a sometimes very ingenious sort; for example - I've read about one publisher in the 30s in the US who cut a deal with an organised crime syndicate to get cheap paper in exchange of letting them use the paper deliveries as a distribution network for their moonshine operation. And that's before you get to Smilin' Stan Lee vs Steve Ditko or Jack Kirby, or Bob Kane vs Bill Finger, or Marvel's "signing this check in order to draw your pay constitutes entering into an additional contract with the publisher wherein you waive any and all rights you might have had to either the physical copy of the work submitted or the ideas and contents featured therein" policy, or the "no royalties on foreign republications" deals...

    2. Neil Barnes Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      ...over-rated tat-bazaar that is Forbidden Planet

      Anyone else old enough to remember "Dark They Were and Golden-Eyed" when they were in Berwick Street?

      1. myarse
        Facepalm

        Re: ...over-rated tat-bazaar that is Forbidden Planet

        Yup, I asked me dad to take me there for ages- I was only eight - which he finally conceded to, only to be pulled out and taken home after five minutes of browsing because he thought everyone looked like a peado.

      2. Martin Gregorie Silver badge

        Re: ...over-rated tat-bazaar that is Forbidden Planet

        "Anyone else old enough to remember "Dark They Were and Golden-Eyed" when they were in Berwick Street?"

        YES - and very good they were too.

        Even "Forbidden Planet" were pretty good a few years ago, though judging by their online catalogue they're no longer worth bothering with.

        Disclaimer: I am massively disinterested in comics and graphics novels, but DTWAGE and FP (but no longer) were the places I went for my SF fix.

      3. Julian Bond

        Re: ...over-rated tat-bazaar that is Forbidden Planet

        Yes indeed, +1 for Dark They Were... Hell, +1 for the old Forbidden Planet when it was in New Oxford St.

        And for bonus points, Compedium in Camden? Especially the 2nd shop that was exclusively weird magick books. Of which, how about Jimmy Page's book shop just off Ken Church St.

        Never mind the comics, book shops aren't what they used to be either.

    3. EvilGav 1
      Thumb Up

      Re: Engaging comic-book-guy mode....

      For those Edinburgh residents who know their comics, Deadhead is the place to be - indeed the book shop owner in Black Books is based on the owner of Deadhead.

    4. Bruno Girin

      Re: Engaging comic-book-guy mode....

      Indeed. Being French and having grown up with the Franco/Belgian type of comics, I was extremely disappointed when I moved to the UK. It all feels the same: action heros and violence, irrespective of the actual story line. As a kid, the excellent, clean artwork and great though simple story lines of Gaston Lagaffe, Boule et Bill, Asterix, Tintin, Buck Danny, Lucky Luke et al meant we just couldn't put the comics down. Then growing up, you get into more convoluted but enthralling stories like Les Passagers du Vent, the XIII series and dozens of others.

      The problem with UK/US comics is that none of them are meant for a very young audience, they are way too heavy a read. By the time kids are old enough to read great works like AD2000 or Sandman, they've already been lost to Nintendo and other game consoles.

      Import continental comics in the UK and maybe you can have kids interested in stories again.

    5. Tom 13

      Re: Engaging comic-book-guy mode....

      The Direct Market movement wasn't entirely bad. I started collecting shortly before it started. At that point it was a good thing. You paid a bit more for the comic, but there was an upgrade in the paper quality and hence the color. Initially they used only their really good writers, artists, colorists and letterers to produce well written series. Yes Dark Knight was one of them. And I got the Marvel war chronicle whose name I have now forgotten. And I followed Crisis on Infinite Earths with baited breath even as I cursed the real world foolishness it was to destroy the ability to move characters elsewhere when someone wanted to re-imagine them without disturbing a known brand that might continue to be profitable. Some of the 4 issue miniseries had really good stories with really cool art: Martian Manhunter, Aquaman, and the one that is still my favorite (there was one 3 month waiting period for an issue, but when we got it we immediately understood why) Green Arrow (a number of pages in nothing but colored pencils including an absolutely gorgeous two-page spread).

      But you're right. They jumped the shark by moving to make Direct their primary channel instead of a highly profitable but secondary channel to the primary. I could collect the occasional Crisis series, but not several of them at the same time. Eventually real world bills and debts over took me and I stopped collecting all together. They would have been better off keeping it to a small number of series with me continuing to pick up my monthly copies of Batman, Detective Comics, and Brave and the Bold with a smattering of Spiderman thrown in as well.

      Ah, those were the days.

    6. Sweaty Hambeast

      Re: Engaging comic-book-guy mode....

      Upvoted for saying it much better than I would have done. Tx.

    7. Darren Barratt

      Re: Engaging comic-book-guy mode....

      Gosh comics definitely my retailer of choice when I'm in that London. Forbiden Planet has all the customer service of a super market, and tattoos and piercings do not substitute for eye contact and interest from a sales person.

  6. Not That Andrew

    I used to read and collect 2000AD obsessively, until it lost it's sense of humour and got all angsty. There's a limit to how much angst and ultraviolence you can endure without any humour to leaven it. Very little in my case. Has it regained it it's sense of humour yet?

    1. The Real Dave
      Go

      Maybe not as much as there used to be but there's definatley more humour in it these days and there's some great story telling too - I know several people who had given up on it in the past who are now back reading regularly. You can get DRM free digital copies for £1.99 from their shop so woth having a look: http://shop.2000adonline.com/categories/comics

      1. Not That Andrew

        Good to hear, I'll give it a look again

      2. Smallbrainfield

        Agreed.

        The current crop of tales are ace, especially The Cold Deck.

    2. Andrew Moore Silver badge

      bring back DR and Quinch

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Money

    They got too expensive, then the "colletors" inveted a market for themselves by attributing arbitrary values for comics which were mass produced. For example months aftre New Mutants 87 (or 86) was released it was claimed to be "worth" £60-80.

    1. Dr_N Silver badge

      Re: Money

      Hmm I've probably still got the first run of New Mutants back in the parents' attic...

      Have to admit, after being an avid comicbook reader and minor collector from school all the way through Polytechnic, I kind of gave up after the likes of Jonathan Ross bubbled the market.

      Still, I do enjoy the odd Hellblazer or Hellboy trade paperback.

      Even pick up an issue of Concrete whilst over in the States this year.

      Now if only they could finally sort out Marvel/MiracleMan ...

    2. fung0
      Facepalm

      Re: Money

      When comics became 'collectible,' it was the beginning of the end. When some guy reached past me to grab the *entire rack* of the current Spider-Man issue, because it had a hologram on the cover, I knew it was over.

      Most of the fans I've known over the past decade or two have been all too happy to grab the latest wad of tripe just because they thought it would increase in value. I tried to explain that garbage never ages well. That the comics of the 1960s acquired huge value because they were a) intrinsically good, and b) in short supply on account of not having been preserved in large numbers. And that neither factor applied to anything they were buying. Nobody listened.

      A 'comic book' used to be 10 cents' worth of disposable entertainment. I used to scribble on them, pick up the best panels with Silly Putty, lend them to friends, lose the covers, keep them piled them two feet high, and sit on them in the back of my parents' car. Now I have them sequentially arranged in hermetically-sealed plastic bags... to remind me of how great things used to be.

  8. Mike Brown

    What happened to comics?

    simple: kids watch telly or play console games. They dont read anymore.

  9. Mint Sauce
    Thumb Up

    Achtung!

    You can still get 'Commando' :-)

    1. Gordon 10 Silver badge

      Re: Achtung!

      I used to sneak my dads copy to read. Also loved its Sci-Fi sibling - Starblazer.

  10. IHateWearingATie
    Go

    I obsessively read Battle..

    ... and had every comic except the one with the last episode of Charley's war in. Never did find out how that finished...

    1. Joel 1
      Coat

      Re: I obsessively read Battle..

      The Allied Powers won.

    2. Jedit
      Headmaster

      "Never did find out how that finished..."

      After the end of the Great War stories there was a second run in which a 40-year-old Charley volunteers for re-enlistment in World War II. It was planned to carry on deeper into the war, but sadly Joe Colquhoun's health began to fail to the point where he couldn't keep up with the art and it was felt that nobody could replace him. As a result, the story was wrapped up when Charley is wounded in the retreat from Dunkirk and leaves the forces. The last episode ends with him starting to tell the story of his service in the First World War, after which Battle began reprinting the stories from the beginning.

  11. David Evans
    Childcatcher

    Dying on its arse

    I've been entering the hallowed doors of Forbidden Planet for nearly 30 years now (from Denmark Street to New Oxford Street and to the current Shaftesbury Avenue location), and gradually, especially over the last two or three years, I'm finding fewer and fewer reasons to bother. The latest DC reboot is just terrible, Marvel is meh, and everything else is fucking zombies (often literally fucking). I lost track of 2000AD after spending a year abroad a few years ago (I had every issue from prog 86 onwards and still regard Nemesis, Halo Jones and Zenith as pretty much the best mainstream comics stories ever), but when I thumb through a copy these days it seems to be treading water.

    So this month sees the last issue of The Boys, and after that I think I'm done, and I don't think its because I've changed particularly, rather I've come to the conclusion that comics only work if each generation actually outgrows them; when we stopped doing that (and i'm and obvious case in point) and the market decided to actually accommodate the "mature reader" , it sewed the seeds of its own destruction, which is why Forbidden Planet now makes its money off selling 500 quid copies of Thor's Hammer to idiots and its comic shelves shrink every year.

    1. Captain Underpants
      Unhappy

      Re: Dying on its arse

      @David Evans:

      The problem you're talking about is that anglophone comics publishers have for some reason ignored Sturgeon's Law (90% of everything is crap from any given perspective) and decided to stick almost all their eggs in one or, at best, two genre baskets. They also didn't consider that, if each of the bigger of those publishers are publishing over a hundred issues every month, then they would quickly hit a point where they've published so much that they start re-treading old ground. Especially when they need to keep the same characters/sets of intellectual property prevalent for merchandising purposes.

      It also doesn't help that Forbidden Planet is a god-awful tat-bazaar modelled on US specialist shops selling collector-oriented shiteware rather than comics. Go to Orbital or Gosh! instead, they're much better at selling actual comics.

      Image are doing some great stuff lately (Who Is Jake Ellis, Strange Talent of Luther Strode, Saga, and Prophet for a few examples), as are Dark Horse, and if you look to the likes of Cinebooks you can get English-language translations of a good selection of Franco-Belgian stuff. Viz Media do a whole load of translated manga and manwha too.

    2. Smallbrainfield

      Re: Dying on its arse

      Ha ha, The Boys is the only thing I've bothered with in the last few years, apart from 2000 AD. Mostly because I don't really like superheroes much.

      When I was a kid, the only reliable source of Thrill - Power in Manchester was Magazine & Poster Centre under the Corn Exchange, later Odyssey 7 (it's not there now, a victim of the bomb, the new one is now a Forbidden Planet). The bottom 4 shelves were all comics of every shape and size, but the top shelf was full of porn mags. A bit of an eye-opener I can tell you as it catered for everything. (I used to go to a comic shop in Leeds that did the same thing can't remember it's name though).

      It was a bit like shoe repair shops that also cut keys. Perhaps they should start doing that again.

      1. Captain Underpants
        Happy

        Re: Dying on its arse

        @Smallbrainfield

        I grew up in Spain, and one of the things I found hilarious is that in Spain, in the 80s, a very obvious result of the death of Franco was a positive rejoicing in all the decidedly immodest things that had effectively been banned under his dictatorship. This meant that there was porn in all sorts of places, and indeed until a year or two ago there were still at least two monthly mainstream (ie sold in newsagents) porn comics published regularly. I think one of them has since gone bust. There were also lots of european hardcore porn comics on sale all over the place, which meant that younglings looking for comics in less-than-discerning/organised newsagents often found that beneath the latest issue of Wolverine or Mortadelo y Filemon was a very graphic eyeful.

        (That still doesn't beat the experience I had a couple of years ago on a trip to Bruges, where I popped into a great comic shop whose name I forget - in one room they had a row of shelves on the floor full of hardcover books which I assumed to be nice and expensive republished collections of old comics. So far, so good - what I wasn't expecting was the eye-wateringly-graphic nature of the porny content featured in all of them. Presumably they were on the floor to avoid straining shelves with the weight, but it still makes me laugh that they put the porn below everything else...)

  12. Brian Morrison
    Go

    Well, I miss...

    ... Fat Freddie's Cat, but Viz is nothing like as funny as it used to be.

    But Oglaf makes me laugh, even if it's seriously deranged...

    1. Vic

      Re: Well, I miss...

      > Fat Freddie's Cat

      Yeah, but no-one has potted ferns or headphones any more :-)

      Vic.

      1. Andrew Moore Silver badge

        Re: Well, I miss...

        And don't forget Dimensional Transmogrifiers- they turn 3d kittens into 2d kittens.

  13. BoldMan

    Don't forget the marvellous Tales of the Trigan Empire from Look and Learn - beautifully drawn by Don Lawrence, each page a work of art!

  14. John Savard Silver badge

    Latter

    It was Jim Steranko, not Steve Ditko, who had a stellar run on Nick Fury, Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D..

    Oh, incidentally, I was left cold by some odd issues of Trekker that I had, but now that it's out as a webcomic, being able to catch the whole run from the start let me appreciate it more. Halo Jones probably needs the same thing.

    1. Jedit
      Go

      "Halo Jones probably needs the same thing."

      If you want the whole run, The Ballad of Halo Jones is available as a single volume containing all three books.

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Something I wonder ..

    Why it's more difficult sourcing a toy gun than a real one.

    1. TheProf
      Thumb Up

      Re: Something I wonder ..

      "Why it's more difficult sourcing a toy gun than a real one."

      I must use that line in a conversation. I'll even add my own question mark.

  16. Smallbrainfield
    Pint

    Comics aren't for kids as most kids can't be arsed to look past their X-box these days.

    That's why a lot of them are written for grown ups; most of the audience are old buggers like me. 2000 AD is a classic example, it's readership gets older every year as a block of (currently 35-45 years old I would guess). Downloadable versions are a step in the right direction though. I still get 2000 AD (Marvel and DC never held my attention for long, soap operas in spandex. Meh.) and my attic is groaning under the strain of progs going back to about 400 (ish).

    The current 2000AD run of Judge Dredd has been fucking awesome and the prog 1708 was a wonderful and unexpected surprise. I love that they can still do something totally unexpected after all this time.

    Also, Carlos is King!

    1. Christine Hedley

      Re: Comics aren't for kids as most kids can't be arsed to look past their X-box these days.

      > "currently 35-45 years old I would guess"

      44 here: my cousins got me hooked with their cast-off issue 4 back in the day. I remember spending years trying to track down issue 1: I eventually found it in some bonfire kindling! I still have it somewhere though it's in poor condition given the somewhat questionable paper quality of early issues. Well, that and being rolled up and stuffed into a bonfire.

  17. Mondo the Magnificent
    Thumb Up

    Dandy, Beano, 2000 AD to Mad Magazine

    Ah, back to my youth as a "barracks brat" growing up wherever my father's REME unit decided to post us.

    Every Saturday off to the NAFI in Mönchengladbach, [West] Germany to buy my Dandy, Beano and a few others like Whizzer and Chips and of course Sparky

    As I got older, we were posted to Hong Kong and I was blessed with 2000 A.D. and that soon replaced the comics I read when I was younger.

    Let's not forget those legendary all black and white "Battle" and "Air Ace" comics that focussed on gripping WW2 stories, a must for every growing lad!

    As I got older, I started buying the Mad Magazine, which is still in print, to this day I still pop to the shop at the end of the month to collect my Mad Magazine, the "comic" for old and young IMO

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Dandy, Beano, 2000 AD to Mad Magazine

      There is a big comic divide between UK and US. You'd never get any of the UK comic characters in a high budget film

      1. Loyal Commenter Silver badge
        Facepalm

        Re: Dandy, Beano, 2000 AD to Mad Magazine

        "You'd never get any of the UK comic characters in a high budget film"

        Except for Judge Dredd, eh? Twice.

        1. Dave Bell

          Re: Dandy, Beano, 2000 AD to Mad Magazine

          Modesty Blaise has appeared in a few films, though I don't suppose any are really "high-budget".

          1. Neil Barnes Silver badge

            Re: Dandy, Beano, 2000 AD to Mad Magazine

            Damn, I wonder how many who even *know* of Modesty Blaise realise she started life as a strip in the Evening Standard?

            And O'Donnell was also a contributor to Garth in the Mirror.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Windows

              Re: Dandy, Beano, 2000 AD to Mad Magazine

              "And O'Donnell was also a contributor to Garth in the Mirror."

              When reading Modesty Blaise novels in the 1970s the image of the Daily Mirror Garth was always conjured up by Willie Garvin's role. The only Garth story I remember is a parallel universe one - where mechanical transport vehicles were replaced by literally organic evolution. Think that's the same one where Germany ruled the world.

        2. Andrew Moore Silver badge

          Re: Dandy, Beano, 2000 AD to Mad Magazine

          V For Vendetta??? Shit film, but still based on a UK comic character

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Dandy, Beano, 2000 AD to Mad Magazine

      In the 1950/60s there were also the boys' story "comics" - like "Valiant" and "Victor"? Considered somewhat up-market because they were all words - not picture strips. Eventually they evolved into only picture strip content - but with the same moralistic stories viz "Roy of the Rovers" and "Wilson". Had a stack of them from edition #1 stored under my bed in a plastic bag. Think they were thrown out when my parents retired to the seaside.

      My bookcase has a collection of "Asterix the Gaul" in several languages - and some of the French adult "Lauzier". Some "Fat Freddy's Cat" too - and the headphones reference earlier was my first thought. Probably reinforced by the activities of the neighbour's cat in my recently planted flowerbeds.

      1. BoldMan

        Re: Dandy, Beano, 2000 AD to Mad Magazine

        My father was the Chief Electrician at the Fleetway printing works in Gravesend that printed all the Valiant, Lion, Tiger, Hurricane, Whizzer and Chips, Smash, Battle, Action (the one they banned!) and eventually Starlord and 2000AD - yes I had the complete run of early 2000ADs WITH the attached toys! My wonderful mother of course threw them all away when she moved back to Scotland in 1980...

        I have a complete collection of Lion Annuals from 1952 up to the 1980s - that was my personal favourite - well apart from Countdown which was published Polystyle and not my Dad's company, that was all Dr Who (Jon Pertwee), UFO, Thunderbirds and Captain Scarlet. That eventually evolved into TV Action with The Persuaders, Mission Impossible and Cannon!

        1. fung0

          Re: Dandy, Beano, 2000 AD to Mad Magazine

          I've long been a huge fan of the 1960s Fleetway pocket-size comics. Brilliant storytelling. Art rather standardized, but often surprisingly good. Writing always strong. The later stuff you mention was great too, of course - but I found even 200AD pretentious compared to those unassuming, uniquely British books, that wanted nothing more than to provide solid entertainment and a bit of moral uplift. I treasure the few issues I still have - I fear that not many now survive.

    3. Mike Flugennock

      Re: Dandy, Beano, 2000 AD to Mad Magazine

      Ah, back to my youth as a "barracks brat" growing up wherever my father's REME unit decided to post us...

      So, you're an old Army brat, too, huh? Right on.

      Our family was stationed in Germany twice in the '60s -- the first time, around 1961-63, and the second time from 1969-late 1970. The second time around was much more fun; I was about thirteen and able to get around more. It was also cooler in the sense that I got to check out what the European comics scene was up to. I was into Tintin and Asterix The Gaul long before they became popular in the States. When I was in college in the late '70s, reading the French and British comics in Heavy Metal was like deja vu, like picking up where I'd left off when the Army shipped us home from Germany.

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Tons of great comics out there, mainly for adults as kids don't have the patience to sit and look at still pictures these days. The one and only reason I wanted a tablet, just to read online comics, perfect for it.

    Just a couple of my favourites...

    Lady Mechnica, a bit like a steam-punk variation of Lara Croft

    Wonderland series, more busty ladies than you can shake a cacky shit at!

    Lock and Key series

    Alien

    Look past your own noses and preconceptions of what comics were and start poking around the comic forums for ideas and links to publishing houses, you can find bucket loads of stuningly well drawn comics covering all sorts of genres and tastes.

  19. Amorous Cowherder
    Happy

    Elephantmen

    The best comic in years! Some of the tragic stories almost had me in tears they were so moving. HipFlask is a genuine comic hero with a heart of gold, ha ha!

  20. Nick Woodruffe
    Thumb Up

    "Battle" and "Warlord" were my comics of choice when I was a kid. 2000AD sort of passed me by until my teens. Bit of a shame really as Rogue Trooper and Halo Jones are just brilliant.

    Can you get any of the above on an ipad?

    1. farrier

      Johnny Red

      http://www.falconsquadron.sevenpennynightmare.co.uk/

      Scroll down for 10 years worth of Johnny Red from 'Battle'

  21. Ketlan
    Devil

    Something missing?

    No mention of Jamie Delano's classic Hellblazer or Neil Gaiman's superb Sandman? Not even a mention of Dave McKean? Lordy.

    1. Jedit
      FAIL

      "No mention of Hellblazer or Sandman?"

      This is an article about comics for kids. I don't think two books that feature body horror, full frontal nudity and multiple rapes qualify somehow.

      (And before you mention Watchmen and TDKR - they were mentioned only in the context of how they made it so comics weren't for kids any more.)

      1. Captain Underpants

        Re: "No mention of Hellblazer or Sandman?"

        To be fair, Hellblazer and Sandman are both titles which established DC's ability publish quality mature-audience material (rather than infantile material with added Boobs, Swears and Gore) and which in turn prompted many a "BIFF! POW! WHAM! COMICS AREN'T JUST FOR KIDS ANYMORE"-titled load of condescending nonsense from non-comics-oriented publications about the sudden onset of maturity in a medium "for kids" (that of course managed to ignore things like Eisner's The Spirit or A Contract With God, or Windsor McCay's Little Nemo, or essentially all of the US underground alt comix stuff, not to mention tons of FrancoBelgian or Japanese stuff).

        In an article decrying the perceived move of "comics" away from their "intended" kiddy audience, mentioning some of the most highly-acclaimed titles of the time that helped not only cement that move but also heralded the idea of British Writers = Next Big Thing In Comics would have made sense...

  22. Keep Refrigerated
    WTF?

    Oh, how the ghost of you clings

    There's a reason that comics got darker and edgier and complex... those kids who read in the 70's and 80's are now into the 30's and 40's as am I.. and I'm a bigger comic fan than I was back then. However I've found my tastes have grown much broader, I can only take so much of the Bronze Age storylines which still maintained some of the wackiness of the Silver Age which I go out of my way to avoid (Adam West Batman worked for me as a kid, these days I need Christian Bale Batman if I'm going to retain interest).

    I think if you're an adult looking for something to get from comics, looking back to Silver and Bronze age is completely the wrong place. I would recommend learning to appreciate well written, real or imagined stories that respect and utilize the comic as an art-form, rather than a kids entertainment vehicle.

    For self-contained real stories try reading Maus (Spiegelman) or Blankets (Thompson); if you want heartwarming/good vs evil then read Zot (McCloud), We3 (Morrison) or Midnight Nation (Straczynski); Non-zombie apocalype? Y-The Last Man (Vaughan), Girls (Luna); for genre deconstruction try Iredeemable (Waid) or Astounding Wolfman (Kirkman) to name a few...

    If you're after something more current and still ongoing then there's plenty of genre deconstruction in Invincible (Kirkman), genre mashup in Saga (Vaughan) or alternative horror Rachel Rising (Moore).

    There's plenty of simple but compelling stories being written and told, just not by Marvel or DC. The main irritating problem I find with Marvel and DC these days is this insistence on maintaining a 'multiverse' and trying to rope in every single character they've ever created - regardless of it breaks continuity. I just won't read their comics anymore (Civil War and Planet Hulk were good I admit).

    It's gotten so ridiculous that older fans pick up an X-Men comic or Superman and just don't recognize it at all - but the solution is not to go back to nostalgia - it's to seek out originality elsewhere.

    1. Vic

      Re: Oh, how the ghost of you clings

      > Adam West Batman worked for me as a kid

      He's a mayor now, you know... :-)

      Vic.

    2. Captain Underpants
      Thumb Up

      Re: Oh, how the ghost of you clings

      Upvoted for the choice of title - it threw me for a second, and then brought a smile to my face when I placed it :)

    3. BoldMan

      Re: Oh, how the ghost of you clings

      I also recommend Kurt Busiek's Astro City series for a novel look at the superhero genre, where the stories are mainly told from the point of view of the man in the street facing the end of the world every couple of months.

    4. fung0

      Re: Oh, how the ghost of you clings

      Of course there are reasons why comics "got darker and edgier and complex." But there is a downside. The kind of light entertainment that comics provided from the 1940s through the early 1990s has now essentially vanished. Too many comics today, even some of the better ones, are too much *work* to read. Maus is a great example... I honestly don't *want* to experience the Holocaust as re-enacted by rodents. (Call me shallow if you like.)

      Yes, I did very much enjoy 'Y The Last Man.' I see this series as a real ray of hope. Vaughan knows how to spin an entertaining yarn, even while dealing with darker themes. Previously, I was equally impressed with Bendis' 'Alias,' a series that managed to be adult while dealing with superheroes (in the Marvel Universe, no less), and entertaining while working through reasonably mature storylines.

      But what I really miss is my monthly fix of Nexus or Zot!. The Lee/Ditko Spider-Man (which still holds up as fiction, amazingly enough). Fun, superhero stuff, with good art and a bit of brains. Today's comics are what the movie business would look like if it consisted entirely of formulaic Twilight films on the one hand, and turgid Angst Lee drah-mas on the other. You need a few James Camerons, Peter Jacksons, John Carpenters, Roland Emmerichs... creators who can churn out fast-paced entertainment that hangs together well enough to keep the brain from shutting down entirely.

      It can't be just an either-or choice between Sergei Eisenstein or Uwe Boll.

  23. grom
    Megaphone

    The Phoenix is Rising

    Very surprised no-one has mentioned The Phoenix yet - check out a free sampler http://www.thephoenixcomic.co.uk/free-digi-phoenix/ . It's a good, honest, comic with a wide variety of different stories and styles with the focus on quality instead of marketing toys and sweets to kids and charging for a rubbish cover mounted toy. I got a subscription for my kids (at least that's what I tell them anyway)

    I'd also back the other comments about 200AD - it's surprisingly still as good as ever

    1. Captain Underpants
      Happy

      Re: The Phoenix is Rising

      I mentioned it more than once, and I agree that it's bloody great :)

  24. Irongut

    I disagree

    Comics about sexy vampires or zombie attacks are not written for adults, they are written for teenagers who (the publishers think) are obsessed with Twilight, etc. Teenagers are still children, despite their protests to the contrary.

    There are still decent comics out there but as always you need to look past the dross for the great British story tellers - Alan Moore, Grant Morrison, Neil Gaiman, Jamie Delano, Garth Ennis, etc.

  25. Uncanny Aleman

    Great article- couldn't agree more. My eldest son is 11 and several times over the years we've raided Dad's comic collection but the 90's stuff is simply a no-go area in terms of suitable content. Although I loved some of the Vertigo stuff, I have to admit much of it was pretentious twaddle. Then the change from newsprint to glossy- don't get me started. What HAS worked is the oldies like Commando, old 2000AD, etc. I pity my son because more often than not, he can't quite get past the black & white thing. It has a language all of it's own and adds so much to the 'directness' you're talking about. A simpler time perhaps but in the case of war stuff, I think if you create a link between that and say- Airfix model buliding, etc then you're really onto something. So far it's worked for a while in our house but no matter how hard you try- kids always seem to default to the Xbox/iPad or phone for their entertainment fix. I'll not give up on them though!

  26. Tom Melly

    But what about the Beano, Dandy, etc.

    Some interesting stuff in the comments (I really must give 2000AD another go - several years since I even looked at a copy), but no one is really addressing the issue of what went wrong for the old-style UK kids comics.

    Take the Beano - it was fairly clear picking up an issue even 10 years ago that this wasn't really a comic - more of a magazine with a few strips. Why did that change? Once would assume that it was economic necessity, but I'm not sure where the necessity came from. Both my kids will happily read old Beano annuals, so why did kids stop buying kids' comics?

  27. Neil Barnes Silver badge
    Pint

    Mind you, there are still authors having great fun...

    Girl Genius is and will probably remain a classic - highly recommended, if only because it works on so many levels. One page every couple of days - so it's never going to fill a weekly - but the detail and the complex storylines are most impressive.

    1. Andrew Moore Silver badge

      Re: Mind you, there are still authors having great fun...

      ah, the story that's going nowhere and taking ages to get there. Populated by identical characters but with different hairstyles. All available in 3 emotions (but mainly angry).

  28. Ugotta B. Kiddingme

    does anyone remember?

    a comic, early/mid 70's, about a cyborg whose human and machine halves constantly argued with each other? The character was a vigilante and I seem to recall the comic had a title similar to "The Punisher" but was definitely not that. Been trying to remember the correct name for years.

    other mainstays from that time period were "Weird War" and "Superboy and the Legion of Superheroes."

    1. Graphsboy

      Re: does anyone remember?

      Possibly:

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Deathlok

      1. Ugotta B. Kiddingme
        Thumb Up

        Re: does anyone remember?

        dingdingdingding. Winner! That's the one. Many thanks.

        excerpt from wiki - 'He verbally communicates with his symbiotic computer, to which he refers as the abbreviated "'Puter". '

  29. Alex Walsh

    Secret Oranges

    Steve Cooks blog, secret-oranges.blogspot.co.uk is well worth a subscribe. He was at the heart of 2000AD when it mattered and is always scanning cool stuff in from waaaaay back.

  30. Mike Flugennock
    Thumb Up

    Great article, Ian

    Liked your musical analogy, too. I've always dug Yes, King Crimson and Pink Floyd ever since high school, and yet I also get a huge charge out of the Ramones, Slade, early Clash and those good old mid-60s garage whompers. I grew up in the era of stereo recordings, but I could totally dig where Saint John was coming from when he wore his "Back To Mono" button.

    Same deal with comics for kids vs. comics for adults. When I was first learning to draw, as a young boy in the mid '60s, I was copying the work of Jack Kirby and Stan Lee (maa-aan, that old Nick Fury cover sure takes me back). When I first got serious about being a cartoonist and illustrator in high school, I was starting to dig comics for adults -- Gilbert Shelton, Vaughn Bodé, Frank Frazetta and those great Moebius pieces in the old Heavy Metal magazine. Then, in my early '30s, a British expat artist friend of mine turned me on to The Watchmen and Dan Dare. Jeezus, Dan Dare was awesome; I loved how he piloted those big-assed spaceships while still wearing his old RAF uniform, looking like he'd just climbed out of his old Spitfire.

    I guess the point is that it's not necessarily an either-or choice; I can enjoy all those old Nick Fury and Silver Surfer comics I loved as a kid while still digging The Watchmen, V For Vendetta and the original Batman Dark Knight series... but, still, I totally agree with your point about how a lot of comics for adults tend to get a bit full of themselves these days -- and expensive as hell. Whenever I stop by a comics shop these days, the eleven-year-old inside me has a fit when he gets a look at the prices. Cripes, man.

  31. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I seem to remember reading a strip in the 1960s about "The Spider" who was a criminal 'mastermind' and the hero character. That one got pretty dark at one time, IIRC he was more than happy to 'bump off' awkward characters, but later on became rather bizarre in the style of the later Emma Peel Avengers stories on TV. Made SpiderMan look pretty wimpy, but unlikely to ever be considered suitable as the basis for a film.

    I also remember reading the text comics like Rover & Wizard; lots of Indiana Jones type stories in those, again with minor characters meeting grizzly deaths described in loving detail.

    Ah, the simple pleasures of childhood..

  32. Wile E. Veteran
    Thumb Up

    For us old farts

    Ah, Modesty Blaise, how I miss thee and Willie.

    Steve Canyon? Terry and the Pirates?

    Even in photography, it's generally true a well-crafted black & white photo has more emotional power than a color photo of the same subject.

    1. gizmo23

      Re: For us old farts

      TV21

      Frank Bellamy drawing Thunderbirds and Captain Scarlet.

  33. G R Goslin
    Thumb Down

    You're about a generation too late

    The comics era ended with the rise of the graphic rubbish, of which I'm sad to say began with The Eagle, for all it's other great worth (at least in it's earlier versions). The comic era was the era of Beano and Dandy and their ilk, with a plot line as the major interest. The word was the important thing, with the graphic as embellishment. as you grew older you moved on to the purely text only comics, Rover,Adventure etc, with the infinite draw of the serial story. I'd offer an opinion that schoolage literacy dipped from the time of the graphic comic, where the graphic was the principla part and the text linited to one liners. I look at the stuff my grandchildren read with dismay.

  34. Graham Marsden
    Thumb Up

    I remember...

    ... buying the first edition of 2000AD back in 1977 (along with Battle and Warlord) and seeing the teaser pic of Judge Dredd. Unfortunately as it was shown from the front with him on his Lawmaster it looked like some massively fat Southern USA Sheriff and I thought it would be dire...

    ... fortunately I was wrong!

    I've been reading it ever since and although it's been through some bad times and had some duff stories and characters, overall it's been absolutely incredible.

    Although I may at some point switch to the digital version because storing the complete collection from Prog 1 to the present is taking up a lot of shelf space...!!!

    1. Vic

      Re: I remember...

      > storing the complete collection from Prog 1 to the present is taking up a lot of shelf space..

      I can help you with that... :-)

      Vic.

      1. Graham Marsden

        @Vic: Re: I remember...

        I'm open to sensible offers for the complete collection...

  35. fireandforget

    This has been a lovely trip down memory lane and I share your love of those British classics - and there is a shortage of decent kids' comics in newsagents - but I think it's a massive generalisation to say that today's comics are less clever than the past. The work of Warren Ellis or Grant Morrison is every bit as trippy and clever as the early 2000AD stuff. And there is a modern equivalent of Charlie's War: Garth Ennis' Battlefields and much of his other work pays homage to classic adventure comics while exploring the reality of war.

    OK, they're not for delicate eyes, but that doesn't mean there aren't comics that are trying to do cool stuff for kids: Doctor Who Adventures is in every newsagent, for example, or there's the slightly harder to find but well worth the effort The Phoenix Comic.

  36. dcbcherrygate

    Another Phoenix reading household

    Another post for the Phoenix Comic. Both my daughters love this and eagerly await its arrival through the letterbox on a Friday.. They do also read the Beano and the Club Penguin magazines - we're just pleased they love to read something and not spend all day in front of the telly / PC / Nintendo, etc.

    I used to read Cheeky, Monster Fun, Krazy, Buster & Monster Fun (I can see a trend here) but there doesnt seem to be anything like them today apart from the Phoenix, I've not found another comic that isnt actually a magazine.

  37. Stevie Silver badge

    Bah!

    Kids still read comics - Japanese comics.

    Superheroes work best on the big screen now we have CGI to make it all look hyper-real, and the internet is swallowing your potential audience just like computers swallowed the hobby electronics audience thirty years ago. Oh well.

    You got old and the kids these days don't like your comics. They are also on your lawn.

  38. Sneaky Fruit
    Unhappy

    Still read 2000ad & JD Megazine until a few months ago...

    Read 2000ad from day one.

    3 things stopped my subscription.

    1) Latest Judge Dredd story line, half city wiped out e.t.c., e.t.c. (sound familiar, been done so many times now)

    2) Looked at the monthly subscription cost, was above £40 per month (2000ad + JD Megazine), more than the price of any top end phone sub.

    3) No real mobile online sub option for a lot cheaper.

    Still reading comics, just sourcing good stories in graphic novel form (Warren Ellis: freakangels.com and other stories, Garth Ennis: The Boys + many more).

  39. Henry Wertz 1 Gold badge

    Meh...

    I think it is true that the comic market is not what it's used to be. But, I also think you are probably cherry-picking --- I've seen ample evidence of large quantities of 1970s-era comics that ranged from "meh" to absolute rubbish. I think you would find at least one or two current comics that would meet your every expectation, they are just buried by all the zombie and vampire comics.

    In a similar vein, I could make similar complaints about the current state of science fiction, reminisce on the great books of the past* and how I can go to Barnes and Noble and find nothing good, the so-called scifi section just has rubbish fantasy novels with zombies and vampires and maybe some Star Wars books. But, the fact of the matter is, although what I say about the bookstore is true (the books are generally rubbish), there's plenty of great new science fiction being produced, waiting to be mail ordered.

    *There's a truly amazing used book store in Madison, Wisconsin, Frugal Muse, which last time I was there sold their used books at original cover price... so I could pick up amazing sci-fi for like 50 cents a book or less.

This topic is closed for new posts.

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2019