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Tuesday, 6 November 2012

Back in September, Newsarama interviewed comics creator Eric Shanower about the embarkation of the Marvel comics adaptation of The Road to Oz, which he scripted and Skottie Young drew.

Eric had this to say about the field of comics for younger readers:
There are great children’s comics out there. But there are a ton more that just aren’t in print and I’m sure there would be more reprints and more new stuff if the market were different. But there aren’t many places that children generally see comic books and graphic novels, so those things aren’t on most children’s radar. Children don’t have the spending power of adults, so why should any publisher market to children, why should any distributor figure out how to get product to children? This situation is exemplified by the fact that Disney comics haven’t sold in any major numbers since the 1970s. How crazy is that? Disney comics, simply through name recognition, ought to be top sellers. . . . But I don’t think most kids go into comics stores or even care about comics.

It’s merely anecdotal evidence, but time and time again adult readers of the Marvel Oz comics tell me that their kids love them. But the kids know about them because a parent discovered them first. I can only remember meeting one child who found the Marvel Oz comics on his own — and that was because he was an Oz fan first. As I said, anecdotal evidence, and centered on one project, but I think it’s a valid representation of the broader comics culture.
In this conversation Eric seems to be speaking of magazines and books from comics publishers, as opposed to extremely similar books in graphic form sold by mainstream book publishers. The latter seem to be reaching kids better than ever through bookstores and libraries.

Around the time I read this interview, Prof. Jay Hosler told me that he and his sons are enjoying the Oz comics a lot. But of course he’s the creator of the wonderful Clan Apis graphic novel about honeybees, so he was already visiting the comics stores.

Elsewhere in the interview Eric mentioned that the Road to Oz adaptation will be shorter than its predecessors: “Marvel has started cutting our page count and issue count, so it’s becoming a challenge to fit everything in.” That book doesn’t have much of a plot, but it has a lot of incident. The next volume in the series, The Emerald City of Oz, is quite episodic and therefore possibly flexible.

But I really hope sales for those volumes stay high because L. Frank Baum’s next Oz book, The Patchwork Girl of Oz, was his longest, one of his most full, and one of his best. It would be much harder to boil that one down, and the results would be disappointing.

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