By Beau Smith

Ya know? in the last 17 years I’ve seen hundreds of publishers, thousands of retailers and more than a million readers/fans of comics. When I say I’ve seen em’, I mean I’ve SEEN em’, talked to em, wined em’ (the females? guys don’t drink wine) dined em’, fought with em’, tossed beers with em’, and on a couple of occasions busted heads with em’. I can say with real man honesty that I have no regrets?

Except one.

Don’t Make Me Get Out Of This Chair and Beat Your Ass… Gimme My Comics!

There ain’t no more kids readin’ and buyin’ comics anymore.

Now I don’t mean 100%. There are a few. But it might as well be 100%. We don’t have enough to start a small chain of day care centers. Here’s more news for ya? we haven’t for a while.

Do not? and I mean DO NOT? believe those that tell ya there are lots of young kids (ages 6-12) readin’ comics. Yeah, there are a few retail shops that do have some young buyers, but when you pin them down you find out the stats are very low. You also can’t say that YOU know lots of kids that read comics. Maybe on your short-list? your kids? a few of their friends? but that’s it. I’m not talkin’ small pockets of kids here and there. I’m talkin’ nationwide. It ain’t happenin’.

Granted, when ya go to conventions you will see some kids. Most are there with their 25 to 50 year old dads because the dads are the readers. Not the kids.

The average age of comic book readers right now is 15 to 50 year old males. The heavy percentage of that is 25 to 50 year olds. Go in just about any comic shop of your choice? what do ya see on Wednesdays?

Ya see men 25 to 50 years old more than anything else. Comics aren’t just for kids anymore? they’re hardly for kids at all.

The early 90s were the “false bottom” years of comics, (by false bottom I refer to the “Collector Craze” era). When everyone thought that they were all gonna retire rich from buyin’ multiple copies of every shiny, foil covered piece of crap that was bein’ turded out of every publisher’s ass? .In huge print runs. I know? I was head of Image Comics marketing then. I take my part of the blame.

Durin’ that time we got a bunch of kids into comics? most left? but some did stay. They ones that stayed are now creators or workin’ in comics in some shape or form? retail, publishing, distribution? you get the picture. Many of them from that time period have moved into the video game world and the field of TV and films.

Kids now days have a whole huge world of technology that takes their time. Time is what comics have lost with the kids? the money trail went with em’.

The internet, video games, CDs, DVDs? the list goes on? that’s where the kids went. Comics are like radio. We’ve been pushed to the back of the food chain. Like radio, comics will always be here, just further down the line of “must have” pop culture.

Gimme My Comics…
I Got The Cash Right Here In My Diaper, Pal!

I love hearin’ the people that are positive about comics. The ones that haven’t given up on comics. I’m there with em’. Where we part company is they have this dream? fantasy? that there is somethin’ we can do right now that will drive droves of kids back into comics.

There ain’t.

I’m not pissin’ on the parade. There ain’t no parade to piss on.

When I was a kid I wanted every tie-in that came with my favorite movie, TV show, toy, comic? whatever? .We were the first generation of real pop culture junkies. We were starved for it. The next couple of kid cycles were the same way. Then the technology boom hit and all of a sudden there was so much pop culture to have, it squeezed out some of the standards. Comics was one of em’.

Comics lost their time. The money left town with it. I think you’ll find that most of the kids that are hard core about comics now are also interested in doin’ comics? as a writer or artist. There is a huge crowd of the 15 to 20 year olds that buy comics who now wanna work in comics.

To give ya an example of how fragile the comic book habit is now? .If a comic fan now days goes one month to three months without buyin’ a comic? loss of job, divorce, sickness? you’ll find that a large percentage of em’ never come back. They find that they don’t miss the comics as much as they thought. I’ve seen this happen many times and have had even more tell me of it from their own lips.

Take off those rose tinted glasses? they ain’t workin’ and ‘sides? real men don’t wear those sissy things. (Real men also don’t wear sunglasses inside either. If ya got a black eye? flaunt it!)

Is there a way of gettin’ kids in mass to get into comics? Hell? I don’t know. If I did I wouldn’t be writin’ this column now, would I?

It is obvious that no one else knows either. Oh, ya got those dreamers with good intentions that spout off about library readings, and givin’ comics out at Halloween? yak? .yak? yak? tree huggers without trees if ya ask me. All those things are nice thoughts and gestures, but that’s like tryin’ to fill up a swimmin’ pool with an eye dropper.

Free Comic Book Day is a great idea? .as long as ya push it to folks that ain’t already buyin’ comics. Way I look at it is ya don’t give a free comic to someone that is already buyin’ em’. It’s like pissin’ in your own bathtub.

Put those free comics into the hands where they’ll do the most good. Even then it’s like tryin’ to skate up a hill of ice, but at least you’re tryin’. Free Comic Book Day should only come once a year? I agree on that. That way the retailer, publisher and distributor can research and work a whole year to find out the best way to get it into the right hands and more important? how to keep em’ comin’ back.

Nothin’ worse than the once a year self masturbation that certain retailers do when they spout-off in print and on the web about all the people that they had turn out for Free Comic Book Day. I never hear em’ talk six months later about all those same hordes of people? new people? that they have still comin’ into their stores throwin’ down money. It’s one thing if ya slap your donkey by yourself, just don’t try and make me watch.

My feelin’s are if you can get a few kids to read comics? great. I’m all for that. Just don’t waste too much of your thoughts on thinkin’ that we’re gonna get the 60s, 70s and 80s back.

I’m a little weary of folks sayin’ comic sales are up and things are lookin’ real good. We can all rest a little easier. It’s true that comic sales are up from what they were in the last two years. But what ya gotta remember is that it’s two years out of seven years of them suckin’ like a vampire in a blood bank. Plus, the comic sales that are up are only the top 20 books. In the last 6 months? across the board with all publishers? we’ve seen a consistent drop in sales. Yeah, this includes Marvel and DC as well.

Are we gonna get more kids readin’ comics? Doubtful. Not anytime soon.

Are we gonna see comics make a huge come back to what they were before Marvel tried to screw their own sister and bought Heroes World Distribution? Nope. Not anytime soon.

If we did see these two things happen quickly then it would just mean that we had another “False Bottom” fad. Another one night stand quickie as opposed to a long-term relationship where ya get sex every night. Always shoot for the long haul. Short term is for the weak.

For those of you that are tryin’ to get kids to read comics? please? keep at it. It is a good thing. Do it for the long haul.

For those of you doing Free Comics Book Day, please? do it? but follow up all year ’round.

For those of you that continue to dream that things are gonna be wonderful again, please? get to work to make it happen or get the hell out of my face with all you lip dribblin’. Stars in the sky aren’t for layin’ on your lazy ass and wishin’ on. They’re for lookin’ at after you’ve done a long hard days work and should be the last thing ya see before ya get well earned sleep.

Be realistic about comic books. There is still water to bail out of this boat. I realize there ain’t no happy ending this story. But then again at least I ain’t lyin’ to ya.

I don’t know about you, but when it comes to comics? I don’t really want there to be an ending? happy or sad.

As always, I ain’t hard to find.

Your amigo,

Beau Smith
The Flying Fist Ranch

PS: I’m sure I got the ugliest bunch of fans this side of good old Rob Liefeld. Prove me wrong. Send your photo to me at the Flying Fist Ranch and you may be rewarded with a gallery page of your very own. Be sure to check out the mug shots in Beau’s Manly Fans.

Prove your manhood by visiting Beau at the Flying Fists Forum!

About The Author

Beau Smith

Beau Smith is a writer for Comics Bulletin