Search on SLJ.com ....
Subscribe to SLJ
Follow This Blog: RSS feed
Good Comics For Kids
Inside Good Comics For Kids

Roundtable: Superman Family Adventures RIP

Michael May
supermanfamilyadventures 194x300 Roundtable: <i>Superman Family Adventures</i> RIP

Superman Family Adventures

The cancellation of Superman Family Adventures, yet another critically-praised superhero comic that DC won’t be publishing anymore, has us pretty riled up. We figured that we could vent about it or offer some constructive suggestions for DC and Marvel’s future kids comics, so we decided to do both.

Have you been reading Superman Family Adventures? What did you think of the comic?

Scott: I’ve only read the first issue of Superman Family Adventures and in many ways it works well as a comic book for young readers with its simple narrative, childlike artwork with lots of visual interest and action, and text that is large and readable. But the many references to DC continuity, especially tongue-in-cheek jokes that reference the New 52 are unnecessary. Young readers won’t get these jokes and it seems DC is more committed to satisfying the nostalgic needs of adult readers who read these books. My question is: do kids really read these series?

Michael: I’m glad to hear you say that, Scott, because it mirrors my own opinion and I thought I was the only one who felt that way. I had the same problem with Tiny Titans. Apparently, what I want out of a superhero comic for children is a completely separate universe in which the heroes can just have fun adventures without referring to a lot of other continuity.

tinytitans50 194x300 Roundtable: <i>Superman Family Adventures</i> RIP

The final issue of Tiny Titans

I should be fair though and mention that my son had no such hang-ups with Tiny Titans. He loved it and didn’t care that it was slyly referencing comics he knew nothing about. When those references didn’t fly completely over his head, he just had me explain what I knew about them. I didn’t particularly enjoy having to explain old (and usually ridiculous) DC continuity to him, but he didn’t mind it. From the large number of young Tiny Titans and SFA fans I’ve seen lining up to meet the creators at conventions (and from responses like this one to SFA’s cancellation), my boy is obviously not alone.

When I figured out that SFA was going to be a lot like Tiny Titans though, I decided not to buy it. My son doesn’t know what he’s missing and he’s perfectly happy discovering Bone and Calvin & Hobbes.

Eva: I’ll admit, I stopped reading single-issue superhero comics years ago (and back then I was a Marvel Girl, so I only ever had a loose idea of DC Universe continuity anyway), so I haven’t read any of the Superman Family Adventures issues and only briefly glanced at the Tiny Titans collected graphic novel. But I’ve bought both for my library collection. Sadly, Superman Family Adventures has been cancelled before any of the issues reached my shelves, so I may never know if this series would have been as popular as Tiny Titans has proven to be.

In my observations of the kids who read the Tiny Titans series here in the library, sometimes alone and sometimes with their parents, they let the references to comics they’ve never read just float past them, much they way they do with Sesame Street sketches that are written as much for the parent as for the child viewer.

marveladv 195x300 Roundtable: <i>Superman Family Adventures</i> RIP

Marvel Adventures Spider-Man

Mike: I’ve really enjoyed the Superman Family Adventures comic books. I didn’t read all the issues, but I liked how they were accessible for younger readers but also made so if an older fan read them, they might get some of the in-jokes. I personally know younger readers who adored the series as well. It was a lot of fun.

What other all-ages DC/Marvel superhero series have been especially worthwhile?

Scott: DC and Marvel have published a number of series geared towards young readers but frankly, none of them have been truly worthwhile because they don’t stay in print. As well, they don’t appeal purely to young readers because they’re often mired in nostalgia. DC, especially, doesn’t want to upset their core adult audience.

Michael: I really dug Marvel’s Marvel Adventures line from a few years ago. It was exactly what I want in an all-ages comic: imaginative, humorous, self-contained stories. And by “self-contained” I mean not only that they didn’t constantly refer to other stories I’d have to stop and explain to my son, but also that they were done in one issue and didn’t require a huge investment in time or money. Unfortunately, as you noted, Marvel editorial didn’t seem to know what to do with them. They kept tinkering with the format and branding until no one (not even them) was sure what the imprint was anymore.

DC’s had some great kids comics over the years too. I’ve especially liked the Batman series based on their animated shows, from Batman Adventures to The Batman Strikes! to Batman: The Brave and the Bold. But those never last long either. Mike Kunkel’s Billy Batson and the Magic of SHAZAM! was also really, really good, as was the recent Super Friends series that tied into the Fisher Price toy line.

capstonebatman 212x300 Roundtable: <i>Superman Family Adventures</i> RIP

One of Capstone’s Batman books

Eva: From a pure collection development standpoint, there is no unworthy DC or Marvel property for kids, provided it actually is for kids. Children are as much pop culture animals as teens and adults are and they want, want, want to have access to the cool stories they see in movies or watch on TV. If I had the money, I’d be buying every kids comic (both monthly comics and graphic novel collections) DC and Marvel wanted to put out. Instead, I’m buying licenced properties of DC/Marvel characters from publishers like Capstone and DK. Crazy.

Mike: I really enjoy the monthly Looney Tunes comic book. It’s weird, but it’s DC Comics’ highest-numbered monthly series right now. I’m a big fan too of the classic Batman: The Animated Series comics. Many times they were better written than some of the regular mainstream Batman comics. Why DC Comics decides to not even collect it in an Omnibus-like edition to this day just mystifies me. It’s not like the animated series is even in mothballs – you can regularly watch episodes of it on the Hub network daily. My 7-year-old son loves watching it too. I really also did enjoy the recently-cancelled Batman: The Brave and the Bold comic book series too based on the animated property of the same name. Other comic book lines that are still on Cartoon Network or the Hub that would be great to resurrect/collect would be Animaniacs (59 issues) and Powerpuff Girls (70 issues).

Have there been any DC/Marvel superhero series that you were happy to see cancelled? If so, why?

Scott: Personally I would never cheer for the cancellation of a particular series. Creators put a lot of hard work into these stories and are trying their best with the direction given to them by editors. With the multiple attempts and subsequent failures of pretty much all of DC and Marvel’s series for young readers, I blame the higher-ups for a lack of vision and failure to see the potential in these kinds of books.

scoobydoo 196x300 Roundtable: <i>Superman Family Adventures</i> RIP

Scooby Doo, Where Are You?

Michael: I agree. Even the ones that I haven’t personally enjoyed had passionate fans.

Mike: Atari Force? Well – you’re right – they still have fans today too.

What do you believe is the biggest problem DC and Marvel have in keeping going an all-ages superhero series?

Scott: Both DC and Marvel lack commitment to a long term plan for their all ages series, knowledge of what appeals to today’s readers and awareness of the children’s publishing industry.

Michael: I agree with all that and would just build off that last point. For some reason, both companies are insistently focused on trying to make kids comics work in the Direct Market, a system that really only works for readers with lots of discretionary income and transportation to a comics specialty shop. That audience includes some parents, but doesn’t include the kids themselves.

And where they’ve thought at all about general bookstores, from the outside it looks like their strategy is pretty half-hearted.

Lori: DC has another problem in that its parent company, Warner Bros. can have too much of an editorial say in what goes on in the comics division. Many of their popular, all-ages titles that are based on cartoons seem to get the axe as soon as the cartoon does. They don’t let the comic grow into its own, which is more than possible since titles such as Scooby-Doo lasted a long stint without a cartoon or movie to support it. It’s nice to have media-tie ins, but as a parent it’s nice to see books go beyond their TV counterpart.

batmanadv 195x300 Roundtable: <i>Superman Family Adventures</i> RIP

Batman Adventures

Eva: Exactly what Lori said. For crying out loud, people! Does no one at DC or Marvel remember what it’s like to be a kid? Just because a show is off the air doesn’t mean the love for the characters or the storyline dies.

Mike: Amen, Eva!

What could DC and Marvel do to correct that problem?

Scott: What both companies need is a champion who understands children’s publishing, has a keen eye for creators and IP’s that could be developed specifically for kids, understands the potential of a diverse line of books with appeal to different age groups, and a decent marketing budget to promote a line of young readers series.

Michael: I’d add that a better bookstore strategy is important. Get the comics out of the graphic novel section and into children’s sections. Get them into children’s bookstores, too. And of course, let people know that they’re there.

I know that everyone’s still figuring out digital, but that might be a solution as well. Kids can’t afford a three-dollar comic at the comic book store, but they might be able to handle a 99-cent one on comiXology. Especially if parents had the option of setting up a pre-paid account for their children to use in shopping from a kid-friendly section of the site.

Lori: As a parent, I have to say having a branded line, like DC had with their “Johnny DC” line made it a lot easier for me to point out books that were appropriate for my kids as they were growing up. Parents like being able to see something and be able to trust that the content is safe for their kids. Marvel had that as well recently with their “Marvel Adventures” line. Now both have gone the way of the Dodo, so it takes more time and research to figure out what is safe to bring home, and a lot of parents just won’t take that kind of time. They will go with what they know is safe; My Little Pony: Friendship is MagicAdventure Time, even the Disney titles,which will help Marvel in general, but not their superheroes specifically.

boomdisney 300x227 Roundtable: <i>Superman Family Adventures</i> RIP

BOOM!’s Walt Disney Comics

Eva: What all three of you have said. I’m so frustrated that it’s hard for me to articulate well the things I’d like to see happen. I want both companies to figure out who they’re publishing for — long-time readers? first-time readers? children? adults? I want both companies to figure out who is buying their books — adults? dads? moms? the kids themselves? I want both companies to figure out who they want to be buying and reading their books — is their goal to build a new reader base? to flatter long-time readers/new parents into thinking they’re doing something neat for their kids by buying comics that aren’t really for the kids? to publish good stories for kids? At this point I don’t even care much what the companies ultimate goals are, I just wish they’d have some.

Sigh.

Mike: I wish that DC and Marvel would try to go into their back catalog and rediscover some of the hidden gems they had published. Libraries are practically begging for younger reader superhero comics. Young kids come into the library to read Batman – and there’s not a lot out there collected and nothing in single issues anymore. DC Comics has access to 150 single issues alone from Batman: The Animated Series’ comic book counterpart. If Batman is timeless, shouldn’t these stories be too?

And don’t get me started on what Disney is having Marvel Comics do with their Disney properties: nothing. I was starting to really love the Disney Comics by Boom Studios that featured Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck, and the like (I believe most were reprinted from Italy) and BOOM! – now they’re no more. There’s easily a treasure trove of Italian Mickey Mouse books that just need to be translated and printed and no one wants to do it at Marvel/Disney. {Sigh}

share save 171 16 Roundtable: <i>Superman Family Adventures</i> RIP
Michael May About Michael May

Michael May has been writing about comics for a little over a decade. He started as a reviewer for Comic World News and soon became editor-in-chief of the site. Leaving editorial duties to focus on writing, he joined The Great Curve, the comics blog that eventually became Blog@Newsarama and finally Comic Book Resources' Robot 6. In addition to loving comics, he loves his son and enjoys nothing more than finding (and writing about) awesome comics for the boy to read.

Comments

  1. Jay says:

    You guys hit the nail on the head! Both Marvel and DC seem to excel at killing the worthwhile kids titles they produce. It IS odd that their stuff best-suited to kids comes from licensed work, rather than in-house (or their own archives).

    We’ve been stocking more of the Captsone and childrens’ storybook version of heroes of late. Free comic book day is coming soon though–and that usually has some good single-issue stories to get kids interested in the most popular heroes.

    Great discussion!

  2. Dave Roman says:

    As a former DC intern, longtime admirer, it’s been frustrating that these books don’t get more appreciation. All the editors on the DC kids line over the years have put tons of love into them and assembled the most fantastic creative teams to work on them. And your right that most of these comics stand the test of time and would make for great book collections. I always assumed they just didn’t sell in the direct market because not enough kids were shopping there (hopefully that’s getting better as more stores are doing a better jobs with their kid sections–but not fast enough?) so I want to believe the Johnny DC stuff would do better as graphic novels sold in bookstores and Scholastic book fairs. Or maybe when you go out of your way to say something is FOR KIDS when they know there’s also a not for kids version they’ll always be misperceived as “less than” the original? I hope not, but it’s something that may always be an issue.

    Also worth mentioning: the SpongeBob SquarePants comic book has been chugging along under the radar and doing great things on a bi-monthly schedule. And of course the Adventure Time and My Little Pony comics are fantastic and bringing new readers into comic shops all the time. Which is great, because often these licensed comics are kids entry point to a lifetime affair with the comics medium.

  3. Chad says:

    I know that everyone’s still figuring out digital, but that might be a solution as well. Kids can’t afford a three-dollar comic at the comic book store, but they might be able to handle a 99-cent one on comiXology. Especially if parents had the option of setting up a pre-paid account for their children to use in shopping from a kid-friendly section of the site.

    A lot of the DC kids’ comics you praise in this article — Batman: TAS comics, Tiny Titans, Super Friends, Batman: Brave and the Boldetc. — are in fact available via Comixology for 99 cents a pop. And Comixology has a kid-specific comics app, Comics4Kids.

  4. J.Bone says:

    Good article, though I just want to write about something that always bugs me when grown-ups talk about comics for kids – that continuity/references are “missed” by Children.

    An anecdote that I think explains my thoughts – I was sketching for kids at a book fair and a super-fan father came by with his two sons. The boys loved the Batman Brave and the Bold cartoon. While sketching Batman for them I asked who their favourite character was. “Blue Beetle”, I was told. And then the super-fan father piped up that it was a shame it’s not the real Blue Beetle and that there’s so much confusing backstory around the character and who he really is and blah blah blah.
    I stopped the dad and turning to the boy who liked Blue Beetle asked him who the Blue Beetle is. Paraphrasing “He’s a boy who got a special costume that lets him be the Blue Beetle”.
    That’s all a kid needs.
    Seriously.
    They don’t need to know who Ted Kord is or that he used to be in a comic book with Booster Gold who comes from the future…none of that matters to the kid who’s enjoying the cartoon.
    And it’s the same with the comic book. Those pop culture/continuity references that “float by” the kids float by because the kid doesn’t care. They don’t even know there’s something “floating by”. Your children are enjoying the comic book on a level that you have not been able to since you were a kid.

    My feeling about those references to DC’s 52 etc…those are there for the parent to chuckle at while their children are laughing at Robin, or Beast Boy turning into a green dog. Eva nailed it when she mentioned Sesame Street which works on many levels. The Simpsons has also done it for years. Even adults don’t get all Simpsons references. If it’s good, well written entertainment it’s enjoyable whether you “get” (or are even aware of) the reference.

    Please keep reading to your kids! And take them to the library and let them pick out trades and encourage them to find the stuff that interests them.

    sincerely,
    J.Bone

  5. J.Bone says:

    Oh…p.s. when I was a kid I’d ride my bike to wherever comics were sold. I know it’s different times now than when I was growing up in the 80s but if a kid wants to get to a comic shop they’ll find a way :)

  6. I realize that there are larger concerns at play in this discussion but I did want to note that while publication of original issues may have ceased, Capstone’s new agreement with DC allows some of those popular backlist comics to live on in library hardcover editions including Batman: The Brave and the Bold, Tiny Titans, and, later in 2013, Superman Family Adventures.

  7. Great article! I was very disappointed that they chose to cancel SFA. The video referenced in the article is the one I took when I told my daughter about the cancellation. I thought it would be cute to document her reaction but when I realized it hit her that hard…I cut the video short to console her. She was really broken up about it.

    I posted the video in hope of showing DC that the kids who read their books are passionate about them and love their kid friendly titles. Cancelling them should never be a financial decision. Between Warner Brothers and DC Entertainment, there’s no reason they don’t bring in enough revenue to keep a title like SFA running for as long as they have people willing to work on them. Art Baltazar and Franco should be commended for their great work.

    On my blog I posted an open letter to DC comics and shared it through social media. I’ve gotten quite a bit of backing from my internet friends. I’ve been documenting my progress (if you can call it that) on my twitter account in hopes to save the title. I’ve even had exchanges with people in the comic book industry, such as Ron Marz, encouraging me to write a letter and mail it via snail mail to gain more attention.

    My daughter wrote her letter last night and I mailed it out today. One of the things she pointed out in her letter (mind you she’s only 7) is that SFA is the only Superman book she can read because the other Superman titles are too ‘violent’. It’s terrible that kids can’t have iconic superheroes to read about unless the title helps them meet their bottom line. Big companies spend money all the time on things that may not bring in money but invest in their future. Kids titles like Superman: Family Adventures is an investment into their future.

    Thank you for writing this article and bringing more attention to the travesty that is the cancellation of SFA.

  8. andventures says:

    A really interesting article. I’m not a parent yet ( I am a teacher) and it’s nice to now people do care about having great comics for kids out there! I have every Batman animated comic except for one Batman Beyond issue I’ve yet to locate online. For a few years it was the only comic I was collecting. It had multi-level stories, great cinematic moments and was… fun! Many comics were not at this time relying too much on graphic violence or swearing etc for shock value
    = depressing.
    It’s great that there is a movement (albeit a small one) to have good comics for kids…they love Bone, Tintin etc. Even if continuity goes over their head it adds to the stories and in later years it may add to their reading experiences.”Their was a different BlueBeetle? Wow.” I
    know part of my comic fun was working out who all the different heroes were and how they were connected to each other.

  9. Longboxpreacher says:

    I am also saddened by the loss of SFA. Like J Bone, I think that some of the younger readers may have clued in more about the continuity references. My son knows the names of the characters who wore the Robin costume as well as the different Beetles, etc. sure he might not get all of them but he laughs at the ones he does understand. I also suggest headed towards digital print as there is a new and beautiful digital-only series called Batman: Lil Gotham by Dustin Nguyen. It’s basically a self-contained series involving the holidays (not unlike The Long Halloween) but definitely a lighter tone and all pf the characters are more smaller in stature. It might help ease the pain of SFA getting the axe.

  10. I took a photo of a large bookshelf at a Barnes & Noble that was filled with nothing but DC and Marvel character books. There were hundreds of them. I opened every single one and NOT ONE was in comic format. Clearly the picture books, sticker books, etc. are selling if B&N devotes a large, prominent display to nothing but licensed superhero books. Why don’t the Big Two simply make a few picture books in comic format?

  11. andventures says:

    There are also some really well done all age-web comics available in print form. Three I discovered last year were Red’s Planet, Cleopatra in Space and The Bean. Well worth checking out.

  12. Mike says:

    I’m really disappointed to hear about the SFA cancellation. I spoke with Art Baltazar at his comic shop near Chicago just a few weeks ago and he shared that he and Franco already had the series plotted out through book 22! So this news was a real shock to me and I’m sure to the creators as well.

    My almost 5 year-old daughter learned to read with the Tiny Titans and has been really proud that she can read SFA independently. As for the continuity “issue”, since we also read JLA, Superman and Batman books base on the animated series’ in parallel with the Baltazar/Franco books, she picks up on a lot of the continuity references and relates them back to the other books she “knows”.

    Too bad, as others have pointed out, there isn’t a digital only option kept open for the creators by DC. Though we buy the books in print when we make a pilgrimage to the comic shop, we get them all in digital too. I think moves like this are short-sighted. DC is missing an opportunity to bring a new generation of readers into their universe. By canceling great books like SFA, they leave me nonchoice as a parent but to look for other titles. I can’t find an age appropriate series within the DC/Marvel line that we don’t already own.

    Part of me wonders how much of this has to do with sales or SFA and not with the upcoming Superman mega-blockbuster set to be released. Seems like they may be clearing the decks for aless fragmented marketing strategy or something equally sinister and wrongheaded.

    Kudos to the creators for what they’ve done so far, my daughter and I will surely be first in line for whatever project they launch next, DC or not.

Trackbacks

  1. [...] Comics | In a roundtable discussion led by Robot 6 contributor Michael May, the Good Comics for Kids bloggers discuss the demise of Superman Family Adventures and the apparent lack of interest in kids’ comics at Marvel and DC. [Good Comics for Kids] [...]

  2. [...] incentives Weiner used. § Over at the (finally) redesigned Good Comics for Kids blogs, an all-star roundtable looks at how the Big Two are doing with comics for kids in the wake of the cancellation of Superman Family Adventures. Things could be better: Scott: Both [...]

  3. [...] Also, for those interested in an online discussion about kid friendly comic book series, check out this round table discussion over at the School Library [...]

Speak Your Mind

*