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Roundtable: The DC Fan Family website

“I liked the ease of navigation and age categories.”

When DC announced it’s new Fan Family website, we had some mixed reactions. And they were still mixed after we gave it a look. Mike, Robin, Esther, Lori, and I talked about what we like about DC Fan Family and what still needs work.

What was your first reaction on hearing that DC created a website dedicated to their fans with children?

Mike: I’m happy about the idea. Many many companies have sites that are dedicated to families and I was glad to see that DC Comics is also doing that as well.

Robin: I agree with Mike. I was happy to hear that DC is acknowledging their young readers and families, and I am optimistic that this might mean greater awareness of their youngest audiences and how they might best serve them. The skeptical side of me doubts much will change in terms of their actual comics for kids, but I’m trying to give them the benefit of the doubt.

Esther:  Like Mike and Robin, I was glad to see something geared to families. There’s nothing like a parent sharing their love of comics to get kids reading. But like Robin, I’m a bit skeptical. I see plenty of ideas geared towards kids, but I don’t see any comics really geared to the young audience.

Lori: I was skeptical too when I heard the news. I think being able to share something you enjoy with your kids is great and am a big proponent of it, but I just didn’t see DC having much in way of comics for parents and their pre-teen kids to share.

Michael: I was actually pretty excited. I thought, “At last DC gets that it has young fans!” My hope was that they’d follow up with more comics that are appropriate for kids, or that maybe I’d visit the site and discover some DC comics that I didn’t realize are kid-appropriate. Mostly, I saw it as a step in the right direction.

“…while it does foster reading, why not foster a love of reading comics?”

What kinds of things should such a site include?

Mike: I think it does offer a good range of what other sites have available including kid crafts, coloring pages and activities. It just debuted so I’m sure it’s just getting started, but so far the content is a little lacking.

Robin: When I first heard about it, I presumed it would be a mix of DC promoting its comics, characters, and merchandise aimed at their younger audiences and the parents of said younger folks. Since it’s a family site, I also anticipated it featuring content that might bridge different ages: siblings of different ages, for example, or even introducing parents who are already fans to ways to share their love of DC’s universe with their own kids.

Esther: A site like this should have a mix of crafts and activities for families to share. But it should also have a medium to share comics. It would be great to have a way to create comics, which would foster reading and writing.  As I dug deeper, I found a link to the Capstone line of DC super hero chapter books, but those aren’t actual comics. They’re prose novels. And while it does foster reading, why not foster a love of reading comics?

Lori: There should be activities for both parents and children, covering every potential age group. The activities should be engaging and fun for everyone to enjoy, and some interactivity that allows both parents and kids to work together as well as solo projects. It should also have a focus, such as on comics since this is for DC COMICS.

Michael: What I was looking for was content directly related to all-ages comics: announcements about new comics, information about which comics were all-ages, and maybe even some comics to read right there on the page.

“…given the tagline of ‘Be a superhero! Read!’ it’s decidedly lacking in any encouragement to actually, you know, read.”

Does the Fan Family site meet your expectations?

Robin: Well, I am disappointed at the lack of attention paid to actual comics or to reading. The various categories – News, Features, and Win – are a pretty clear indicator of what they are there to present. Where’s the comics category? Or reading? Or book list? Or even a character list? I’d love to see a primer for folks who are new to the universe. I see so many parents whose kid loves Batman but they’re completely unsure as to how to satisfy their child’s demand for more to read, and DC could do well in giving non-fan parents a way to become fans.

Also, while there are many ways to engage kids with characters, like the included craft activities and nods toward media like DC Nation, it’s a little sad to see that so far the big news is a contest co-sponsored by Capstone. The contest itself seems like a decent one with a great grand prize, but given the tagline of “Be a superhero! Read!” it’s decidedly lacking in any encouragement to actually, you know, read. Kids are asked to write about their own real-life hero (fine), but there’s nothing in the contest that encourages reading, or the idea that they can win by being well-read either with the Capstone titles or with DC’s comics. Why not a contest that has the kids talk about their heroes discovered in reading – either real-life folks who’ve helped them read or characters they’ve discovered through reading?

Esther: I didn’t have high expectations, so I think it’s okay. I wouldn’t tell anyone don’t go to the site. That would be silly. There’s plenty of good stuff.  And DC’s prime goal is to sell their merchandise and to make a buck.  Again, it’s not outright ignoring the idea of fostering a love of reading and writing with children, they’re just not doing it well.

Lori: It met my expectations in that I wasn’t expecting a lot. They don’t have a lot of family friendly comics to promote. For cross promotion to other media such as TV and prose books, as well as promoting characters such as Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman, it works well. Of course, that only works as long as they have that other media. Their TV seems to have the same shelf-life as many of their comics: short.

Michael: Like Robin, I was disappointed by the small amount of comics-related content. There’s some peripheral stuff like coloring sheets and printable posters, and while I like that they’re partnering with Capstone to increase the amount of superhero stories available to kids, as Esther pointed out above, those aren’t comics. There is some comics-related content, but it’s a minor percentage of what the site seems to be about. My son isn’t going to be interested in activities about DC superheroes unless he has some comics to read about them first.

“…it does offer a good range of what other sites have available including kid crafts, coloring pages and activities.”

What do you like about the site?

Mike: I like the kids craft feature. It’s a nice step-by-step craft on how to make a Batman jetpack…just like the animated show Batman: the Brave and the Bold that was cancelled. {sigh}.

Robin: I do like that it’s relatively easy to navigate, and I really like the age categories that are easily accessible and visible. As a librarian, it’s always been a bone of contention that many superhero publishers (DC and Marvel included) cling to this idea that titles are either all ages or for teens and adults and ignore the different levels of being a kid. Thus, I’m glad to see that they’re anticipating needing to organize the content between different age ranges within the category of kids. It remains to be seen just how those categories will be applied, but kudos for starting out that way.

The art gallery looks like a lot of fun, and I’m sure kids will be happy to share their work and it’s a great way to show how kids engage with the characters and universe. It’s a bit sad that it must include a paragraph of legal language that makes it very clear that DC will own any drawing you send it, plus any original additions kids may make to their superhero’s style, but I suppose it’s not a surprise.

That kind of visibility of the characters always makes me wonder. These kids are getting to know the characters mainly through other media — TV, film — and I would like to see DC turn that love for the characters into a way to bring reading and comics to those fans as another medium to enjoy.

Esther:  It’s pretty easy to navigate.  And like Robin, I like the age categories too.  I’m not wowed though.  As a parent, I don’t see myself returning often to the site.

Lori: Like Robin and Esther, I liked the ease of navigation and age categories. There’s still too little content to make any real judgement, but I think it’s got potential. There’s not much there at the moment to make me want to come back.

Michael: The age categories are really cool. And I do like what comics-related content there is. The “This Week in DC Kids Comics” feature is handy, even if it highlights how few DC kids comics there really are.

“The ‘This Week in DC Kids Comics’ feature is handy, even if it highlights how few DC kids comics there really are.”

What features should be added or changed to make it better?

Mike: I’d like there to be a more upfront focus on the comic books. Sure, other focuses are fine to be sure, but when your main focus product-wise is known to be comic books, then there should be a feature on that. Sadly, the comics that are being focused are already on the cutting block (I’m looking at you, Superman Family Adventures).

Robin: As Mike said, more focus on comics. I would also really like to see easily browsable list of their titles aimed at kids, with age ranges and annotations, and perhaps feature reviews or at least highlights of different series. These both would necessitate them publishing more comics for kids (and keeping them in print).

Esther: Ditto to Mike and Robin. There’s very little about the comics. It’s about the characters and the stories. I see this site fostering a love of Superman or Batman, but I don’t see this site fostering a love of comics.

Lori: More comics, definitely. What might be nice would be some tie-in comics with their DC Nation shorts. Short strips featuring Amethyst, or Farm League. Something that would give families a reason to come back more than once a month.

Michael: Echo, echo, echo! One thing they could do to enhance the scanty “This Week in DC Kids Comics” section would be to include comics that aren’t specifically aimed at children, but are still appropriate for them. I’m not sure such a thing exists currently, but Marvel has some series like that, so it’s possible.
Also, if there’s an RSS feed, I can’t find it. I’m not going to return to the site every week to check in, but I’d love to have it show up in my reader so that I can skim the updates and choose the articles and features that interest me.
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.

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