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Armchair QB - What do you think the industy should do to get kids back into comics?

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Armchair QB - What do you think the industy should do to get kids back into comics?

Old 01-28-08, 07:25 AM
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Armchair QB - What do you think the industy should do to get kids back into comics?

On every comic message board, on any day of the week, you can find a poster saying something along the lines of "The industry needs to attract young readers or the market will only continue to shrink and here's how to do it...etc".

It's kind of obvious now that kids want to read. Harry Potter proved this. Manga* is proving this. Ever growing children and YA sections in bookstores are proving this. So it's not that kids are too busy with the same old tired excuses of the internet and video games, but there definitely seems to be a disconnect between American comics and young readers.

So I ask you the great minds of Comic Book Talk, what do you think needs doing to attract children and teens to American comics? Do you think it's even possible, or has the domination of the medium by superhero comics aimed at guys in their 20's & 30's lost its appeal for the next generation of readers? Is it out of the hands of the book makers, and more in the hands of retailers? If so, how do they go about getting kids to come to their store in the first place?

I've been giving this some thought, and it really is perplexing. It's obvious that there is no one solution, but without some great overhaul of how things are done in the direct market, I just don't see how the younger audience can be won back over.

I understand that things like Bone sell well by scholastic pushing books through schools (wasn't it the best when your ordered books would come to school, but you would have to wait all day before you could get at them? Goodtimes), but I wonder if that leads to seeking more stuff out, or if it's just seen as a one off thing. Like "Bone was nice, I wonder what book I'm going to read next?" instead of "Bone was nice, I wonder what other comic I should try next?" That make any sense?

*I consider manga to be straight up comics and I think it's great that so many young people are reading them. However, this post is meant to see if there is a way to get a younger audience into (and excited about) American comics. That's why I'm making the distinction between manga and American (or Western) comics.
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Old 01-28-08, 10:44 AM
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1) Drop the price. If this means going back to cheaper quality paper, so be it. The slick stuff probably only matters to "collectors" anyway.

2) Drop the mega-event-crossovers-that-will-change-the-Marvel/DC-universe-forever. These work only for people who are already into comics and make it nearly impossible for the average kid to pick up a comic and care to try to figure out the history. Have a complete story in one book.

3) Get comics back in regular stores. Okay, the old comic spin rack won't ever be back, but there could still be a few comics scattered around the 7-11 counter next to Rolling Stone and Maxim.

These are off the top of my head before 2nd cuppa coffee. Not ideas that I would personally embrace, but that's not what Boredsilly asked.

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Old 01-28-08, 11:45 AM
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$

Manga's popular because kids get bang for their buck. Harry Potter books take a long time to read. A $4 comic is a disposable format that if not collected is thrown away - the format needs to evolve. Right now it's seen as a magazine - the increase in advertising pages don't help this. Paying $4 to get a floppy magazine that doesn't have a contained story is a rip off - especially for kids who'd rather spend the money on a used video game.
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Old 01-28-08, 01:03 PM
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While I agree with the money issue, there really doesn't seem to be a good way to get the costs down to manga-proportions, since manga is basically all reprints, and I'm not sure the royalties structure works the same way in Japan as it does here.

There are a bunch of good comics for kids out there that don't crossover into the "regular" universes, but since kids don't go into comicshops anymore, and adults usually ignore these books, they don't get ordered heavily.

Comics really need to get a better kind of distribution deal on the newsstands or supermarkets, etc., to get them in reach of kids. I used to love the small, compact, and relatively cheap digests that used to litter the supermarket aisles... I think only Archie comics still has that kind of deal.

Failing that, they should really try to partner up with Tokyopop or Viz... the mainstream manga-like books aren't getting shelfspace in bookstores, but they might penetrate better with the manga market if they were actually published by the known manga publishers (I know DCWildstorm has their own CMX manga line, but that's been plagued with censorship and they still have little shelf space in the Viz/TP dominated shelves). I'd think black and white would make it cheaper (like the essentials volumes, but manga-sized and with more recent material). You might not even need more recent material, maybe some Animated Series style books or stuff like Claremont/Byrne Uncanny, Simonson's Thor, or Byrne's FF.

That's not to say that they should completely ignore the loyal comic book stores that have kept this industry up for so long. But it's really up to the individual stores to make themselves a kid-friendly place, with pokemon tourneys or what have you, and presenting great age-appropriate material to them.


----

As an aside, I'm not sure how healthy the domestic manga market really is. Seems like it's reaching a saturation point, with so many titles being pumped out and shelf space not increasing all that much. I think the big titles, like Naruto, Bleach, stuff like that, will continue to sell well, but I'm not so sure about some of the more niche titles, especially the really long-running ones. Also, I'm not sure the cheap format accounts for the popularity as much as the kids being able to read them for free on the floor of a book store. I went to a Borders recently and there were aisles around the manga section filled with kids sitting on the floor reading manga. How much of these turned into actual sales, I have no idea.

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Old 01-28-08, 07:07 PM
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The only way Marvel will ever have a chance in hell of gaining a bigger piece of the comic pie is by killing the entire old MU off and beginning anew with issue #1 of every relevant title again. Like they did with the Ultimate U, which is (99% of the time) the only Marvel I'll read anymore....and I read all of the Ultimate titles, and enjoy them all! Some more than others of course, but it's nice not to have 45 years of poorly handled backstory (well, the last 15 or 20 years pretty much sucked) to remember every time I pick up a book.

The kids don't give a crap about the new Cap; and that makes two groups who don't like it; the old readers aren't too fond of him, either. And don't get me started on poor ol' Spidey. Or the FF. Or the always-shoulda-been-second-string-X-Men. The New-Young-Old-West-Bi-Coastal-Avengers. The Silver "I should've stayed on Earth" Surfer. Etc, etc., etc...
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Old 01-28-08, 07:17 PM
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I'm not sure creating yet another alternate or new world is the answer (note that DC also tried to wipe the slate clean with the original Crisis). When I was a kid, stories were still comprehensible even if I didn't know the back story of the characters... there'd be little notes that this story happened in this past issue, and it'd make me curious to try to track down back issues and see what happened. Don't bog a story down with continuity, but there's a way to do nods to it that will not leave people entirely lost.

The problem I see with the Ultimate universe is that each writer tries to do some sly rewriting of regular Marvel history, but it only bogs down the new universe they've created. Add that to the decompressed storytelling and really, what's the point of the Ultimate Universe?

I'd say go create a Timmverse line, but it didn't seem like JLU was all that popular with the kids anyway...


-----

I do think, for kids to get involved in comics again, something else needs to be addressed, and that's diversity. Superheroes in colored spandex is what we're trying to sell them, and when you look at something like manga, it's much more diverse than that. You do have your shonen titles with similar themes, but the characters are younger and for the most part, they don't wear gaudy costumes. In addition, there are manga on romance, martial arts, history, samurai, knights, heck, even cooking and board games (who can resist Hikaru no Go?).

The American comics scene does have non-superhero stuff, but how much of that is suitable for kids, and how much is readily available in bookstores? Bone and... I dunno? Is Akiko still around?

I think Marvel (or was it DC) recently launched an imprint with comics aimed at girls. They've also launched stuff that are adaptations of novels. As a superhero fan, I kinda gloss over that section of Previews, but I'd be interested in seeing how their experiment works. My suspicion is that there will be low orders because girls and book readers don't usually come into their store... but they're trying, at least.

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Old 01-29-08, 02:33 AM
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Why do you even have to address whether it's a new world or not? You can do a short story that shows that Superman is Clark Kent, mild-mannered reporter, he works at the Daily Planet, he wants to get with Lois Lane, and he can do a bunch of amazing stuff while fighting crime. What more do kids need? Stop overthinking it - CSI has as many viewers as Lost does.

Superheroes became the dominant genre in comics because they were made up out of every other genre - crime, detective, occult, science fiction, adventure - unified through a costumed protagonist who had a secret identity. Through the years, the superhero comics have been crystallized as a genre, and now they're sprawling soap operas (cape operas?) that rarely have as much simple action as they used to have.

I'd like to see the Big Two take a lesson from the Golden Age and diversify with magazines, like a 100- or 200-page magazine (with ads, of course) with shorter, self-contained stories of 9-12 pages short on continuity and longer on plot, with art styles similar to what you see in the DCU cartoons, that's sold at bookstores but also grocery stores and convenience stores.
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Old 01-29-08, 07:36 AM
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Want kids to read comics? Get adults reading them. Seriously. Kids will emulate what their parents do. So get those people who read crime/detective novels to read Ed Brubaker. Get those people who watch LOST to read Brian K. Vaughan.

But how are comics to get people to cross over? First, diversify. Second, you need more bang for your buck. Both of these have been mentioned so I'll move on, knowing these are two huge elements to this topic.

But perhaps the biggest thing to consider is making the stories better. Many comic books are good stories, but we need a lot more great stories. We need comics that will make people laugh, or cry, or get so immersed in the story, they can't put it down and they forget that it's 3 hours past their bed time.

When was the last time you felt real emotion reading a comic? I mean, seriously. I've read books that have really tugged at my emotions, and I've been to movies that have grabbed me by the balls. But comics, even the ones I tout as some of the best, are easily forgotten. They're fun diversions, but rarely do they grip me.

So you want kids to read? Get their parents reading them and talking about them. Want the adults to read them? Create better stories that are accessible to more people.
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Old 01-29-08, 09:21 AM
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Kids or not, comics need to build their reader base and it shouldn't be looking for new collectors. You want Joe 6-pack to get into comics.

One source to capitalize on is all of the comic book movies. I'd like to see comic/tpb vending machines in movie theaters. Just saw Spider-Man 3? Buy a Spidey trade! Liked Iron Man? Check it out Iron Man comics! Intrigued by History of Violence? Look at this nice book!

It's worth a shot.
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Old 01-29-08, 11:27 AM
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Originally Posted by ytrez
Kids or not, comics need to build their reader base and it shouldn't be looking for new collectors. You want Joe 6-pack to get into comics.

One source to capitalize on is all of the comic book movies. I'd like to see comic/tpb vending machines in movie theaters. Just saw Spider-Man 3? Buy a Spidey trade! Liked Iron Man? Check it out Iron Man comics! Intrigued by History of Violence? Look at this nice book!

It's worth a shot.
The problem with that, at least in terms of superhero comics, is that the comics themselves often have little to do with the film version and are often so tied down by continuity that no newcomer is going to be able to figure out what's going on.

The other problem with the discussion is the emphasis on getting kids to read superhero books. The industry, beyond just the Big 2, needs to look at creating books that kids want to read, period. One thing manga has going for it is the disparity of subject matter with each genre. Odds are you can find a manga title out there to suit you, regardless of your tastes. You can't necessarily say the same for superhero books. If you go beyond capes & tights, then obviously you likely will find something of interest, but that doesn't help the Big 2 much.

Companies need to create either book length works marketing within children's sections at bookstores and through school book programs, or produce a magazine like someone mentioned, with multiple stories. Ideally, the latter would also be available in an online version, via both traditional Internet sources like Amazon and something like X-Box Live and the PSN. Make the work as visible and accessible as possible.
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Old 01-29-08, 11:35 AM
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The only reason most superhero comics still exist at all is because they've become nothing more than marketing materials for all the ancillary shit (movies, bed-sheets, underwear, toothpaste, cereal, etc). I can't imagine any of the Marvel or DC titles do much more than break even. I think a lot of readers jump on board for big events (WW Hulk, Civil War, Crisis, etc.) and then stop reading when the books go back to the month to month slog.
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Old 01-29-08, 01:58 PM
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Originally Posted by Bronkster
1) Drop the price. If this means going back to cheaper quality paper, so be it. The slick stuff probably only matters to "collectors" anyway.
[/IMG]
Standing inline behind a guy buying a comic a few weeks ago I about shit myself when I saw that a Spiderman book was "still only $3.99" Ouch. Glad I got out when I did, that they were still around $3.00 a piece.
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Old 01-29-08, 04:20 PM
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if you think about it Spiderman and X-men have carried Marvel for the last 25 years, same thing for Superman and Batman carrying DC for the last 25 years. imagine if you took Spiderman, X-men,Superman and Batman from the big two, the comic industry would go out of business, maybe Marvel and DC should create some new original stuff instead of recycling same old product over and over again
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Old 01-29-08, 05:03 PM
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The first thing they need to do is magically eliminate all marriages. Then throw in a few Faustian deals and the kids will be lining up to buy some comics.

Actually I got nothing I just missed all the complaining about OMD.
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Old 01-29-08, 06:37 PM
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I think the digest-sized books based on animated series are a good idea
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Old 01-29-08, 08:13 PM
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Originally Posted by davidh777
I think the digest-sized books based on animated series are a good idea
I do too. When I was young, I could take $10 to the comic book store and feel like I would get my moneys worth in books. They weren't 75 cents then, but they were still cheap enough to make it worth it. Now, $10 will get you 3 or 4 books tops. I think the digests would be a good alternative for older readers to give to potential younger ones as they would be more durable, have more story, and just be a better deal.

Batman Adventures came out in digest form, as did Runaways, but I don't think they had much penetration outside of comic stores and Borders (for Runaways), when they should be in Supermarkets and 7-11. I don't think monthy books will ever be carried again in those places, it just doesn't make sense anymore, but big retailers still carry Archie like it ain't no thang - why not Batman or Spiderman Adventures?

Also, I don't think the attraction of new younger readers should be looked at as something only Marvel and DC can do. I think it would create a healthier market if titles like the Bone Massive Volume and books like Amulet, Hero Bear, Owly, and other self contained all ages books could make up a significant part of the market. I also would love it if those books were carried by bookstores in the children's section and not the trade section. I know some places do this, I just wish they all did.
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Old 01-29-08, 09:25 PM
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They need Single issue stories. Why would anyone randomly pay 4 bucks for an issue at a 7-11 when it is like part 4 of 9.
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Old 01-29-08, 10:43 PM
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That's why I love Warren Ellis' Fell. $1.99, each issue a stand-alone story, but with an overall development. Even though it's a short book, I feel like I get my money's worth each time. Unfortunately for the kids, it's a mature book.
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Old 01-29-08, 11:26 PM
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Most titles that are kid friendly are already stand alone. And the teens that love manga have no problem reading Naruto, which has 71 billion volumes on the shelf, so while each volume might stand alone, there is definitely an over arching story going on - just like us comics and their trades. So it seems more about price and interest, than stand alone stories to me.
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Old 01-30-08, 11:54 AM
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Naruto and long running manga are a bit different, though.

1. "back-issues" are readily available at the same bookstore. It may be daunting to have to pick up the 28 or so volumes out, but you can easily find volume 1 if you search hard enough so you can start from the beginning. When you buy part 5 of a 7 part story at 7-11, good luck finding the first four parts, or even getting to the store at the right time to find the next part.
2. Naruto and 99% of manga are self contained. It doesn't cross over into other books, you don't have to chase after other titles done by other creators and artists that you maybe don't like. If you want to read Naruto, you buy it and that's it.
3. There is a singular vision guiding the book. Of course, the writer has to deal with the editors changing the story and things like that, but the writer and artist team rarely changes on a book.
4. It very closely ties in with a popular cartoon, which, for all intents and purposes is EXACTLY the manga animated, with some fill-in stories. You can jump from the anime to the manga and back. You can't do that with the X-men movies, cartoons, and comic books.
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Old 01-30-08, 03:18 PM
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Originally Posted by boredsilly
I do too. When I was young, I could take $10 to the comic book store and feel like I would get my moneys worth in books. They weren't 75 cents then, but they were still cheap enough to make it worth it. Now, $10 will get you 3 or 4 books tops. I think the digests would be a good alternative for older readers to give to potential younger ones as they would be more durable, have more story, and just be a better deal.
I still remember the old DC Blue Ribbon Digests. Really small size and bad paper, but only a buck for like four or five classic stories. I bought a lot of series I'd never read before (war comics, etc.) because they were in that cheap, convenient format.
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Old 01-30-08, 04:51 PM
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Originally Posted by fujishig
Naruto and long running manga are a bit different, though.
Those are fair points. I guess people who want to read Naruto, don't jump on with volume 10 and go forward, but start at the beginning. Maybe that's why Ultimate Spider-man has been so successful in trade - as it essentially fits all of your outlined points.
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Old 01-31-08, 06:31 PM
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What are kids interested in today? Put that in comic book form, put it in stores where kids will see it and bug their moms to get it for them, and print it on cheap enough paper that the comic doesn't make mom say "HELL NO" when asked to pick it up. You can have story lines last over a few issues, but resolve them quick and get on to the next one.

Think about how you got into comics. I know for me there were two things that got me into comics: Star Wars and Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends. I loved the movie and I loved the TV show so when I saw that there was a comic book about Star Wars and an Amazing Spider-Man comic book, I HAD to have them. That got me interested in the other comics being advertised in both books and I eventually tried other books that seemed interesting to me.

So that means if a kid wants to play Halo, make a cheap Halo comic book and stock them next to the US and People magazines at the check out stand, not an overpriced hard cover edition that the average kid won't buy on a whim. Whatever kids are interested, make a cheap comic book version of that and lure them in. And by cheap I mean paper quality....get top notch writers and artists on the book. Kids will drop a badly written comic book faster than a hot rock.
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Old 01-31-08, 06:36 PM
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Originally Posted by zombiezilla
The only way Marvel will ever have a chance in hell of gaining a bigger piece of the comic pie is by killing the entire old MU off and beginning anew with issue #1 of every relevant title again. Like they did with the Ultimate U, which is (99% of the time) the only Marvel I'll read anymore....and I read all of the Ultimate titles, and enjoy them all! Some more than others of course, but it's nice not to have 45 years of poorly handled backstory (well, the last 15 or 20 years pretty much sucked) to remember every time I pick up a book.

The kids don't give a crap about the new Cap; and that makes two groups who don't like it; the old readers aren't too fond of him, either. And don't get me started on poor ol' Spidey. Or the FF. Or the always-shoulda-been-second-string-X-Men. The New-Young-Old-West-Bi-Coastal-Avengers. The Silver "I should've stayed on Earth" Surfer. Etc, etc., etc...
I am presuming you are serious. Are you serious? This was tried already under the Heroes Reborn promotion about 15 years ago or so, and...yeah...it sucked and failed spectacularly. Any good marketing team should be able to generate new interest in a high numbered issue number of a long running series (such as issue 600 of Fantastic Four, shall we say, not that it's up that high yet...I am just saying) just as they could in a new issue 1. Enough with canceling old books and restarting them with issue 1. I thought it was cool...damn cool...that when I was a kid I was picking up issue 400 of Superman and other high numbered issues of long running DC titles. It had a lot more appeal to me than a new stupid number one.
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Old 01-31-08, 07:12 PM
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Originally Posted by calhoun07
What are kids interested in today? Put that in comic book form, put it in stores where kids will see it and bug their moms to get it for them, and print it on cheap enough paper that the comic doesn't make mom say "HELL NO" when asked to pick it up. You can have story lines last over a few issues, but resolve them quick and get on to the next one.

Think about how you got into comics. I know for me there were two things that got me into comics: Star Wars and Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends. I loved the movie and I loved the TV show so when I saw that there was a comic book about Star Wars and an Amazing Spider-Man comic book, I HAD to have them. That got me interested in the other comics being advertised in both books and I eventually tried other books that seemed interesting to me.

So that means if a kid wants to play Halo, make a cheap Halo comic book and stock them next to the US and People magazines at the check out stand, not an overpriced hard cover edition that the average kid won't buy on a whim. Whatever kids are interested, make a cheap comic book version of that and lure them in. And by cheap I mean paper quality....get top notch writers and artists on the book. Kids will drop a badly written comic book faster than a hot rock.
The only problem with that specific example is that Halo is an 'M' rated game, so presumably the kids shouldn't be into it and getting the comics. Of course, we all know there are parents who don't think twice about stuff like that, I'm just saying. The other thing is that videogames and movies are usually one-time events, with sequels (if there are any) coming years later. You'd have to plan to have the books out way in advance, and then interest would gradually fade away as new games and movies come out.

However, you'd think that they'd try to do some kind of movie-universe books, and make it ongoing. It would take a lot of work with the studios making the films, but make an ongoing comic based in the same universe as the movies. Introduce new characters, whatever, but have it directly tied in, much like the Star Wars books, except in this case you have much more freedom because the comic companies own the characters. Try to work in references to the comic book stories in the next film, I dunno.

Of course, I have no idea what kids these days are into. You'd think cheap disney books would sell like hotcakes, maybe nickelodeon stuff, at least to the younger crowd.
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