DC Makes Comics Safe for Kids Again On iPad

SuperHeroesHow weird is it that one of the largest publishers of comics needs to carve out a specific space just for kids comics? Wasn’t there a time when comics and kids were synonymous? Not lately. Much of the comics material we now identify with fan boys and hirsute comics shop owners are a far cry from the antiseptic and bland superheroes of our youth (well, my youth).  And so DC Entertainment this week released a special app focused specifically on “family-friendly” and kid-safe content.

The DC Nation app is leveraging the brand and franchise that now appears on Cartoon Network. These are characters and shows that are designed as kid-safe versions of familiar heroes like Superman and Green Lantern. This app will cross-promote the Cartoon Network block of DC Nation programming in a number of ways, including a mini-mag that will include highlights of the on-air shows.



A DC Nation print magazine will appear on newsstands in coming months as well.

Expect to see more stories this year about the struggles of the comic book industry. As the Marvel franchise the Avengers hits theaters in coming weeks, it is an example of an industry that appears to have more power in its franchises than in the source material for these characters and worlds. Comic sales overall have been on a declining path for years, with many talking about the possible demise of the industry. Ironic that the surge in superhero film licenses coincided with a loss of interest in the source. Digital media is one way that publishers are hoping to stem the flow.

The manufacturers are playing with a number of digital strategies. There are the AR-enhanced comics that Marvel just issued. Then we have digital-only comics that can use narration and animation effects.

One way that digital distribution might help the industry is the way that apps open up the back catalog. In the comics industry it is understood that newcomers find it hard to get into the complex storylines and universes that years of publishing have piled onto these characters. That is one reason that DC reset 52 of their superhero series back to issue #1 in recent months. In this app aimed at kids, the first issues of some of the popular series are made available for free.

Digital content merchandising is one of the more interesting aspects of these mobile and tablet comics apps. Based on an engine from Comixology, the DC Nation app (along with Marvel and the standard DC app) craft a storefront for content that is more compelling than much of what Apple does in its app store. It presents the content in an attractive way, creates time-sensitive daily deals and specials, and even features sections designed just for newbies.

When Apple finally launched its Newsstand for paid periodicals in the app Store last year, you would think that people never saw content merchandising before. In fact, smarter and more advanced ways of creating digital storefronts for content were already being assembled in these comics apps. 

2 comments about "DC Makes Comics Safe for Kids Again On iPad ".
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  1. Steve Rotterdam from Bonfire Agency, April 27, 2012 at 12:57 p.m.

    "Expect to see more stories this year about the struggles of the comic book industry." While it's true that the dynamics of the business have evolved greatly over the past decade and a half, at Bonfire Agency, a marketing firm dedicated to helping brands make relevant connections to comic culture, we expect to see more stories about the resurgent health and robustness of the comic book industry.

  2. Joe Field from Flying Colors Comics, April 27, 2012 at 4:03 p.m.

    Paraphrasing Mark Twain, reports of the death of the comics business have all been greatly exaggerated. More than that, reports on the "struggles of the comic book industry" have been a constant since the birth of the American comic book business in the 1930s.

    Instead, let's look at how strong and resilient the comic book business is.

    1) Next Saturday, May 5, is the 11th annual Free Comic Book Day, a day set aside to celebrate comics and the independent retailers that are at the core of pop culture. More than 3.5 million comics are to be given away to more than ONE MILLION people attending FCBD events at nearly 2000 comic specialty stores in the US and more than 40 other countries.

    2) While other print media are suffering dramatically tough times and declining sales, the comics' business is more focused on managing growth and expanding reach through a variety of initiatives (digital is just a piece of that).

    To another of your points, there have certainly always been comics targeted at the youth market. As a mass entertainment medium, though, comics are strongest in the male 25-45 demographic, but without boundaries in terms of appeal to readers of all ages and interests.

    One other thought: when you spend your $15 to see "The Avenger"s or "Batman: The Dark Knight Rises" or "The Amazing Spider-Man" this summer, remember that the billions generated through ticket sales and licensing would not be possible without that creative sweet spot that is the comics' market.

    With that, I would like to invite anyone and everyone to visit a locally owned, independent comic book specialty store, either on Free Comic Book Day or any other day of the year, to experience the diversity of product, the degree of care and effort our specialty retailers put into their operations and the reality that pop culture wildfires are sparked in these stores.

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