This Just In–Comics Not Gum

I had really hoped I’d written my final word about the whole “late comics” business but last week the Comic Book Resources Website put up an interview with writer Jeph Loeb. I highly recommend you read it for yourself but among his many comments there was this gem, “It’s unfortunate that books ship late, but they are not gum.”

Along with being a comic book writer Loeb is well known as a writer/producer for such successful television programs as Smallville, Lost, and Heroes. There’s an old adage that goes “you can either have it good or you can have it Tuesday,” and TV might just be the ultimate expression of it. For instance, if an episode of, say, Lost was delayed for six weeks for any reason it’s hard to imagine those responsible being able to keep their jobs — or easily find another one in their industry.

Though I hate being reasonable, by implication what Loeb seems to be saying is (a) comic books are artistically superior to television, and (b) TV is gum.

So far news that rising paper costs have caused Gladstone to suspend four of its six titles (Mickey Mouse & Friends, Donald Duck & Friends, Mickey Mouse Adventures, and Donald Duck Adventures) has only made it onto the Comic Reporter news site. But I’m such a Disney nerd I read it days earlier on the excellent Disney Comics Worldwide Website.

Now I have a vested interest in this, and not only because the direct sales market needs as many kid-friendly comics as it can get. Mickey Mouse Adventures is that rarest of comics, one I actually buy on a regular basis.

But there is good news: Gladstone plans to continue issuing reprints in both their upscale Walt Disney Treasures paperback format and (most interestingly) several Shonen Jump-sized black and white titles.

This is for the good since the only thing really wrong with the Gladstone Disney titles was they were never really meant for kids; they were intended pretty much exclusively for their increasingly graying (if you think the super-hero readership is contracting and aging…) audience of hardcore Disney/Duck collectors.

Take the covers, which generally looked like something Gold Key might have published in 1974 (sure it’s the parents who actually buy the comics, but kids first have to want them), or the contents. While it’s true the Mickey and Donald titles included some fine, very contemporary-feeling, European material (there was a series of stories where Donald’s nephews played with Pokemon type cards, etc.), when their older customers wanted Mickey Mouse reprints from the 50s, they got them. And Gladstone did test the waters for a series featuring Mickey’s nephews playing on a soccer team… until the elders made it known they didn’t like them.

By half-heartedly trying to appeal to both kids and adults (the ones who’ll absorb the $6.95 to $7.50 price increase on Uncle Scrooge and Walt Disney Comics & Stories without so much as a single lip quiver) they gave the market a product that was chalk and cheese, not satisfying to either group. So this development is an opportunity to finally start producing Disney comics genuinely intended for kids.

And if Gladstone is intent on emulating Shonen Jump, the first thing they need to do is take a good look at an issue. Check out the lively, exciting covers, articles and contests, etc. And when it comes to contents, maybe it’s time Gladstone looked at some non-traditional Disney material from Europe. Like, adventure stories with more of an edge (important, since Mickey & Company are generally considered “baby stuff” by most kids)?

Like Paperinik, a fairly serious version of Donald Duck as a super-hero (Paperinik being a combination of the Italian version of Donald’s name and the name of the European hero/villain Diabolik). Or Mickey X, where the mouse is an investigator of the unknown, or even Wizards of Mickey, a serial currently running in Italy’s weekly Topolino magazine that puts the Disney characters in Lord of the Rings type drag.

Maybe with material like this, and with fan interest in Mickey high thanks to the Kingdom Hearts games and manga, they’d even have a shot a getting the attention of super-hero fans. Okay, it’s not likely, but just maybe.

Finally, last time I made a “joke”‘ (to be extremely generous) to the effect that since Marvel was publishing the European graphic novel series XIII (by way of the Drabel Bros. imprint) it would only be a matter of time until they released both Spirou and Blake & Mortimer available. Then came this month’s Diamond Previews with the solicitation of Blake & Mortimer: The Yellow M from Cinebook. If only they’d also acquire the rights to Spirou, the publisher would make one weary Comic Book Guy very happy.