I came across an interesting comment the other day, where a creator was vehemently insisting her work was not created "for kids". Somehow, the phrase struck me as odd, because when I think of my favourite books and films, I realised that a startling percentage of them seem to consist of material people tend to foolishly classify as "For Children".
One gets the gist of what they mean, of course. After all "Does not contain graphic violence, sexual situations and profanity" doesn't quite have the same ring. Still, "For Children" is a rather demeaning label. No wonder the film industry dropped that and started classifying stuff as "U - Suitable for All Audiences".
One thing I particularly dislike about classifying any kind of material for any kind of target group is that often psychologically excludes anyone not of the said target audience, to the point that they sometimes feel guilty reading it. In fact, it's a private theory of mine that many parents actually do enjoy watching childrens shows and reading childrens books on their own merit. They just wouldn't be caught dead doing so without the kid at hand to explain that they were 'supervising' and 'reading it to them'.
Me, I'm a sucker for children's books, because the majority of them seem to exhibit a lot more originality than stuff "For Adults". I've always believed that creativity can flourish surprisingly well under restrictive circumstances, and when you take away the easiest ways of amusing and audience (Violence, sexual innuendo, etc) creators are forced to explore different routes and find more creative ways of making a story interesting. And when people explore, people tend to end up experimenting more and rehashing old and well-worn concepts less.
Which brings us to my latest Find, Scarecrow:
Scarecrow is a young webcomic, and feels like something in-between a comic and a children's book, and while it has not proceeded very far yet, I already find it a very appealing. The mix of narrative styles and the "children's book" type illustration stands out in a field (No pun intended. I swear!) that seems to be dominated by ASHCB (American Super-Hero Comic Book) style and manga.
While nowhere on the site indicates it's 'for children', the style is very suggestive of that particular target audience. And other than the slight Messianic element to it, I have very little difficulty imagining any parent reading not thinking it would make great reading material to get their kids to start reading more.
I've often wondered why so few of the webcomics online seem to be written with an all-ages, but in particular, younger-ages audience in mind. Count Your Sheep is one, but I can't seem to think of any others. Ok, so webcomics are partially the rebellious progeny of the all-ages friendly newspaper comic, which according to some, nowadays apparently consists of the driest, most humourless stuff that can be found printed on dead trees. And like most rebels, the tendency has always been to push the limits in the opposite direction just because we can.
The question is: just because we can, must we do it all the time? Some things are like Infinite Canvas, where overuse of one often results in it getting old pretty quickly. For me at least, the novelty of webcomic freedom wore off long ago. Ironically, writing a webcomic for kids is probably tantamount to rebelling in the rebellion.
And all I can say to that is: Long live the Rebellion!
Incidentally, if you know of any other comics like the above, the comments section is now there, I'd love to hear of them.