Monday, April 25, 2005

Stopover at Scarecrow: Kids Nowadays Get the Darndest Things

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.


  1. Y'know, it's funny--now that you mention it, there are very few comics on my reading list that I'd classify as "for children." Not that most of them are chockful of sex and violence and swear words, but most of them are simply aimed at college-age kids. They focus on themes and stuff that's important to that demographic. Weird.

  2. I never really thought about it like that before. Grand Blue Door and the now sadly deceased Dakota's Ridge were focused at children, but they're the only ones out of the 263 webcomics I read that are.

  3. I remember Dakota's Ridge! I was extremely sad the day Angie stopped it several years ago. Really really like that comic.

    Actually when I think about it, I'm not sure if Shivae fits the bill. It has a lots of the elements, but also has some of the violence too.

  4. The more I think about it, the more I think I could turn Crooked Halo into a children's comic pretty easily...I mean, I'd just have to change the setting, drop the few swear words I do use, and lower the ages of the characters. It'd be easy--I mean, what kid wouldn't love a smite-happy hippy-lookin' angel?

  5. Hey. Thanks for mentioning that comic. It's awesome. He/She needs to put up some linking banners and/or an email address so I can tell him/her how much I like it.

  6. Cricket: Yes! the Chibi Smiting Earl finger puppets would make awesome merchandise too! ;)

    Zak: Hmm... they mentioned something about the Tagboard, but it doesn't seem to be up yet. I guess they thought it was too early.

  7. Hi,
    Yeah I think that when things are being written for kids or teenagers, there is less pretension- you're not trying to impress your peers or something. you're not trying to look good, you're trying to give something to kids. which is awesome.
    some of my favorite books are for young adults.
    however I feel that my biggest belly laughs whilereading webcomics have been from things that were adult- not neccesarily mature - but from jokes that were not for kids. the comics that make me laugh most regularly are and
    Thank you for your insights, I just found your blog today and I'm excited to explore the comics you've found.

  8. Thank you for the nice comments!

    I actually stumbled on the storybook look on mistake. I just wanted to find some way of coloring and drawing the strip that was different than most of the strips I read. After I found the way I color Scarecrow, I decided that with the main character discovering the world, it only made sense to make his speech and outlook on things a bit childish in nature.

    I've put up a couple of link banners, and an e-mail link now, by the way. I decided a tagboard just wasn't something I wanted, and that I don't really have enough readers yet for a forum.

    Once again, thank you!

  9. This is a great blog you have here, I love it!
    [My blog]

  10. On The Playground is ready to go back up tomorrow after a long hiatus (kind of). This is a very kid-oriented comic. Just letting you know; you asked.

  11. No worries, I did ask for them!

    Oh, and On The Playground is awesome! Thanks!

  12. My little story, School Spirit, would be considered a children's comic, although I don't specifically aim solely at that audience. The kids in the strip are the primary focal point though. I think that much of the webcomic audience are still of the age where they consider themselves too old for 'children's' stories but aren't old enough to wish they weren't. I'm in that second category...I still wish I was nine.

  13. That was me, Dutch. The name didn't want to work for some reason. Oops.