June 20, 2014

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Moose Kid Comics Looks to Re-Start UK Kids Market

A ton of creators have formed a new comic presence under the anthology "Moose Kid Comics," looking to fill a perceived void in comics storytelling in the United Kingdom, namely funny books aimed at the youth market which are not corporate or TV-character driven.

In their mission statement, the group said the following (caps lock is theirs):
HERE IN THE U.K, MAINSTREAM CHILDREN’S COMICS HAVE BEEN DYING OUT, ESPECIALLY ONES FEATURING ORIGINAL CONTENT. THE PHOENIX AND THE BEANO ARE THE ONLY COMMERCIALLY AVAILABLE WEEKLY TITLES STILL PRODUCING ENTIRELY ORIGINAL CHARACTERS, BUT THEY ARE COMPETING AGAINST BIG-NAME LICENSED TITLES BASED ON TV SHOWS OR MERCHANDISING.
WE WANT TO HELP CHANGE THINGS. WE WANT TO BE CREATING THE NEXT GENERATION OF LOVEABLE CHARACTERS FOR THE WORLD TO EMBRACE, ALL CREATED BY ARTISTS WHO RETAIN THEIR COPYRIGHTS AND PUT ALL THEIR HEART INTO THEIR CREATIONS.

WE WANT TO REMIND BOTH CHILDREN AND ADULTS ALIKE HOW FANTASTICAL AND IMAGINATIVE COMICS CAN BE, AND TO HELP BRING CHILDREN’S COMICS BACK INTO THE PUBLIC CONSCIOUSNESS.

It's an admirable goal, and certainly one that Roger Langridge, one of the group's members has been espousing for some time now. While it's not easy to get attention for new characters, doing it this way might be the ticket. At the very least, being together on the same website/comics certainly makes it easier to be found, much like how some webcomics work together as part of a hub.

There is certainly no lack in overall content. A total of 40 creators or creative teams take part in the first issue, which is available for free on the Moose Kids website. Most are one-page long, with some sharing half a page and a rare few going more than one page, including the framing device, which posits that a set of wizards are trying to curse a kid who loved comics. There's only one problem: Making him a moose-headed comic character is exactly the kind of thing he'd love instead of hate.

Tongue-in-cheek playfulness and the idea of childish imagination gaining life, along with third-wall breaking jokes give the series a backbone that's going to be familiar to the parents reading this one. It dates back to Warner Brothers and has been a constant part of children's entertainment ever since. There's even "Young Tank Girl," further proving that this one is looking to appeal to those who have a bit of an indie comics vibe in the first place, and would be happy to find an alternative to what the creators maintain is a stale market for kids.

I had a chance to read issue one, and if nothing else, it's a textbook example of trying to use quantity to good effect. The pages are packed with tiny panels--too small for my eyes in some cases--and every single one of the stories, no matter how long or short, tries to do as much as possible in the space allotted. 

The problem is that at times it feels almost manic, like each creator is shouting across the page at the top of their lungs, "PAY ATTENTION TO ME!!!!!" which begins to grow wearying after about the first twenty pages. I'm not sure if the target audience (kids, not me) would have the same issue, but I can't help but think looking at having a few less contributors with more space to work might be a better fit. Perhaps an anthology where there were 10 ongoing stories, 5 one-shots, and 5-10 alternating ongoing stories would be a better, less-hectic fit.

That said, you can't deny the overall sense of fun that also comes across. The characters are gleefully unrestrained in a way you don't often see from comics these days, even all-ages one like Tiny Titans. From Gurber (a water monster who comically misunderstands why people are running) to Cecil B. Wombat, who slanders polar bears for no reason to Flora and Fauna's obsession that turns to disinterest, these are all people/animals/things that feel passionately about what they are doing and are given free reign to be as silly as they want. It's the kind of freedom that only independent creations can express, with no corporate masters or toys to sell. 

Wanna feature a guy in a Godzilla suit who gets his zipper stuck? Sure!
Dumb knight who gets lucky fighting evil? Why not?
Kids who would rather cosplay real-life jobs instead of fight crime? You bet!

The first issue even gives kids some activities to complete, like searching for things sprinkled throughout the pages or finding objects on a certain page. There's also a series of side-comics, manga-style, that personally feels a bit distracting to me, but seems to be something younger eyes are more used to seeing.

There really is a little bit for everyone in Moose Kid Comics, and that's a good thing. It's like opening a Sunday Comics section and finding that--gasp!--it actually features pages and pages of cartoon characters doing their thing. The stories are episodic, just like a Sunday strip, too, and feature the kind of variety that used to be common when some newspapers had not just one, but two--TWO!!--sections devoted to Sunday comics.

Those days are long gone, but projects such as Moose Kid Comics can bring them back, and in a format--digital--that's far more likely to attract a young audience. With such a large variety of stories, too (and only a few clunkers that simply aren't very funny), it's easy to imagine siblings arguing over which comic was best.

Moose Kid Comics has a few rough edges, but overall, it's a great idea. This issue clearly has the feel of a pitch, and hopefully they can get this one off the ground, both for the UK audience it's primarily targeted to (spelling and speech patterns definitely have a British feel to them) and those of us who just enjoy fun, all-ages work.

Two bonus pages, because this stuff is so much fun to read and I want to encourage you to download the free first issue: