Tuesday, November 1, 2011

On Handing Out Comics on Halloween

Not every year, but when I see they are available via Discount Comic Book Service, I always order these short, inexpensive, undersized comics that fit into your standard candy sack.  They're always kid friendly and from a character or company whose characters I don't need to worry about.

Yeah, when I was a kid, I thought anyone who gave out pennies or pencils was kind of missing the point, so that's why we give out candy, too.

To comics fans, the cheap, floppy format is called an "ashcan" comic, but I'm not clear on the source of the name.  I do know its a format from the old days used either to create a copyright on a character before it goes into heavy print, or to give away as a promotional item.

This year it was Casper the Friendly Ghost, Donald Duck, Scary Godmother, and Roger Langridge's Snarked.

There are logistical concerns.  
  • We don't know how many kids will come by, so ordering is a crap shoot
  • I always hope the comics are gender neutral and I think this year's selections managed to do that.  Boys do not want a Barbie comic, but girls are will take all your Spider-Man comics, so you might as well order heavy on the "boys" side, if there is one.  
  • And, of course, the kids take the comic and immediately forget about the nice lady standing there with candy, and every single parent has to say "there's candy, too", and the kid looks totally shocked and turns around to secure some candy.
  • I also have no idea what kids like.  Do they know who Donald Duck is?  They certainly have no affinity for Casper as I doubt the Harvey cartoons have aired in 15 years, and the comics have a very limited release, as far as I know.  But I'm not a parent, and I don't know what the latest fad is for wee ones.
Early on Monday evening I figured out I had to quit giving kids an option as, for reasons I was unclear on, everyone wanted Scary Godmother and I hadn't ordered more of those than anything else.  I mean, I think Jill Thompson is cool, but I guess kids look at that artwork on the cover and agree.  

I do worry that parents are freaking out that their kid is receiving "literature" from a stranger.  Even one drinking a soda and dressed as Superman at a house covered in pumpkins, ghosts and spiders.

Look, there are folks out there who use Halloween to lure kids in and then tell them "You are a sinner!", sometimes using those comics from Jack Chick or other places.  So, I kind of have to put on a show saying the names of the comics aloud so parents know what they're getting and that I'm not handing kids the Communist Manifesto or cult recruitment materials.

That still doesn't necessarily help, entirely.  

One mom looked at me doubtfully and said "well, there's really TWO Donald Ducks.  I hope he got the good one."

I have absolutely no idea what that lady was talking about, and what family-unfriendly Donald she'd think I was trying to dump on her kid.  It did occur to me she might not like "rage-centric" Donald, but...  really?  That's a problem now?  But people are strange.  Who knows what she was thinking?

But more than one mom said to "oh, we need things to read!" and seemed happy that they'd have something to co-read in the next day or so.  One little Spider-Man got a handful of comics when his mom's eyes lit up at the prospect of reading material (another Spider-Man, probably 4 or 5, just walked off when I didn't have a Spidey comic or Captain America.  Kid, I get it, but this is what I have to work with...).

And another mom mentioned that it gave kids who can't eat candy a chance for treats.  I hadn't thought much about that, but, hey, its true.  I'm accidentally a thoughtful person.

Anyway, it does create a little work for you handing out the comics, and it does seem like it causes some mild anxiety with some parents, but...  90% of the parents are thrilled and the kids like it, too.  And you get to be the house on the block that looks like it put in a modicum of thought.

I'll be looking every year to see if they're offering these comics, and if you're interested, I'll let you know.  Just email me, I guess.


Fantomenos said...

Maybe she meant the Oregon mascot was "the good one".

The League said...

That makes as much sense as anything else. I do think she saw the look of puzzlement cross my face, but I just didn't want to get into a "exactly how familiar are you with the Donald Duck oeuvre?" discussion with other moms and kids standing around. If she wants to throw the comic in the trash, that's her choice, I guess.

Simon MacDonald said...

I had much the same thought this year as well. I was going to do some back issue diving to see if I could get some kid friendly books to pass out at Halloween. Sadly, I was off in Denver at a conference and not able to hand out stuff at the door. For sure I'd love to hear if the "ashcans" are available next year.


Paul Toohey said...

Maybe this is what she was referencing http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HfuwNU0jsk0

Arts in the Family said...

My kids watch Casper and Donald Duck and Micky Mouse not to mention the Warner Brothers cartoons. I'm not so sure they're what kids watch theses days because we don't have cable but I try to pick up videos and dvds of the things i enjoyed as a kid figuring if I liked it my kids will too. They generally do.

I also look for back issues of Harvey comics but I can't always buy too many because they tend to cost a bit more than the thirty five cents they were originally sold for. I like the idea of handing out comics and I think I'll give it a try next year.