Sunday, April 06, 2008
New Cartoons Announced and the Babymen
This week cartoon Network announced it's new line-up of cartoon fare for the fall and next year. Two of the cartoons, Secret Saturdays and The Batman: the Brave and the Bold I work on. I was a storyboard artist on Scerect Saturdays and I am currently a charcater designer on The Batman. The Saturdays will premiere this fall and Batman Brave and the Bold will debut next March, but I suspect there will be a good chance they will push the date back as they did with Secret Saturdays.
One of the things I enjoy about this new Batman cartoon is the fact we are going back to a kinder, friendlier Batman. A Dick Sprang version, which is the guiding design principle we are working from and there still is a slight echo of the BT styling, which is a nice break from the grim and gritty. Let's face it, these cartoons are for children, young children 5-10,12 years old. Cereal eating, fruit rollup snacking, toy buying kids, not 30-something, 40-something bitter bee babymen who want these characters in adult situations. The message boards are already full of babymen angst about the show, how they hate the art, the idea of a kid friendly Batman and I have to just laugh at the rediculous comments. IMO one of the biggest resons comics suck ass and have since the 80's is the rise and overtaking of the biz by the Babyman fan and the loss of kids reading comics as a hobby. Now we are stuck with an aginging fanbase with limited taste, long memories, a twisted taste where the comic heroes have to be dark, gritty, sexy, adult...REAL! Humor, the most popular form of comic in the world is the least popular form of comic in the direct market. Fans don't realize what an aberation the direct market has become and how out of step it is with the rest of the comic reading world. I include it all, strips, manga, you name it, but superheroes are a niche with the smallest fanbase. The top books crack, what 100K? Try having a TV show with that number.
If they made TV cartoons the way the babymen wanted the shows would fail to reach enough ratings to survive. I also realize the fans on the web are probably not always the best sampling in any fan base as they are always the extremists. I loved the Batman comics as kid, I love the Batman TV show, the funny, corny Adam West, and millions did too. I think you can only darken these concepts to a degree and for a certain amount of time before you play them out, and face it, these concepts have really been played out anyway. 70 years of these characters pumped at you in every medium by the big corporations means there is little fresh that can be done. Fans never forget, the Babymen especially, and that's part of their problem, they can't move on, They want everything to be exactly as it always was, which is infantile. Batman should probably be played out for you by the time you are out of college. That doesn't mean you still can't enjoy the art, story or concept, but realistically these characters can't age with you. They must remain ageless and we must graduate and accept that as readers of any children's fiction. That doesn't mean you can't enjoy it like Harry Potter, but Harry Potter's story ends, and he won't grow old with you.
Fans also forget the only reason any of this stuff exists is for $$$. The show exists to sell ads and toys and such, and for no other reason. That doesn't mean it can't be good or entertaining, but these corportae giants want big buck returns. Kids have been abandoned by the direct market, they now read manga or are fans of animae as that's what they are exposed to and have easy access too. No new kids come in waves to comics like they used to, no wonder back issue sales, the backbone of retail has all but dried up. No new kids means no new fans to want to read the older stories and the old babymen have everything already.
If the animation biz was run like the comic biz they would be out of biz. That doesn't mean that there isn't a lot of crap and a lot wrong with TV animation, there is, but they are reaching a big audience, they are diversified in a way comics long ago abandoned.