Scholastic Book Fair graphic novels box

The Scholastic Book Fair

My daughter’s school had their Scholastic Book Fair last week. I volunteered to spend an hour at the end helping to clean it up. It’s a most impressive operation. Everything is so modular and easily moved around. As a logistics fan, these fairs are filled with tips to learn from.

I, of course, volunteered to pack up all the graphic novels laying on the tables. I played a guessing game with myself. Could I name the publishers of each non-Scholastic book? Yes, as it turns out, I could. I knew which ones were published by Dynamite, which ones came from Dark Horse, and which were IDW. This is knowledge, by the way, that didn’t at all impress the other parental volunteers.

The biggest graphic novel display was for Raina Telgemeier’s “Ghosts”, of course. But “Smile” also had a stack of copies that sold out by the time the fair was over. (My daughter chose “Smile” for her list. I didn’t influence that at all, I swear! So proud, though.)

There were a few other Scholastic Graphix titles in there, though, and it didn’t take long to pick up on the house style. Lots of open line books, with big panels and easy grid storytelling to them. Bright and colorful, starring kids getting into adventures of one kind or another, with large lettering in huge balloons to make them easy to read at an earlier age.

I can complain incessantly about how we’ve won without seeing any benefits to the actual comics themselves. I see kids every day in their Avengers shirts or Captain America’s shield shirts. I don’t need to ask them if they’ve ever read a comic book before. The answer is too plainly obvious — of course not. They just like movies, TV shows, video games, and animated series.

But the Scholastic Book Fair gives me hope. There are light-hearted action/adventure comics and more slice of life relatable comics in there. There are comics based on video games and television shows. There are those hybrid books with horrifically poorly drawn stick figures — they’re even bad for being stick figures! — punctuating the walls of text that tell the narrative.

From a marketing perspective, it’s everything I would have asked a major publisher to do with their line. Scholastic is just doing it. And they’re getting it done at really good prices, even if the paper quality sometimes suffers for it. They move serious units. Not all of them sold at this school, but I saw a few stacks dwindle.

Now let’s give them something to read when they’re too old for the Scholastic Book Fair to come to them. Hasn’t this revolution been going on long enough now that Marvel/DC/all the rest can pick up those readers as they age out of that grade level and might be interested in something more mature or complex?  Can someone make funny books for teenagers?  Or are we just getting to the YA fiction type of books at that age?  Let’s make graphic novel series with that format, then.

It’s only too bad the Direct Market fails so often in providing this kind of material to that kind of audience. Comics will have to be saved from the outside.  You could argue that it already happened. It’s Hollywood’s money that powers the comics industry now.

The Scholastic Book Fair is an amazing operation, and I'm glad I got to see it first hand. It's grooming the next generation of comics reader.


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