The ‘Tiny Titans’ Free Comic Book Day Story! [Preview]
Free Comic Book Day is coming this Saturday, and if you've got a local retailer participating -- you can check here -- it's your chance to get stack of comics by everyone from DC and Marvel to Archie and Archaia without paying a dime. It's also a great opportunity for comics to entice new readers of all ages, but many publishers make a special effort to reach out to younger readers. DC Comics, for example, will be offering an all-ages "DC Kids Mega Sampler" that includes "Billy Batson & the Magic of Shazam," "Supergirl: Cosmic Adventures in the Eighth Grade" and "Tiny Titans," by Franco and Art Balthazar.
We've got a preview of the "Tiny Titans" story after the the jump, and we also spoke with Franco and Balthazar about making the kind of kids comics that everyone can enjoy, and what it's like to know that small children are reading your work under the covers with flashlights after bedtime.
CA: You do something in "Tiny Titans" that's I think is important in content for kids -- creating material that doesn't talk down to them -- while still being entertaining for adults. Is it difficult to walk that line?
Franco: We actually think about our audience second -- believe it or not. When we first go into a script we write down what's funny to us. If it makes us laugh then we know it will be going in the book! I don't know if that is a testament to our writing skills or the fact that we operate on a 5-year-old mentality (my wife says I do). So I guess we kind of write the book for ourselves and the fact that people like it is a bonus!
Art Balthazar: I think it's very important not to talk down to kids. Kids are smarter than we think and they want to laugh just as much as adults do. I don't like when comic teach a lesson to kids or public service announcement type stuff. Kids want to read something cool and funny and awesome. When we write and draw, we make stories that make us laugh too. In fact, if we don't laugh at a story, we work on it till its funny or it doesn't get in the comic.CA: After years of shaking off its reputation as kids-only medium, comics went through a period where the complaint seemed to be the opposite: that there weren't enough comics aimed at kids anymore. Do you think that's still a concern?
Franco: I think it's still a concern, but we're trying our darnedest to change all that! I think a point you made before is what comics of this nature suffer from a bit. People feel that comics that are for kids need to be dumbed down, but they don't need to be because kids aren't dumb! They know when something is supposed to be funny, or scary, or serious. They are very intuitive that way. (Listen to me I sound like Dr. Phil -- "I don't care how flat you make a pancake -- there's always two sides!) I think DC is doing a very smart thing here by making comics that are kid friendly but accessible to all ages.
AB: Comics for kids are definitely on the rise! I think publishers are very aware that we need to grab the new generation of comic readers to keep our characters alive. The height was when DELL and Gold Key was making comics and Harvey too! I think that was the Golden Age of Kids Comics! But I feel the kids comic vibe is heading that same direction today.
ComicsAlliance: What were your favorite comics when you were kids? Are they major influences on "Tiny Titans"?
Franco: I would read the big major crossover type books like when all the Justice League would meet all the the Justice Society and you had all these characters in one book and you were like, "Oh man!! I just paid 25 cents for this and look at all these characters in this book -- there's Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Hawkman, Aquaman, the Atom, Flash! Not like that "Spider-Man" book that only has Spider-Man in it!" With "Tiny Titans" we get to do that, and also mix our love of comic strip humor in there as well. I'm a huge fan of Bugs Bunny! People would ask me who my favorite actor was and I would ALWAYS say Bugs Bunny! You watch those cartoons as a kid and they are funny, but you watch those same ones as an adult and they are funny in a whole different way! THAT is what we try to do with "Tiny Titans" and why, I think, we have such a broad appeal and a multigenerational fan base!
AB: I read lots of Spider-Man, Hulk, Superman and Batman comics. As well as Harvey comics too! I watched Hanna Barbera cartoons like "Magilla Gorilla" and "The Flintstones" and "Tom and Jerry." Also the Batman TV show with Adam West and the Spider-Man cartoon. My biggest influence is Hanna Barbera. I love drawing characters with their hands to their side like Yogi and Boo Boo would stand. Man, I feel like watching them now.
CA: It always warms my heart -- and my hope for the future -- to see small children reading comics. Have you had any touching experiences seeing (or hearing about) kids with "Tiny Titans"?
Franco: Some of these stories made me get all teary!!! And I'm a big burly guy! But one of my favorites was the father who told us that he read "Tiny Titans" to his young daughter but it was getting late and then it was lights out for the night. After a few minutes he heard some rustling from her room and he went to investigate and found his daughter under the covers with a flashlight and her copies of "Tiny Titans"! That is what it's all about for us! Or the dad that goes to the Comic shop on Fridays so he can read "Tiny Titans" with his small boys over cereal on Saturday mornings! It's a Saturday morning cartoon but in a book!!!! (Sorry, am I using too many exclamation points?) [Ed. note: No.]
AB: YES! We hear many stories about parents reading "Tiny Titans" as bedtime stories to their kids. That's always awesome. I love recieving drawing from kids too. I get a package a week filled with letters and drawings from kids from DC Comics! That kind of stuff makes everything worth it!
CA: Knowing that the FCBD story would make its way into the hands of many potential new readers, did you approach this project any differently?
AB: I think we approached this just like every comic. Every comic we do has the potential of being a kid's first comic ever. The FCBD comic is really special because it will be the first comic for many kids! It's an honor to work on the FCBD comic and it was the first time me and Franco get to work on a cover together too! I really like that our version of the Titans may be kids first exposure to these characters until they "graduate" to the more mainstream books! I love DC Comics... AW YEAH!