That next generation is the target of Comics4Kids, the new app for iPad, iPhone and iPod Touch that was announced this weekend by ComiXology at the C2E2 convention in Chicago. And as the app launches at the end of April, the company will begin offering Archie Comics, one of the leading publishers of children's comics, as well as Nicktoons Comics, with selections based on the network's television shows.
"This will give us a real opportunity to expand the audience for comics in a way that we can't with our current offering," said David Steinberger, CEO of ComiXology. "It's a huge opportunity for us, because more and more kids are using this technology to access information and entertainment. And parents want to feel good about what their kids are consuming in terms of art and comics and books."
ComiXology already offers a Comics app for iPhone and iPod Touch, and the company worked with Marvel Comics on the launch of its app earlier this month. But neither of the apps are specifically targeted to kids. ComiXology is for ages 17 and over, and Marvel is for ages 12 and up. The new Comics4Kids app will be for children ages 9 and over.
"Part of the thing about being on the iTunes store is you have to play by their rules, and while they're good rules for Apple, it limits your audience," Steinberger said. "But I understand it. I mean, you can't have a 9-and-over app if you're going to have great titles like The Walking Dead or Scarlet Takes Manhattan.
"I've always wanted to get together enough material to provide parents a store where their kids can get terrific comics that are made for them. Now we have it. Archie's the ultimate in that," he said.
Comics4Kids will carry titles like Sonic the Hedgehog, Veronica, and Nickelodeon's Spongebob Squarepants, and and will have the same type of in-app store and search features as the Comics app.
"With the iTunes store, it's important to have as much visibility as you can," Steinberger said. "The Kids4Comics app is a way to spice up the demographic a little bit and also get some attention for comics on the iTunes store in an area that doesn't have access now."
Steinberger acknowledged that younger readers are tough to reach with printed comics because most kids don't have access to comic books, which are usually only available in comic shops. Digital access could help expand the overall young audience for comics.
"There are a lot of distribution issues in the world of comics, and it's just because of the way the specialty market worked out," he said. "Comics don't usually have visibility in the stores where kids are going, and so there isn't an opportunity for kids to pick up comics. This app will give kids with access to iPod Touch and iPads and iPhones the opportunity to read comics where they are."
And for current Comics by ComiXology users, Archie Comics is already being offered on the adult-targeted app. "Anything that's in the right age group will be in both places," Steinberger said.
While Marvel Comics are now offered on Comics by ComiXology, there is currently no plan to include Marvel's all-ages comics on the Comics4Kids app. "At the moment, we don't have an agreement with them to do kids comics," Steinberger said, although the app already has five publishers with more than 50 comics signed on. "Our plan is to always expand what we offer for both apps as we continue to add more titles for readers of all ages."