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Comic Book Exchange Pt. 1

An Interview With Mike Bullock


Interview by Scott Tingley, March 17, 2007

Mike Bullock , creator and writer of the all ages hit Lions, Tigers and Bears is about to begin an international push to start Comic Book Exchange Programs in elementary schools and libraries. I had a chance to chat with Bullock about the program, its creation, and about why he thought about doing this in the first place.

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ComicsInTheClassroom : How long have you been in the business of creating All Ages comics?

Mike Bullock : Professionally, since 2004. Rather unprofessionally since 1972.

CitC : You want to start a Comic Book Exchange Program that will work in participating elementary schools and libraries. What is this going to be all about?

MB : In a nutshell, the schools and libraries will have a stock of all-ages comic books, usually somewhere between fifty and two hundred depending on how many kids attend the school or visit the library. A child can then bring in a comic book of their own and exchange it for one in stock. This way, the children are constantly exposed to new comic books and the stock is always changing so that there's something new to read every time they come back.

CitC : Where did this idea come from? Why do think it could be a success?

MB : The public library in the town I grew up in had an exchange program and all of my friends and I took advantage of it on a regular basis. Every Saturday morning, after watching cartoons, I'd ride my bike over there and swap about five to ten comics. Each week there were comics I'd never seen before. I'd hazard a guess that in three years, I must have read over a thousand comics through the exchange.

To date, I've set up several of these in my local area and each one has been a hit with local kids. I'm sure this isn't just some aberration that's only illustrating a desire for comics in my town, but more a sign that kids everywhere still love comics and want to get their hands on as many of them as they can.

CitC : What were some of the initial challenges when you started this in your area? Where did the most reluctance come from, or did the people you approach buy into it right away?

MB : There was no reluctance whatsoever. I've partnered with two local comic stores, Samurai Com ics and Com ics, Legends and Heroes, to provide the schools and libraries with “starter stock”. The store owners, librarians, teachers and especially the kids have been very excited about the concept and overjoyed with the results.

CitC: Spoilsport question. Who checks to see if the comics are appropriate for the young readers? The easy (and I think correct) answer is “Parents”, and I agree with that to a point, but that doesn't sound like your experience with the program as a kid, and I know I was allowed to go to the library by myself and pick out what I wanted. Most librarians will not be familiar with the books being traded, so how does this keep from being a problem?

MB : Firstly, we triple check the original stock. By that I mean the store owner checks them, I check them and the person in charge at the school or library checks them. After that, it's up to the parents and teachers/librarians to keep an eye on them and make sure no inappropriate material sneaks past.

CitC : I know that comic shops can be very generous with their stock, if they are presented with a well thought out plan (probably not real receptive to “Hey. Can I have some stuff?”) But, I know that I am in the minority as a teacher/comic reader. How would an interested adult that may know very little about comics, but is interested in participating get started?

MB : Well, we'll have the “ Comic Book Exchange Start Up Plan” online soon. Interested parents, teachers and librarians can simply download the plan and use it to get the ball rolling. It will take teamwork from both the schools/libraries and the comic shops. Com ics in the Classroom has a nice list of all-ages friendly retailers, and I'd be willing to bet that most, if not all, of them are more than willing to lend a hand in getting this off the ground in their areas. If there isn't a store in the area on that list, then check out the Comic Shop Locator Service.

CitC: Do you have any other comic publishers or creators on board to support this yet, or are you even interested in looking for that kind of support at this point?

MB : At the moment, no. However, I've spoken with several creators and retailers and I'm hoping once this picks up some momentum, they'll join in and start programs in their local areas.

CitC : How big are you aiming for this program to be? Are we talking America , North America , every nation that reads comics?

MB : The sky is the limit. However, it takes baby-steps to get it building. We can take it one school or library at a time and I'm hoping, within a few years, the number of kids reading comic books will be immeasurable.

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Thanks to Mike Bullock for the chance to talk about this new program. Check back soon for updates.


 


 

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