18 June 2006

highlighting Highlights

I didn't mind when the New Teen Titans went vaguely manga for their TV show. After all, I'd read that comic book during the George Perez years of the 1980s, and no animation studio in Asia could replicate his artwork 20 frames a second.

Nor did I mind the new, vaguely manga look for the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles a few years ago, or this week's news that their TV look will change a little bit more. After all, they always had a Japanese inflection.

But I was a little taken aback by this year's model of
Goofus and Gallant from Highlights for Children, that waiting-room staple. They've looked about the same since my early childhood. The magazine revamped the pair when it switched to a full-color interior, but their basic style remained: realistic pencil sketching, timeless clothing, whitest boys in America. Samples are preserved at Fark.com.

So I checked out the Highlights website. I was pleased to see that, despite the new stylist, Goofus still doesn't comb his hair. That gave me courage to try out the choose-your-own-very-mild-adventure pages for G&G. It felt like being one of those cartoon characters with a little devil on one shoulder and a little angel on the other. I can therefore report that Gallant comes off as even more of a prig. All is well.

This week the Boston Globe ran a story about Highlights on the occasion of its sixtieth anniversary and (so the magazine says) billionth copy. The August issue will explain the concept of a billion this way: "If Goofus stacked a billion children on his shoulders, they would reach the moon, wrap around the moon 11 times, stretch back to the earth, wrap around the earth five times, and there would be enough kids left over for 34,944 Little League teams." But where could we possibly find a billion kids stupid enough to trust Goofus to hold them up?

I understand that Highlights is narrowing its target audience, no longer aiming for the upper-elementary grades at all. This revamp of G&G as cuter may be part of that strategy.

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