COMICS: THE NEXT ADVENTURE

Spiderman is about to look years younger, no thanks to Botox. Until now, the Peter Parker series, like most comics, was targeted at teen and adult readers. This week Marvel debuts its first line for the 10-and-under crowd. Spidey and the Fantastic 4 will star in less-violent story lines with panels that move in a gridlike pattern, instead of at angles, so they're easier to read. Another difference: Parker (the boy behind the suit) looks like he stepped out of a cartoon, the result of Marvel focus grouping, says supervising editor MacKenzie Cadenhead. "There's a more vibrant style. Kids will respond to that."

Marvel wants the series to convert younger readers into comic fans for life. The new line isn't wholly sanitized--Spidey's Uncle Ben still dies--but stories aren't sagas: each issue is self-contained, so there are no "to be continued" plot twists. Editor in chief Joe Quesada says he has "high hopes" that the "X-Men" and "Captain America" will follow. If so, a battle may play out off the pages: DC Comics already devotes about 10 percent of its issues to kids. Publisher Paul Levitz says the books teach vocabulary. Just one problem: parents are desperate for back issues--and not for collecting purposes. Their kids' favorite paperbacks can fall apart.

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