Hey, Kids Comics! – Supergirl, Cosmic Adventures In The 8th Grade

We’ve finally hit the sweet spot in my house where we’re doing nightly reading with the kids — dubbed Books & Bed, yes I’m a professional writer — and they want to check out comics! I’m sure I’ve talked about this here and there, but actually reading comics with kids can be a little tricky. Even if they’re interested in the format, leading them along in the right order and keeping them invested for what can be a longer reading experience, can lead to boredom or even frustration. Now that our oldest is reading more and more on her own and has had a fair amount of experience with comics, though, she’s a lot more interested.

And that means I’m buying more kids comics, which I’m pretty stoked about. Over the summer we spent some time at my inlaws’ place and I found myself with an afternoon to myself and a new comic book shop called Midgard Comics & Games to explore! I usually dive through longboxes looking for random 90s comics that I’ve always been curious about, but that time I decided to lean into the kid’s rejuvenated love of the medium and walked away with Supergirl, Cosmic Adventures In The 8th Grade by Landry Q. Walker and Eric Jones as well as the second volume of Scooby-Doo Team-Up, which I will get to in a later post.

Continue reading

Advertisements

Hey, Kids Comics! – DC Superhero Girls

You never know how, when or where your kids will finally be interested in the things you love. When I first heard about DC Superhero Girls a few years back, I was super stoked because it looked like it would be perfectly up my daughter’s alley. Young women with cool powers all going to school together and fighting bad guys? What could be better?! Continue reading

Hey, Kids Comics! – Dance Class Volume 1: So, You Think You Can Hip-Hop?

Dance Class panelI’ve loved comic books since I was 9 years old. Since then I’ve been lucky enough to turn that affection into a career. As the parent of two kiddos, I want to have samplings of my hobby I can pass them when and if they show interest. Hey, Kids Comics! will chronicle my experience going through these offerings and not only evaluating my kids’ potential interest but also passing along any potential trouble spots for children and parents. As always, I encourage you to read these books first to see if you think your kid will enjoy them.

dance class vol 1As usual, I picked up Dance Class Volume 1: So, You Think You Can Hip-Hop? from the library. When my daughter checks out the computer games, I peruse the adjacent shelves of kid-oriented graphic novels. I’m trying to broaden my horizons in this arena by getting some books that might appeal more to her sensibilities. Since she’s taking a ballet/gymnastics class these days, Dance Class by French creators Beka and Crip from Papercutz seemed like a solid choice.

And it was actually pretty successful because she wanted to check this book out as soon as she saw it in the stack when we got home. I knew nothing about the comic, but we dove right in and she seemed to have a good time with it. The book actually has a lot of ties to the world of comic strips in that each page is a self contained gag or story, though some elements carry throughout like the performance of Sleeping Beauty and the dreamy new hip hop dance teacher (was this an Angelina Ballerina story too?). Like with Tiny Titans, I wasn’t sure if she would get the format or the gags, but she seemed to have a really good time with it.

dance class pageI must admit, I did find myself laughing at some of the jokes, which I wasn’t really expecting. I didn’t fully get into this book though because of a few characters and choices made in regards to them. First, there’s a young woman named Lucie who isn’t skinny as a rail (she looks like a normal kid, in other words) and she’s sometimes the butt of fat jokes. Many of those come from the mean girl character Carla. They’re far from the worst examples of either stereotype (as you can see in this panel), but I’m not super excited about presenting my kids with them, at least right now.

With that in mind, I planned on returning this book to the library and maybe not mentioning it again, but then I saw my daughter practicing her ballet movies with this book opened up to the page where they describe the different positions. I was blown away. So, I think I’ll maybe give these books a read-through ahead of time and note where some of the jokes I’m less comfortable with are so I can change or skip them when reading because she really seems to dig it right now.

Hey, Kids Comics! Scarygirl & The Creeps

adventures of scarygirlI had big plans for doing a series of Halloween-related posts here on the blog leading up to my favorite holiday, but it just didn’t happen thanks to that whole parenting thing and work getting in the way. I did, however, do some all-ages, Halloween themed reading that is worth posting about thanks to some books I picked up at the library.

The Adventures Of Scarygirl by Nathan Jurevicius grabbed my attention just from the cover. I love cartoony art styles in comics and this book has it all over the place. The story itself follows the misadventures of the title character who makes friends with a sea monster and a somewhat magical rabbit. She wants to find out why she was dumped in the woods, remembering the face of a specific man, and heads towards his location. The adventure is fraught with betrayal, threats and other dangers that eventually make Scarygirl realize that this man might not be the source of enlightenment she hoped for.

Here’s the thing, though, this book is presented without dialogue. There are some sound effects in here and there are speech bubbles, but they’re filled with images of people and places or a handful of symbols. Even as a 32 year old adult who’s read comic books for a third of his life, I had some trouble following a few of the details, so I’m not sure if that will make it better or worse for a younger reader. I showed my 4-year-old some of the pictures and she dug the style, but she wasn’t too interested. When I read her other comics, I know she can get a bit lost as to which panel I’m reading from and she should be focusing on, so this one might not be the best choice. On the other hand, though, a lack of words might break down some barriers for kids, so I’d recommend checking this one out and presenting it to your kids. If they don’t get too freaked out by some of the pages, they might be all up for this one.

Speaking of the pages, dang this artwork is just gorgeous. While reading the book I found myself wishing I could play it like a video game. I must not have been the only one because it is also a video game that I now very much want to play. Has anyone played it?

the creeps vol 1 night of the frankenfrogsI was also very quickly and easily drawn to Chris Schweizer’s The Creeps Volume 1 Night Of The Frankenfrogs. As I’ve mentioned more than once, I love the films of the 80s aimed at kids that put them in real danger like Monster Squad, The Goonies, Cloak & Dagger, E.T. and even The Gate. I got that vibe just from the cover of this book from Amulet Books and was not disappointed.

The Creeps centers around a quartet of outcasts each with a specific set of skills that helps them rid their town of supernatural and sci-fi threats. These kids try to save the world from frakenfrogs while avoiding the rest of their classmates who hate them and dealing with the bad guys behind the infestation.

Again, I showed this one to my daughter but she wasn’t ready to make the commitment to a graphic novel. Still, she seemed to like the look of the characters and was appropriately grossed out by the monsters. To my mind, this book feels like it would fit in with the first batch of original Nickelodeon cartoons from the 90s like Doug, Ren & Stimpy and Rugrats. If that sounds like it might be up your kids’ alley (or yours) then go ahead and give this one a shot!

Hey, Kids Comics! – Three Thieves Book One: Tower Of Treasure

three thieves tower of treasure panelI’ve loved comic books since I was 9 years old. Since then I’ve been lucky enough to turn that affection into a career. As the parent of two kiddos, I want to have samplings of my hobby I can pass them when and if they show interest. Hey, Kids Comics! will chronicle my experience going through these offerings and not only evaluating my kids’ potential interest but also passing along any potential trouble spots for children and parents. As always, I encourage you to read these books first to see if you think your kid will enjoy them.

three thieves tower of treasureI’ve had my eye on Scott Chantler’s Three Thieves Book One: Tower of Treasure for a while now. It’s on the top shelf of my library’s kid-friendly graphic novel section and I found myself drawn to it thanks to the title (which reminds me of an Indiana Jones installment) and the young heroine on the cover. I like how she’s dodging arrows on her own, but also worried about the situation as a whole.

Opening the book, I was treated to a tight cartooning style that reminds me of older newspaper strip artists but with a precise modern viewpoint. The clean coloring and composition of the book make it a big, bright, fun adventure on the whole even though there are several dark moments for our heroine and her pals to survive.

TowerofTreasureOnline_pg041Speaking of the heroine, her name is Dessa Redd and she’s an acrobat in a traveling circus along with her friends and coworkers Topper and Fisk. She has a mysterious past that involves a kidnapped younger brother that catches up with her during a performance that goes awry. Blamed by the circus folk for ruining their latest meal ticket, she decides to go along with Topper’s plan to rob the nearby treasure tower to make up for her earlier mistake. Given her acrobatic skills, she has relative ease making her way through the traps set up by the mysterious Greyfalcon, but the heist does not go off without a hitch and our heroes have to figure out a way to avoid capital punishment.

I’m personally not a fan of faux-medieval fantasy stories, but this one sticks more to the real world adventure (traps, escapes, treasure) than the mythical which I appreciate. It’s kind of a mix of the aforementioned Indiana Jones vibe and something like Princess Bride. The fantasy motifs allow for more interesting-looking characters like Topper and Fisk, but don’t take away from the reality of the situation which is pretty serious for the titular Three Thieves.

That’s also the biggest red flag of the book for parents. The main characters are threatened with hunger and death at various points and the Queen is an all around awful human being, but I would put this on the same level of your average Disney movie. Actually, while reading this book I kept thinking that it would make an awesome movie. I try not to get too far into that headspace when reading comics, because it’s not the point, but a live action version of this would be AMAZING, especially given the prominence of the young female character. I’d be stoked to take my daughter to see Tower Of Treasure on the big screen.

Anyway, Chantler’s world feels so lived in and interesting that I just want more of it, which is good because I’ve got the second and third books sitting here waiting to be read! If you want to check out more about Three Thieves, head over to the official website where you can actually read pages from the story to see if it’s up your and your kids’ alley.

Hey, Kids Comics! – Mermin Book 1: Out Of The Water

mermin 004

I’ve loved comic books since I was 9 years old. Since then I’ve been lucky enough to turn that affection into a career. As the parent of two kiddos, I want to have samplings of my hobby I can pass them when and if they show interest. Hey, Kids Comics! will chronicle my experience going through these offerings and not only evaluating my kids’ potential interest but also passing along any potential trouble spots for children and parents. As always, I encourage you to read these books first to see if you think your kid will enjoy them.

mermin book 1 out of the waterEvery week or so, I head to the library with my daughter. She likes to start the visit by playing the kiddie games on the computers, which works out great for me because it’s right near the kids’ graphic novel section. I’m always looking for new books to check out and Joey Weiser’s Mermin Book One: Out Of Water practically jumped off the shelf at me. Ever since He-Man, I’ve been a big fan of merpeople and The Creature is my favorite of the Universal Monsters, so why not read what looked like a kid-friendly version of that?

This graphic novel from Oni is rated A for everyone according to their internal system and follows the adventures of Mermin, a merperson from Mer who appears on the beach one day and winds up going home with a kid as a thank you for saving his life. That in and of itself sounds like the set-up of a great 80s movie, but there’s also a mystery because Mermin doesn’t want to go anywhere near the water. Hmm, what could that be about?

mermin 013Well, I won’t spoil the mystery, but I thought Weiser strung it out at a nice clip while also putting Mermin and his pals through some of the usual trials and tribulations that come with school and kids not always being open to newcomers. There are plenty of solid lessons to be found in this book about acceptance, understanding, empathy, exploration and friendship without being hamfisted about them.

So let’s get into red flag territory. There is a degree of violence and destruction in this comic. A trio of Mermin’s fellows from Mer show up to bring him home and a battle that threatens his human friends in various ways ensues. While the situation remains serious (both to the story and in tone), it’s kept fairly cartoony. Basically, if you’re kid watches shows like Adventure Time, you’ll probably be okay with them checking out this book.

Speaking of the cartoony artwork, I love Weiser’s style. The figures are simple, but emotive and easy to love. When I had this book from the library my daughter wasn’t interested in reading comics (which has thankfully changed after a trip to the comic shop last weekend but I did show her the cover and a few pages. She seemed instantly drawn to Mermin and his friends. The cartoon-like nature of the characters makes it easy for kids who are used to those kinds of images from TV and storybooks to be drawn into a story even in a different format.

Overall, I give Mermin Book One a big thumbs up and recommend you give it a try. I’m going to see if my four-year-old’s interest in comics continues and will get this one back from the library to see how she likes it. Meanwhile, I’m going to move on to the next two books in the series and see where it goes from here!

Hey, Kids Comics! – The Clouds Above

the clouds above crane panels

I’ve loved comic books since I was 9 years old. Since then I’ve been lucky enough to turn that affection into a career. As the parent of two kiddos, I want to have samplings of my hobby I can pass them when and if they show interest. Hey, Kids Comics! will chronicle my experience going through these offerings and not only evaluating my kids’ potential interest but also passing along any potential trouble spots for children and parents. As always, I encourage you to read these books first to see if you think your kid will enjoy them.

the clouds above by jordan craneJordan Crane is a comic creator whose work I’ve been hearing about from my more indie comic-oriented friends for YEARS, but The Clouds Above is the first of his works I actually sat down to read. Last week while my daughter played on the library computers I did my usual perusal of the kids’ graphic novels and there it was. I wasn’t sure if it was actually appropriate for younger readers (our library system doesn’t seem to really understand what most of these books are), but I knew that I wanted to read it.

I’m happy to say that, The Clouds Above (published by Fantagraphics in 2005) is a great story that can be enjoyed by readers of all (or rather most) ages. The 224 page, 6×6-inch book follows the adventures of a boy named Simon and his talking cat Jack as they discover a secret staircase to the clouds on top of Simon’s school. While ascending, they talk to birds, teach a sentient cloud to fly, fight storm clouds and eventually find their way back to school.

I appreciate that Crane keeps the material light and kid-friendly without shying away too much from emotional scenes. There’s a part of the story where their cloud friend turns himself into rain, but saves Simon and Jack so they don’t smash into the ground. There’s a sad beat there, but then the cloud says he’s happier than he’s every been now that the birds are enjoying the puddles he has become. I thought this was a particularly beautiful scene that probably has a teaching moment buried inside that I’ll figure out upon further reflection.

the clouds above clobber panel jordan craneAs far as red flags go, there is talk of death (“We’re gonna die!”) and a teacher beating Simon with a phone book, but not much is made of it and she’s ultimately made to look a fool which is important because she’s one of the few violent characters in the book. The others are birds, but birds are always jerks, so that stands to reason. Essentially, if your kids like Adventure Time, I think they’ll enjoy this book as both feature a boy and his talking, yellow animal friend going on a somewhat surreal adventure.

The Clouds Above not only works well as an all-ages story, but also offers a nice bridge for younger readers transitioning from storybooks to comics. Thanks to picture books, kids are used to this idea of information being doled out in one-page bites so Crane’s one-panel-per-page style here makes sense for them . I’ve noticed when reading comics with several panels per page to my daughter that it can be a little hard for her to keep up, so I try to point to each panel. Crane eliminates that problem altogether while also keeping a nice pace to the story.

I haven’t been able to get our 3-year-old to actually sit down and read The Clouds Above just yet — it’s like harnessing a tornado most days — but I did sit with our 11-month-old the other day and read it to him. He actually sat through most of it which is pretty huge considering his usual attention span is roughly 11 seconds!

Like I said, I got mine at the library, but you can buy a copy as well through the Amazon link above. You can also download the first 20 pages of this graphic novel from publisher Fantagraphics to see if it’s your bag.

Hey, Kids Comics! – The Batman Adventures & Adventures Of Superman

superman batman alex ross

I’ve loved comic books since I was 9 years old. Since then I’ve been lucky enough to turn that affection into a career. As the parent of two kiddos, I want to have samplings of my hobby I can pass them when and if they show interest. Hey, Kids Comics! will chronicle my experience going through these offerings and not only evaluating my kids’ potential interest but also passing along any potential trouble spots for children and parents. As always, I encourage you to read these books first to see if you think your kid will enjoy them.

the-batman-adventures-vol-1Over on my pop culture blog UnitedMonkee I reviewed a pair of trades collecting comics I thought might be good for kids to check out, but probably aren’t solid for younger kids. Like I said when I reviewed Batman ’66 Volume 1, I’m always looking for versions of these characters I love that I can pass along to my 3-year-old, but I’ve got to say that The Batman Adventures Vol. 1 and Adventures of Superman Vol. 1 aren’t those books, at least for another few years.

As you can see in the review I wrote over on UM, I do actually love both of those collections, but I did want to point out to this audience that they might not be the best introductions to these characters for little kids. Even though The Batman Adventures is based on a cartoon — the amazing 90s ‘toon Batman: The Animated Series — it’s still aimed at kids a bit older than my daughter’s age.

Sometime in the past year I was watching Batman: TAS and she came in the room and it freaked her out. Also, when I showed her the covers to this and the Batman ’66 book, she quickly went to the cartoonier book. I think the inherent darkness of TAS — both in visual style and tone — is just a bit too intense for her. The nice thing about a comic like this that’s based on a show, though, is that you can easily sit your kid down in front of an example and if they dig it, then you’re good to jump into the series. I’ll probably wait until Lu’s a few years older before going down this particular route with her, but I’m always looking for more kid friendly Bat books.

adventures-of-superman-vol-1I was also curious to see if the digital-first, but printed Adventures Of Superman anthology series would be a good place for our kiddo to start experiencing the superhero that changed my life. This series has a variety of stories by all kinds of amazing writers and artists that run the gamut from Superman figuring out a good mission for his backwards clone Bizarro to Superman’s mom wishing he’d come home for dinner. Much like with the Batman book, I think this is a wonderful batch of comic books, great for a new reader, just not a super young one because the Man of Steel is still dealing with a variety of people trying to kill him on a regular basis.

There are definitely stories in here that are cool for kids, but have you ever tried to flip past one story to get to another with a pre-schooler looking on? It can lead to more than a few problems. However, a good way to get around that might be to go back to these stories’ digital roots which can be found on Comixology. In that format, each “issue” is broken up into different downloadable chapters that cost $0.99 each. This would allow you to show them just the ones that you think they’d be into without the hassle of them seeing you skip past the ones that aren’t.

 

Hey, Kids Comics! – Batman ’66 Volume 1

batman 66I’ve loved comic books since I was 9 years old. Since then I’ve been lucky enough to turn that affection into a career. As the parent of two kiddos, I want to have samplings of my hobby I can pass them when and if they show interest. Hey, Kids Comics! will chronicle my experience going through these offerings and not only evaluating my kids’ potential interest but also passing along any potential trouble spots for children and parents. As always, I encourage you to read these books first to see if you think your kid will enjoy them.

Batman 66 Vol 1As a kid, my first real exposure to Batman came from the Adam West TV show. Even though I was growing up in the 80s, a few decades after the series first aired its impressive 120 episode run, I was lucky enough to catch them on reruns. At the time, I just took the campy antics at face value, but still fully enjoyed watching the exploits of Batman, Robin and Batgirl as they took on The Joker, Riddler, Catwoman (or Catwomen, more accurately), Egghead and the rest. For years, the only way you could see these episodes was if they happened to be on TV as the home video rights were a tangled mess. In the past few years, though, those rights have been detangled and simplified to the point where we now have Batman: The Complete Television Series, action figures and other collectibles and a comic book from DC called Batman ’66.
Continue reading

Hey, Kids Comics! – Tiny Titans: Welcome To The Treehouse

Tiny Titans class photoI’ve loved comic books since I was 9 years old. Since then I’ve been lucky enough to turn that affection into a career. As the parent of two kiddos, I want to have samplings of my hobby I can pass them when and if they show interest. Hey, Kids Comics! will chronicle my experience going through these offerings and not only evaluating my kids’ potential interest but also passing along any potential trouble spots for children and parents. As always, I encourage you to read these books first to see if you think your kid will enjoy them.

Tiny Titans Welcome To The Treehouse Volume 1The very first comic I ever tried to read with my daughter was Art Baltazar and Franco’s Johnny DC title Tiny Titans. I was a huge fan when the book launched in 2008 thanks to its mix of inside DC fan humor and ridiculously adorable artwork. It was like a classic comedy comic, but tailor made for DC Comics fans like myself. However, she was probably two years old at that point and wasn’t interested in reading comics of any kind.

More recently, when I got the idea to start looking at various kids comics, I pulled Tiny Titans: Welcome To The Treehouse off my shelf. I got through the first issue of six collected in this volume and set it aside to do that whole parenting thing. Later that day we caught an episode of the excellent Teen Titans Go! on Cartoon Network. When that was over and I saw that my daughter had enjoyed herself, I showed her Tiny Titans and started reading to her, pointing out the characters as we went. She loved it and it has since become a mainstay in her reading rotation. Continue reading