By Chris Buchner
One of the perceptions plaguing comic books has always been they were just for kids. Many people couldn’t get past the colorful costumes and flashy fantasy world of people with superpowers that fought the good fight. That perception has changed some over the years, with writers and artists doing more dynamic and adult-themed stories in order to gain legitimacy as an art form and to keep their readers well into adulthood. Even, perhaps, to attract new adults to the field as they were the ones with the money to spend on the product. However, in so effectively bringing the adults back into the market, the kids have seemingly been disregarded for action scenes of gratuitous violence and sexual images.
This is far from the truth. Many comics produced in a company’s regular line focus more on telling a good story and not so much on violence, sexuality, or anything else deemed detrimental to a young kid’s developing mind. Books like The Amazing Spider-Girl have stories adults could enjoy and yet are appropriate enough for young children to read. On top of that, there are many comics out there designed specifically for kids of all ages to read and enjoy. The best part is these books manage to do it without talking down to them, by treating them with the same intelligence as the adult fan base.
Here are some examples of the all-ages books made specifically with kids in mind:
The Marvel Adventures imprint takes Spider-Man, the Avengers and the Fantastic Four and puts them in all-new adventures. The stories are very light in tonality and usually contained within a single issue, making them very easy to follow or get into. The best part is, these books are reminiscent of the books Marvel put out in the old days, giving kids the added flavor of history. While these titles have some action, the cartoon-styled artwork takes a lot of the threatening violence away making them good for kids of any age to read.
SPIDER-MAN LOVES MARY JANE:
Don’t let the title fool you, because in Spider-Man Loves Mary Jane, Mary Jane is the real star of this book. Spider-Man barely appears meaning the violent content is nearly non-existent. The book follows her adventures in high school, trying to juggle popularity and the things it brings, as well as her crush on both Spider-Man AND Peter Parker (whom she doesn’t know is really the same person). While teenagers may relate better to the themes and situations presented, younger kids can read this and enjoy it as well.
FANTASTIC FOUR PRESENTS FRANKLIN RICHARDS: SON OF A GENIUS
The Franklin Richards books are single issues that collect a series of short humorous comic strips starring the son of Fantastic Four members Mr. Fantastic and the Invisible Woman. They follow Franklin’s misadventures in his father’s laboratory as his curious and mischievous nature constantly gets the best of him. It’s up to his robot babysitter H.E.R.B.I.E. to get Franklin out of the trouble he always ends up causing. Each strip, along with Calvin and Hobbes-esque humorous hijinx, often have a lesson that Franklin learns once the adventure is over. There have been several Franklin books so far: Son of a Genius, Everybody Loves Franklin, Summer Special, Happy Franksgiving, and the most recent March Madness.
DC ANIMATED ADAPTATIONS
The Batman Strikes!, Justice League Unlimted and Teen Titans Go! are all based on the DC animated series featuring the title characters. The art and story style often matches that of their shows, making them a virtual extension of them. Your kid can’t get enough of their favorite show? Why not give them an extra fix every month while encouraging them to read? Also available from DC is Cartoon Network Block Party which is an anthology collection of comic strips based on the various Cartoon Network shows.
The majority of the books published by Archie follow the adventures of various teenaged characters through their lives growing up in friendly Riverdale. The characters are timeless and wholesome, addressing issues that most kids can associate with like bullies, doing your best in school and trying to always do the right thing. Many of the stories offer up lessons for both the characters and the readers as well. Some of the comics they offer are Archie, Betty & Veronica, Jughead, Sabrina the Teenaged Witch and various spin-offs. Also available from Archie are Sonic The Hedgehog starring the popular Sega mascot in his continuing adventures and Sonic X which is based on the animated series of the same name.
WALT DISNEY COMICS
Gemstone Publishing has the exclusive rights to publish reprinted stories based on Disney characters. As of this writing, only two titles are currently active; Uncle Scrooge and Walt Disney’s Comics & Stories. However, for the last four years they’ve printed other titles such as Donald Duck Adventures, Mickey Mouse Adventures, and other spin-offs.
Comics aren’t JUST for kids, but kids CAN enjoy them as well. By introducing them to some of the interesting characters out there, it can inspire them to read more and maybe expand beyond the comic books. Comics have also become valuable teaching tools in many classrooms across the nation, showing that educators have found some educational merit within the colored panels of action. Now is also the best time to introduce a child to comics because while these comics are made for kids, they don’t treat them like kids. They offer them exciting and gripping stories that even adults could read and enjoy.
Take a trip to your local comic shop and check them out for yourself. In fact, now is the best time. On May 5th, 2007, the annual Free Comic Book Day is being held. Each year, publishers release either reprints or all-new content that shops give away for free, along with other pieces of merchandise. Among the all-ages offerings this year are Archie Comics Little Archie 2007, Legion of Superheroes in the 31st Century, Sonic the Hedgehog 2007 and Walt Disney’s Mickey Mouse 2007. Check out http://www.freecomicbookday.com/ for more information on Free Comic Book Day and the available products. To find a comic shop near you go to http://www.comicshoplocator.com/ or call 1-888-COMIC-BOOK.