Kiddie UP, fun for the whole family.
Summer is finally winding down, and the kiddies are about to go back to school. Parents are rejoicing all over the world, but wait, this means fighting with the kids over homework again. Not even mentioning trying to get the kids to do extra reading, for leisure no less. Well if you go to this battle field with the right weapons, the fight will be easy. I am speaking from experience, having four kids is taxing enough, much less getting them to do extra reading, over playing XBOX or watching TV. But my wife and I have found that comic books must really trick kids into reading, we actually go to the library once a week in the summer for the kids now a days.
My children range in age from 2-13 and have quite the eclectic taste when it comes to what entertains them. My older two daughters have a passion for MANGA where as my younger two love Scooby Doo and Yo Gabba Gabba, but honestly none of this speaks to me. I realize that there is a kids line of comics and that it can be an easy answer to getting kids to read, but while Archie, DC kids, Power Pack or whatever cartoon is licensed can open them up to comics, what about us? There are some amazing artists and writers out there trying to make comics for everybody, not just saying that and truly gearing it towards children. In this trip through the Boom Tube I hope to open up some doors where everybody in the family can have some amazing fun in comics. This list is not the only comics out there for everyone to enjoy, but I feel they are the cream of the crop, so let’s look inside and see what I have come up with.
So where to start? No better place than the top, Jill Thompson has collaborated with some of the top people in the industry, mainly Neil Gaiman during his Sandman run at Vertigo. She has managed to turn this adult comic book into a children’s style book with THE LITTLE ENDLESS, AND DELIRIUM’S PARTY: THE LITTLE ENDLESS, but her original comic SCARY GODMOTHER is what we are going to take a look at. The story is about a little girl, Hannah Marie, who is excited to trick or treat, but has a big problem. Her problem is her older cousin Jimmy and his friends who set out to do more tricks, than treats. The older kids trick Hannah into going into a local “haunted house” to feed the monster within candy, so he doesn’t eat all the worlds children. While in the house Jimmy locks her in the basement and takes off with his friends, a terrified Hannah Marie begins to cry, not realizing she is about to meet the “monster”. To her surprise, it is not a monster waiting, but a tall green skinned woman with curly hair, her Scary Godmother. The two become fast friends, Broomates to be exact, and set off to give Jimmy his just desserts. With their pet ghost cat Boozle, the two explore the Fright Side, a place where all the Halloween Monsters live. This comic book is not a scary tale like the name may suggest, but more of a macabre telling of the fairy godmother story. It is beautifully illustrated and has great story telling, a must have for comic fans.
The next stop on our tour takes us to medieval times, in a world without humans, but strikingly similar to what was going on in our world. Mouse Guard by Peter Davidson is one of my all time favorite comics, the story telling is second to none and the illustrations are breath taking. This is the story of a brotherhood of mice, sworn by oath, to protect their mouse brethren in any and every way imaginable. They are escorts of goods and mice, weather watchers, and patrollers of the outskirts of their territories, but most of all protectors from predators. This comic shows that the very small can be heroic and any deed is not to small, and it allows people to go on great adventures, without the need of a cape and super powers. Archaia is one of the most amazing companies around, making books for all walks of life and all ages, without making it too kiddy or too adult. If you haven’t read anything by this company i highly recommend it, their Jim Henson properties and the Dare Detectives are some of my favorite all age titles from them, with more like Cow Boy on the way.
So now we are down to the knitty-gritty, the most swooping and epic tale ever spun for children and adults alike in comic form, I am of course talking about BONE by Jeff Smith. It is one part Walt Kelly, one part Carl Barks marinated in J.R.R. Tolkien, this comic is everything an adventure story should be. Self published by Cartoon Books in 1991 and later reprinted with different covers by Image Comics, Smith introduces us to the Bone cousins (Fone, Smiley and Phoncible P.), Pogo like creatures from a place not much different than our own, well at least that is the idea you get when they talk of Boneville. The three were run out o f town, exiled, due to a decapitation of the town founder’s statue during Phoney’s mayoral campaign. Now after crossing a great desert, and being attacked by a swarm of locusts, the three find themselves separated and lost in a mysterious valley. They are reunited through a girl, Thorn and her Gran’ma Ben, where they start many adventures like cow racing and saving the world… This story takes many wonderful twists and turns and has a plethora of creatures like the Rat Creatures, Dragons, talking animals and an evil mountain spirit known as the Locust King. With intense and humorous stories all ages can get behind this comic, and in 2005 Scholastics Inc. began to publish these originally black and white stories in beautiful color editions. This comic has attempted to be made into a movie several times, and we should all keep our fingers crossed that it will be.
Now I realize there are so many other great comics out there for all ages, many super hero related and many non super hero related, but this short list is a great start that all fans can enjoy. Companies like the 3rd World studios have published more adult oriented children’s books like STUFF OF LEGEND and Marvel Comics publishing the Skottie Young and Eric Shanower’s OZ books are in the fore front of this new revolution in comics. Not to mention Neil Gaiman’s contributions with such books as Crazy Hair with Dave McKean and Instructions and Star Dust with the great Charles Vess, as illustrated prose books with a comic twist. The art and the stories are diverse and amazing and allow adults to relive their youth and children to grasp onto adult style story telling. Many others are following this formula for everyone to enjoy something together regardless of age or any other differences. Aesop’s Ark by J. Torres and Jennifer L. Meyer published by Monkey Brain Comics or Gronk! By Katie Cook are the beginnings of a new wave of comic book entertainment brought to the fans via the internet, and move us towards the future. The days of property comics being the only outlet for children are in the rears and we stand at the edge of a brave new world in comics, where the fans have grown up.
In growing up we have also spawned the next generation of comic book fans, where the super heroes are not always on their mind, sometimes it is My Little Ponies or Sponge Bob that opens the door to comics, not Spidey and the Batman. We need to embrace this and help our kids realize what’s out there, because even the most well read comic fan had their moment when comics were introduced to them, and most of us gravitated towards something we knew. Be it Heathcliff, Alf, Transformers or Indiana Jones they opened my eyes to comics, and helped me to move onwards and upwards in the realm of comics. So once again my fine feathered fiends go out and explore the new for the sake of the chitlins that will ensure the future of comics.
Follow William Haders on twitter @doubleduece45.