Sunday, June 15, 2008

Graphic Novels for Kids - Part One

An irregular series of posts on graphic novels and comics for kids.

Tiny Titans - Not yet available as a graphic novel, but this take on the Teen Titans as elementary school aged kids is a cute, fun take on a set of young superheroes. It's got simple artwork and is light on the words so that a kid who can't read can still memorize it and feel like they're reading it. My 5-year-old daughter loves it. There are four issues out so far, cost is $2.25 per issue. There will almost certainly be a digest-sized collection of four to six issues at some point, maybe late summer. In a similar vein, there are super-cute versions of Green Lantern, Wonder Woman, Batman and other Justice League favorites in Super Friends, which is of a similar age bent but in my opinion, not quite as enjoyable reading for parents as Tiny Titans.

Owly - The story of a kind-hearted owl, his best friend (a worm) and various other forest friends. Each volume teaches a lesson about sharing, or overcoming your fears, or something similar, but it's not done in a preachy way. It's one of the cutest comic books ever, and it is done entirely without words, using only pictures and occasional punctuation like question marks and exclamation points, so it's something that younger kids can read and enjoy. It's in black and white, which some kids might shy away from, but it is without a doubt my biggest recommendation for kids' graphic novels. $10 a volume, each one a complete story, there are four available.

Korgi - In the same vein, but with only one volume available so far. Very lush, elaborate artwork with a vaguely fantasy vibe (think Lords of the Rings illustrations meets Norman Rockwell) that tells the story of a young fairy girl and her dog, a Welsh korgi who happens to have the power to breathe fire. There are monsters and meanies, but not much scary... usually the threats involve stealing cookies and such. Like Owly, there are no words here, just beautiful artwork.

Ages 6-8 (Early Reading)
Keep in mind, I have a 5-year-old daughter... I'm guessing here based on loose experience, not first-hand parental experience.

Marvel Adventures - Marvel Comics has a whole line of all-ages graphic novels featuring their fan-favorite characters. Sadly, your average issue of Spider-Man, Hulk, etc. these days tends to skew a little bit more to the late teen/early college demographic in terms of subject matter, and while a lot of it will fly over kids' heads, you're definitely better off going with these all-ages versions. Here's the good news: They're generally pretty awesome, with some very talented writers and artists doing work on them. Marvel Adventures Avengers is the highlight, a team featuring a lot of favorites (Wolverine, Spider-Man, Hulk, Iron Man, all together, along with Giant Girl, Storm and others) and a very clever sense of humor that will appeal to kids and adults alike. You will not be bored or annoyed reading these to your kids, or helping them learn to read them. There are also books for Iron Man (my second favorite), Hulk (a very close third, and written by Austin local Paul Benjamin, who does a ton of signings and is great with kids), Fantastic Four and Spider-Man. The digests tend to be about $8 and contain four or five stories, and though they're numbered with volumes, you can pick them up in any order... each story is complete on its own.

Free Comic Book Day this year presented us with Marvel Adventures Superheroes, a Spider-Man/Iron Man/Hulk team-up book that also features other Marvel heroes, written by Paul Tobin. The first issue has been read and reread to the point of falling apart by my daughter, and she can't wait for the first issue of the regular series to come out. Which should be very soon.

Bone - The story of three cousins (one greedy, one dumb but charming, one sweet and noble) who find themselves in a strange valley with dragons, cow races, and rat creatures. It starts out very funny and adventurous, kind of like Walt Disney taking on Lord of the Rings, and ends in a slightly darker place, not unlike the progression of the Harry Potter series. But I've seen any number of parents buying this for their kids, who become completely addicted to the series. It's a series of 9 graphic novels, of which seven are out, one is expected in late summer, and the last should be out before the end of the year. Originally a black-and-white indy series (which is how I know how long it is and that it ends pretty well), it's now being expertly recolored and published by Scholastic in $10 graphic novels. Highly recommended.

Teen Titans Go, Legion of Superheroes in the 31st Century, Batman Strikes and Justice League Adventures - The DC Comics equivalent of the Marvel Adventures books, these are all based on DC's animated series. Lots of characters, both familiar and not, for the superhero-loving kid, and the talent on these is generally pretty good as well. Often not as entertaining to all-ages as the comparable Marvel books, on occasion they do feature stories that will thrill superhero-loving adults as well as kids, and they all feature solid stories. These used to be available in the $8 digests, but of late DC has been putting them out as $14 full-size collections instead.

This is a start. There will be more.

No comments: