There Are Too Plenty of Comics for Kids!

Christopher Butcher posted, a week or so ago, a wonderful piece about the myth of all ages, as he called it. It seems that some comic retailers had been bemoaning how there weren’t any comics for kids any more, when what they really meant was “they don’t make superhero comics like the ones I read when I was young”, and he called them on it.

Some retailers take time out to decry mainstream superhero comics as being too violent and over-the-top for young readers, and anything actually aimed at children as being “too kiddy”, meaning that it’s for the youngest kids while ignoring grown-ups who might want to introduce their kids to the material in the first place. …

[T]his whole kerfuffle isn’t about “comics for kids” or “all ages material” or any of that. If a mom brought her daughter into the store and wanted the comics she read as kids, which might be Archies, Romances, etc., we’d have no trouble grabbing something appropriate off of the stands. Archie still publishes, there are dozens of new romance manga out every month. There are lots and lots of books and comics coming out for kids, all the time, even if you live in the bible belt. This is about certain readers, and certain retailers, wanting to introduce very specific comics to young kids. …

But the only time I’ve ever encountered someone who wants to buy their kid a comic exactly like they read as a kid? Die-hard superhero fans. It’s that defensiveness again, not only are superhero comics awesome and modern mythology and whatever, but they’re the only comics that they want their kid reading. I’ve seen some pretty appalling behaviour too, parents outright refusing to buy a young reader something they’re actually interested in (Simpsons, Disney, NARUTO) …

They will accept no substitutions, and most importantly they need it to be CANON. That’s right, even if the Superhero comics meet every other criteria, they can’t take place in their own “universe” or be the “for kids” version (even if it’s for “all ages”), it has to be part of the 616 or DCU continuity or else it isn’t “real”.

There’s a whole lot more at the post, and you should read it, because Chris really knows what he’s talking about. He’s also posted a follow up.

Something that benefited me as a woman who read superhero comics is that I never thought of most fans as just like me. I knew from the start that my tastes were different and so I was always a proponent of the ideas that 1) more diversity would be good and 2) having different tastes from mine was ok. But a lot of these guys running stores never had to face that, because the fandom they knew mostly was white nerdy guys like them. So them confusing “comics for kids” with “comics for young me” is kind of understandable, if a big shame, because that insular worldview is not a good thing for their stores in the long run.

Anyway, I don’t have much else to add, except that you should read Chris’ posts. If you are looking for comics that kids may be interested in, here are a bunch I recommend, in no particular order:

Plus, there are Archie, manga, and yes, superhero titles (look for Marvel Adventures or Johnny DC branded issues) that are suitable and interesting for kids.

15 Responses to “There Are Too Plenty of Comics for Kids!”

  1. Bill Williams Says:

    I love the Batman: Brave & Bold comic even though I rarely get to see the cartoon.

  2. Thad Says:

    There’s really no excuse for refusing to buy a kid a copy of Simpsons or one of the Boom titles. That said, in a roundabout way, I can kind of understand the people demanding canonical kids’ comics. From my perspective, the problem isn’t that Marvel Adventures isn’t canon so much as that the books that ARE canonical aren’t more like Marvel Adventures. Why is it so hard just to make Amazing Spider-Man a good read that’s appropriate for 8-year-olds? (Actually, I’ve picked up a few issues here and there and it seems to be moving that direction, if not consistently. #600 was a great, oldschool-style Spidey comic that was suitable for children and oldschool fans alike.)

    That said, there are quite a lot of canonical all-ages comics on the shelves, as the copy of Marvel Masterworks Fantastic Four vol 2 I’ve been reading can attest. But I can agree with the jaded “they don’t make ‘em like that anymore” perspective — it would sure be nice to see more stuff like that in the A-list titles in CURRENT RELEASES.

    Bill Williams mentioned Batman: The Brave and the Bold, and that brings up the point that there are a couple really good children’s superhero cartoons right now. I love TB&TB, as well as Spectacular Spider-Man, which I’m fervently hoping gets picked up for another season (as long as they keep Greg Weisman at the helm — Gargoyles showed us what happens when Disney picks up a beloved series for a third season and ditches Weisman). Haven’t caught Superhero Squad yet, and haven’t heard anything good about X-Men or Iron Man, but…well, you win some and you lose some.

  3. Alan Coil Says:

    With the books you list by name, and the ones that are mentioned in passing, there must be at least 30 titles for kids that aren’t manga or Archie. That’s more than enough right there. How many more do the little buggers need? (That’s a joke, dagnabbit!)

    “…and 2) having different tastes from mine was ok.”

    It sure is. I don’t read manga, but I sure am glad it’s there to interest other readers. I also don’t watch horror movies, but I see the appeal to others.

  4. Kids and Workouts | Parenting help in Texas Says:

    […] There Are Too Plenty of Comics for Kids! » Comics Worth Reading […]

  5. Janna Morishima Says:

    I couldn’t resist leaving my own list of favorite recent kids comics. I agree with you completely that there are some really talented artists specifically interested in creating comics for kids. Here are some additional titles I recommend:
    STINKY by Eleanor Davis (world’s most adorable monster)
    USAGI YOJIMBO by Stan Sakai (not specifically aimed at kids but perfect for middle grade readers who like swordplay and adventure)
    G-MAN by Chris Giarruso (parody of superheroes that is *hilarious*)
    LITTLE VAMPIRE by Joann Sfar (what can I say, Joann Sfar is a genius)
    KAMPUNG BOY by Lat (for kid lit nerds, i describe this book as “imagine James Marshall grew up as a Muslim in Malaysia, this is what he would create”)
    SPIRAL BOUND by Aaron Renier (adorable anthropomorphic teen and tween animals investigate a mystery)
    POLO series by Regis Faller (*awesome* wordless picture book comics)
    MAGIC PICKLE by Scott Morse (super silly vegetable puns galore)
    ADVENTURES IN CARTOONING by James Sturm, Andrew Arnold, and Alexis Frederick-Frost (a really cool how-to-draw-comics book for kids)
    BABYMOUSE series by Jennifer & Matt Holm (young girls LOVE this series — why aren’t there more great, original comics aimed at this demographic?)

  6. Journalista – the news weblog of The Comics Journal » Blog Archive » Nov. 3, 2009: White nerdy guys Says:

    […] “Something that benefited me as a woman who read superhero comics is that I never thought of most fans as just like me. I knew from the start that my tastes were different and so I was always a proponent of the ideas that 1) more diversity would be good and 2) having different tastes from mine was ok. But a lot of these guys running stores never had to face that, because the fandom they knew mostly was white nerdy guys like them.” – Johanna Draper Carlson […]

  7. Joe S. Walker Says:

    “Something that benefited me as a woman who read superhero comics is that I never thought of most fans as just like me. I knew from the start that my tastes were different and so I was always a proponent of the ideas that 1) more diversity would be good and 2) having different tastes from mine was ok. But a lot of these guys running stores never had to face that, because the fandom they knew mostly was white nerdy guys like them.”

    The sheer one-eyed self-satisfaction of that quote is staggering.

  8. Johanna Says:

    Janna, thanks for sharing those additional titles – some great suggestions there!

  9. The ‘all-ages’ comics debate, Round 27 | Robot 6 @ Comic Book Resources – Covering Comic Book News and Entertainment Says:

    […] make sure some of those kids' comics don't slip beneath the radar, blogger Johanna Draper Carlson chimes in with more than a dozen recommended […]

  10. Torsten Adair Says:

    As a professional Seducer of the Innocent, I throw any prejudices I might have out the window when selling graphic novels to the general public.

    My seven-year-old niece is enjoying the GN version of Coraline. My four-year-old nephew LOVES the Toon Books library, and I’m also sending him the random issue of Spidey Super Stories (they hooked me when I was young).

    There are many “regular” books which use graphic novel techniques. “The Storm in the Barn” by Matt Phelan is generating Caldecott buzz. Previous Caldecott titles such as the hybrid “Invention of Hugo Cabret” by Brian Selznick, the experimental “Black and White” by David Macaulay, and David Wiesner’s silent “Tuesday” are all excellent books, for almost any age.

    And… if you want to be cool before the other cool kids are, go pre-order Kazu Kibuishi’s Copper, available next month from Scholastic. It’s got soul, great design… it’s Calvin and Hobbes without the hyperactivity.

    Anything “Oz” by Eric Shanower. (My store sold the $45 trade from IDW consistently with almost no special marketing.)

    DC and Marvel superheroes?
    Paul Tobin’s Spider-Man stories are fantastic!
    DC’s “Supergirl: Cosmic Adventures in the Eighth Grade” puts a new spin on the character which is fun.

    And would somebody please give Colleen Coover a monthly comic? Her “Banana Sunday” was fabulous, and her backup stories set in the Marvel Universe are fun! (I want a Hydrette action figure for Christmas!)

  11. Kiki Says:

    I agree there are many wonderful comics for kids out there – I purchase a lot of them myself – but I wonder if we aren’t being a tad bit hard on those parents who want super-hero books like the ones they had when they were young? Going by what I see in my elementary library – that’s what the kids want too.

    The kids in my library (K-6) who like superheroes won’t touch the Marvel Adventures books or the DCU books. Tiny Titans, Super Friends, MA Spider-Man? Forget it. Can’t give them away. Waid’s JLA: Year One, The Many Armors of Iron Man, Superman in the 50s, Simonson’s Thor – those are the books that go out and out and out. And it’s not just the collections either. The boys (and it’s generally boys) prefer an 80s single issue of Transformers, Spider-Man, or Batman to any of the newer stuff. The super-hero book that goes out the most is Sonic – and yes, I count him as a super-hero – a book that’s almost “Claremont X-Men lite” – extended storylines, subplots, lots of character development, and footnotes, but written in such a way new readers can jump on pretty much anywhere.

    And as for those parents wanting the stories in canon – well believe me, that’s what the kids want! There’s something in a super-hero fan that wants the story to matter and be in continuity. It must be in the genes. :)

    I can’t really explain this love for the older books and continuity, but it’s what the kids like – so maybe those parents who are asking for books like what they had when they’re young are just bowing to pressure from their rugrats.

  12. Johanna Says:

    That’s an interesting insight, that being part of a bigger “universe” with lots of continuity seems to be part of the appeal for the superhero fan. It would be interesting to see if the criticism changed if Marvel Adventures had several interlocking titles.

  13. Kat Kan Says:

    Not all kids want canonical super heroes. My sons couldn’t care less about most Marvel and DC super heroes. My older son (in his mid-20s) prefers manga; my younger son (teens) has loved Teen Titans Go! (he read every issue) and enjoys Tiny Titans now. He also likes Bone, Little Lulu, Star Wars Adventures. He’s read quite a few of the books published by First Second Books.

    At my school, lots of girls are now checking out Babymouse; Bone and Yotsuba&! are my highest-circulating books. The kids don’t ask me for super hero stuff at all, they prefer manga and most of the books mentioned by Johanna and by Janna.

  14. David Oakes Says:

    To offer yet another version:

    My kids (7, 10, 11) are first and formost superhero fans. (They are my kids.) But they are just as likely to read “Brave and the Bold” as “Showcase Presents: Batman” or “Mini Marvels” as “Power Pack”. (Old School, Simonson Pack. Bless you quarter bin!) At the same time, when confronted with an issue of (Post Crisis Wally West) “Flash” with Icicle on the cover, they are quick to point out that this must be an Earth-2 crossover story, because Icicle is an E2 villain. Or when they meet a new character in “Tiny Titans”, they immediately want to know if they fit into the “alrger universe” in the same way: Is Trigon really Raven’s dad? (Yes.) Does the Atom have a real family? (Um…)

    They have encountered manga, in small doses at my LCS, but mostly in the library. The only ones that have caught their attention to any great degree are the ones based on “cartoons”. (Anime to those older than 11.) Especially “Pokemon”, which gives them the opportunity to memorize metric truckloads of information on height, weight, evolutions, types, powers, weaknesses etc. (I can tell you about Bi-Beast’s numerous appearances, and I even own all the Marvel Handbooks, but I never thought to memorize his weight, Gruenwald bless ‘em.)

    But still, as I sit there watching them enjoy B&B and TT, and I realize that I can’t give them the latest Morrison penned “Batman”, and I don’t even want to let them near the current “Titans”, I do feel a little sad. Then we look for more “Power Pack” in the quarter bins, and everything is better.

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