Welcome to SBC’s The Panel, a chance for you to put your burning questions – comics-related or otherwise – to a group of comics professionals.
The Panel lives or dies by your contributions; please email them to firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll add them to the list…
This week’s question is as follows:-
” Your 8-year-old son/daughter/niece/nephew comes and asks for a comic to read. What would you give as an intro to the world of comics?”
I would probably give this child a couple of the Marvel Essentials volumes, with Spider-Man and The Fantastic Four. Good, basic comics: well written, well drawn, in black & white, so they don’t have to worry about protecting the books or anything like that. Just something they could read. And that’s the same if it were a boy or girl. I thought about giving options for a girl, then I realized that would be sexist of me. There’s no reason a girl can’t read superhero comics, especially that young. And kids really don’t give a crap about continuity; it’s just stories to them. So a child can start anywhere in comics and go from there.
Vince Moore is the writer of Platinum Publishing’s upcoming book, Kid Victory & The Funky Hammer
I am perfect for this question. I have seven children. Six boys & one girl. I give everything except for the nasty comic books. However, I put special attention on certain comic books. I buy any African American self published title. I also break down the stereotypes within the mainstream titles that are always their when the comic book has women & people of color within them. Mostly, I let them pick what they like. Most of the time they pick what I would not. However, that’s the true beauty of collecting comic books. Picking what you identify with. Although, I always give them the history about important comic books. I suggest the traditional comics to start with. Bat Man, Super Man & Spider Man. Then I let them choose what type of comic book they really want. However, as long the comic book is age appropriate it is good for any child. Comic Books promotes reading to a number of children all over the world and that is a good thing.
[Ed’s note – we managed to lose Alonzo’s reply to last week’s question about the future of the comics industry – sorry, Al – here it is:]
The best thing that could happen is to change the gatekeepers of the comic book universe. They are TOO WHITE & TOO MALE. More diversity, new stories & different perspectives should be explored. Perspectives that rich or middle class White Men won’t see or write about. There are too many SUPER WHITE BOYS in the comic book universe. We need more super women whose breasts & booties are not hanging out of their spandex. When need Black Super Heroes that stand for something and are not just tokens. Like John Stewart, Storm, the Falcon & the others. None of them stand for anything. White male creators said to themselves “let’s just put them here so we don’t look like the racist that we truly are.” More movies about Black and female super heroes. A female hero like Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Not like Bat Girl or Super girl. Those characters are just back halves of their male counterparts. Movies about Black heroes who don’t just do what White people (White Super Heroes) tell them to do. Like the Black heroes I create at Omega7. Black heroes that are kick ass and fear nothing. Like Me! I am fighting for this. I just met Spike Lee at a Black history event this month. He asked me for some comic books. Maybe the days I am longing for are coming soon. Are you listening Hollywood? All super heroes are not just White males!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Alonzo Washington is the creator of Omega Man and a noted black rights campaigner
To capture their attention, something along the lines of DC’s licensed comics, something they’re already familiar with, like Scooby Doo, Rugrats or Powerpuff Girls. Something with comics in, none of these stupid activity magazines purporting to be comics, but aren’t.
Then, being British, The Beano, of course, not what it was, but has one or two quality strips even now.
Gemstone have started up the Disney reprints in a variety of formats, so some classic Barks would be a good place to start.
For something not so current, one of Raymond Briggs’ kids books like Fungus the Bogeyman maybe. And if they’re a good reader, something like Castle Waiting or Bone.
There’s no doubt that there’s not enough being done to attract new comics readers at that kind of age, not by a long way, but there is still enough good stuff around to make an impression on the kids.
Gary Spencer Millidge is the creator of the wonderful Strangehaven comic, which – although on an annual release schedule at the moment – is so damn good he is ALWAYS my first port of call at the yearly UK Comics Festival in Bristol
Unfortunately, it wouldn’t be 2000AD or Batman, both these titles having become too mature for younger readers. I’d have to rule out humour comics like Beano and Dandy as well, as most humour comics have long since lost their anti-authority edge and become a triumph of form over content.
Based on the example of my 4-year-old grandson, the comic I’d use as an introduction to the world of comics in general is LEGO’s “Bionicles” (which I believe is/was packaged by DC Comics). At a time when the biggest-selling superhero comic is lucky to hit 150,000 a month, the first issue of “Bionicles” is supposed to have done 3 million.
The “Bionicles” comic is integrated into a much larger marketing campaign, backed up by a huge toy range, a website, DVD movie, “intelligent” packaging, and a series of books. The major theme is Good v. Evil (which comic isn’t?) with a massive dose of mystery. My grandson, mentioned above, knows the 80-minute movie off by heart.
Alan Grant is maybe most famous for his Batman and Judge Dredd work, and is currently appearing with Judge Anderson and “Half-Life” in the JD Megazine.
The paperback-sized versions of Amazing Spider-Man #1 – #21 that Pocketbooks published back in the late ’70s got me hooked as a young lad, so I suppose they’d work again.
If that’s too retro for them, the whole line of Marvel and DC Treasury Editions would also work.
I’ll also bet that there’s a whole bunch o’ manga that would do the trick.
And how can I resist plugging Abadazad #1 by “Jumpin'” J.M. DeMatteis & “Mighty” Mike Ploog?
Bill Rosemann is the Vice President of Publishing at CrossGen, and is still the friendliest man in comics.
That would totally depend on their interests. But I wouldn’t give them a comic that patronizes the reader in any way and I’d try to find one that has an excellent story that keeps adventure and mystery running high. When I think back to my favorite fiction or movies as a kid, those two elements were always present — from Nancy Drew to the Goonies. There’s ample material out there, too numerous to list here, for kids of that age to read.
Just remember to avoid the Children’s helper style comics with …
Fiona Avery plays in the Marvel Universe, with Wildstorm at DC, and is the creator of No Honor.
These questions just get better and better, and since you didn’t ask for just one recommendation, I’m going to presume I’m allowed a Top Ten.
(I’m a retailer, this is my job – forgive me!)
In no particular order, then, for boys or girls I recommend:
1. Bone by Jeff Smith. All kids love a little fantasy, which is why Disney films do so well, and Jeff as a master craftsman is as near as you’re going to find to a flawless, animation-style sequential artist. He knows exactly how to move characters around a page or panel, and his forms are as beautiful as his character design is fun: a tiny Bug, a big Red Dragon, a cow-racing Grandma, Stupid Stupid Rat Creatures, three very different “Bone” creatures, an enormous predatory cat, and a couple of traditionally spooky antagonists, all roaming round a huge landscape with dark forests, vast mountains, mysterious caves and valleys. Trust me, they’re going to be hooked.
2. Clan Apis by Jay Hosler. The life cycle of a bee, told in much the same style as the above, brought brilliantly to life and leant just as much humanity. Plus it’s educational. Schools and libraries lap this up. Just don’t expect a happy ending.
3. Leave It To Chance by James Robinson & Paul Smith. Teenage Chance Falconer is determined to inherit her Father’s mantle as magical protector of Devil’s Echo, no matter how much trouble it gets her into. Monstrous, feisty fun, with a cute orange dragon called St. George, and in colour, which always helps with younger readers.
4. Mutts by Patrick McDonnell. U.S. syndicated strip about a cat and a pup who see the world in a very different light from their owners. Keenly observed, gorgeously delineated, with some cracking punch lines and a heart of gold, it’s an all-round crowd-pleaser and one of our biggest sellers each and every Christmas – even though it’s bought primarily for stupid, soppy adults, like myself.
For girls specifically:
1. Scary Godmother by Jill Thompson. You can buy these as watercoloured albums, or black and white collections. Jill’s pen line has been perfected since her Sandman work – very Tim Burton. Loads of supernatural mischief, with the occasional “Blue Peter” break for a baking recipe you can follow at home. My favourite scene so far featured Thompson’s very own version of Chicken Little, constantly fixated on an interior ceiling: “Is that a supporting beam?”
2. Akiko by Mark Crilley. Bonkers intergalactic romp with some of the finest textures in children’s comics. Flawed, bickering heroes and a young, female lead encounter strange worlds and stranger inhabitants. That’s what eight-year-olds want.
3. Powerpuff Girls. I have no idea. I’m too old. 😉
1. Gon by Tanaka. Look, this is only my experience. I’m sure some girls would really go for a diminutive dinosaur getting all mardy and taking it out on the flora and fauna of our contemporary world, but for the most part young lads are faster to relish bad-tempered wildlife destruction. David Attenborough, this ain’t. What it is, is an insanely detailed natural world with lions, beavers, eagles, elephants, fish, bears being either protected or projected (into the stratosphere) by this tiny T-Rex with a strange and unique moral code. No words either, for those who bore easily.
2. Superman: Peace On Earth by Dini & Ross. A very quiet and dignified superhero book which I would have found awesome as a youngster. Not just because it was meticulously painted, or for the superb visual atmosphere involved – though those would certainly have done the trick – but for the African wildlife alone. And parents can rest assured that the morality message is firmly non-violent and all-inclusive: everyone can make a difference in their own humble, individual contribution to a better world.
3. If that sounds too quiet and dull, try The Simpsons or Futurama.
I’d also recommend Linda Medley’s Castle Waiting series, Batman Adventures, and of course there are all those saccharine Archie comics, though I can’t stomach them myself.
I could honestly go on for another two pages.
You know where we are if you need us. 😉
Stephen Holland runs Page 45 in Nottingham with Mark Simpson & Tom Rosin. You can buy this stuff from them. If you fancy.