In previous posts Comic Books for Parents: Part I and Comic Books for Parents, Part II, I discussed (respectively) the adult nature of comic books and how a parent who is concerned might lesson the harmful effect of that nature on their children. I have discovered that even the most permissive of parents are surprised at what their 10-year-old might be reading in a comic book. Knowing every parent is a busy parent, I’ve decided to provide more help to those who might be concerned.
Why you might want to bother
Statistically, boys tend to gravitate towards math and sciences while the girls tend to take easier to English and reading. While there are always exception to this and some of our current cultural architects might decry it as sexist, the facts are the facts. So, if you have a child who is uninterested in reading and finds it difficult to read a book, the statistics still tell us it will most likely be a boy. And, if your “reluctant reader” is a boy, comic books might be a way to help. Again, it’s not that girls don’t read or enjoy comic books, but the truth is, if you go into a comic book store, most of the browsers will be men or boys. You can throw bricks around a comic book store and be in very little danger of hitting a woman — unless she’s behind the counter.
I was not a “reluctant reader”, but I learned a lot of vocabulary from comic books. When I was in 4th grade, I remember asking my mother what “invulnerable” meant, a word I had encountered in a Superman comic book. She didn’t know, and she introduced me to the dictionary. I distinctly recall being forced to look up the word “corpulent” so I would understand a reference in a Doctor Strange comic book.
Comic books provide a quick read in which much of the story is relayed in pictures. But the words are important, too, and a reluctant reader might get enjoyment out of being able to follow the story with minimal effort. It might spark an interest in reading and then fan the flame that moves onto books that don’t have pictures. It’s a possibility.
What to look for
So, having already suggested methods for limiting adult influences on your children in the previous aforementioned blog, I’d like to suggest specific comics you can consider.
But first, you need to understand that comics now identify the artists and writers who crafted the book. It’s important for you to be familiar with their names. Superman no. 1 written by Siegel and Shuster will be a different Superman no. 1 written by John Byrne or drawn by Jim Lee.
With that understanding, let me suggest some G-rated comics for your consideration.
Marvel comics written or edited by Stan Lee and drawn by Jack Kirby, Steve Ditko, or John Romita will be completely G-rated. They include Spider-man, The Avengers, Captain America, The Hulk, Iron Man, X-men, Doctor Strange, and others. These are old comics, written in the 1960s and 1970s. The individual issues are old and generally expensive to purchase, but you can buy them in either the hard bound “Marvel MasterWorks” editions or the less expensive, paperback “Marvel Epic Collection” editions.
They also have the Marvel “Essential” collections. They provide a lot of bang for the buck, but they are a “black-and-white” bang. In other words, the comics are reprinted on cheap newsprint paper without color! I don’t recommend this for children. A comic book without color is like Aunt Jemima pancakes without her syrup. Most children will be unimpressed.
Marvel also prints Omnibus collections that have a whopping 30 issues contained between their covers. They are cheap by issue, but expensive to purchase. They can be heavy and awkward for an adult to handle, much less a child, and I would suggest staying clear of them unless you want to purchase a very nice present for an older, stronger child.
I particularly recommend the “Epic Collection” editions as an inexpensive way to purchase comics. At first blush, with prices from $19.95 to $30.00, they don’t look inexpensive, but you have to remember that you are getting 16 – 20 issues in a book. You won’t buy 10 new comic books for that price! And they are printed so that the entire story (where possible) is in one collection.
DC is reprinting its older comics, too. They are in the hardback “Archive Editions” or hardback and paperback “omnibus” editions. These include stories of Flash, Green Lantern, Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, The Justice League, Atom, and others.
DC also has “Showcase” editions. Like Marvel’s “Essential” collections, the Showcase reprints are particularly thrifty, but they are in black and white with thinner paper. The lack of color makes them less interesting for children, and the thinner paper makes them easy to damage by younger siblings.
One set of collections that I particularly enjoyed as a child is “The Legion of Super-Heroes”. Set in the 30th century, these stories feature a large, rotating group of teen-aged superheroes from a variety of planets. The earlier stories and definitely G-rated. And, sometimes, you can even get the original comic books cheaply! A huge swath of these stories were written by 14-year-old Jim Shooter, a child prodigy in the comics world. That alone might interest your child! DC has 13 volumes of the Legion of Super-Heroes Archive editions out, and all of them are rated “G”. Later versions of this group are less family friendly.
I would like to mention two of my favorite independent Gold Key comics: Magnus, the Robot Fighter, by Russ Manning, and Doctor Solar, Man of the Atom. The former still reads well, though the latter is a little cheesy. They are both available in hardback and paperback archive editions, but I would steer you away from the Solar paperback editions, which were not well made. Be careful of your purchase. Both of these characters have undergone several reboots under other independent comic book publishers, and I warn you that these later incarnations are less kid-friendly.
In fact, any comic you find with Gold Key as a publisher will be G-rated. While these comics are rare and generally expensive to purchase, I often find them in antique malls for a dollar or less. Gold Key went to the comic store in the sky long before comic books morphed into adult material, so you can trust them.
In a later blog, I’ll identify some later comics that, much to my surprise, an adult can purchase for his child to read without worrying about the content between the pages.