by Wayne Markley
I have thought for a very long time, going back to my first job working in a comic shop in the early 1980s, that comics appeal to males in their 20s. Over the last thirty years of working in the business of comic books, I have discovered that I was wrong, comics appeal to men in their 40s. I saw my first comic book when I was five years old in a barber shop. It was a Melvin Monster comic. The first comic I collected was Green Lantern when I was 6. It was drawn by Gil Kane and great science fiction. As I kid I would load up my wagon and go door to door looking for people to trade comics with. This was admittedly back in the mid 1960s and the world was very different then, but comics were books for kids. There may have been 40 year old men reading and collecting comics back then, but I did not know any of them. Today, 30+ years later, I once again work in a comic book store. And I get to deal with a broad spectrum of people, all of whom are some of the nicest people you could ever want to know, but they are 90% male and all are between 25-55. There are kids who come in with their parents, and it is fascinating to watch the little people and see what characters they know and what books attract them. The most popular book with the younger fans seems to me to be Sonic the Hedgehog. Archie come a close second and definitely sells better to the girls.
Given this long winded introduction, I thought I would talk about comics for kids. I do not think there is ever going to be a day when comics were like when I was a kid, where you would trade with other kids, both friends and strangers. There are too many other things to draw the kid’s attention away from comics. There are video games, Pokémon, Diary of a Wimpy Kid, and tons more. And for kids on a limited budget (which seems like a windfall to the twenty-five cents a week I got as a kid), $2.99 at the cheapest is expensive. While I do think that there will never be a day again when comics are a huge draw for kids, there are a number of very good books for kids (or adults for that matter). It is my greatest fear that as the collector ages, and I have watched this happen over the last 40 years, that there will not be any new fans and one day comics will go the way of the 78 PRM record. But enough of this negativity. Lets looks at great books for kids.
First off I would recommend Bone. Bone is an epic tale of good triumphing over evil over the course of nine volumes. This is a whimsical and well told by Jeff Smith. Bone is beautifully drawn with stunning colors (or black and white, if you prefer) that take the reader to a new world that magically draws you in as the Bone boys have their ups and downs. It is one of the best books for kids or adults that I have ever read. It is highly recommended.
Next up I would recommend The Muppet Show from Boom by Roger Langridge. It is a mix of slapstick humor and great story telling. The first 12 issues have been collected into three very nice trade collections. I would also recommend the Muppet Show itself, one of my favorite shows as a kid and, when I re-watched them recently, they were just as good. The comics truly captured the feel of the show. Roger Langridge has unfortunately left The Muppet Show comic, and the miniserieses, such as Muppet Sherlock Holmes and Muppet Peter Pan, are nowhere as good.
Another great book for kids is the Star Wars: Clone Wars Adventures Digests. There are brand new stories featuring the cast and characters from the Clone Wars TV Show. There are seeped deep into the Star Wars mythos, but the stories are well told and well drawn and each volume is a self contained story. These books are one of the most popular books we sell at the Westfield retail store to young boys.
Archie Comics publishes a wide variety of comics, digests and magazines. All of these feature both the “new look” Archie’s, which are a modernization of the classic characters. As I have said many times in the past, Life with Archie magazine which is all “new look” characters, is an excellent read for older kids or even adults. The digests mix new material as well as reprints of the classic material from the past. These are formulaic in the storytelling, with three or four different stories told over and over, but they never get old.
DC has an interesting mix of comics aimed at kids. These are all very well done and all of them can and do appeal to kids and adults. Some of the titles DC publishes include Tiny Titans, Scooby-Doo, Batman: The Brave and Bold, and more. These are available as single comics as well as a number of trade paperbacks. Of all of these titles, I would recommend Batman: The Brave and the Bold above the rest.
Not to be left out, Marvel also publishes a number of books for kids under their Marvel Adventures imprint. Almost all of these stories have books have been collected into very nice digests which, as a general rule, collect four comics per digest. Among these collections are Spider-Man, Avengers, Fantastic Four, and many others. Among the entire marvel digest collections I can almost guarantee something you will like to share with your kids.
There are also lots of other books that I have not discussed here that are also very good for kids. I encourage you to track them down and buy one or two and give them to a kid, be them your own, a nephew, a neighbor, or donate them to the local school. A child is never too young to be introduced to the world of comics and all the stories and adventures they can bring to a young mind.
In conclusion, I would like to say how sad I was to learn the passing of Dwayne McDuffie. I worked with Dwayne when I was working at DC as I was the liaison between DC and Milestone. Milestone was a great place packed with creativity and it was always super-charged with energy. Dwayne was quiet, but when he spoke it was always a lesson you would never forget. He was a very proud man who took extreme pride in his writing and I think it showed as he was one of the best writers out there. I will miss him as a person and I will greatly miss his writing.
As always, anything I written here is my opinion and they do not reflect the thoughts of Westfield or their employees. Complaints, comments or suggestions can be sent to me at MFBWAY@AOL.COM.