(ed. note – at the bottom of this post you’ll find a widget you can use to enter one of two really cool bundles of comics for kids!)
I’m not a mom. I’m not even a dad. I’m a long-time comic collector, and I’ve been known to pass comics on to my friends who have kids. Because comics can be an awful lot of fun, and I like the idea of getting to share a hobby that has lots of fun and adventure with younger readers who also have a taste for fun and adventure.
But this sometimes gets me in a liiiiittle bit of trouble. A year or two back, I was clearing out some of my older comics and set aside a stack to take to some coworkers who had some comics-loving kids. I was a bit mortified a few days later when I was told that the dad I’d given them to had decided he better put them on the top shelf, away from younger fingers, for a few years. One of the comics I’d sent him — a superhero comic starring a bunch of teenaged characters — had included a sequence where someone’s head got blown up. Holy craniums, Batman!
The unfortunate problem for parents of kids who love comics is that a lot of comics just aren’t made for kids anymore. The readership has been skewing older for years, and grownup readers often want to read stories for grownups. So there’s more violence in comics, more horror, more sex, more cussing, and more, well, adult material. They’re often really good comics, too — but you still wouldn’t necessarily want your kids reading ’em.
So yeah, I try to be more careful about gifting comics to younger readers. And if I’m nervous about it, it’s gotta be so much worse for parents who may not know a lot about comics. You head into the local comic shop and grab some Batman comics for your kids, ’cause, hey, it’s Batman! Adam West! Super Friends! Batman’s totally family friendly, right? And then you get home and discover that Batman comics nowadays can be kinda disturbing. Hey, look, it’s the Joker, and he’s straight up murdering people and trying to drive superheroes insane and his face has been sliced off and is being held on with straps, and then Jane and Timmy wet the bed ’til they’re in their 30s…
There aren’t as many kid-friendly comics out there — and if you really want to get depressed, try to find comics for the superhero-loving girl in your family. There are discouragingly few comics about superheroines that little girls would feel comfortable reading. You have to go back a few decades to find a kid-friendly comic book starring Wonder Woman, fer cryin’ out loud.
Yes, it’s a definite challenge to find great all-ages comics. But it isn’t impossible, and you don’t have to be too nervous about shopping for comics. May I help make things easier by offering a few suggestions of high-quality kid-friendly comics?
(You’ll notice that a lot of these comics aren’t being published every month. And some of them haven’t actually been printed in years. But they’re all great comics, and they’re worth tracking down in the trade paperbacks in your local comics shop or bookstore.)
And before we get started with the list, could I offer one final piece of advice? Don’t assume my suggestions are guaranteed to be safe for your kids. If you want to get any comics for your kids, I recommend you read them yourself before you give ’em to your kids. You know your kids better than I do, and you owe it to your younglings to make sure I’m not accidentally recommending something your kids — or you — won’t like.
Having said all that — happy reading to both you and your kids! I hope you’ll all enjoy reading some of these fantastic comics! The recommendations below are grouped by age range.
Owly – This is a series of short children’s graphic novels by Andy Runton. They focus on a gentle-natured owl named Owly who always works hard to be a good friend and to be kind to everyone around him. The stories are nearly entirely wordless, so kids can enjoy the stories without needing anyone to read them aloud. Kids tend to love this series, as Owly is very charismatic and gentle, and the stories are simple and fun. It’s a great way to introduce kids to comics at a young age.
Tiny Titans – These were all created by the team of Art Baltazar and Franco — Tiny Titans was the first, with the idea being to take some more traditional comics characters, the Teen Titans, and recreating them as cartoonish elementary school kids who occasionally had adventures as superheroes, but mostly just went to school and did hilarious stuff. You’ve got Robin, Cyborg, Beast Boy, Raven, Starfire, Beast Boy, Batgirl, Wonder Girl, and many, many more. It’s great fun for kids, and it’s even fun for parents, because the jokes are pretty funny, and there are plenty of nods for older fans who are fans of the mainstream comics.
Baltazar and Franco also created “Superman Family Adventures,” which is full of humorous family-friendly tales of Superman, Supergirl, Superboy, and all their friends and pets. And they also did “Itty Bitty Hellboy,” which accomplished the seemingly impossible task of taking the dark pulp horror of the Hellboy comics and giving them the Tiny Titans treatment.
Batman: Li’l Gotham – This quirky comic is perfect for kids — and grownups — who love Batman and his entire supporting cast. The series featured beautiful watercolor artwork by Dustin Nguyen and almost every superhero and supervillain who’s ever been associated with the Dark Knight. But though Batman himself is the old familiar grim avenger of the night, everything else is played for laughs. Even the villains are more interested in having fun and causing mischief than anything more serious, and it’s a great way to introduce younger Bat-fans to Gotham City’s best superhero.
Zita the Spacegirl – This unbelievably fun graphic novel focuses on a girl named Zita who is accidentally transported to the other side of the universe, where she has amazing sci-fi adventures, befriends weird aliens, fights weird aliens, and repeatedly saves the world. You got a daughter who craves heroic action? You need to get her this book. It has two sequels. I recommend the entire series very highly.
Axe Cop – This series was created by two brothers — the illustrator is a 30-year-old comics pro, and at the time of the comic’s debut, the writer… was just five years old. This leads to some astonishingly bizarre and funny stories. Our lead character is Axe Cop, a cop who carries an axe. He fights bad guys and dinosaurs, usually by chopping their heads off. Yes, the series is pretty violent — in a very cartoonish manner — and there’s a very strong focus on poop. Again, the writer was five years old. This may make it a no-go for some parents — but I still recommend it, partly because your kids, no matter how angelic, are probably thinking about cartoonish violence and poop *all the time*, partly because it’s a great look at how kids tell stories on their own, and partly because we grownups think stuff like this is hilarious, too.
Molly Danger – Molly is a superhero — a ten-year-old alien superhero who’s superstrong and supertough. She fights against villains called the Supermechs — and against her own boredom and loneliness. She’s been ten years old for several decades and doesn’t know anyone outside of the government facility where she lives. Can Molly fight the bad guys and make some friends, too?
Giants Beware – This medieval action comedy stars three kids — a battle-loving tomboy, a wannabe princess, and a kid who loves baking pastries more than he loves danger — as they go out to hunt a giant who threatens their town. They meet up with many challenges on the way, of course. Fun characterization in this one, from the kids to the grownups who try to rescue them.
Phoebe and her Unicorn – Phoebe is a normal girl. Marigold Heavenly Nostrils is a normal unicorn. They meet, become friends, and are hilarious together. This collection of comic strips gets a lot of fun out of Phoebe’s mundane world clashing gloriously with the utter beauty, awesomeness, and magic of Marigold.
Super Dinosaur – What’s the only thing better than having a pet dinosaur? How ’bout having a talking pet dinosaur? How ’bout having a talking pet dinosaur who wears battle armor and fights other talking dinosaurs in battle armor? Basically, if your kids love dinosaurs, they’re probably going to love this comic.
Marvel’s Oz comics – Marvel Comics has done a number of comic book adaptations of L. Frank Baum’s classic Oz books, with glorious cartoony illustrations by Skottie Young. If your kids love Oz — or if they’re a bit too young to read all of them — these are really grand fun.
Supergirl: Cosmic Adventures in the 8th Grade – This is seriously one of my favorite comics of all time. Our lead character is Superman’s cousin Kara, stranded on Earth from her interdimensional home. She has amazing superpowers, but she’s completely and hilariously unused to Earth customs, and soon finds herself at the bottom of the junior high pecking order. Her best friend is Lex Luthor’s Superman-hating sister, her top rival is her own imperfect bizarro clone, and the teachers are hiding a dire secret. This is a wonderful, funny book, and I recommend it for kids and their parents, too.
Lumberjanes – This comic focuses on a group of friends at a summer camp — one with monsters and mysteries galore! The emphasis is on humor and the characterization of our counterculture-cool heroines — and how great is it to have a comic starring kick-ass girls whose creators are all women!
Mouse Guard – Tasked with protecting a medieval mouse society hidden away inside trees and tucked under cliff faces, the Mouse Guard fight against predators large and small. There’s more violence and death in this series than in most others we’ve discussed, but for the right kid, the action and adventure, coupled with the visions of the miniaturized mouse cities, are going to really light the imagination.
Ms. Marvel – One of Marvel’s biggest success stories in recent years, Kamala Khan is a teenaged Muslim girl from New Jersey who acquires shapeshifting powers. Great art, writing, and humor are the hallmarks of this series — and Kamala’s amazing popularity inspired Marvel to rethink how they wrote — and drew — female characters.
Yotsuba&! – The mostly normal adventures of the world’s cutest, funniest kid. This slice-of-life series has great characters and a fantastic sense of humor. It’s a manga series — it’ll take a little time for Western readers to get used to the backwards reading required for Japanese comics.
Smile – A comic memoir about the author/cartoonist’s teenaged years. After a minor accident does major damage to her teeth, our heroine recounts the years of dental and orthodontic therapy that followed. Excellent characters, fun cartooning, great for middle school kids and anyone going through orthodontic treatment.
Princeless – Adrienne is a princess being held captive in a tower by her cruel father — but Adrienne decides to team up with the dragon guarding her so she can rescue her sisters from confinement. This one’s notable for being one of the few all-ages comics that stars a heroine-of-color…
Cleopatra in Space – What would happen if Cleopatra — as in THE Cleopatra, Queen of the Nile — were accidentally teleported into the distant Egypt-themed future while still in her teens so she could attend space school and fight evil aliens and robots? I’ll tell ya what would happen — AWESOMENESS would happen! Mike Maihack’s comics are fun, funny, charismatic, and action-packed. They’re great for action-loving girls, but everyone in your family will enjoy this series.
MIDDLE SCHOOL AND UP
Atomic Robo – The star is an atomic-powered robot created by Nikolai Tesla. He runs his own company, staffed entirely by Action Scientists, and he runs around all over the world having adventures, fighting Nazis, and being awesome. There are giant robots, vampires from other dimensions, and the deranged and hilarious Dr. Dinosaur. Atomic Robo is one of the coolest comics on the planet. Your kids will love it, and you’ll love it, too.
Bandette – Follow the adventures of Bandette, the greatest, the most daring, the most charming thief in all of Paris! Bandette, her friends, her rivals, and her foes are fantastic and fun characters. This one will be extra fun for kids who love all things French and Parisian — reading the book is like getting an immersive crash course in French culture — or at least French culture through an Americanized lens.
Captain Marvel – There are lots of Captain Marvels at both Marvel Comics and DC, but this one is Marvel’s newest Captain Marvel. Carol Danvers was called Ms. Marvel for years, but since taking on her new name and awesome new costume, she’s gotten a lot more popular with readers and with Marvel itself. There’s going to be a movie about her sometime around 2018, so get in before the Hollywood hype machine drowns everything else out.
Spider-Girl – In an alternate future, Peter and Mary Jane Parker had a daughter, and May Parker inherited her father’s amazing spider powers, fighting crime as Spider-Girl. The series had some teen angst — just like the classic Spider-Man comics — but lots of adventure and fun. Do some digging to find the old trade paperbacks.
Delilah Dirk and the Turkish Lieutenant – A grand swashbuckling adventure starring Delilah, an expert swordswoman, archer, and acrobat, and Erdemoglu Selim, a mild-mannered lieutenant in the Turkish Janissary Corps, whose greatest pleasures involve resting quietly and brewing tea. Due to a misunderstanding, they have to go on the run to escape execution and to enjoy amazing adventures.
Scott Slemmons writes the comic book blog Hero Sandwich. Besides reading comics, his interests include horror fiction, heavy metal, tooling around Denton, Texas looking for books to buy, and trying in vain to find time to write.
***READY TO WIN ONE OF TWO AWESOME COMICS FOR KIDS BUNDLES – ONE FOR YOUNGER KIDDOS AND ONE FOR OLDER KIDDOS?***
Scott has put together two comics for kids bundles for two lucky mamas! The younger kids bundle will have: Zita the Spacegir, Yotsuba&!, Owly, Giants Beware!, and Tiny Titans! The older kids bundle will have: Supergirl: Cosmic Adventures in the 8th Grade, The Amazing Spider-Girl, and three different Atomic Robo collections! Both bundles are a wonderful way to introduce kids to comics. To win, just follow the directions in the Rafflecopter below!
a Rafflecopter giveaway