Archive for May, 2011

May 31, 2011

Superheroes. Are there any titles for kids anymore? (Yes)

At the New York Comics Convention some years back I sat in on a panel where the Marvel rep discussed the difficulty they had in training their in-house staff to write for an-all ages audience.  He said that for many years they were simply pulling writers and artists from their mainstream books  and instructing them what not to say or draw.  No guns, no blood, no ‘language’ or suggestive situations, and so on.  The results were awkward, uninteresting, clunky.

No surprise since studies show the average age of most comics collectors is over 30, and most comics writers and illustrators nowadays grew up reading comics, and have moved on to adult themes: cynicism, decay of common values, despair, etc…

Generally though the genesis of superhero comics can be understood to be adolescent hormonal fantasies.   Bulgy men and women (with correspondingly exaggerated characteristics of male/female bulgy-ness) swoop across the sky in skintight costumes, solving problems by pounding them to pulp.    These are testosterone surges running rampant.

And if there exists a sort of magical thinking in the idea that you can simply smash your complex problems as they arise, well, what’s wrong with a little magic?  It’s enough to realize that there is supposed to be a moral code that allows you to smash your problems, so long as you are doing so in defense of the helpless and not merely for personal benefit.

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May 31, 2011

G-Man: Learning to Fly, by Chris Giarrusso

It’s tricky to find good all-ages superhero comics that stand alone.  Many purporting to be kid-friendly still don’t quite get it– filling their pages with those excessively bulgy men and women who tend to solve problems by slamming each other through walls (or else, bereft of their ability to commit mayhem in the name of justice, they race around battling non-sentient menaces: natural disasters or general misunderstanding, waving a stern finger in rebuke).

Another subgenere of all ages super-types  parodies the titles of mainstream comics via cartoony caricatures of the heroes, usually morphed into kid bodies.  The pint-sized wisenheimers prank each other and behave as naughty brats, while sporting the powers of their grown counterparts.   These satirical stories work best if you already know the characters and the Universe of their storylines.  The japes and wisecracks tend to fall flat otherwise.

Chris Giarusso has penned a couple of this sort of book (Mini-Marvels, in the Marvel comics universe), and manages to wring a snicker out of  a well-read comics fan.   But the books don’t stand alone on their own merit.

By contrast  Giarusso’s superkid comic G-Man: Learning to Fly (Image Comics 2010, and the 2nd volume G-man: Cape Crisis ) not only stands alone, but flies around in giddy loop de loops divebombing the neighbors and chasing pigeons out of the sky.  Or something like that.

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May 6, 2011

Zita the Space Girl, by Ben Hatke

Illustration by Ben Hatke, with permission.

Zita receives dubious consolation

Honorable, fiercely determined and a good friend, the titular protagonist of  Zita the Space Girl has many admirable qualities as a hero for youngsters.  She’s also the sort of person who pushes a big red button just to see what happens.  

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