The holidays are a great time to give the gift of comics! Once again, our bloggers have a big bag of suggestions of comics for a variety of ages and interests. Let the reading begin!
For early readers who like a good puzzle: Benjamin Bear in Bright Ideas is a fun book for children to read with an adult or on their own; every page sets up a little problem and resolves it with a clever twist, usually a visual pun. Both this and last year’s Benjamin Bear in Fuzzy Thinking are great gifts for kids who like to think outside the box.
For middle-schoolers who are starting to pull away a bit: Explorer: The Lost Islands is the latest anthology edited by Kazu Kibuishi, who gave us the Flight and Flight: Explorer anthologies. This one focuses on the theme of islands, both real and metaphorical, and Dave Roman and Raina Telgemeier’s story about a girl who finds herself on a desert island together with her past and future selves should resonate with many adolescents.
For thoughtful teenagers: Any high-schooler soldiering through English Lit 101 should enjoy the irreverent humor of Tom Gauld’s You’re Just Jealous of My Jetpack, a collection of short gag comics that send up Charles Dickens, Samuel Becket, and other literary icons, as well as genres such as science fiction (the topic of the title gag).
For non-readers or early readers: I never thought I’d be able to consider this age level for graphic novels, but the DC Board Series by Capstone press is a great way for parents who are excited about comic books to introduce their children to the characters they love. The books are sturdy. They’re short. They’re cute. They have Superman and Batman! I know I’m going to share my love of superheroes with a few children I know.
For middle grade readers who are still crazy about gods and goddesses and Percy Jackson: You might be cutting it close, but Aphrodite: The Goddess of Love by George O’Connor is being released on December 31st. You can already pre-order this title. There’s not much romance but plenty of jealousy, and Zeus is a bit “whipped” in this title. An excellent addition to a fantastic series about the Olympians.
Parents and adults who want to share a piece of their childhood with middle grade readers: AMP Kids has reprinted original Snoopy comic strips in color as Snoopy: Cowubanga) The book has the “standard” AMP Kids format, which is extremely inviting for young readers: Large (though not too large) panels on a page, clear lines and clean layout. Of course the title contains much Snoopy goodness.
For Disney/Square Enix fans there are not one, not two, but three complete titles to fit under the tree! Kingdom Hearts Final Mix is a two-volume omnibus that starts the journey of Sora, Donald, and Goofy against the Heartless. Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories continues the search for Riku and King Mickey and bridges into Kingdom Hearts II, another two-volume series that continues Sora saga. All are great for tweens and up.
For the manga/superhero fan there is Heroman, which was created by Marvel’s Stan Lee for the Japanese studio BONES. The five volumes series follows Joey and his transforming toy Heroman as they fight off alien bugs and help to save their home of Center Town. Another great title for tweens, and is available from Vertical Inc.
For supernatural romance fans, Yen Press has a whole collection of young adult novel adaptations. Now you can choose between Dark Hunters: Infinity, Soulless, Beautiful Creatures, Infernal Devices, and Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. These adaptations are not only great for existing fans but can become gateways into the original novels and further expand kids’ reading. These are for older teens. Tweens and teens who would like a little supernatural romance will love Sabrina the Teenage Witch: The Magic Within, which collects the original comic series by Tania del Rio. It’s Archie’s Sabrina reimagined for a new generation with magic, mischief and a not-so-neat love triangle.
For those who like their manga in a big dose, there are several box sets available: Sailor Moon, Bakuman, One Piece: East Blue and Baroque Works, and The Legend of Zelda are just a few of the titles you can get complete or in complete arcs that are popular with tweens, teens and up. Box sets are a quick and easy, though not necessarily an inexpensive way to feed a manga fan’s appetite.
For the comic book fan gamer, there are three really great video games out this year for fans of DC Comics and Marvel Comics. For younger players ages 10 and up, the popular puzzle series created by 5th Cell, Scribblenauts, has released their first licensed game, Scribblenauts Unmasked: A DC Comics Adventure. For the Nintendo Wii U console and the Nintendo 3DS exclusively, the game allows players to unleash their creativity and have them use words and objects in order to solve puzzles with characters and settings from the DC Comics universe. An astounding 2000 characters are in the game, ranging from the popular (Superman/Batman) to the obscure (Matter-Eater Lad), and it has plenty of replayable fun.
Also great for the younger audiences is the game LEGO Marvel Super Heroes, the latest in the popular LEGO games series created by TT Games and published by WB Games. The game features the trademark humor and fun of the LEGO games combined with over 100 playable Marvel characters, including Wolverine, Spider-Man, The Hulk, Venom, and many more. The game is available on a wide array of consoles including the Xbox 360, Playstation 3, Xbox One, Playstation 4, Wii U, 3DS, and DS.
Lastly, for teens, be sure to check out Batman: Arkham Origins, a prequel Batman game that follows in the footsteps of the previous WB Interactive games Batman: Arkham Asylum and Batman: Arkham City as a younger Bruce Wayne must take on the crime lord Black Mask, who has hired eight assassins to eliminate the Dark Knight. The game is available for the Playstation 3, Xbox 360, and Wii U. Be sure to also get the companion graphic novels to the video game as well, Batman: Arkham Unhinged, vols. 1 and 2, and Batman: Arkham City.
For fans of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Nickelodeon has a hit on their hands with the animated revival of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, which is now in its second season. Fans of the show will be thrilled to discover there’s a monthly comic book series called Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: New Animated Adventures based on the cartoon show, with a trade collection debuting in January 2014. For older teen readers, there’s also the ongoing separate Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles series, which isn’t based on the Nickelodeon show but is tied more to the grittier original comic book series from the 1980s. Also, fans will definitely gravitate to IDW’s new monthly Samurai Jack comic books based on the hit animated show. Writer Jim Zub and illustrator Andy Suriano have done a great job carrying the epic feel of the tv show in a comic book format. Fans impatient for the impending graphic novel can also enjoy more Samurai Jack from the Samurai Jack Classics collection that reprints some of the original DC Comics stories.
For fans of classic Disney comics, be sure to get the Fantagraphics Walt Disney’s Donald Duck Christmas Gift Box Set from the Complete Carl Barks Disney Library. The collection includes two of the best Christmas comics stories you’ll ever read: “Christmas on Bear Mountain” featuring the introduction of Uncle Scrooge (the World’s Richest Duck) and “A Christmas For Shacktown,” in which Scrooge loses his entire fortune even as Donald Duck and his nephews try to bring some Christmas cheer to the suffering children of Shacktown. Fans looking to expand their love of Uncle Scrooge, Louie, Huey and Dewey can also play Capcom’s DuckTales Remastered game for the Playstation 3, Xbox 360, and Wii U.
For history fans who favor thoughtful, complex stories, there’s really no better choice than Gene Yang’s Boxers & Saints. The box set, with its gorgeous design, is a no-brainer when it comes to a beautiful package, but the story is really what sets this tale apart. This is not the happiest of histories, of course, but it will make any intrepid reader think about questions of point of view, how history is written (i.e. by the victors), and faith. Best for middle to high school readers.
For readers looking for a bit of action, and by action I mean adventure, Tony Cliff’s Delilah Dirk and the Turkish Lieutenant is a top-notch, woman-led chase. Delilah herself is just a wonderful character to add to any pantheon on action heroes, and the pace, setting, and world are rich and engaging. For an added bonus, I highly recommend checking out Mr. Cliff’s gorgeous Delilah Dirk travel prints available over at Inprint. They’re reasonably priced for the top notch print quality, and they are stunning.
For adorable Star Wars fun, I highly recommend the pair of Jeffrey Brown’s Darth Vader and Son and the new Vader’s Little Princess. These are just charming books, small in size and sweet in content, and even I, as more of a Star Trek nerd than a Star Wars fan, was won over. There’s also a 2014 calendar, which would brighten up any fan’s wall.
For anyone who wants to give a comic that has a strong Avengers tie-in, but wants a great work of art all its own, give ‘em Matt Fraction and David Aja’s Hawkeye: My Life as a Weapon. There’s a snazzy hardcover edition and nothing beats this duo’s take on Clint Barton and Kate Bishop, both Hawkeyes, both heroes, but in their own way. This one is for teens and up, especially as the crime aspect heats up in later issues, but the first volume is a smart, witty take on what a (non-superpowered) superhero does on his days off.
For teens and tweens with a literary bent who still want a book with all the feelz, Jane, the Fox, and Me, by Fanny Britt and Isabelle Arsenault fits the bill. A beautiful Canadian import about self-worth, loneliness, and the way literature can both save and isolate, this book will ring true for many introspective kids.
For kids who want to read a superhero story from the very beginning, there are very few choices out there. No matter what DC and Marvel do to relaunch a 60+ year old series, it’s nearly impossible for a newly minted comics fan to jump in—assuming, that is, that the “new” story is even written with kids in mind (which, in most cases, is a big, misguided assumption). Enter Battling Boy, the new series by Paul Pope. Yeah, it’s a bit whack-a-do, with its crazy outer space quasi-mythology alternative universe power-granting t-shirts, but what superhero origin story doesn’t require a healthy dose of suspended disbelief? This is a fantastic, kid-friendly, grown-up-satisfying start to what could be the next most epically awesome superhero saga that was never published by the Big Two.