Saturday, May 17, 2014

Comics that we love at home

Saffron Tree has always been about parents writing reviews of books that they enjoyed with their kids. At times, I feel as a parent that we overstep the boundary and try to suggest (impose) books that we might have enjoyed as kids. I have been guilty of it many times. Comics were the succour to my imagination as a kid. The comics that I read as a kid were exotic and I soared with the protagonist. I had a lump in my throat when Superman fell down from the skies, laughed at Suppandi's stupidity(secretly noting down that I should not do the same), wanted to seize Mandrake's wand and wondered if my friend would be as strong as Lothar, had friendly fights with friends on who has read more ACKs. Comics was a land where multiple worlds co-existed and it was easy to enter one after another as I picked one book after another. 

So, it was almost given that I would push my son towards comics. I thought they would be equally fascinating for him. I imagined how he would react to some of my favourite comics. Would he frown, jump in joy, laugh at the same pages? Sadly, he pushed back - he hated if I gave him a comic book, he preferred a book with words over comics. Eventually, I understood and kept my peace. I continued to read comics, buy them and enjoy them. They would get piled in a corner of the book shelf; some given away or thrown; while some got shelved for eternity gathering dust. 

One fine day from those dust ridden shelves, my son had picked up Kazu Kibuishi's Amulet. I was overjoyed, but, wondered what made him pick this book up. It took some cajoling and understanding his grunts to figure out that the problem was the comics (and to some extent his nosy father!). It was partly boredom and he also found the comics hard to decipher; they jump from one picture snapshot to another at times appearing to not have any continuity. The random jumps of the pictures, non-linear design of some of the contemporary comics, switching of colours constantly and the overall design seem to have put him off the comics. But, Amulet by Kazu Kibuishi was different - the stories were linear (alteast the first book), pictures were clear and the book did not experiment with any fancy design.  I realised that these are the kind of books that would interest him and found that there is a treasure-trove of comics (simple, elegant, witty) for pre-teens. Here are some of those that we enjoyed at our home. 

Flight Explorer Volume 1
Anthology of Comics

This is an anthology of small graphic stories that were done by various artists like Kazu Kibuishi, Jake Parker, Steve Hamaker and others. I loved the Jake Parker's Missile Mouse story the best in this list. It is a story of an inter-galactic exploring mouse that helps destroy a demon in a faraway planet. Jake Parker has his own book on Missile Mouse now. 

The Secret Science Alliance
and The Copycat Crook
By Eleanor Davis 

This book is an absolute mayhem of science, creativity, comic book design and feisty characters. This was reviewed earlier in ST here.  Although, this book is one of those books where the pictures are not always linear and lot of action happens in a single page with multiple popups - it still worked for my son. As I said in my earlier review of this book - "A lot of different themes like the insecurities of scientists, the kids who are bright but cannot do well in exams, kids completely against adults - are dealt in a subtle manner. My son loved the character of Ben Garza, who loves basketball and science - just like him. My daughter loved the character of Greta - the feisty girl. ". I wish she would write another with these characters. 

By Christian Slade

A warm book about a magical world of fox-like creatures who live in peaceful co-existence with humans. The first book is about the girl Ivy and Sprout, the Korgi-cub as they explore the land around their village. It is a wordless comic book. The world around the village is filled with dangerous beings. Ivy and Sprout have some great adventures in this black and white comic. For budding illustrators, it is a great book to just pore into the pencil drawings and lines. 

Amulet Series
By Kazu Kibuishi

The book that started our adventure of comic books in this post is a long running comic series. It is about a brother and sister as they discover another world filled with talking bunnies, mechanical robots, dark elves and some unlikely friendships. At times, the book appears to have borrowed a lot of story lines from Japanese books and movies. Nevertheless, there is always a twist round the corner. Although I enjoyed the series initially, I seem to have lost my way as it has been meandering into multiple threads as we reach the book #4 of the series. Still a great pick - especially the first book.  

How Mirka Got Her Sword
By Barry Deutsch

My wife never picks up any comic books. Period. She does not see them even if they are strewn all around the house. Such books are non-existent for her. Such a person picked up this book and declared she loved it. That is the only testament that I can give about this book. If there is a book that can make a non-comic-book-reader pick up comics, it is this one (at least in our home). This book was reviewed earlier in ST here.  There are 2 more Mirka stories that are released. If the first book is indicator to go by, the other two should be lovely as well. 
One of the best characters in this book is the step-mom Fruma as she assidiously works her way through tradition and new ideas.

by Jeff Smith

Irrespective of the age group, one of the best comic series ever in my opinion. Bone cousins - Fone, Smiley and Phoney Bone are thrown out of their home into an uncharted territories where some mysterious creatures live. If the description sounds like it is a adventure book, it is misleading. It is a combination of adventure. a love story and tonnes of comedy. The cow race is in the middle of the series is probably one of the best sequences in the entire series. My son laughed and laughed till his eyes watered.  Writing about Bone is like telling the cricketing world about Tendulkar. Jeff Smith is a legend. 

There are many more interesting comic books for pre-teens. This is just a small peek into that wonderful world. Do let us know which comics for pre-teens did you enjoy. 

Here are some places where you can find more interesting picks -
Mighty Girls wonderful list of books starring girls and women - Mighty Girls
Recommendations for 11 year olds - Huge list of comics

Picture Source for all Images: Good Reads. 


Choxbox said...

Nice account Sathish - I like comics too, like you. Have found some truly awesome ones recently - Campfire Publications I think.

Would love to check out the ones you have listed here.


Sheela said...

Love your picks, Sathish! And, was nodding vigorously at what you said here:
" ... he also found the comics hard to decipher; they jump from one picture snapshot to another at times appearing to not have any continuity. The random jumps of the pictures, non-linear design of some of the contemporary comics, switching of colours constantly and the overall design seem to have put him off the comics"

ACK got etched in my head as a kid and I used to scrutinize how from panel to panel Parvati or Balarama or any of the umpteen characters seemed to look just a bit different, yet, it was clear which character was which in those drawings... or, in "Irumbukkai Mayaavi" comics how a panel is left as a cliff-hanger and picked up pages later...

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