Tagged: Bone

Tweeks: Interview with CBLDF’s Betsy Gomez

Next week is Banned Books Week! This means now is your chance to take everything you learned in our 8-Week #ChallengedChallenge and use that knowledge to fight the good fight. Let every one know about why banning and challenging books is bad. Maybe even go to your local library or book store and find a banned book to read. (We’ve created a great display at our local library for next week & we’re sure others will have them as well).

And if you are one of those people who don’t trust a couple of kids about such a serious subject, we’ve brought in the big guns. At San Diego Comic Con, we spoke with Editorial Director, Betsy Gomez from the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund about why people try to ban books and had her show us some of their resources available to help those who find their reading rights are being taken away. Hey! And if you are a libraian or teacher this video is a great resource too, btw.

Mindy Newell: Happy Birthday, Isabel!

Drama

Just got back from a mahhh-velous soiree at Casa El Deseo held in honor of my niece Isabel’s 15th birthday. Wow. Seems like just yesterday I was the bath witch giving a screaming infant girl her evening absolutions before tucking her into her crib.

That little infant girl has grown into a talented young woman who is not only an orchestral cello player, but also an aspiring professional actress of musical theatre, studying voice, dance, and the theater arts. She also plays a mean piano.

Iz loves Doctor Who.

And the sequential art story form – comics and graphic novels, boys and girls.

I’ve been following the Challenged Comics Summer Reading Challenge vid series hosted by Maddie and Anya Ernst, otherwise known as the “twins, teens, geeks…Tweeks!” found right here on ComicMix, of course. (I’m a huge fan of theirs. You should be, too.) All of these books have been attacked, removed, and/or banned for one stupid reason or another. Here’s the discussion schedule:

  • 7/13: Bone, Volume 1: Out From Bonesville by Jeff Smith
  • 7/20: Drama by Raina Telgemeier
  • 7/27: This One Summer by Jillian Tamaki & Mariko Tamaki
  • 8/3: The Graveyard Book Volume 1 (the graphic novel) by Neil Gaiman & P. Craig Russell
  • 8/10: The Color of Earth Book 1 by Kim Dong Hwa
  • 8/17: Sidescrollers by Matthew Loux
  • 8/24: Perepolis: The Story of a Childhood by Marjane Satrapi
  • 8/31: Maus: A Survivor’s Tale by Art Spiegelman

If you’ve missed July’s entries, don’t worry, there’s plenty of summer left – officially until September 23 this year, the first day of autumn.

I am very proud to say that Isabel has already read two of the challenged graphic novels: Jeff Smith’s Bone, Volume 1: Out of Boneville – which she discovered on her own and, by the way, she’s read the entire collection – and Raina Teglemeir’s Drama, which her mom bought her. (Iz also read Smile when she got braces.)

Like all great books, the reviewers raved.

Of Bone:

“Charming, character-driven fantasy with an elegant design and masterful story-telling in the tradition of Walt Kelly, Charles Schulz and Carl Barks.” – Publisher’s Weekly; “Like Pogo, Bone has whimsy best appreciated by adults, yet kids can enjoy it, too; and like Barks’ Disney Duck stories, Bone moves from brash humor to gripping adventure in a single panel.” – ALA (American Library Association) Booklist;

“Bone has the multi-level writing and artwork of the best Chuck Jones cartoons or early Disney movies. It’s overflowing with subtext about conflicting philosophies of power, cultural imperialism and political responsibility – though not enough to get in the way of its silly fun.” – CMJ New Music Monthly

“One of the best kid’s comics ever.” – Vibe Magazine;

“…Sprawling, mythic comic is spectacular.” – Spin Magazine;

“I love BONE! BONE is great!” – Matt Groening; “Jeff Smith can pace a joke better than almost anyone in comics; his dialogue is delightful — so are all his people, not to mention his animals, his villains, and even his bugs.” – Neil Gaiman

Of Drama:

An utterly charming graphic memoir of tooth trauma, first crushes and fickle friends, sweetly reminiscent of Judy Blume’s work . . . Irresistible, funny and touching–a must read for all teenage girls” by Kirkus Reviews;

“A charming addition to the body of young adult literature that focuses on the trials and tribulations of the slightly nerdy girl” by Publishers Weekly;

“It hits home partly because there is nothing else out there like it” by The New York Times Book Review.

So here’s a challenge.

Don’t be a schmuck.

Get going, choose your favorite book retailer, brick-and-mortar or on-line, and buy these books for your kid(s) – or yourself. You won’t be sorry. You might even find yourself – *gasp* – having an intelligent discussion with your offspring about them. Y’know. Like in a book club.

And what did I get Isabel to celebrate her big day?

This One Summer.

With the rest of the list to follow.

Happy Birthday, kid!

 

Molly Jackson: Banned Books – Why, Oh Why?

Why

ComicMix’s very own Tweeks announced their Summer Reading Challenge, reading banned and challenged graphic novels. It struck me as a fantastic idea and a great way to encourage people of all ages to try something new. But their challenge also brought up the fact that I never understood the concept of banning books.

I grew up in a house where everything was fair game. Nothing was off limits or banned, especially books. I could read anything and everything I could get my hands on. I read outside of my age range often and if I had questions, my parents were there to answer them or direct me to someone that could. When I went through my Chaim Potok phase, a member of my synagogue made time just to answer my questions. No one seemed to mind that I was reading books written for adults at the age of 12. They trusted me and my parents to make the correct decision for me.

In looking over the reading list, the week 1 book really caught my eye. Bone Vol. 1 by Jeff Smith, also known as a go-to book series for young readers was a challenged book. Not only did that surprise me, it finally gave me a reason to read it. (It had been on my reading list but that list is too long.) After reading it, I had a laundry list of talking points that completely agree with The Tweeks. In a nutshell, grownups are sheltering kids.

Adults often forget how much kids see, hear and experience from the world around them. Books are the least concern. The 6pm evening news is more graphic and offensive than Bone Vol. 1. And parents today forget that kids have access to the web; something they never did. Even with parental controls, kids can discover adult topics on the internet. They are going to find out about drugs, sex, alcohol and politics one way or another. By hiding it, a message is sent that it is wrong to explore the world. It would be so much better if they were met with guidance instead of shaming. Lack of knowledge is what hurts people the most.

Parents seem so concerned to keep their kids from discovering the different aspects of the world. Sometimes that is the right move. Not every book is for everyone. But I am glad no one made the decision for me.

Tweeks: Banning Bone is Boneheaded #ChallengedChallenge

Welcome to Week 1 of the ComicMix Challenged Challenge, where we take a different book on the CBLDF’s list of the most challenged & banned comic books for young readers and we break down the reasons why it might be on the list. We also give it a quick review and discuss some of the main issues.

This week we talk about Bone: Out of Boneville by Jeff Smith. This is a book we have loved since we were 8 years old and truly is the book that introduced us to graphic novels. It’s a story about strangers in a strange land and in telling of Bone and his cousins, kids gets some examples of the consequences that can result when you aren’t well-behaved.

Spoiler Alert: We think it’s crazy that this book would even be considered being banned. Watch our episode to see why.

Tweeks: ComicMix’s Challenged Comics Summer Reading Challenge

It is officially summer for us! Yay!  So, we thought this would be the perfect time to tell you about our summer reading plans.  In this week’s episode, we tell you about the CBLDF and announce our Challenged Graphic Novel Reading Challenge.  Our hope is that kids and parents (and everyone else) will read along with us.  Because you seriously can’t question that book be suitable for library shelves if you haven’t read it, right?

CMCC Picture

This summer we will be reading 8 graphic novels that have been challenged or banned in school libraries and then every week we will discuss one of the titles.  We’ll talk about why it was challenged, how to best talk about the questioned topics or themes in the book with your kids.  We’ll also tell you from a kid’s perspective how we viewed the appropriateness of the books for us, because sometimes adults forget what they could handle and understand when they were our age.

We also hope that you will support everyone’s right to choose what they want to read by doing some sleuthing in your local or school library.  Take a look at our reading list and see which of the books are available for you to check out.  You can post your findings in Social Media like Facebook and Twitter (@ComicMix and @The_Tweeks) with #InTheStacks and/or #ComicMixChallengedChallenge, hopefully generating further discussion. We also think you should check out the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund’s site.  We talk more about them in the episode.

So, get to reading!  Our discussion schedule is:

7/13 Bone, Vol 1: Out From Boneville by Jeff Smith
7/20 Drama by Raina Telgemeier
7/27 This One Summer by Jillian Tamaki & Mariko Tamaki
8/3 The Graveyard Book Vol 1 (the graphic novel) by Neil Gaiman & P. Craig Russell
8/10 The Color of Earth Book 1 by Kim Dong Hwa
8/17 Sidescrollers by Matthew Loux
8/24 Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood by Marjane Satrapi
8/31 Maus: A Survivor’s Tale by Art Spiegelman

Fast & Furious 6 Arrives on Home Video December 10

FAF6_Steelbook_3DUniversal City, California, October 3, 2013— The latest blistering addition to one of Hollywood’s greatest action-movie franchises, Fast & Furious 6, roars into the holiday season as the unbeatable choice for “Highest-Octane action yet!” (Meriah Doty, Yahoo!) A transcontinental caper that reunites fan-favorite stars from the blockbuster franchise’s earlier films, Fast & Furious 6 earned almost $800 million at the box office worldwide. Fast & Furious 6 comes to Blu-ray™ Combo Pack including Blu-ray™, DVD & Digital HD with UltraViolet™ and On Demand on December 10, 2013, from Universal Studios Home Entertainment. The film will also be available on Digital November 19, 2013. Found exclusively only on the Blu-ray™ is a special Extended version with even more intense action, as well as over an hour of exclusive behind-the-scenes bonus features, only available for a limited time in collectible Steel Book packaging

Fast veterans Vin Diesel (Riddick, xXx), Paul Walker (Takers, Flags of Our Fathers) and Dwayne Johnson (Pain and Gain, G.I. Joe: Retaliation) lead an all-star cast that includes Jordana Brewster (The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning, Dallas), Tyrese Gibson (Transformers, Death Race), Chris “Ludacris” Bridges (Crash, RocknRolla), Sung Kang (Ninja Assassin, Live Free or Die Hard), John Ortiz (Silver Linings Playbook, American Gangster), Gal Gadot (Night and Day, Date Night), Elsa Pataky (All Things to All Men, The Wine of Summer) and, for the first time since 2009’s Fast and Furious, Michelle Rodriguez (Resident Evil, Turbo), plus series newcomers Luke Evans (Immortals, The Three Musketeers) and MMA-champion Gina Carano (Haywire, Blood and Bone). Director Justin Lin and screenwriter Chris Morgan team up for their fourth Fast & Furious collaboration, hailed “Fun, entertaining and sexy” by Jake Hamilton of FOX-TV, and packed with “bigger fights, badder villains, bolder chases,” according to Elizabeth Weitsman of The NY Daily News. Call **Fast 6 (**3278) from your mobile phone to get a special message from Vin Diesel plus an exclusive behind-the-scenes clip.*

The Blu-ray™ Combo Pack includes a Blu-ray™, DVD and Digital HD with UltraViolet.
• Blu-ray™ disc unleashes the power of your HDTV and is the best way to watch movies at home, featuring 6x the picture resolution of DVD, exclusive extras and theater-quality surround sound.
• DVD offers the flexibility and convenience of playing movies in more places, both at home and away.
• DIGITAL HD with UltraViolet lets fans watch movies anywhere on their favorite devices. Users can instantly stream or download movies to watch on iPad®, iPhone®, Android™, smart TVs, connected Blu-ray playres, game consoles and more.
Bonus Features Exclusively on Blu-rayTM

Extended Version of the Film

Take Control—Vin Diesel, Paul Walker, Michelle Rodriguez and director Justin Lin appear at key moments throughout the film, offering observations and reflections on the movie, behind-the-scenes footage and more.

Planes, Tanks and Automobiles
• The London Chase—Gives viewers a front-row seat for the filming of a sprawling car chase through the streets of one of the world’s most historic—and congested—cities. Examines how director Justin Lin and his team pulled off car-flipping mayhem on a breathtaking scale.
• Highway Heist: The Convoy Attack—A first-hand account of a meticulously planned and executed action sequence, as Dominic’s gang saves the day in this high-velocity battle featuring a tank, an armored cargo carrier and a harpoon.
• The Antonov Takedown—An exploration of what went into creating Fast & Furious 6’s spectacular finale sequence, featuring the world’s largest plane, including first- and second-unit filming, special effects, visual effects, car rigging, stunt drivers, green-screen shooting and more.
• Dom and Letty Race Again – Vin Diesel and Michelle Rodriguez reunite on screen.

Gearhead’s Delight—From the shop to the test track, to the set and back again, a look at the latest hot cars showcased in Fast & Furious 6. Narrated by car lover Paul Walker, this piece features Dom’s latest Charger, Brian’s Nissan Skyline GTR, the BMW M5’s, the Alfa Romeo and the classic cars from the film’s car-auction scene.

The FLIP Car—Provides an inside look at the Fast franchise’s newest mind-blowing vehicle—the pivoting FLIP car. Dennis McCarthy, the film’s picture car coordinator, will take us through the coolest parts of this truly astonishing vehicle, and the destruction it leaves in its wake.

Hand-to-Hand Fury—This jam-packed featurette offers viewers a detailed look at the rehearsals, choreography, stunt work and filming of some of Fast & Furious 6’s most bone-jarring fight sequences.
Bonus Features on Blu-rayTM and DVD
• Deleted Scenes
The Making of Fast & Furious 6
• The Fastest of Them All—Chronicles the epic saga of the Fast films from chapters three through six. Justin Lin and his team reveal how they brought new energy to the franchise, creating a dynamic multi-movie story arc.
• Reuniting the Team—Explores the characters (and actors) that make up the Fast family, with a focus on founding partners Dom and Brian (and Vin and Paul).
• Letty’s Return—Heralded by a crowd-pleasing cliffhanger in Fast Five, Michelle Rodriguez (“Letty”) makes a dramatic return in the sixth installment. This short feature explores how the creative team engineered her resurrection.
• The Mastermind and The Mole—Viewers meet Fast “newbies” Luke Evans (“Shaw”) and Gina Carano (“Riley”) as they share their experience joining the cast of Fast & Furious 6 and how their characters fit into the new plot.

On the Set with Vin—Vin Diesel talks through a stunt he is about to perform and then rides his hot rod through an explosion, coming out unscathed.

Feature Commentary with Director Justin Lin
SYNOPSIS
Vin Diesel, Paul Walker, Dwayne Johnson and Michelle Rodriguez lead a cast of returning all-stars as the global blockbuster franchise built on speed delivers the biggest adrenaline rush yet in this explosive extended version. Hobbs (Johnson) has been tracking an organization of lethally skilled drivers, whose mastermind (Luke Evans) is aided by the love Dom (Diesel) thought was dead, Letty (Rodriguez). The only way to stop the criminal mercenaries from stealing a top secret weapon is to outmatch them at street level, so Hobbs asks for the help of Dom and his elite team. Payment for the ultimate chase? Full pardons for all of them and a chance to make their families whole again.

CAST AND FILMMAKERS:
Cast: Vin Diesel, Paul Walker, Dwayne Johnson, Michelle Rodriguez, Jordana Brewster, Tyrese Gibson, Chris “Ludacris” Bridges, Sung Kang, John Ortiz, Gal Gadot, Elsa Pataky, Luke Evans, Gina Carano, Shea Whigham, David Ajala, Kim Kold, Thure Lindhardt, Joe Taslim
Directed by: Justin Lin
Screenplay by: Chris Morgan
Based on Characters Created By: Gary Scott Thompson
Producers: Neal H. Moritz, Vin Diesel, Clayton Townsend
Executive Producers: Justin Lin, Amanda Lewis, Samantha Vincent, Chris Morgan
Director of Photography: Stephen F. Windon
Production Designer: Jan Roelfs
Editor: Christian Wagner, Kelly Matsumoto
Costume Designer: Sanja Milkovic Hays
Music by: Lucas Vidal
TECHNICAL INFORMATION – BLU-RAY™
Street Date: December 10, 2013
Copyright: 2013 Universal Studios. All Rights Reserved.
Selection Numbers:
SteelBook: 61127649 (US), 61127790 (CDN)
BD Combo Pack: 61125007 (U.S), 61125653 (CDN)
Running Time: 2 hours, 11 minutes (Rated); 2 Hours 11 Minutes (Unrated)
Layers: BD-50
Aspect Ratio: Widescreen 2.35:1
Rating: PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and action and mayhem throughout, some sexuality and language/ Unrated
Technical Info: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1/DVS DD 2.0 (English); Digital Surround 5.1 (Spanish and French)
Subtitles: English SDH, French and Spanish
TECHNICAL INFORMATION – DVD
Street Date: December 10, 2013
Copyright: 2013 Universal Studios. All Rights Reserved.
Selection Numbers: 61124405 (U.S), 61125652 (CDN)
Running Time: 2 hours, 11 minutes
Layers: Dual Layer
Aspect Ratio: Anamorphic Widescreen 2.35:1
Rating: PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and action and mayhem throughout, some sexuality and language
Technical Info: Dolby Digital 5.1/DVS DD 2.0 (English); Dolby Digital 5.1 (Spanish and French)
Subtitles: English SDH, French and Spanish

Mark Ellis Unleashes Sex, Blackmail and Murder

UPDATED!
New Pulp author Mark Ellis has released a sneak peek of his new upcoming book called Rag Baby, now available at Amazon.

SEX, BLACKMAIL AND MURDER IN THE DARK HEART OF THE SUNSHINE STATE!

Bonaparte “Bone” Mizell, formerly of the DEA, has a problem on his hands: Dale Bristline, his 400 lb. client with a beautiful ex-stripper wife needs help dealing with a blackmailer — Brandy’s first husband has returned from the dead and is making outrageous demands…and she mustn’t be told about it.

When drug-dealer turned sex club owner Bristline needs some help dealing with the blackmailer, cash-strapped Bone accepts the case…and he quickly learns that behind the sunshine and laid-back lifestyle is a dangerous jungle, where sex is big business and jealousy can lead to murder. Bone deals with bikers turned bodyguards, scorned strippers and a lovely Latina sheriff, all out to get him – in one way or another.

As a DEA agent, Bone was used to hitting all the wrong places at just the wrong time. Now a cast of bizarre characters and a storm of violence traps him in a mystery that will take all of his resourcefulness to solve – and survive!

Follow Mark Ellis on Facebook.

REVIEW: Chickenhare

Chickenhare
By Chris Grine
160 pages, Scholastic Graphix, $10.99

ChickenhareI have no idea what possessed Chris Grine to add a chicken’s legs to a rabbit’s body but he has blended two animals into the unique creature Chickenhare. Created back in 2005, Grine published two graphic novels through Dark Horse before going to the web with a portion of his third story. Now, Scholastic’s Graphix imprint has brought the first book out in full color for the first time this month.

Some compare the series to Jeff Smith’s wonderful Bone, but really, beyond some surface similarity with the artwork, they are very different. First, Bone has a deep mythology and sophistication to the characterizations and writing that set it apart from similar fare. Grine’s work is very entertaining and well-crafted but he’s intentionally creating stories for far younger readers than Smith was aiming for. While his work is All Ages, this work is clearly aimed at 9-12 year olds and for them, this is terrific stuff.

The story, originally published as The House of Klaus, opens with Chickenhare and his pal, the bearded box turtle friend, Abe already captured and about to be delivered to Klaus, the reclusive millionaire. Klaus loves to surround himself with exotic animals and ever since his beloved goat Mr. Buttons left him, he’s accumulated animals but performs sloppy taxidermy on them in order to retain them. Chickenhare and Abe are kept in cages, along with Banjo, an unexplained species called a krampus, and Meg, another unknown species. Once the four escape, the remainder of the story is an elaborate chase with a hefty dose of mysticism. Klaus is dressed intentionally to appear like a maniacal Santa Claus which is just one layer of oddity atop oddity.

The world of Chickenhare is all surface with plenty left to explore and explain but Grine’s artwork is swell, and it takes color wonderfully. He blogged last month, “I’m happy to say that since that time I have worked hard toward my goal of being able to do the kind of color I felt Chickenhare needed should the time ever come when I could relaunch the series in full color.” And he does a lovely job with the color, a mild palette that doesn’t overwhelm the characters or obscure the storytelling.

Grine’s artwork is well complemented with his writing, as the pacing is crisp and keeps things moving at a good speed for his reader. Additionally, his dialogue makes each character distinct although Klaus’ butler comes across like a watered-down Alfred. Still, Chickenhare’s heroic nature, coupled with Abe’s support and Meg’s snappy patter, make the story a joy to read.

 

REVIEW: House at the End of the Street

House at the end of the StreetThere are flashes of characterization, wit, and warmth in House at the End of the Street, making you hope it is a cut above your modern day horror film. The movie largely focuses on the mother and daughter tandem of Sarah (Elisabeth Shue) and Elissa (Jennifer Lawrence), as they struggle to start fresh in a town after divorce. They can only afford to rent such a nice house because it is situated near the home where a young girl murdered her parents so is tainted. Of course, right there, you know the daughter is still around. Then we learn the son, who had been living with relatives when the heinous act occurred, had moved back in. And we’re off.

The movie, said to be inspired by a short story written by Jonathan Mostow, probably worked better as prose, where more could be done to set mood and character without falling into the tropes that reduce this to a cookie cutter thriller that fails to really thrill. The best thing it has going for it as some twists and turns towards the end that are interesting but are not explored (nor will I discuss so as not to spoil it for fans).

What makes the movie interesting to watch is the cast, headed by Shue, who hasn’t done much interesting work since Leaving Las Vegas, but makes the most of the underwritten role of the mother tightening her grip on the teenage daughter she loves, realizing she’s losing her at the same time. Lawrence, a major star thanks to Winter’s Bone and The Hunger Games, also doesn’t really get enough to work with but plays the new girl at high school rather well. Her scenes with Max Theriot, the boy next door, are some of the best in the film.

Had screenwriter David Loucka and director Mark Tonderai –two men with negligible credits — played more with the mother/daughter, new girl in town threads, this could have been a far richer, more believable tale. Instead, they fell into the trap of using that as window dressing, focusing instead on the mystery of who is trapped under the floor of the cursed house. The soundtrack by Theo Green adds a level of suspense that the perfunctory photography fails to deliver.

The disc coms with the 101-minutetheatricalversion and the unrated 107-minute version, which is just more of the same, making it all the more disappointing. The promised shocking added twist is interesting and could have made the film more interesting, and certainly more of a Hitchcockian thrill ride as promised in the short extra “Journey Into Terror” where the cast and crew heroically make it sound like the film was worth the effort. For Lawrence, this is one of those she will keep on her resume and probably never talk about again.

This release, out now from 20th Century Home Entertainment comes with both versions on a Blu-ray disc and the standard DVD and digital copy are on the second disc.

Marc Alan Fishman: Comics Are Good For Learnin’

So it came to my attention by way of an amazingly nice lass that some forward thinking teacher-types are slowly coming around the bend. Yup, they are looking toward comic books, those evil things, as potential fodder for their classrooms. Gasp! And, as it would seem, this very nice girl asked me – little old me – to give my two cents on the matter. And because I love killing two birds with one stone, I figured this outta make a great li’l rant to share with you, my adoring public. Of course, I realize now I admitted to the glee I feel when I commit aviaricide. Well, there went my fan-base. Tally ho!

I know back in the olden days, comics were largely seen as kitchy wastes of ink and paper. Kids buried in them were potentially violent sociopaths just waiting to commit crimes of laziness. But by the time I was in school they were starting to be called graphic novels. Thanks in large part to the artsy works of Art Spiegelman, Joe Kuburt, and Will Eisner, the medium as a whole was slowly pulling itself out of the low-bro.

That being said, I was never assigned a graphic novel to read for a class. Nor was I able to select one for independent book reports or the like. Even within the realm of studio art classes I was nixed the ability to cite Alex Ross as a major influence without scoffs. But as Bob Dylan sings, “The times, they are a changin’.”

If I were to suggest opening up a classroom to comics, well, it’s a simple issue – do it. Comics are easily one of the best gateways to literacy I can think of. Truth be told, the first books our parents read us (and I’m reading to my own boy now) are gloriously illustrated. Dr. Seuss, a one-time newspaper comics guy, is just panel borders away from sharing shelf space with Daniel Clowes. In the earliest of classroom settings I’d start with the recognizable. Art Baltazar and Franco’s Tiny Titans is as accessible a comic as I know of. But more than just being kid friendly, the book is funny, bright, and charming. So much so that I was an avid reader of it long before I was even married, let alone a father. And because it uses semi-recognizable super hero sidekicks, it’s easy for kids to relate, and learn to read.

Tiny Titans aside, there’s always Jeff Smith’s tome of toonage, Bone. The long running series blends laughs, mysteries, and adventure. If kids can’t find something to love there? Well, then I’ll eat my hat. Come to think of it, I don’t own hats anymore. Note to self…

Beyond the early readers, the always-tough-to-please nine year olds (perhaps through 13 or 14?) are going to start dividing themselves. Girls have cooties. Boys are messy. The division of the sexes may make many a teacher feel like comic books will degrade into the capes and cowls for the boys and leave nothing for the girls. Nay, I say. Nay! Both the boys and girls can take heed that I myself grew to love comics at this tender age due to the long-running Archie series. And Archie, unlike his more heroic counterparts, seems to have found a way to stay with the times, without diverging into the too-real, too-gritty, or too-angsty. Consider also the Adventures of TinTin. Long before it was a computer-animated movie, it was a comic. A great comic. And don’t we all laugh a bit when we recount the Scrooge McDuck comics of yesteryear? That book was doing Inception long before Chris Nolan was firing up the vomit-comet to film anti-gravity fight scenes.

The real meat and potatoes for me though come right at adolescence. Here, our kids are primed to learn that comics are more than just good fun. The Pulitizer Prize-winning Maus (by the aforementioned Spiegelman), Jew Gangster (by the late and beyond-great Kubert), and A Contract With God (by Will Eisner) all help teach that the medium of comics transcends the super power set. And sure, they all hold quite a bit of Jewish lore to them… so allow me to expand beyond Judaica.

Mike Gold himself turned me on to Stagger Lee by Derek McCulloch and Kings in Disguise by Dan E. Burr. They are both amazing reads. And please, don’t get me wrong – comics at this tender age need not be without a twinge of the supernatural. Watchmen might as well be a high school freshman class in and of itself. Frank Miller’s Sin City and or 300 are far better on page than on screen, and on screen they were both pretty amazing.

And let’s not leave Marvel out of this. Kurt Busiek’s Marvels singlehandedly brought me out of a four year freeze of comic book reading. It’s insightful, and a beautiful take on super heroes from the human perspective. And I’ve little column space left to suggest even more here… Empire by Mark Waid and Barry Kitson, Astro City, Batman: Year One, Runaways and Y: The Last Man all spring to mind. But I digress.

Suffice to say, introducing comics to a literature program shouldn’t be that hard to tackle. The fact is the medium itself makes open discussion far easier to instigate. More work to enjoy than watching a movie, without the scariness of endless pages without something beyond words to look at means less barrier to entry. For those learning to read (or who have trouble with it) comics are a gateway drug to amazing new worlds. For those already well versed in literature, comics offer an endless string of independent authors bringing original takes on the world that combine their plots with art that tends to force us to stop and appreciate. Akin to indie films, comics at any age offer more than the commercial world. Thanks to a bit of knowledge gained at this year’s Harvey Awards (thank you, Ross Ritchie), I leave on this thought:

 “The French codified it well: they call it “The Ninth Art.” The first is architecture, the second sculpture. The third painting, the fourth dance, then there’s music, poetry, cinema, and television. And ninth is comic books.”

Now, the question is: if it is indeed the ninth art of our world, comics should not be considered for the classroom. They should be compulsory.

SUNDAY: John Ostrander