This morning, Ella stood over my shoulder as I scrolled through a typical post I like to read: 10 Awkwardly Similar Marvel/DC Characters. As I scrolled through the slides, she kept asking me about various characters. A snippet of our conversation:
E: “Wait. Who’s the green guy with Hawkeye?”
Me: “That’s Green Arrow.”
E: “Who’s the red bendy man next to the blue bendy man?”
Me: “The red one is Elastic Man and the blue is Mr. Fantastic.”
E: “And they’re just stretchy?”
Me: “Among other things. But essentially, yes.”
E: “Why does Thanos have jewelry but the other two [Darkseid and Apocalypse] don’t?”
Me: “Because Thanos is the Mad Titan. He’s obsessed with jewelry that can kill.”
E: “Hold on–who are those two guys???”
Me: “Aquaman and Namor.”
E: “How are they different?”
Me: “They’re not.”
And on it went. When I reached the end of the slide show, Ella sighed and looked at me for a minute. She sat in my lap and put her arms around her neck, which is her sign that she wants to ask me about something she wants but she’s uncertain how I’ll answer.
“Daddy?” she asked.
“If they ever make Guardians of the Galaxy into a comic, could I read it, or would it have bad words in it too?”
I explained that Guardians was already a comic, and that yes, the bad words were still in there too. She pouted for a moment, then looked at me.
“Can I read Batman comics?”
I explained that Batman was a bit too grown up for her, and when she pressed me as to how, I tried explaining that comics have come a long way. That they tell grown up and mature stories now, stories that often involve violence and crime and the ugly side of life, and she’s not quite ready to indulge in that type of material.
“Daddy,” she said, “I thought comics were for kids.”
I explained that, yes, once upon a time comics were for kids, and there are still outstanding titles for children her age to read. I mentioned Galaxy Man [written by my friend, Ashton Adams] and Hero Cats, both produced locally by Kyle Puttkammer.
She sighed. “But why aren’t the superheroes written for kids?”
I paused. She had me there. My daughter has grown up with me being excited over Batman, Spider-Man, Superman, and The Avengers. She was so excited when I announced that was working as an extra on Ant-Man. We’ve watched the kids shows based around all of those characters, and she loves getting lost in the stories, loves watching the characters interact and grow and learn. And whenever she asks how I know so much about all of them, I always tell her it’s because I read comics when I was a kid.
So now she wants to read comics as a kid.
And as her father, I’m struggling to say yes. Not because I don’t love comics, but because I simply don’t know if any of the titles I grew up loving as a kid would be kid-friendly in this day and age.
[And before you start, I’m well aware most of those titles weren’t “kid-friendly” when I was a kid. But you have to admit, we’ve made a BIG leap forward in themes and content since the 80s and 90s.]
It’s been a dog’s age since I was in a comic store. So, like all modern-day parents do, I’m turning to the Internet for help.
Are there any current titles featuring the mainstream superheroes that are safe for kids to read?
I want to hand my daughter–and my son–a comic book and introduce them to the joyous marriage that is word and panel combined. I want to see them get lost in the imaginative worlds that so shaped me. But I’m not ready for them to read about the Joker wearing his own severed face, or Tony Stark going back on the booze and becoming a mean S.O.B.
So help me out, Internet. Help me find a comic book for my daughter to love.