Has your child shown an interest in comic books, especially those ripe with adventure, but left you struggling with what’s age appropriate?
One of the biggest struggles parents face, especially when introducing their children to new content, is the battle between age-appropriate material and fostering interest in their child. As a mother, I often wonder what is okay for my own young children to read, as I try to steer clear of content that’s overtly graphic with violence, language or sexual content. This can make selecting adventure comics difficult. So here’s a list of the most diverse and best all-ages books in no particular order for all genders to help give your kids a stepping stone into the comics community with quality, and safe, content!
11. Takio by Brian Michael Bendis (W) and Michael Avon Oeming (A)
Focused on two sisters in a multiracial, adoptive family, Takio guides us through their lives as an overprotective mother forces the two to spend nearly every waking moment together. It’s a lot to bear for a traditional sibling duo, much less one that struggles with deeper issues. But when the girls are gifted with superpowers, they become the first legitimate heroes in their world! And it’s a race to learn how to work together, overcome difference and save the world… and all before their 6 PM curfew or they’re so grounded.
Takio is a great story for children to help them learn about non-traditional families, multiracial families, and family relations. It also gives young girls powerful and positive role models in the sisters, and boys a chance to see female-led stories in an empowering light. Takio is the creator-owned project from the Marvel imprint, Icon.
10. The Deep: Here be Dragons by Tom Taylor (W) and James Brouwer (A)
The Deep is about a multiethnic family of Aquanauts, the Nektons, who live on a submarine and explore the oceans and seas! With an active parental presence who are just as vital to the story as their two children, a son and daughter, The Deep can appeal to anyone with a love of adventure. From basic science-based explorations to delving into the mythos of the sea, the Nekton family takes readers on a journey across the globe into unchartered territories. There’s also a series on Netflix that brings the Nekton family to animated life and allows for younger audiences to have a dual introduction to the positive, family-centric story.
Perfect for harboring an interest in the STEM field, The Deep takes an ancient fascination of humans, the unknown ocean depths, and turns it into a story for the whole family, with role models for both genders and people of color to see representation in a white, male-dominated field. I’d recommend it for any child old enough to read!
9. Mouse Guard by David Petersen (W & A)
Mouse Guard is best-suited to children ten and up, for some serious themes such as you’d expect in a Medieval Era following a tyrannical rule. But it’s an enjoyable series, with the soldiers who once bravely defended their villages and fellow mice from war having now turned to escort them between villages and defending them from predators. While no humans appear in the story, the setting is parallel to that of our own in a similar time. The Guard acts as weather watchers, scouts, and border patrols. As it is, Mouse Guard is an epic historical adventure with talking animals that appeal to a younger audience and presents as fantastical whimsy for adults.
8. My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic by VARIOUS
My Little Pony is arguably one of the best all-ages comics in current history. Steeped in nostalgia for those of us who grew up watching the original show in the 80’s, or the re-runs depending, the Friendship is Magic tv and comic series are reinvented imaginings with modernized design and storytelling. The Mane Six are all females, but Equestria is a diverse world of mixed genders and represented cultures, and it doesn’t take much to find somepony to identify with.
With some issues containing some dark imagery, mostly the run is an homage to friendship, and the power we get from them. The Mane Six preach about teamwork and honesty, as well as being a good person who does good things even when it’s easier not to. Forgiveness and staying true to yourself are also recurrent themes in the series, and they’re written appropriately for a young child learning to read to share with an adult or an older child learning to navigate their social circles. But fret not! For all the lessons to be learned from the ponies, there’s plenty of fun, magic and laughs to go around as well.
7. Sonic the Hedgehog by Ian Flynn (W) and Various
A classic throwback for parents, Sonic the Hedgehog remains a favorite for children. The energetic blue speedster is an example of the hero children need to see; a fun and likable guy who can also be serious for the sake of his planet, which he must free from a tyrannical reign. While riddled with underlying political tones, Sonic the Hedgehog is a thrilling adventure story with packed with actions and lessons on morality and friendship.
With several spin-off shows, comics and video games starring Sonic, it’s a surefire way to also introduce your child to other forms of geekdom entertainment that’ll help you bond over a shared interest.
6. Lumberjanes by VARIOUS
Lumberjanes from BOOM! Comics is a newer (the past few years) run that’s focused on female characters. With an entire creative team of women creators, Lumberjanes is a nod to the Girl Scouts with a summer camp setting for Hardcore girls, who earn badges and use terminology that honors female pioneers throughout history. With a transgendered character, women of color and a personality range from one end to the other, Lumberjanes is an ideal story for readers eight and up to learn about the power in being a woman, diversity and coming together despite differences.
The story focuses on the camp and the scouts of Roanoke cabin as they attempt to solve the mysteries and strange happenings that keep occurring around them. With old ladies turning int bears and abnormal foxes, this two-Eisner award-winning comic series is a must for young readers.
5. The Batman Adventures by VARIOUS
If your child is old enough to handle darker themes and mild violence, then The Batman Adventures is a good comic to start with to introduce them to the Caped Crusader. Based off of Batman: The Animated Series, the run is over thirty-six issues with a few specials and annuals thrown in. As the years go by, The Batman Adventures gives way to other series and is relaunched as well. These series include Tim Drake’s introduction to the Robin persona, Dick Grayson finding himself in Nightwing and Barbara Gordon joining the Batfamily.
Batman is a dark, more somber character in his own right, and despite some silly aspects to his stories and villains throughout his history, a good number of his stories veer towards darker content. While many are appropriate for most tweens, anyone learning to read or just getting into the character may want to stick with The Brave and the Bold, a sillier version that has a TV show children can also enjoy.
4. Return of the Dapper Man by Jim McCann (W) Janet Lee (A)
With a similarity to a Dali painting, Return of the Dapper Men has a focus on clocks and time. Ayden and his robotic pal, Zoe, are trapped in a world of endless play and pointless work where tomorrow simply doesn’t exist. But Ayden is to discover that time exists, and starting the clocks up are the key to moving forward with their lives. But it’ll be a treacherous journey, and readers of all age will find themselves entranced by the fantastic whimsy hidden behind the turning gears of Return of the Dapper Men.
3. Adventure Time by VARIOUS
Although it’s not a tie-in to the popular Cartoon Network animated show and has several discrepancies, Adventure Time a great series for children ten or older. There’s some gross humor and substitute swearing (“Oh my Glob!”) but overall the characters are diverse and fantastic. With little reality weaved into the stories, the main characters Finn and Jake are thrust into numerous adventures of the wackiest variety, with danger and silly tasks showing up with regularity. One of my favorite parts of the Adventure Time comics, though, is the occasional shift to another character, allowing us to see more of the land our friends live in than just the POV of the last remaining human and a stretchy dog/adopted brother.
Adventure Time is riddled with nonsensical happenings, but there’s plenty of lessons in there as well. Friendship, redemption and general decency of behavior are common themes in the stories. The main female character is a princess but also the smartest in the entire series, a combination I find awesome to introduce to children.
2. Princeless by Jeremy Whitley
A literal award-winning all-ages comic, Princeless is a dual Eisner-winning comic with the honor of “Best Comics for Kids 5-12.” A story about a black princess who was wreaking havoc on societal expectations from a young age, Princeless centers around Princess Adrienne and the anarchy she wraps herself in. When she turns sixteen years old, Princess Adrienne is locked in a tower to await her one true love.
The fiery young monarch rescues herself and sets off on a mission to free her six sisters from their respective prisons as well. Who needs a prince when you have girl power?
Princeless is one of the best examples of a girl empowerment story, while also appealing to an audience interested in epic adventures and perilous journeys. I highly recommend it to any child, but especially young girls who need to see a strong role model who isn’t reliant on a male character to save her.
1. Bone by Jeff Smith
While Bone remains one of the most consistently challenged and banned comics, it’s also a Scholastic product. With some parental concern over the depiction of a dragon smoking and a vague reference to alcohol, this may be better suited for a slightly older audience, aged 10 and up. But Bone is basically the comic mash-up of every fantasy and adventure trope in history. It also has some dark themes pertaining to the fantasy genre. With some references to Lord of the Rings, Bone follows our main characters during their epic journey to free the Valley of a dark overlord.
Bone is a combination of dark thriller and light-hearted humor, and there are several characters you can’t help but love. With a strong presence of family and friendship married to the adventurous content, it’s likely to appeal to an entire family of readers who like to take flights of fancy in their stories.
The future of comics lies in the hands of new readers and new fans. This list is an excellent starting point that should not only draw in a young audience but introduce them to different lifestyles and points of views. That’s one of the most important factors of adventure storytelling: what we can learn about the world around us and the people we share it with. Early literacy is vital to a successful future, and empathy and compassion for others go a long way. Sit down with your fledgling geeks, and take a journey to a faraway land with these books that are fun for the whole family