By Adam Frey
In our last two installments, we looked at a number of comics that you, the adult collector, were likely to have picked up on FCBD 2015. But did you forget that FCBD is also for the kids, or at least, the kid in you? That’s not intended to be ageist—adults can read Teen Titans Go!, and people under age 12 can read Divergence. But let’s face it: these books have a target audience, and more likely than not, a prepubescent is going to aim for Teen Titans over Robo-Batman.
To find out how well this year’s junior offerings did, I’ve enlisted the aid of my eight year-old daughter Kiersten, who read the books for herself and explained to me whether she’d read future issues.
Boom! Ten Year Celebration Free Comic Book Day Special (Boom! Studios): Suffice it to say that Boom! has really established itself as one of the kid-friendliest publishers around today. The Ten Year Celebration is pretty thick and offers a variety of sample stories, ranging from one to ten pages, from a batch of its titles: Labyrinth, Iscariot, Mouse Guard, Adventure Time, Regular Show, Peanuts, Garfield, Lumberjanes, Munchkin, and Help Us! Great Warrior. If you can’t find something in here you enjoy, you have no soul.
Would a Kid Come Back? Kiersten would, but not to every comic in here. Here’s how she reacted to the various samplings:
- Labyrinth: She didn’t like it. She read the Labyrinth short in last year’s Boom! sampling and it didn’t click with her, so she didn’t want to bother again. It probably would have helped if she were familiar with the film—illustrating that a licensed comic is often exclusively dependent on the source material’s audience.
- Iscariot: It’s a story about a mysterious magician using magic to impress a little girl, so she liked it in a “Harry Potter” sort of way.
- Mouse Guard: This book has gorgeous art. Unfortunately, that backfired on Kiersten: she says the art was so beautiful that she couldn’t get into the story and the plot was beyond her. Even I’ll admit that the storytelling and dialogue of Mouse Guard could be a bit heavy for kids even if the basic premise should charm their socks off.
- Adventure Time: This story had Fionna and Cake—Kiersten’s favorite gender-bent versions of the main characters—so it was automatically a win. She liked the art (which closely resembles the show), because the characters “always go places,” and because the characters were playing some kind of collectible card game “just like regular people.”
- Regular Show: Kiersten’s a fan of the show, so she liked it. However, this particular short used an art style that’s dramatically different than the animated series, so that turned her off. She says she’d read more of the comics if they didn’t have this art. (Warning: the Regular Show comic often uses art styles which don’t duplicate that of the show.)
- Peanuts: She’s not a Snoopy fan, so she skipped this one. For the record, it does an admirable job imitating Shultz’ art and writing.
- Garfield: She also enjoyed this one, but mostly because it’s about Garfield chasing down food, and Kiersten loves food. (90% of Garfield comics are about food.) Like Peanuts, this copies the source material pretty well.
- Lumberjanes: Kiersten already reads Lumberjanes monthly, so this one was a winner before she read it. This story is an excerpt from one of the earlier issues which not only highlights their antics, but has an in-story demonstration of how friendship bracelets are made. Seriously, if your kid isn’t reading Lumberjanes, they’re missing out.
- Munchkin: She found this one-page short lame and unfunny. I understand Munchkin is popular with gamers, so Boom! may have misfired in including it in a sampler aimed at kids.
- Help Us! Great Warrior: We’ve never heard of this one. Apparently it’s about a little green creature that goes on epic quests. As my kid describes it, it’s “a little weird, and I like weird stuff.” She’d read more.
Scooby-Doo Team-Up/Teen Titans Go! (DC): DC knew what it was doing when it picked Scooby Doo Team-Up for FCBD. Besides being a Scooby story, this reprint guest-stars the classic Super Friends lineup, it’s really a stealth Justice League comic where the Scooby Gang helps them look for a missing Superman. There’s also a Teen Titans Go! reprint involving the girls having a sleepover while Trigon plots to marry Starfire. Look, logic went out the window when Batman and Wonder Woman enlisted the aid of a bunch of stoners to find a missing Superman, so if you can accept the zaniness of the Scooby Doo story, then Teen Titans Go! shouldn’t be a problem either.
Would a Kid Come Back? Undoubtedly. Kiersten is a huge fan of the Teen Titans cartoon, so she’s guaranteed to come back for more. She doesn’t watch Scooby Doo (and who does these days?) and says she wouldn’t read a “solo” Scooby book, but she admits that the “Team-Up” angle has her hooked.
Spongebob Freestyle Funnies (United Plankton Pictures): It’s odd that publishers who specialize in mainstream licensed properties choose to publish material that deviates from its source. Illustrating the point is this year’s Spongebob offering, whose lengthiest story uses an art style which doesn’t quite match the television show. It’s recognizable, but a little rough. This book is otherwise an adequate Spongebob collection, although the last one-page story has some fun with the blank panel included on all FCBD titles where retailers typically stamp their shop information.
Would a Kid Come Back? The artistic deviation from the Spongebob cartoon didn’t bother her. According to Kiersten, the comic was “wacky and crazy and they go on adventures to find stuff.” She’d go back for more, so my analysis must be way off.
Rabbids (Papercutz): I think I’m showing my age. Papercutz, apparently a “family friendly” publisher of mostly licensed properties, has apparently been around for a decade, but this is the first year I’ve noticed them. Rabbids—a strip about moderately insane rabbits who behave similar to “Despicable Me’s” Minions—dominates the cover, but it’s only a small segment of this book. Also included are samples of Ariol (a short about two anthropomorphic animal kids and their troubles with sticker collecting), a reprint from Peyo’s classic Smurfs, and yet another Garfield comic—though unlike Boom!’s version, this one is based on the CGI animated series. Two additional Rabbids shorts are weirdly included at the back of the book. (N.B.: Papercutz apparently doesn’t release single issues, but only uses the larger graphic novel format.)
Would a Kid Come Back? Rabbids and its ridiculous humor was pretty much all Kiersten could talk about here. In fact, she says that out of all the FCBD books released, she liked Rabbids the best. Ariol didn’t click with her, but she says that she would read more of Smurfs or Garfield if she had the chance.
Sonic the Hedgehog/Mega Man: Worlds Unite (Archie): You’d think the Venn diagram of Mega Man fans, Sonic fans, and comic book readers would produce a very small overlap, but there’s got to be something to that unison since Archie is about to publish its second Sonic/Mega Man crossover. This flip book presents two independent half-length stories, but each serves as a prequel to the characters’ “Worlds Unite” crossover which launches this month. Sonic’s story was easy enough to understand (Sonic has to deal with randomly-appearing interdimensional portals and the monsters they’re unleashing). The Mega Man story was a bit more confusing, but that could be an accident of design. Apparently it’s a reprint story frankensteined from multiple older issues, so the end product reads a bit choppy.
Would a Kid Come Back? Kiersten won’t, unfortunately. Having no familiarity with the source material, I couldn’t convince her to pick this one up.
Avatar: The Last Airbender (Dark Horse): Another multi-sampler book, Dark Horse’s offering gives complete-but-short offerings from the anime Avatar, the app-turned-merchandise platform Plants vs. Zombies, and Bandette (an original work by the husband-wife team of Paul Tobin and Colleen Coover about a young French girl who’s also acrobatic burglar). The first two are clearly aimed at fans of the source material are adequate enough shorts. Bandette is simply charming, with a swashbuckling teenage charm coupled wonderfully with Coover’s retro-European styled art.
Would a Kid Come Back? Seeing a pattern here? Kiersten isn’t up on the source material of Avatar and couldn’t get into that story. On the other hand, she loves the Plants Versus Zombies video game, so that short was an easy hook. She also enjoyed the simple charms of Bandette and would read more of that. Hell, so would I.
Transformers: Robots in Disguise (IDW): I had to check Wikipedia; this comic appears to be based on the twelfth iteration of the various Transformers animated series. Twelfth. At this point, I’m glad it’s aimed at kids, because my continuity-addled brain already struggles enough with the ever-rebooting DC Universe. Anyway, it’s a kid-friendly enough story about cartoonishly-drawn Autobots fighting to stop a Decepticon from destroying an amusement park. It’s ostensibly a prelude to IDW’s next Transformers comic, as it says the story is continued in issue #1 in July—so that’s as much of a hook as they come. The remaining pages of the comic offer some brief samplers from IDW’s Transformers vs. G.I. Joe (done in a Kirby style that must be seen to be believed), one of IDW’s other Transformers books (this could get confusing), G.I. Joe, and, uh, My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic (a pretty sharp contrast to the rest of the book’s Transformers fest).
Would a Kid Come Back? Maybe, but my eight year-old girl wouldn’t. She likes action stuff, but Transformers wasn’t her thing. I imagine that if she were an eight year-old boy, this would have been more of a hook. It’s entirely possible that despite society’s efforts to level the gender playing field, the majority of boys are attracted to boy things, and girls to girl things. Suggestion for IDW: consider making a Transformers/My Little Pony flip book next year, as she’d definitely read the second half of that.