Written by Guest Contributor Regina Barber DeGraaff
With all the excitement surrounding the film adaptation of A Wrinkle in Time, I wanted to discuss the ideas of diversity that the book explores and how the ideas of what is “different” and “normal” has affected my life as an academic in science.
Not long ago, I was an PhD astrophysicist who had never read A Wrinkle in Time. Madeline L’Engle’s book was beloved by many of my academic colleagues due to the physics references; however, literature that everyone else read in childhood was always a touchy subject for me. I remember being a sophomore in college when several fellow physics majors said to me “You haven’t read The Lord of the Rings? You haven’t even read The Hobbit?!” That summer I spent the entire break reading the Tolkien series in the Shire-esque landscape of the Pacific Northwest. Being a female, Mexican/Chinese American, first-generation college student in physics, I was already wary about my appearance and “class,” so I did anything to belong.
I did not grow up in a house with books for children or adults. My mother was always nervous about her English due to growing up in Taiwan and never wanted to read English books. When I would visit my father during the summer, he tried to encourage my sister and I to read, but he was self conscious about his own reading skills. I remember the crippling dread when teachers would ask me to read out loud. This is probably one of the many reasons I moved towards STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math).
Comic books were once a child’s domain. Now not so much. Today’s Batman and Iron Man are aimed more for teenagers and, let’s face it, those more in their 30s than for those beginning their love for the graphic novel*. You may look fondly on your younger self, sitting around following the adventures of Wonder Woman, the X-Men, or Archie. But where do you start for your child?
The following 10 comic books are ones that I’d recommend for children ages 7-12, who might find a story to love. And, parents, you just might love them too.
I Kill Giants by Joe Kelly and J. M. Ken Niimura
There are monsters in every child’s life, but one girl, Barbara Thorson, is ready to fight them. And she’s preparing the world for her battle or at least trying. Barbara’s tale touches your heart, especially as she fights her demons: both real and imaginary. Between Kelly’s thoughtful writing and Niimura’s beautiful art, they bring Barbara’s story to life. Let I Kill Giants warm your heart.
Mouse Guard: Fall 1152 by David Peterson
One of my favorite comic books about the bravery of small things: in this case, mice. Mouse Guard draws you in with its beautiful art and keeps you around with its big heart. The Mouse Guard valiantly defends all mice territories from threats like eagles, weasels, foxes, crabs, and sometimes even larger creatures. Despite their size, the mice risk their lives for each other and work together to bring down their larger enemies. Soon Saxon, Kenzie, and Liam will be your new friends. Buy Mouse Guard.
Runaways Vol. 1: Pride & Joy by Brian K. Vaughan and Adrian Alphona
Ever wonder what would happen if you found out your parents were super villains? That’s just what happens to these six teenagers (plus, one pet velociraptor). After finding out that their parents play for the dark side, they run away and plot to stop their parents. Also Vaughan doesn’t forget that they need practical things like food and shelter. How would you react to finding out that your parents are evil? Join the Runaways on their epic adventures.
Dolltopia by Abby Denson
I pretty much cannot stop raving about Denson’s Dolltopia. As a little girl, I played with dolls, mostly Barbies, Ninja Turtles, Batman, or Star Trek ones, all the time. There were extensive narrations in my head and certainly, ones like Denson’s book, that defied heteronormative gender identities. But before you go thinking Dolltopia might be too much of an intense genderqueer narrative for a child, it’s just subversive enough. It is, at its crux, a story drawn in all black and white and hot pink about a group of dolls that escape humans’ homes to find themselves. Whomever they may be. And there’s nothing stronger to give a child to read, but a book that tells them that they will be loved, no matter who they are. Get some subversive fun in your life.
Rose and Isabel by Ted Mathot
Take a historical trip back to the Civil War with Rose and Isabel, two sisters who don’t sit idly by while their three brothers go off to fight with the Union soldiers. But Rose and Isabel are no ordinary women; they come from a long line of warrior women. And even though they were taught pacifism and kindness all their lives, neither will tolerate the loss of their family. Travel back in time to meet these strong ladies.
Spider-Man Loves Mary Jane Vol. 1: Super Crush by Sean McKeever and Takeshi Miyazawa
Ever want to know what Mary Jane thought of Spider-Man when they were in high school? Now you can walk the halls with Mary Jane, Peter Parker, Flash Thompson, Liz Allen, Harry Osborn, and Gwen Stacey as they all try to figure out who they are becoming. Miyazawa manga-style art makes this teenage romp even cuter. Discover Mary Jane and Spider-Man in their early days.
Kevin Keller: Welcome to Riverdale by Dan Parent
Who doesn’t have fond memories of going to the orthodontist and reading Archie and the adventures of the rest of the gang in Riverdale? It can’t just be me. Well, today, the whole loveable gang’s still around getting up to their typical shenanigans that still make adults go “those darn kids!” Recently, current writer and artist Parent has introduced a new pal to the bunch, Kevin Keller. Kevin’s most famous for being Archie’s first gay character. Get to know Kevin and how he’s just another darn kid.
Doctor Who: The Only Good Dalek by Justin Richards and Mike Collins
Hiding from Daleks behind couches is a strong British childhood tradition I’d like to bring to the States. Exterminate! Here the Doctor and Amy Pond must stop the Daleks from invading Earth (again) and follow up on some rumors about there being a good Dalek. (The Doctor is not a believer.) My favorite scene is where a Dalek sinks into lava; now that’s something I’d like to see on the show. Do you believe in good Daleks?
GoGirl Vol. 1 by Trina Robbins and Anne Timmons
When Lindsay inherits her mother Janet’s superpowers, her teenage life involves more than just algebra. Inspired by Robbins own relationship with her daughter, GoGirl fosters a great mother-daughter relationship, not to mention equally awesome female friendships. In the first story, Lindsay saves her best friend Haseena, who’s been kidnapped, with the help of Janet and Haseena herself. Thoughout the book, Lindsay learns a lot about life, growing up, and her mother’s love as she starts fighting crime. And, of course, her adventures are just really a lot of fun. Take an adventure with GoGirl!
The Saga of Rex by Michel Gagne
Rex, a fox, gets taken from Earth to a faraway world to be studied. Due to his charismatic nature, he ends up traveling the universe and meeting his soul mate. In a comic with few words, Gagne paints every cosmic scene and discovers other worlds, species, and a bit of magic through the point-of-view of a fox. This adorable fox will melt your heart no matter what planet you’re from.
What comic books do you recommend for those under 12?
*Graphic novels are collected versions of comic books. Though sometimes these book might go straight to graphic novel format and skip the single issue.
Erica McGillivray is the Director of Marketing for GeekGirlCon.