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6 Eisner-worthy graphic novels for younger readers

little white duck na liuVoting for the 2013 Eisner Awards concludes Wednesday, but that doesn’t mean we have to stop talking about them. Last year, I had the privilege of being an Eisner judge, and it was one of the greatest experiences of my life. This year I’m back to being a civilian, and that means once again I can complain about the judges’ choices. Let the games begin!

Actually, I thought the selections were pretty good, and I’m happy that the judges decided to continue having three categories for young readers, as we did last year. However, children’s and YA graphic novels are a burgeoning sector of the market, and there’s a lot of good work out there. Here are six graphic novels that I would have been arguing for this year had I been in the judging room. And incidentally, all of them are good reads for adults as well.

Little White Duck, written by Na Liu, illustrated by Andrés Vera Martínez: This book deserves the Eisner for the beautiful art alone, but the story is wonderful as well. It’s Liu’s tale of growing up in China in the 1970s, and she starts with her parents mourning the death of Chairman Mao. The view of Chinese life in the Communist era is very different from what we are accustomed to; Liu writes matter-of-factly about the hardships (their family had two children, so she was not allowed to go to school) but also the joys of family life. It’s a very personal and three-dimensional perspective on an era we often view in flat black and white, and both Liu and Martínez are master storytellers.

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It’s not just a banana, it’s entertainment for the whole family

banana comic

When the canned-spinach cartel wanted to make its product more attractive, it put Popeye on the label.

Now a fruit producer is doing something similar with bananas — but in this case, the comic goes right on the peel. The multinational fruit and fresh produce company Fyffes, which is based in Ireland, teamed up with the German branding company Serviceplan to make bananas attractive to children by printing comics directly on the peels, using special laser printing technology. (One could argue that it also made comics attractive to children by printing them on bananas, but the fruit folks were paying the bills.) The bananas were then handed out to schoolchildren in Spain, Russia, Belgium and the United States — Why were we not told of this? — for an entire week.

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Comics A.M. | Rick Perry at odds with newspaper over cartoon

ohman cartoon

Editorial cartoons | Michael Cavna interviews Sacramento Bee editorial cartoonist Jack Ohman about Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s demand that the newspaper apologize for an April 25 cartoon in which the politician is depicted boasting that “Business is booming in Texas!” beneath a banner that reads, “Low Tax! Low Regs!,” juxtaposed with an image of the deadly fertilizer-plant explosion in West, Texas. “It was with extreme disgust and disappointment I viewed your recent cartoon,” Perry wrote in a letter to the editor. “While I will always welcome healthy policy debate, I won’t stand for someone mocking the tragic deaths of my fellow Texans and our fellow Americans.” Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst has reportedly called for Ohman to be fired.

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Comics A.M. | Lawyer in ‘Oatmeal’ feud loses another dispute

Charles Carreon

Charles Carreon

Legal | The final chapter of The Oatmeal vs. Charles Carreon has been completed (we hope), and it’s not a shining moment for Carreon: A judge has ordered him to pay $46,000 in attorney’s fees to the creator of a Satirical Charles Carreon website, whom he threatened with legal action. Carreon eventually dropped his suit, but the whole dispute escalated anyway, and the judge cited his “malicious conduct” in awarding the fees. [Ars Technica]

Digital comics | Amazon has quietly launched Kindle Comic Creator, which allows creators to upload various types of files and make them into e-books to be sold in the Kindle store; the software has its own system for creating panel-by-panel view, and the finished product can be read on a wide variety of Kindles and Kindle apps. [Good E-Reader]

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Comics A.M. | Inkwell voting opens; comics’ ‘gay agenda’?

Inkwell Awards

Inkwell Awards

Awards | Online voting is open through April 30 for the sixth annual Inkwell Awards, which recognize excellence in comic-book inking. The winners will be announced during a ceremony at HeroesCon, held June 7-9 in Charlotte, North Carolina. [Inkwell Awards]

Comics | On the website of the conservative Media Research Center, Kristine Marsh and Matt Philbin accuse DC Comics and Marvel of having a “homosexual agenda”: “Like the rest of American pop culture, comic books have increasingly included pro-gay propaganda pieces aimed at the children and young adults who read them.” [Media Research Center]

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‘My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic’ will soon be a manga

My Little Pony mangaThe animated cartoon My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic is already a hit in Japan (where the title is My Little Pony ~Tomodachi wa Mahō~), and now it’s coming to the pages of the children’s manga magazine Pucchigumi as well. The news was revealed at the Tokyo International Anime Fair, where, according to Anime News Network, a flyer was passed out with the news. A representative from the Japanese company Bushiroad told ANN that the artist for the manga will be named sometime this spring.

Pucchigumi sounds like the sort of magazine that kids love and parents loathe; it runs a lot of licensed series based on properties such as Barbie, Tamagotchi, and Jewelpet. A glance at the cover of the current issue reveals a crowded layout, an excess of pink, and lots of big-eyed, super-cute characters, so Pinkie Pie, Applejack, and Twilight Sparkle should fit right in.

Pucchigumi is published by Shogakukan, one of the parent companies of Viz, so if the manga were ever to be licensed in the U.S., that’s who would probably publish it—and indeed, it would be a logical addition to their VizKids line. Of course, IDW already has a serialized My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic comic, so the relationship could be complicated.

DC Entertainment launches family-friendly website

dc fan family

DC Entertainment has launched the DC Comics Fan Family blog, a family-friendly online hub designed to deliver content for parents to share with their children.

In addition to rundowns of the kids comics released this week and the free titles available on the DC Nation app, the website will include DC-themed activity sheets, craft projects, creator posts, contents and more.

“Our fans are parents too and we want to give families the opportunity to create new memories by sharing the DC Comics experience in a fun and family-friendly environment,” DC Entertainment President Diane Nelson said in a statement. “The DC Comics Fan Family blog is the perfect destination for parents to discover new ways to interact with their favorite Super Heroes – from building a Batman jetpack to cooking a Green Lantern-themed breakfast.”

UPDATE: DC has also partnered with children’s publisher Capstone for a contest asking kids ages 3 to 6 to write about the real hero in their lives. The winner will receive tours of the DC Entertainment offices and Warner Bros. Animation Studios, a collection of DC and Capstone merchandise, and $2,500 donated to the charity of his or her choice.

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Viz Media launches sticky DOT comics kids app

viz-sticky dotContinuing the expansion of its Viz Kids imprint, manga publisher Viz Media this morning launched sticky DOT comics, a free kids’ digital comics app for the Apple iPad and iPad mini.

Developed by Viz Media, the app allows readers to securely browse and download a range of manga and graphic novels, from Pokémon and Mameshiba to Redakai and Voltron Force.

Launch titles include Pokémon Adventures, Pokémon Adventures: Diamond and Pearl/Platinum, Pokémon Black and White, Pokémon: Diamond and Pearl Adventure!, Mameshiba: On the Loose!, Little Miss Sunshine: Here Comics the Sun!, Mr. Strong: Good Thing I Came Along!, Redakai and Voltron Force. Available for download in the United States and Canada, volumes are priced between $2.99 and $3.99. New titles and volumes, along with free previews, will be added frequently.

The debut of sticky DOT comics follows Viz’s recent announcements of new Hello Kitty comics and Pokémon manga, as well as a partnership with iVerse.

Art Baltazar and Franco take Aw Yeah Comics! to Kickstarter

If the cancellation of DC Comics’ Superman Family Adventures has left you a little deflated, take heart: Longtime collaborators Franco Aureliani and Art Baltazar are turning to Kickstarter to launch their Aw Yeah Comics!, an “all-reader friendly” series with contributions from established and new talents alike, including Mark Waid, Brad Meltzer, Chris Roberson and Jason Aaron. The series was originally announced in July.

The comic, which stars Baltazar and Franco’s Action Cat and Adventure Bug, is designed to appeal to children and adults alike: “Our hope is to present a comic book that has just as much to offer a little girl as it does a little boy, and leave absolutely no one out of the fun. Because fun is important. Fun is a good thing for a comic book to have, and we want to add a little bit more of it to what’s out there now.”

Aw Yeah Comics!, which shares its name with the duo’s Skokie, Illinois, store, will debut in April with Chicago Comic & Entertainment Expo. According to the Kickstarter page, work on the first three issues is about 80 percent complete, while issues four through six are at about 60 percent. To help reach their $15,000 goal, they’re offering pledge incentives like an exclusive digital comic, an original mini-painting by Baltazar, a guest appearance by a donor’s own character, and a cover by Franco for a donor’s comic book.

The Kickstarter campaign ends March 7.

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Tyler Kirkham takes The Family Troll to Kickstarter

Artist Tyler Kirkham, known for his work on such titles Green Lantern: New Guardians and Ultimate Fantastic Four, is stepping outside of the superhero arena with The Family Troll, a graphic novel written by his wife Jill Kirkham, and he’s turning to Kickstarter for help.

Loosely based on Tyler and Jill’s own struggles to have a child, the fantasy follows a young couple in a similar situation that consults with a wizard in hopes of obtaining a magical solution to the problem. The wizard agrees, but only if two agree to care for a newly rescued troll while he sets off to gather the ingredients for the potion. They raise the baby over the course of a year, growing close to the young troll, and … well, you can probably guess the rest.

Tyler and Jill have been working on the book for more than a year, in between his regular DC Comics series, but they need $11,200 to publish the 26- to 30-page hardcover (for production costs, printing, shipping, etc.). To help reach that goal, they’re offering Kickstarter incentives like signed copies of the book, full-color prints, stickers, original art and a custom Plush doll of Narg the Troll. The pledge tiers are a little far apart — $25, $50, $100, $200, $1,000, $5,000 and $10,000 — but the campaign is already chugging along at a pretty good clip: Five days in, they’ve brought in $2,987.

Check out art and the introductory video below. The Kickstarter campaign ends Feb. 24.

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Chicago’s Challengers Comics opens all-ages Sidekicks

Sidekicks (from Patch.com)

When Challengers Comics + Conversation opened nearly five years ago in Chicago’s Bucktown neighborhood, owners Patrick Brower and W. Dal Bush expected their clientele would be predominantly men. However, families with young children soon began walking through the door.

“When we first started in March 2008, we were surprised by the number of families that would come in,” Brower told Time Out Chicago. “Over the years, that’s grown, and it seems like a large portion of our regular customers have just started to have kids. They’re just infants, but those comic readers will want their kids to read comics.”

So after a 2010 expansion into an adjacent storefront for a sequential-art gallery didn’t prove as popular as they had hoped, the owners decided to transform the 400-square-foot retail space into Sidekicks, a “comic shop within a comic shop” devoted exclusively to family-friendly fare.

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Comics A.M. | Gene Luen Yang announces two-volume graphic novel

From "Boxers and Saints"

Creators | Gene Luen Yang, creator of American Born Chinese, has revealed his latest project Boxers and Saints, a set of two graphic novels about the Boxer Rebellion in China; one story is about a peasant who joins the Boxers, while the other is about a woman who converts to Catholicism. First Second will publish them as a slipcased set. There’s a 10-page preview as well as an interview at the link. [Wired]

Comics | Jim Rugg notices that his print copy of Hellboy in Hell doesn’t look as good as his friend’s digital copy, and where most of us would have just shrugged and moved on, he takes the time to think about why that is and how careful publishers can ensure that print comics look their best. [Jim Rugg]

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Comics A.M. | DragonCon co-founder again facing molestation charges

Crime

Legal | DragonCon co-founder Ed Kramer, who hasn’t been associated with the show since 2000, has been brought back to the Gwinnett County Jail and booked on child molestation charges that date back to August 2000. The 51-year-old Kramer was released on bond after his initial arrest following accusations that he sexually abused three boys, and has avoided jail and court for more than a decade because of his health problems, although he was under house arrest for a while. He was arrested again in Connecticut in 2011 for violating the conditions of his bond after he was allegedly found alone in a hotel room with a 14-year-old boy. Atlanta Magazine ran a lengthy expose on Kramer last year. [The Atlanta Journal-Constitution]

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Comics A.M. | Turkey lifts ban on thousands of books (and a comic)

Legal

Censorship | At least one comic, alas unnamed, was among the thousands of books removed this week from a Turkish government restricted list. Most of the bans were widely ignored anyway, but Metin Celal Zeynioglu, the head of Turkey’s publishers’ union, pointed out one important effect of lifting them: “Many of the students arrested in demonstrations are kept in prison because they’re carrying banned books. From now on, we won’t be able to use that as an excuse.” [The Australian]

Publishing | Tom Spurgeon’s latest holiday interview is with Shannon Watters, the editor of BOOM! Studios’ children’s comics line, which includes Adventure Time, Bravest Warriors and Peanuts. [The Comics Reporter]

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The Phoenix finally goes digital


This is the first year to start without The Dandy on the shelves of U.K. newsagents since 1937, making it strange times indeed for the kids’ comics market in the British Isles. For most industry-watchers over here, as the decades passed, comics came and went, and all were vulnerable to the specter of sudden cancellation, with little certainty in the field other than there would always be The Beano and The Dandy. Waking up to a world without one or the other in it was once as unthinkable as a night sky without the moon.

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