What's the best way to make your kid comics literate?

Krazy Kat is brilliant, but it’s also extremely challenging. You have to be a fairly experienced reader and read a number of the strips before you can even really tell what’s going on, let alone get some of the humor. Herriman uses a fairly bizarre style of writing phonetically and some really esoteric vocabulary. There are a number of strips I’ve read several times and I still have no idea what’s actually going on (except for the broad “Ignatz tries to hit Krazy with a brick, which upsets Offica Pupp” thing).

It’s an extremely rewarding read (and the collections of Sunday strips are readily available and cheap), but not something for a young child, I don’t think. As far as comic strips go, I’d stick with Peanuts and Calivn & Hobbes.

My hubby buys issues of Tiny Titans and Super Friends to read with our 19-month old daughter. They’re both DC comics and very suited to the preschool age group. He’s sure to emphasize that they’re HER comics and while we try to get her to be gentle with them, he doesn’t get upset if the cover comes off or pages get ripped. He’s just happy she’s enjoying them and learning about the medium.

She also has a bunch of toy superheroes from the DC Super Friends line, including this very cool "My First Batmobile " .

Also, we have DVDs of Krypto the Superdog to play for her.

The brainwashing began, I believe, with Spiderman sleepers that she wore approximately 12 hours after she was born :wink:

Reading this thread – the OP in particular – has left me a little amazed at how at least one aspect of our culture has changed since I was a kiddo – and changed for the better, yet.

There didn’t seem to be any such thing as grownups who liked comics, back when I was young and short, at least nowhere near where I was. In fact, grownups mostly seemed to disapprove of and disdain them utterly.

If you brought yours to school, teachers would seize them, and you never got them back; there was no recourse or remedy for such confiscations.

It was almost a given that comic book by their very nature were somehow worthless, and even pernicious. One’s parents (my Ma at any rate) felt perfectly cool with tossing your comics as they saw fit –
if, for instance, they were in one’s mother’s path when she cleaned house.

Random adults were apt to interrupt a kid in the middle of reading a comic book and tell said kid he oughtta be reading a good book of some kind, not one of those stupid funnybooks. Teenagers were quite often none-to-gently admonished that they should be growing out of that kind of crap already.

And you never saw a grown person reading or enjoying a comic book – not the regular Mom&Dad kind of grown person, at least; it wasn’t until I was a mid-1970s teener who first got wind of Underground comix that were made specially for hippies and such, that the idear of adult comic books occured to anyone, as far as I knew.

And, naturally, the elders-in-authority tended to regard the particular ones *I liked as the worst of the lot – even trashier and more reprehensible of content than the superhero and funny-teenager contingent.

But now it’s 2008 – and I just read a post by a fellow who wants to teach his kid to love comics while she’s just a wee little sprout. That is so freakin’ great that I gotta semi-hijack this thread, and just say “wow.”


  • when I was 7 or so I discovered the gloriously cruddy ouevre of Eerie Publications, the luridest, most bloodsoaked black-and-white comic mags to ever part a kid from 35 cents; then, when I was slightly older I found out about the Warren and Skywald lines, with their superior writing and their (usually) much more restrained art.

I’m going to respectfully disagree. I’m right with you that Krazy Kat is brilliant, and that it’s enormously rewarding to the careful and experienced reader, but I think there are inherent childlike qualities (innocence, silliness) that would make it entertaining for a reasonably bright four-year-old child (older than the OP’s kid, yes). It might be better as an out-loud lap read, i.e. the adult speaks while the child looks at the words and pictures, but seriously, I think the ridiculous wordplay will appeal to a smart kid, and the relationship between Kat and Ignatz and Pupp will be understood on a cellular level, while all the complications of the strip that are so distracting for an adult (is Krazy a boy or a girl? and what does it all mean, anyway?) will sail unmissed over the child’s head. I’d sure like to give it a try, anyway.

I was actually thinking after I made my post that maybe Krazy would work well if read aloud, since I actually have to read a fair number of passages that way in order to understand them anyway.

I’m still not sure how well it would actually work, but you may very well be right. I’d love to hear how it goes if Interrobang!? or anybody else decides to give it a shot sometime.

I’ll try Krazy Kat in a year or so – I’ve been wanting to read it anyway, so out loud to my kid will work fine. I look forward to cataloging the questions that come up: “Why is that mouse being mean?” “Where is the police officer’s car?” “What is that thing?”

Shrek, published by the same company. You might be able to find reprints of Harvey Comics from them as well.

I just wanted to bump this to thank shy guy and Meurglys for recommending Owly. I bought the first collection shortly after you guys mentioned it, and let it sit on the shelf for a while. But a few weeks ago my daughter picked it up and we read it together – and she’s completely charmed. We’ll be buying the rest of the collections (we’ve got the next three from the library right now), and one of her favorite birthday presents was a stuffed Owly that my mom got for her. (Owly and Foofa from Yo Gabba Gabba! hang out now, FYI.)

It’s fun to read, and different from reading “regular” books in interesting ways – explaining how the panels go, explaining that the light bulb means “he has an idea,” etc.

The other comic she took to was a collection of classic Harvey Caspar stories I picked up at the same comic shop. There it’s just weird explaining a) what a ghost is, b) why people are scared of them, c) why those ghost uncles are mean, and a bunch of other cultural concepts. Bonus explanation: why policemen try to hit or shoot Caspar! How cultural mores have changed …