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Clockwise (l to r): DC Comics, Nobrow Press, Drawn & Quarterly, Dark Horse Comics, Papercutz, American Mythology Productions

12 Comics to Get Your Kids on Free Comic Book Day

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Clockwise (l to r): DC Comics, Nobrow Press, Drawn & Quarterly, Dark Horse Comics, Papercutz, American Mythology Productions

Every year, comic book shops around the world celebrate Free Comic Book Day with in-store events, creator signings, cosplay, and (of course) free comics. This year’s events will be held on Saturday, May 6, and most shops will have up to 50 different free comics spanning a wide range of genres for all types of readers. Free Comic Book Day is an especially great opportunity to introduce the joy of comics to young readers. Below is a list of some of the free comics you and your kids (from early readers up to teenagers) can try to snag at your local comic shop (get there early!). You can see a full list of what will be available here.

1. BUFFY: THE HIGH SCHOOL YEARS

Buffy the Vampire Slayer
Dark Horse Comics

What is it?

Joss Whedon and Dark Horse Comics team up to bring us more adventures of Buffy's early years as a 16-year-old who is still getting the hang of taking out vampires. Unlike most Buffy comics that stick pretty close to the tone of the Whedon-directed TV program, this FCBD comic is a little lighter and more cartoony in style. It also includes a Plants vs. Zombies backup story based on the popular video game.

Who’s it for?

Of course hardcore Buffy fans will be interested in this, but it is intended for younger, pre-teen readers as opposed to more standard Buffy fare, which is usually a bit darker and more sophisticated.

2. DC SUPERHERO GIRLS

DC Superhero Girls
DC Comics

What is it?

To accompany a new toy line and an animated YouTube series, DC has been putting out a series of graphic novels about a superhero high school featuring cute teen versions of their most popular female heroes (and anti-heroes) like Wonder Woman, Supergirl, Harley Quinn, and Poison Ivy. As the show begins its second season, a third graphic novel is soon to be released. This comic previews a story from that book, Summer Olympus.

Who’s it for?

These are made to appeal to young girls—the toys are designed to look like Barbie dolls—and the lighthearted, school-oriented nature of the stories is appropriate for early readers.

3. BOOM! STUDIOS SUMMER BLAST

Boom! Studios Summer Blast
Boom! Studios

What is it?

Boom! Studios has hit a sweet spot with their fantasy and adventure comics for teen and pre-teen girls. This is thanks mostly to the success of their supernatural summer camp series Lumberjanes, and their Free Comic Book Day sampler has excerpts from three series that should have a similar appeal. The first is a new story from David Petersen’s popular Mouse Guard, a long-running fantasy adventure series about medieval mice. The second is from a new series about Brave Chef Brianna, who is trying to start her own restaurant in a place called Monster City. And the third, Coady and the Creepies, is firmly in the Lumberjanes domain as it features an all-girl punk rock band, one of whom is secretly a ghost.

Who’s it for?

A lot of Boom! Studios books aim for the type of readers that enjoy Cartoon Network shows like Adventure Time, so this is going to be a good choice for boys and especially girls ages 12 and up.

4. BAD MACHINERY

Bad Machinery
Oni Press

What is it?

John Allison had a recent hit adapting his webcomic Giant Days into a popular new monthly comic for Boom! Studios, but over at Oni Press, his other webcomic, Bad Machinery, is now in its seventh collected volume. Both comics are related in that they are spin-offs of Allison’s last long-running webcomic Scary Go Round, but where Giant Days focuses on the daily lives of three university-age young women, Bad Machinery is about a group of boarding school kids solving surreal mysteries around town.

Who’s it for?

These are smartly written comics with a decidedly British humor that will probably appeal to pre-teen readers. The Scooby-Doo-like mysteries are kind of wacky but often take a backseat to the snappy repartee between the large cast of quirky teens.

5. HILDA'S BACK

Hilda's Back
Nobrow Press

What is it?

Luke Pearson’s delightful Hilda series stars a precocious and adventurous young girl who lives in a world populated by magical creatures. Last year’s Hilda and the Stone Forest ended on a cliffhanger when Hilda woke up transformed into a troll, and this FCBD comic features a preview of the upcoming sequel. As a bonus, it also includes a preview of Jen Lee’s upcoming Garbage Night, about a group of teenage animals journeying across a desolate wasteland where humans have gone missing.

Who’s it for?

Hilda is one of the great all-ages comics right now (and is soon to become an animated series for Netflix). It’s great for early readers and older, but the subject matter of Garbage Night may skew closer to teenage readers.

6. TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES: PRELUDE TO DIMENSION X

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
IDW Publishing

What is it?

These guys need no introduction, though you may forget that the Ninja Turtles originated as a comic book back in 1984 before conquering every other possible medium out there. They’re still going pretty strong as an ongoing comic series, and this issue kicks off a big new story involving longtime antagonist Krang as well as a brand-new villain.

Who’s it for?

Probably boys, and probably in that pre-teen age range as there is a certain amount of inevitable ninja violence to be expected.

7. MIRACULOUS

Miraculous
Action Lab Entertainment

What is it?

The popular French animated series arrived in the U.S. last year and will debut its second season this June. To coincide with the show, Action Lab Entertainment is putting out a new graphic novel series based on the series. It’s about a teenage girl who has a crush on a boy she knows. She has a double life as a superhero named Ladybug who reluctantly accepts help from an unneeded sidekick named Cat Noir who, little does she know, is actually her crush.

Who’s it for?

Primarily for girls aged 8-12 who will appreciate this female hero who can take care of herself.

8. THE LOUD HOUSE

The Loud House
Papercutz

What is it?

Based on the hit Nickelodeon animated series, this new series of graphic novels from Papercutz follows the adventures of 11-year-old Lincoln in his full house with 10 sisters. The comics are written and drawn by the show’s creator and animation crew, so fans should have no reason to be let down.

Who’s it for?

Any kid with siblings will appreciate Lincoln’s plight. Like the show, these are written for kids in the 9-12 age range.

9. DRAWN & QUARTERLY PRESENTS: COLORFUL MONSTERS

Colorful Monsters
Drawn & Quarterly

What is it?

Drawn & Quarterly, the prestigious publisher of high-quality literary graphic novels, has built up a collection of wonderful international children’s comics over the years, many of which are sampled here. It includes reprints of famous works like Tove Jannson’s Moomin and Shigeru Mizuki’s Kitaro, plus brand new comics like Elise Gravel’s imaginative collection of sketches If Found…Please Return and Anouk Ricard’s hilarious ensemble comedy Anna & Froga.

Who’s it for?

These are all great comics for early readers, although the humor and storytelling may be a little subtle and culturally different than some kids are used to.

10. UNDERDOG

Underdog
American Mythology Productions

What is it?

“Speed of lightning, roar of thunder...” The latest character to be transported from the childhoods of adults to today’s comic book market is Underdog. The 1960s cartoon series with a memorable, rhyming catchphrase, “There’s no need to fear, Underdog is here,” was a fun send-up of Superman, and this comic should have the same appeal.

Who’s it for?

To be honest, probably parents who remember watching the show when they were kids, but that doesn’t mean younger readers won’t appreciate what we used to enjoy about this character.

11. KID SAVAGE

Kid Savage
Image Comics

What is it?

A pioneering but dysfunctional “first family in space” crash lands on a primitive planet, and their only chance of survival is the help of a native wildling. This is the latest adventure series from writer Joe Kelly, co-creator of Cartoon Network’s Ben 10, and inspired by the old Hanna-Barbera adventure series like Jonny Quest and Herculoids. The first full volume of this series is now on sale, and this Free Comic Book Day sampler presents the first chapter.

Who’s it for?

This is pretty safely in the all-ages category with pre-teen boys being the main target.

12. DISNEY DESCENDANTS

Descendents
Tokyopop

What is it?

Descendants is the surprise made-for-Disney Jr. hit movie about the teenage children of Disney villains like Maleficent and the Evil Queen who are sent to prep school with all the “good” children of characters like Belle and Sleeping Beauty. The manga adaption of the movie from TokyoPop is excerpted here in the FCBD sampler.

Who’s it for?
If you have a daughter in the 6-12 age range they probably already know about Descendants and will want to read this.

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Hulton Archive (left), Bruno Vincent (right) // Getty Images
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History
How Superman Helped Foil the KKK
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Hulton Archive (left), Bruno Vincent (right) // Getty Images

The Klansmen were furious.

Dozens of them had congregated in a nondescript room in Atlanta, shaking cloaked heads at the worrisome news that their sect leader had just shared: An act of gross subterfuge had transpired over the airwaves. Millions of Americans had now become privy to their policies, their rankings, their closely guarded methods of organized hatred.

All of it fodder for some comic book radio show. Their mission had been compromised, sacrificed at the altar of popular culture. Kids, one Klansman sighed. His kids were in the streets playing Superman vs. the Klan. Some of them tied red towels around their necks; others pranced around in white sheets. Their struggle for racial purity had been reduced to a recess role play.

Stetson Kennedy listened, doing his best to give off irate body language. He scowled. He nodded. He railed.

The covert activist waited patiently for the Klan to settle down. When they did, he would call radio journalists Walter Winchell and Drew Pearson, offering the results of his infiltration into the group for public consumption.

He’d also contact Robert Maxwell, producer of the Superman radio serial. Maxwell, eager to aid the humanitarian mission of the Anti-Defamation League, would promptly insert the leaked information into his show’s scripts. In between fisticuffs, his cast would mock the KKK’s infrastructure, and the group’s loathsome attitudes would be rendered impotent by the juvenilia.

The Klan roared, demanding revenge on their traitor. “Show me the rat,” their leader said, “and I’ll show you some action.”

Kennedy cheered, just as they all did.

And when he returned home, his Klan robe would be traded for a cape.

The cover to the first issue of Superman
Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Kennedy, born in 1916, was an unlikely undercover operative. After a back injury kept him out of World War II, the Jacksonville, Florida native decided he wanted to combat anti-American forces on the home front. With Klan members alleged to have assaulted his family’s black maid when he was a child, the Klan—once again gathering steam in an era of segregation and racial divisiveness—was a favored target.

Having convinced a “Klavern” in Atlanta, Georgia that he shared their bigoted views, Kennedy donned the ominous attire of a Klansman, attended cross burnings, and covertly collected information about the group that he would then share with law enforcement and media. Radio journalist Drew Pearson would read the names and minutes of their meetings on air, exposing their guarded dialogues.

Revealing their closed-door sessions was a blow—one that Kennedy didn’t necessarily have to confine to nonfiction. In 1946, Maxwell, who produced the Superman radio serial broadcast around the country, embraced Kennedy’s idea to contribute to a narrative that had Superman scolding the racial divisiveness of the Klan and airing their dirty laundry to an enraptured audience.

“The law offices, state, county, FBI, House Un-American Activities Committee, they were all sympathetic with the Klan,” Kennedy said later. “The lawmen were, ideologically at least, close with the Klansmen. The court of public opinion was all that was left.”

Ostensibly aimed at children, Superman’s daily radio dramas were often broadcast to assembled nuclear families; one phone poll showed that 35 percent of its audience was composed of adults.

But regardless of whether parents listened, the activist believed the younger demographic was worth attending to. “Even back in the ’40s, they had kids in the Klan, little girls dressed up in Klan robes at the cross burnings," Kennedy said. "I have photos of an infant in a cradle with a complete Klan robe on. It seemed like a good place to do some educating.” 

In “Clan of the Fiery Cross,” a 16-part serial airing in June and July of 1946, Superman opposes an organized group of hatemongers who target one of Jimmy Olsen’s friends. Exploring their network, Clark Kent uncovers their secret meetings and policies before his alter ego socks the “Grand Scorpion” in the jaw. The idea, Kennedy wrote in his account of his work, The Klan Unmasked, was to made a mockery of their overblown vernacular.

When traveling, for example, Klansmen might identify one another by asking if they “knew Mr. Ayak,” an acronym for “Are You a Klansman?” Although Kennedy may not have actually shared their code words on air—a longstanding myth that was debunked in Rick Bowers’s 2012 book, Superman vs. the KKK—their histrionics were perfect for dramatization in the breathless structure of a radio drama. Given shape by actors and sound effects, all the clubhouse tropes of the Klan seemed exceedingly silly.

The cover to the first issue of Superman
Hulton Archive/Getty Images

As Kennedy continued to serve up Klan secrets to Superman, he watched as Klan morale dipped and membership enrollment ebbed. Desperate, the Klan tried calling for a boycott of Kellogg’s, a new sponsor of the show, but racial intolerance was no match for the appetites of post-World War II homes. Rice Krispies and Corn Flakes remained breakfast table staples, and Superman’s battles with the close-minded continued. Emboldened by his success against the Klan, Superman took aim at Communism, a favorite target of the show’s anti-Red star, Bud Collyer.

Kennedy would go on to burden the Klan using proof of uncollected tax liens, and eventually convinced the state of Georgia to revoke their national corporate charter.

Kennedy died in 2011 at the age of 94. While some of his accounts of subterfuge in the Klan later came under fire for being embellished, his bravery in swimming with the sharks of the organization is undeniable. So, too, was his wisdom in utilizing American iconography to suffocate prejudice. Fictional or not, Superman may have done more to stifle the Klan’s postwar momentum than many real people who merely stood by and watched.

Portions of this article were excerpted from Superman vs. Hollywood: How Fiendish Producers, Devious Directors, and Warring Writers Grounded an American Icon by Jake Rossen with permission from Chicago Review Press. Copyright (c) 2008. All Rights Reserved.

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7 Engaging Facts About Goofus and Gallant
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Courtesy of Highlights for Children

For well over 60 years, the preadolescent readers of Highlights for Children magazine have gotten regular lessons in morality from Goofus and Gallant, a pair of kids of indeterminate age and relation who offer sharp contrasts in behavior. Gallant is prone to exhibiting perfect manners; Goofus is selfish, thoughtless, and has even been seen torturing small animals. (Honest: He has stoned birds and once subjected a frog to some disturbing cruelty.)

The two-panel strip has become so ubiquitous that warring ideologies are often described as “Goofus and Gallant” types. If you’ve ever wondered whether there’s more to Gallant than being a goody two-shoes or whether Goofus is flirting with juvenile delinquency, check out our round-up of the pair’s storied history.

1. THEY USED TO BE ELVES.

Goofus and Gallant

Goofus and Gallant were the creation of Garry Cleveland Myers, a child psychologist and popular syndicated parental advice columnist. Myers debuted the strip, then known as the The G-Twins, in Children’s Activities magazine in 1938. While the twosome were already displaying their radically different approaches to life, Myers depicted them as fanciful creatures with pointed ears and curly-toed shoes. No one is quite sure why Myers opted for the fairy tale aesthetic, although one theory is that he wanted to depict bad behavior rather than bad children.

After Myers and wife Caroline started Highlights for six- to 12-year-old readers in 1946, they were eventually able to acquire the rights to the strip. Goofus and Gallant debuted in their magazine in 1948; by 1952, they had morphed into two regular kids. Their parents lost the elf ears, too.

2. THEY MAY HAVE BEEN BASED ON REAL KIDS.

Highlights turned into a family enterprise, with the Myers’s children and grandchildren having a hand in its publication. In 1995, Kent Brown Jr., the Myers’s grandson, told the Los Angeles Times that he was the inspiration for Goofus and that his cousin, Garry Myers III, was the model for Gallant. Myers III denied the accusation. “Kent gets great glee out of claiming to be Goofus," he said. Brown later stated that all of Myers's 13 grandchildren helped inform the characters.

3. ONE ARTIST DREW THE STRIP FOR 32 YEARS.

Goofus and Gallant

Once Myers secured the rights to the two characters for Highlights, he enlisted illustrator Marion Hull Hammel to draw their adventures (and misadventures), taking them from the elfin creatures of the early days to the human boys of the 1950s and beyond. Hammel wound up drawing it for 32 years; Sidney Quinn took over when she retired and worked on it through 1995. Current artist Leslie Harrington has been on the strip since 2006. 

4. GALLANT GETS HATE MAIL.

While the recurring theme of Goofus and Gallant is to exercise the Golden Rule, not all juvenile readers are on board with Gallant’s impeccable manners. "I got a letter from an attorney who'd grown up with the feature," Rich Wallace, the magazine's then-coordinating editor, told the Los Angeles Times in 1995. “He had something he wanted to get off his chest: 'Gallant was a wussy.'" Other readers have expressed similar disdain for Gallant, observing that they identify more with Goofus.

5. GOOFUS IS NOT A SOCIOPATH.

Goofus and Gallant

In the absence of any in-panel clinical diagnosis of Goofus’s reckless behavior—including but not limited to playing with fire, being unkind to peers, and vandalizing school books—we’re left with the editorial directives of Highlights. In a 1993 interview with the Chicago Tribune, magazine publicist Tom White admitted that Goofus is a “surly, uncooperative, ill-mannered child” but that "he is not a sociopath.” Good to know!

6. THEY’VE BEEN FEATURED IN ROUGHLY A BILLION ISSUES.

Discounting the two years they were absent from Highlights from 1946 to 1948, the antics of Goofus and Gallant have appeared without fail in every subsequent issue. In 2006, the magazine celebrated its 60th anniversary by shipping its one billionth copy. The magazine went from selling 20,000 copies of its first issue to averaging 2.6 million readers a month in the 1990s.

7. ONE EDITOR’S THEORY WILL BLOW YOUR MIND.

Goofus and Gallant

When Goofus and Gallant began their broadly-drawn moral plays in the 1950s, they were depicted as identical twins. Later on, editors for Highlights indicated the two were brothers, but not twins. By 1995, they were simply two unrelated boys. But according to former coordinating editor Rich Wallace, the two might actually be part of a Fight Club-style twist. “I’ve theorized they’re two sides of the same kid,” he said.

We were so awed by this possibility that we asked Highlights editor Judy Burke if it held any water. "We show the boys with different parents in the panels and they look slightly different from each other," she says. More recently, the two have seemed to become aware of the other's existence. "In April 2016, we had them breaking through their respective art panels and pranking each other for April Fools’ Day, which they couldn’t have done if they were the same child."

That doesn't mean that readers can't have an existential crisis of their own. "Each time we run Goofus and Gallant, we include the line, 'There’s some of Goofus and Gallant in us all,'" Burke says. "When the Gallant shines through, we show our best self.  We also include a few 'Goofus and Gallant Moments' from kids, where they tell us about times when they felt like either Goofus or Gallant. These two aspects of the feature support the theory that both characters reside within the same individual, and it’s up to that person to choose how to behave."

All images courtesy of Highlights for Children and used with permission.

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