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Art Baltazar/DC Comics
Art Baltazar/DC Comics

10 More Great Kids' Comics for Early Readers

Art Baltazar/DC Comics
Art Baltazar/DC Comics

Earlier this year, we created a list of 10 great comics and graphic novels for early readers. Narrowing down that initial list was so difficult, we decided to give you 10 more. Once again, we're focusing on graphic novels that are appropriate for readers aged 5-8 (grades K-2), but we've also added a few that are great for more confident and advanced readers.

1. SUPERMAN FAMILY ADVENTURES

If you loved Art Baltazar and Franco Aureliani’s Tiny Titans (which was included in our first early readers list), you’ll also enjoy their more recent series which focuses on Superman and his extended family of supporting characters like Supergirl, Superboy, Jimmy Olsen, and all the super-pets (Krypto the super dog, Beppo the super-monkey, etc.). The two big superhero publishers, Marvel and DC, do not make a lot of comics for readers under 13, but this is Baltazar and Aureliani's speciality. Kids and parents alike can get into their super-cute art style and playful stories that riff on classic Superman lore.

Difficulty: Ages 6 and up. These books are pretty easy reads, though it sometimes requires a healthy knowledge of Superman's history to get all the jokes.

Content: Unlike today’s regular superhero comics, the super-heroism here is pretty harmless and fun. Superman may punch a robot or two, but that’s about as violent as it gets.

Where to Start: There are nine volumes of books in this series and you can easily start at any of them. Volume 1 is a fine place to begin, but if your kid likes animals, you may want to jump straight to the Super-pets volume.

Buy it here.

2. GLORKIAN WARRIOR

Cartoonist James Kochalka is well-known by indie comics fans for his influential diary webcomic American Elf, and kids comic fans will know him for his SpongeBob Freestyle Funnies comics. Glorkian Warrior is a three-volume comic series based on a character he created for an iOS app game. It’s an incredibly silly story about the not-so bright Glorkian Warrior and his little companion Super Backpack. There are jokes about eyeballs, butts, and grandmas, showing that Kochalka knows exactly how to make a little kid giggle uncontrollably.

Difficulty: Ages 5 and up. This is an easy and fun read for most new readers. It may not be the most challenging book, but kids will read it again and again for its humor.

Content: A good amount of butt and fart jokes here, but it's all just silly fun.

Where to Start: There are two volumes of Glorkian Warrior available so far. My own kids seemed to get their heartiest laughs from volume 2, Glorkian Warrior Eats Adventure Pie, but the first volume, Glorkian Warrior Delivers a Pizza, is where it all starts.

Buy it here.

3. FLOP TO THE TOP

Husband and wife cartoonists Eleanor Davis and Drew Weing collaborate on both the writing and art for this wonderful new edition to Toon Books’ library of graphic novels for young readers. Wanda is a young girl who is obsessed with becoming famous. One day, her selfie becomes an Internet sensation, but it is because of her droopy-faced dog, not her. Wanda ends up learning a valuable lesson about what’s really important in life.

Difficulty: Ages 5 and up. This is a nice transitional option from picture books to graphic novels thanks to the style of the artwork that makes it look like a classic Golden Book—albeit one with a plot that hinges on social media.

Content: There’s a great message here, and it features a cute dog and a hilarious concept that parents and kids will appreciate.

Where to Start: This is a single-volume graphic novel, but it’s worth checking out other books in Toon Books’ library.

Buy it here.

4. ODD DUCK

Cecil Castelluci and Sara Varon’s charming story about a duck named Theodora and her odd neighbor Chad teaches an important lesson about appreciating your friends for their uniqueness. Varon (who has a number of other kids' graphic novels to her name) has a wonderfully pleasant drawing style that uses fun little descriptions and word balloons to lead young readers' eyes across the page much like individual comic book panels.

Difficulty: Ages 6 and up. This is another one that reads like a picture book-comic hybrid.

Content: There’s nothing anyone could object to here. Just a sweet little story about individualism.

Where to Start: This is also a single volume graphic novel.

Buy it here.

5. MONSTER ON THE HILL

In Rob Harrell’s Monster on the Hill, villagers treat the local monsters that terrorize them as beloved tourist attractions. One town, however, has an embarrassingly pathetic monster named Rayburn who just can’t seem to scare anyone. A young boy and an old scientist take it upon themselves to help mopey Rayburn rediscover himself and learn how to be a monster again.

Difficulty: Ages 6 and up. This is a little wordier than some of the others and clocks in at nearly 200 pages. Also, some of the characters' dialogue is written in faux-cockney with improper spelling that might throw some kids off.

Content: Although there are monsters and some of them are supposed to be scary, Harrell draws it all in a fun and colorful way.

Where to Start: This is the first volume in a proposed series, but so far it's the only one to have been released.

Buy it here.

[The following five choices are for young readers who might be ready to explore above their age range.]

6. YOTSUBA

There’s a whole world of Japanese manga for young readers to explore, although finding quality, age-appropriate material can be challenging. Plus, keep in mind that manga must be read back-to-front and right-to-left, so you may want to wait until your early reader has enough confidence before you blow their minds with a whole new reading style. Most kids will get a kick out of the challenge, though.

One great manga option is the popular Yotsuba series about a 5-year-old girl and her single dad who move to a new neighborhood and befriend a trio of sisters who live next door. Everything is a brand new experience for little Yotsuba as she goes around discovering stuff like playground swings and fishing with the verve of an alien exploring a new planet.

Difficulty: Ages 6 and up. However, keep in mind the reading orientation of Japanese manga will throw off some kids.

Content: 5-year-old Yotsuba is given a lot of freedom by her hands-off dad to wander on her own, which can make helicopter parents like myself sweat. There are definitely some cultural differences to take into account for Western readers, and some American readers have been a little weirded out that this series was originally published in a Japanese men’s magazine. That said, it’s all very innocent and kids will love it.

Where to Start: There are a number of volumes in this series, but Volume 1 will give you a proper introduction to the characters.

Buy it here.

7. BONE

If comics had their own Harry Potter, it would be Jeff Smith’s Bone series. This epic adventure about a little bone-shaped guy named Fone Bone and his two cousins is full of magic, strange creatures, and a lovable hero. Originally self-published in black-and-white, it became so popular when Scholastic began reprinting it in the early 2000s that they built a whole new graphic novel publishing line around it. Bone is truly one of the greatest comics ever made and it has massive all-ages appeal.

Difficulty: The reading level on this one is technically 11 and up, but younger readers should be able to enjoy the early volumes with a little effort.

Content: Like Harry Potter, this gets a little darker in the later volumes. Even though the artwork is very cartoony, the rat creatures (the bad guys of this book) can be creepy and some of the action and the stakes involved can get intense.

Where to Start: There are nine volumes to this saga as well as multiple editions that break up and package the same big story in different formats, including two separate complete editions (one in black and white and one in color). Start with Bone Vol.1: Out from Boneville, which is an affordable, 144-page book (in color).

Buy it here.

8. SISTERS

Raina Telgemeier is the most popular graphic novelist among “tween-age” girls right now thanks to her smash hit Smile and her run adapting the Baby-Sitters Club novels. Her books are so good that younger readers like my own daughters devour them despite the fact that they're mostly about high-school drama.

Her newest book Sisters may be the most age-appropriate of her body of work for early readers. It’s a memoir about her relationship with her younger sister, focusing on an eventful road trip she took one summer with her family. Readers with siblings will see themselves in all the squabbling and will enjoy the sense of humor with which Telgemeier talks about herself and her childhood.

Difficulty: Ages 8 and up—not too far from the early reader age group, really.

Content: In addition to the realistic portrayal of sibling fighting, there is some marital tension between the parents that is mostly hinted at but made more overt at the end. Also, a number of family pets end up dying (but to comedic effect).

Where to Start: This is a single graphic novel, but it's a good gateway to Telgemeier’s work. If your young reader likes this, they will probably love Smile.

Buy it here.

9. EL DEAFO

Cece Bell’s memoir about growing up deaf is funny, heartwarming, and remarkably relatable. Winner of 2015’s prestigious Newbery Honor, El Deafo is an informative look at what it's like to live with a disability. What makes it great is Bell’s likability and strength, and the way she turns her hearing loss into a “superpower”, making her a true role model for kids with disabilities.

Difficulty: Ages 8 and up. Once again, not too far from our target reading age. My own daughter was obsessed with this book at age 5 when she was just making her first attempts at learning how to read. However, at nearly 250 pages, it is a long book.

Content: There’s a little bit about crushing on boys but nothing that parents will find offensive.

Where to Start: This is one complete graphic novel.

Buy it here.

10. SECRET CODERS

Gene Luen Yang and Mike Holmes have created a new graphic novel series called Secret Coders that aims to teach the basics of computer programming through an engaging story set in a Harry Potter-ish academy full of odd mysteries. Yang is the award-winning author of graphic novels like American Born Chinese and is currently the writer for DC’s Superman. He also used to teach computer science and recently wrote an article for us on how to encourage your kids to learn computer programming.

Difficulty: Ages 8 and up. The most difficult part of this may not be the reading, but grasping the binary logic.

Content: The main character, Hopper, experiences some mother-daughter tension that boils over at one point.

Where to Start: This is the first in a new multi-volume series. Volume 1 hit stores this past September.

Buy it here.

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Mad Magazine
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Lists
12 Things You Might Not Know About MAD Magazine
Mad Magazine
Mad Magazine

As fast as popular culture could erect wholesome depictions of American life in comics, television, or movies, MAD Magazine was there to tear them all down. A near-instant success for EC Comics upon its debut in 1952, the magazine has inspired generations of comedians for its pioneering satirical attitude and tasteful booger jokes. This month, DC Entertainment is relaunching an "all new" MAD, skewering pop culture on a bimonthly basis and in full color. To fill the gaps in your knowledge, take a look at these facts about the Usual Gang of Idiots.

1. NO ONE KNOWS WHO CAME UP WITH ALFRED E. NEUMAN.


Jamie, Flickr (L) // Boston Public Library, Flickr (R) // CC BY 2.0

MAD creator Harvey Kurtzman was in the offices of a Ballantine Books editor discussing reprints for the fledging publication when he noticed a grinning, gap-toothed imbecile staring back at him from a bulletin board. The unnamed figure was ubiquitous in the early 20th century, appearing in everything from dentistry ads to depictions of diseases. A charmed Kurtzman adopted him as MAD’s mascot beginning in 1954. Neuman later become so recognizable that a letter was delivered from New Zealand to MAD’s New York offices without an address: the envelope simply had a drawing of Alfred.  

2. THEY HAD TO APOLOGIZE ALMOST IMMEDIATELY.

MAD was conceived during a particularly sensitive time for the comics industry, with parents and watchdog groups concerned over content. (It didn't switch to a magazine format until issue #24.) Kurtzman usually knew where the line was, but when he was laid up with acute hepatitis in 1952, publisher William Gaines and others had to step in for him. Gaines thought it would be funny to offer a fictional biography of himself that detailed his father’s Communist leanings, his past as a dope dealer “near nursery schools,” and bouts of pyromania. When wholesalers were shocked at the content and threatened to boycott all of his titles, Gaines was forced to write a letter of apology.  

3. THEY PREDICTED JOHN F. KENNEDY'S ELECTION IN 1960.

But it was a cheat. In the run-up to the 1960 Presidential election, MAD printed a cover that featured Neuman congratulating Kennedy on his victory with a caption that read, “We were with you all the way, Jack!” But the issue was shipped long before votes had been tabulated. The secret? It was a dual cover. Flip it over and Neuman is celebrating Richard Nixon’s appointment to office. Stores were told to display the “right” side of the magazine depending on the outcome.

4. ALFRED BRIEFLY HAD A GIRLFRIEND.


MAD Magazine

A character named Moxie Cowznofski was introduced in the late 1950s as a female companion for Alfred. She made only a handful of cover appearances, possibly due to the fact she looked alarmingly like her significant other.

5. THEY DIDN'T RUN ANY (REAL) ADS FOR 44 YEARS.

From the beginning, Gaines felt that printing actual advertisements next to the products they were lampooning would not only dilute their edge but seem more than a little hypocritical. After some back-and-forth, MAD cut ads starting in 1957. The decision was a costly one—most print publications survive on such revenue—but led to the magazine’s keeping a sharp knife against the throat of seductive advertising, including cigarettes. Faced with dwindling circulation in 2001, Mad finally relented and began taking ads to help pay for a switch to color printing.

6. "SPY VS. SPY" WAS CREATED BY A SUSPECTED SPY.

Cuban cartoonist Antonio Prohias was disenchanted with the regime under Fidel Castro when he began working on what would become “Spy vs. Spy.” Because Prohias’ other newspaper illustrations were critical of Castro, the Cuban government suspected him of working for the CIA. He wasn’t, but the perception had him worried harm might come to his co-workers. To get out of the situation, Prohias came to America in 1960. With his daughter helping translate, he stopped by Mad’s New York offices and submitted his work: his sneaky, triangle-headed spies became regulars.

7. THERE WAS ONE FOLD-IN THEY WOULDN'T RUN.

Artist Al Jaffee, now 94, has been with Mad almost from the beginning. He created the famous Fold-In—the back cover that reveals a new picture when doubled over—in 1964 after seeing the fold-outs in magazines like National Geographic, Playboy, and Life. Jaffee has rarely missed an issue since—but editors backtracked on one of Jaffee’s works that referenced a mass shooting in 2013. Citing poor taste, they destroyed over 600,000 copies.  

8. THEIR MOVIE WAS A DISASTER.

With the exception of Fox’s successful sketch series, 1994’s MAD TV, attempts to translate the MAD brand into other media have been underwhelming: a 1974 animated special didn’t even make it on air. But a 1980 film venture, a military school spoof directed by Robert Downey, Sr. titled Mad Presents Up the Academy, was so awful William Gaines demanded to have their name taken off of it. (Renamed Up the Academy, the DVD release of the movie still features someone sporting an Alfred E. Neuman mask; Mad parodied it in a spoof titled “Throw Up the Academy.”)

9. THE APRIL 1974 COVER HAD PEOPLE FLIPPING.


MAD Magazine

MAD has never made a habit of good taste, but a depiction of a raised middle finger for one issue in the mid-’70s caused a huge stir. Many stores wouldn’t stock it for fear of offending customers, and the company ended up accepting an irregular number of returns. Gaines took to his typewriter to write a letter of apology. Again. The relaunched #1, out in April 2018, pays homage to this cover, though it's slightly more tasteful: Neuman is picking his nose with his middle finger.

10. THEY INVENTED A SPORT.

MAD writer Tom Koch was amused by the convoluted rules of sports and attempted to one-up them in 43-Man Squamish, a game he invented for the April 1965 issue. Koch and artist George Woodbridge (“MAD’s Athletic Council”) prepared a guide that was utterly incomprehensible—the field was to have five sides, positions included Deep Brooders and Dummies, “interfering with the Wicket Men” constituted a penalty—but it amused high school and college readers enough to try and mount their own games. (Short on players? Try 2-Man Squamish: “The rules are identical,” Koch wrote, “except the object of the game is to lose.”) For the less physically inclined, Mad also issued a board game in which the goal is to lose all of your money.  

11. WEIRD AL WAS A GUEST EDITOR.

In what must be some kind of fulfilled prophecy, lyrical satirist “Weird” Al Yankovic was named as a guest editor—their first—for the magazine’s May 2015 issue. Yankovic told Entertainment Weekly that MAD had put him on “the dark, twisted path to becoming who I am today … I needed to pollute my mind with that kind of stuff.” In addition to his collaborations with the staff, Yankovic enlisted Patton Oswalt, Seth Green, and Chris Hardwick to contribute.

12. FRED ASTAIRE ONCE DANCED AS ALFRED E. NEUMAN.

In a scene so surreal even MAD’s irreverent editors would have had trouble dreaming it up, Fred Astaire decided to sport an Alfred E. Neuman mask for a dance number in his 1959 television special, Another Evening with Fred Astaire. No one seems to recall why exactly Astaire would do this—he may have just wanted to include a popular cultural reference—but it was no off-the-cuff decision. Astaire hired movie make-up veteran John Chambers (Planet of the Apes) to craft a credible mask of Neuman. The result is … well, kind of disturbing. But it’s a fitting addition to a long tradition of people going completely MAD.

Additional Sources:
Harvey Kurtzman: The Man Who Created Mad and Revolutionized Humor in America.

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iStock
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science
Can You 'Hear' These Silent GIFs?
iStock
iStock

GIFs are silent—otherwise they wouldn't be GIFs. But some people claim to hear distinct noises accompanying certain clips. Check out the GIF below as an example: Do you hear a boom every time the structure hits the ground? If so, you may belong to the 20 to 30 percent of people who experience "visual-evoked auditory response," also known as vEAR.

Researchers from City University London recently published a paper online on the phenomenon in the journal Cortex, the British Psychological Society's Research Digest reports. For their study, they recruited more than 4000 volunteers and 126 paid participants and showed them 24 five-second video clips. Each clip lacked audio, but when asked how they rated the auditory sensation for each video on a scale of 0 to 5, 20 percent of the paid participants rated at least half the videos a 3 or more. The percentage was even higher for the volunteer group.

You can try out the researchers' survey yourself. It takes about 10 minutes.

The likelihood of visual-evoked auditory response, according to the researchers, directly relates to what the subject is looking at. "Some people hear what they see: Car indicator lights, flashing neon shop signs, and people's movements as they walk may all trigger an auditory sensation," they write in the study.

Images packed with meaning, like two cars colliding, are more likely to trigger the auditory illusion. But even more abstract images can produce the effect if they have high levels of something called "motion energy." Motion energy is what you see in the video above when the structure bounces and the camera shakes. It's why a video of a race car driving straight down a road might have less of an auditory impact than a clip of a flickering abstract pattern.

The researchers categorize vEAR as a type of synesthesia, a brain condition in which people's senses are combined. Those with synesthesia might "see" patterns when music plays or "taste" certain colors. Most synesthesia is rare, affecting just 4 percent of the population, but this new study suggests that "hearing motion synesthesia" is much more prevalent.

[h/t BPS Research Digest]

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