Howdy! This page is part of a guide to comic books recommended for younger readers (along with some stuff their parents might like as well. This page covers the letter "S." Other books are linked to below.

So, come celebrate that groovy, geeky, magical medium that we all grew up on... and share that special sense of wonder with someone smaller and newer than you. By the way, this is a work in progress, and your recommendations are always welcome... )








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"Sidekicks"
Written & Illustrated by Dan Santat
(Arthur A. Levine Books, 2011)

A funny and delightfully kid-friendly superhero graphic novel, chronicling the exploits of a quartet of powerful but nebbish-y super-animals who all happen to be the pets of Captain Amazing, a Superman-like, semi-indestructible mystery man who has one weakness: his peanut allergy. The animals all have great characters, each distinctive and believable, and each with their own strengths and flaws. The artwork is great and the story flows quickly along, with many hilarious moments. My kid loved this book... I did, too! Perfect for fans of "Mega Mind" or "Penguins Of Madagascar"... You also might want to check out Santat's equally wonderful picture-book, Oh No! (A)


"Smile"
Written & Illustrated by Raina Telgemeier
(Scholastic Books, 2010)

An outstanding autobiographical memoir about a middle-school age girl who undergoes years of painful dental work and learns to live with the social awkwardness and personal stresses that it creates. Author Raina Telgemeier may be familiar to many readers from her wonderful graphic novel adaptations of Ann Martin's "Babysitter Club" books, and she is a very skillful, subtle cartoonist. This book deals with a lot of complex issues, and nicely captures the tween/early teen emotional vibe. Although it explores some challenging themes, this is primarily a story about self-esteem, personal determination and staying cheerful even when life gives you lemons. The developing relationship between Raina and her mother is unexpectedly rich (A+)



"Spider-Man" -- see: Spider-Man profile


"Supergirl: DC Archives, v.1"
Written by Otto Binder, Jerry Siegel, et. al.
Illustrated by Jim Mooney, Curt Swan, et. al.
(DC Comics, 2001)

This first volume of adventures featuring the original, Silver Age Supergirl have plenty of fun moments, and that goofy, don't-take-it-too-seriously quality that makes the old DC books so enjoyable. There are some problems, though... I picked up this volume because I was looking for superhero "girl" role models for my daughter to enjoy, and while I appreciate the relatively nonviolent nature of the Supergirl stories, I did have problems with the underlying sexism of the series. For many months in the early episodes, Supergirl was hamstrung by her bossy older cousin, Superman, who tucks her away in an orphanage and tells her never to go out in public and use her powers. Oddly enough, this isn't to protect her from harm -- oh no, it's so that he can use her as a "secret weapon" against crime, a backup superheroine who will blow the minds of criminals when she's finally let out of the box. Thus, most of the early stories revolve around endlessly clumsy and utterly unnecessary plot devices employed so that Supergirl can sneak out and break her super-curfew. The only real reason for the character to be neutered this way is because the editors just weren't ready to have a "girl" be as strong as Superman; surely they could have come up with some way to make the stories more interesting without playing the same old hiding-her-true-identity trick over and over again. Still, even with the silly restrictions, Supergirl had her fun, and these late-vintage Silver Age stories are way more engaging than the sluggish super-comics of the '40s, and far less dark than the stuff we've been reading since the 1980s. In short, this era and these stories are an ideal introduction for newer, younger, more innocent comicbook readers. Covers stories from 1958-1960. Definitely recommended. (B+)


"Supergirl: DC Archives, v.2"
Written by Otto Binder, Jerry Siegel, et. al.
Illustrated by Jim Mooney, Curt Swan, et. al.
(DC Comics, 2004)

(B+)


"Supergirl: Cosmic Adventures In The 8th Grade"
Written by Landry Q. Walker
Illustrated by Eric Jones
(DC Comics, 2009)

Wow, what a great comic for anyone (like me) searching for an intelligent, relatively nonviolent superhero comic with a positive female role model as the protagonist. Although this book is pitched at a slightly older age group ('tweens and teens) than my grade-school daughter, she absolutely loves this book. It's a funny, fast-paced, stylishly illustrated lampoon of the Superman/Supergirl mythos, starring a young extra-dimensional heroine (Kara) who gets marooned on Earth and has to learn how to "fit in" until her cousin Superman can figure out how to get her back home. Instead of a busty, anorexic bimbette (standard-issue superhero chick) this Supergirl is a gangly, socially challenged, self-conscious middle-schooler, a perfect stand-in for just about any young reader who's struggling with the social scene at school. This series (sadly, canceled) sits alongside a small number of titles that are ideal for younger readers who are new to comicbooks -- "Spider-Man Loves Mary Jane," "The Legion Of Superheros In The 31st Century," "Sentinel," "Franklin Richards Lab Rat," and a handful of others. These are all great books, and we desperately need good titles for new readers (especially for young girls) that aren't as gory, graphic, or as fetishistic as most mainstream comics have become. But why oh why do they all get canceled? Because the world sucks. Regardless, a few great books do come through, and this is definitely one of them. Trust me: snap it up while it's still in print. (A+)


"Superman - The Man Of Tomorrow: DC Archives, v.1"
(DC Comics, 2005)

There are about fourteen million-bazillion Superman-related books out there; for my money these stories are the most fun, especially for introducing little kids to the Superman mythos. These are prime Silver Age stories taken from the pages of Action Comics and Superman in the late-1950s, when Supes finally got into the full swing of the ultra-silly, comedic mode that many readers remember well. Earlier collections in the DC Archive series focussed relentlessly on presenting the Superman stories in chronological order, starting with his late 1930s/early '40s origins and working through the WWII and postwar era, where Superman fights an endless parade of cheap criminals and Axis spies. It took me a while to realize just how crude and dreadfully dull those super-early stories actually are, but while those older Archive titles are kind of unreadable, these ones from the 'Fifties are great fun. Science fiction stories galore, along with endless goofy schemes by Lois Lane to uncover his secret identity and one nutty "high concept" story idea after another... This era of DC storytelling was a delight, and it's nice that they finally skipped ahead to make these episodes available again after all these years. This volume covers 1958 to early 1959. (A)


"Superman - The Man Of Tomorrow: DC Archives, v.2"
(DC Comics, 2006)

Metropolis, 1959: more great, goofy adventures, with magnificently blocky artwork by Wayne Boring, who many consider the definitive Superman artist. Simpler comics from a more innocent time. (A)




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