Tech & Media

My Kid Loves Comics. Yours Could, Too!

Dec 3, 2012

My name is Erik, and I love comic books. I have a two-and-a-half-year-old daughter, L, and I'm kind of hoping she'll feel the same way.  Whether it's sports, singing or stamp-collecting, parents push their interests onto their kids. There's likely some complex, evolutionary reason, but it probably has something to do with the fact we want to share the things we love.

And I happen to love comic books.

When I was a kid, I had a superhero obsession bordering on unhealthy. Over the years, I developed a deeper appreciation for the entire medium—an art form that combines words and images to tell stories in ways film or literature can't. (I'll get into this more in another blog post, but for those who are interested, I highly recommend Scott McCloud's book, Understanding Comics. It's a great explanation about comics ... in the form of a comic.)

The thing is, there aren't too many people in my life who share this interest. My wife usually humours me, but she's only being polite when I rant about whatever comic thing it is that I'm ranting about that afternoon.

So when our daughter was born, I decided this was my one big chance to get somebody else in my house to be excited about downtown pilgrimages to comic shops.

Most people don't think comics are intended for the preschool set. This is silly when you think about it. Comics are PERFECT for wee ones. Not only is there this dynamic sense of action, but the balance between pictures and words can also help young readers fill in the blanks. Of the hundreds of picture books my daughter and I have shared, I'm convinced quite a few are comics in disguise.

Take the Elephant and Piggie series by Mo Willems, for example. A huge hit in our house, it's well-drawn and cleverly funny, offering important empathy lessons without being eye-rollingly lame about it. Even better, it uses the visual language of comics, like speech balloons, sound effects and panels. The story lies just as much in the art as it does in the writing.

When we sit down with a "normal" book (meaning no speech balloons or SFX), I read the words while L looks at the pictures. When we hang out with Elephant and Piggie, we discuss everything on the page together. It has less than half the words of her other books, but takes three times longer to read.

My daughter loves this because it pushes back bedtime. I love it because I'm mentally flash-forwarding to her reading other comics. I'm imagining her face when I show her the comics I've already had artists sign for her. I'm wondering if she'll want to take French and Japanese lessons with me so we can read bandes dessinées and manga in their original languages. I'm debating how old she should be before we fly to San Diego for the big comic convention, or France for the cool one.

Granted, comics might not end up being L's thing. That's fine, too. I love this girl unconditionally. Besides, we'll still have a lot to discuss: vinyl records, old cartoons and video games... If you want to know more about comics or have any questions about comics, Erik is the go-to comics dad. Just write a comment on his blog post! 

Erik Missio used to live in Toronto, have longish hair and write about rock 'n' roll. He now lives in the suburbs, has no-ish hair and edits technical articles. He and his wife are collaborating on a two-and-a-half-year-old girl who may already be smarter than both of them. He received his MA in Journalism from the University of Western Ontario.

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