An education in comics

So my son has discovered my comic book stash.

Yes, I have a comic book stash.

It’s even bagged-and-boarded in those long cardboard boxes you get from the comics store. I’m that kind of geeky.

I have no problem with him reading my comics. In fact, I’m a big believer in the idea that a good story is a good story no matter the medium. I even bought him the complete set of “Bone” for his birthday.

Except, well, some of the comics I used to read were … not kid-friendly. Because I used to not have kids.

“Sandman”? Not for kids. “The Dark Knight Returns”? So not for kids. “Miracleman”? Absolutely not no way.

So I’ve had to sneak into my own stash and sneak out the titles I really didn’t want him reading.

At the NJSCBWI conference last month, I chatted with Steve Meltzer – associate editor/exec managing editor at Dutton Children’s Books, Dial Books for Young Readers and Celebra Children’s Books, and incidentally, super nice guy – on this same topic, since it had come up in the workshop he gave on how humor has changed in picture books. He brought up “The Stinky Cheese Man and Other Fairly Stupid Tales,” and I admitted during the workshop that I’d tried to hide that book when it was given to us, on the grounds that my kids didn’t know the real versions of the stories yet.

(Side note: They found it anyway, and laughed hysterically at it, and I’m still not sure they know how “The Little Red Hen” is supposed to go.)

Meltzer’s point was, you have to let the kids discover books for themselves, even when those books are parody, or age-inappropriate. He’s right, of course. I routinely stole my father’s books when I was a kid, because I’d run out of things to read, and that was how I developed a love for science fiction, fantasy and horror. All Dad’s fault, really.

But there’s a level of violence in those hidden comics that as a mom, I’m not comfortable with. (Funny how your standards change when you become a parent.) So I’m not un-hiding those comics yet.

Fortunately, my son also likes comic strips. Which is why he just devoured his way through my complete set of “Calvin and Hobbes.” And promptly tried to build a transmogrifier. Much more entertaining for both of us.

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