Sunday, March 2, 2008

How to create a 4-year-old superhero

Now that Peter's a huge 4-year-old, he's old enough for me to begin the process of firmly warping his mind and showing him there's more to pop culture than Bob the Builder and The Go Show. Yes, it's time for superhero action!

PhotobucketMy vast comic library has been held in reserve for this purpose. However, the tricky part is finding comics a 4-year-old will actually be into. I wish I had more of the Carl Barks Duck comics or old Harvey comics or Jeff Smith's Bone, but alas I don't and they aren't cheap or easy to come by down under. If I read my kid the latest issue of say, Thunderbolts or Ex Machina, much as I enjoy it it'd probably warp his mind a bit (er, comics really aren't for kids so much these days, are they?).

Which is where the phone books come in. I've been on a tear collecting the DC Comics Showcase Presents and Marvel Essential black-and-white reprint 'phone books', finding them pretty much the best bang for your comic-buying book you can get -- 500+ pages of classic comic goodness for the equivalent of 3-4 current comics in price. Not too shabby. I've probably got over 30 of these things by now, from classics like Superman and Batman to less-known but sometimes even better stuff like Enemy Ace, The Defenders and The Unknown Soldier. Not every one of these is appropriate for a 4-year-old, but a lot of that awesome "Silver Age" (1950s-60s) stuff is just great for an aspiring superhero geek. Last night we read tales of The Flash, fastest man alive, and his foes Captain Cold and the slowest man alive, Turtle Man (not surprisingly, a fairly ineffectual villain, that one). Peter loves 'em, and now he also wants me to read him lots of "Iron Man" comics (we saw the trailer for the fab looking new movie on YouTube the other day). Peter is also hugely into my Tintin collections, which is grand.

I've always hated those who acted like reading comics were some pitfall on the way to becoming literate, a sidetrack that leads into gum-chewing idiocy. I cut my reading teeth on comics and today read everything from John Updike to Paul Auster to Shakespeare -- plus Iron Man. Yeah, I know we've got everything from PlayStation to iPod these days, but a good old story still fires up the imagination furnace like nothing else quite can. And anything that does that is a great thing in my book.

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