by Tracy Edmunds
Halloween is almost upon us! Did you know that many comic shops are giving away free Halloween comics? There are some great titles for younger readers, including Sesame Street, My Little Pony, and Sketch Monsters. Visit Halloween ComicFest for details and to find a participating comic shop near you.
Here are some more great spooky-cute comics and graphic novels for younger readers.
Patrick The Wolfboy by Art Baltazar and Franco (Blind Wolf Studios)
Before Tiny Titans, Itty Bitty Hellboy, and Aw Yeah! Comics, Art Baltazar and Franco created a little wolf boy named Patrick. He is a typical little boy, except that he “wolfs up” once in a while. The only word he knows is “RRARGH,” but his parents understand him. He chases his local squirrel, tortures the old lady next door (who he thinks is a witch), and interprets the world around him in his own little-boy way. Patrick reminds everyone of some little boy they know—overly curious, a little troublesome, and cute as heck. The short stories are giggle-inducing and sweet and the art is clean and fairly simple, which adds to the appeal. The cute quotient is very high here, from the way they number the pages (ate-teen), to photos of family and friends on the back covers.
Patrick appears in “Specials”—there are several Halloween Specials, Specials for most major holidays, Father’s Day and Wedding Specials, Sci-Fi, Rock-n-Roll, and Superhero Specials, and even an After-School Special. There are a few faux-swears, like “fricken,” “sunsa-bishus,” and “#@*@!!,” but if kids don’t know the real swears, they won’t get it.
Little Gloomy by Landry Walker and Eric Jones (Slave Labor Graphics)
Little Gloomy is the only “normal” person living in a world of monsters. She’s constantly getting into trouble and her friends, Larry (a werewolf), Carl (a chthulhu), and Frank (can you guess?), are always helping her out. There’s a friendly mummy who owns a bar and speaks in hieroglyphics, an unfriendly witch named Evey who has evil robot kitties, Gloomy’s spurned mad scientist boyfriend, Simon, and Shelley, the supposed-to-be-bride of Frank, who didn’t turn out as planned. For kids who like spooky, this is great stuff. Invisible men, a trip to mummy land, and a mysterious curse—what’s not to like? There are some semi-scary zombies and a soul-stealing pumpkin-head guy, though, so these books probably aren’t for tiny tots who are prone to nightmares.
Grumpy Old Monsters by Kevin J. Anderson and Rebecca Moestra (IDW):
Drac, Frank, the Invisible Man, the Mummy, the Wolfman, and all the other old-timers, now past their prime, are “living” at Rest In Peace, “a retirement care facility for mature monsters with special needs.” They’re falling apart—some of them literally—and have been forgotten by their once adoring public. Tiffany Frankenstein, granddaughter of the famous doc, arrives with bad news: Castle Frankenstein is about to be torn down by the evil Van Helsing Corporation to make way for luxury condos. Will the aging monsters overcome their own insecurities and the domineering Nurse Wrentch to help Tiffany take on Van Helsing?
Nothing even remotely scary here – just wonderful characters and bright, snappy art. It’s actually touching to see these old ghouls overcoming their self-doubts (kinda like a G-rated Bubba Ho-Tep). The story is easy to follow, even if the little ones don’t know what luxury condominiums are, and it all resolves nicely at the end.
Scary Godmother series by Jill Thompson (Sirius):
Hannah Marie, a cute-as-a-button little girl, is frightened by her older cousin, Jimmy, on Halloween. Who comes to the rescue? Why, her Scary Godmother, of course! She takes Hannah to the Fright Side to meet Mr. Pettibone, the skeleton in the closet, Harry the obnoxious werewolf, the royal vampire family, Max, Ruby and Orson, and Bug-A-Boo, the most loveable monster-under-the-bed you’ve ever seen. Scary Godmother has it all: tricks, treats (really, recipes and everything!), friendly monsters, touching friendships, high adventure, and lots of heart.
As a companion to reading Scary Godmother, check out the animated movies, The Scary Godmother Halloween Spooktacular and Scary Godmother 2: The Revenge of Jimmy. Instead of losing something in the translation from comic to animation, Jill’s characters really come to life. I’ve taken the animated voices with me—I hear them (and the theme music) very clearly when reading the books.
Magic Trixie has a problem; everyone loves her baby sister, Abby Cadabra, and no one is paying attention to Magic Trixie! On top of that, she has to come up with a “wow” for show and tell day at Monstersorri School to impress her friends; Loupe Garou, the sassy werewolf girl, Stitch Patch, the sweet Frankenstein’s monster, and Nefi, the beautiful mummy girl. When Magic Trixie finds a way to fix both problems at once, she learns that sometimes a change in attitude is the best remedy.
From the candy-hued watercolors, to the adorable characters, to the sweet and witty story, Magic Trixie is a delight all around. Magic Trixie herself is a very bright, mischievous bundle of energy with a knack for getting in trouble and her friends are cute, cuddly takes on classic monsters with personalities that could easily belong to real, live children. Elementary-aged kids will relate to Magic Trixie’s antics, her relationships with her friends, and the sometimes-complicated relationships in her family. MAGIC TRIXIE would be an excellent starting point for a social studies discussion of different types of families and relationships.
Little Vampire Goes To School and Little Vampire Does Kung Fu by Joann Sfar (Simon & Schuster): Little Vampire lives with his mom, dad, and assorted haunts and spooks in an old mansion on a hill. In Little Vampire Goes To School, his fondest wish is to go to school like other kids, and his parents reluctantly agree. Of course, there’s no one at school in the middle of the night, so Little Vampire strikes up a pen pal conversation with one of the daytime students, Michael, and a great friendship is soon formed. In Little Vampire Does Kung Fu, Michael and Little Vampire deal with a school bully, but not in the usual way!
Sfar has created some truly unique characters. There’s Phantomat, Little Vampire’s grumpy flying dog; his parents, the Captain of the Dead and Pandora, who have impressive parenting skills; Rabbi Solomon, the violin playing Kung Fu master who lives in a painting; Ophtamol, Claude, and Marguerite, a trio of odd monsters; and a group of truly bizarre magicians that live under the Luminous and Legendary Tree of Chinese Hanukkah.
The main characters, Little Vampire and Michael, are sweet and lovable, but they are also “real” kids. There’s none of the sugar-coating you get in most kids’ books—Sfar takes on weighty topics such as honesty, friendship, death, the existence of God, and the value of doing your own homework. The monsters act as sort of a Greek anti-chorus, voicing (and acting out) Michael’s emotions and impulses. There are morals to be learned and questions to be pondered, but they are embedded in such imaginative and unexpected stories that kids won’t notice that they’re learning and growing while they read.
While Little Vampire Goes To School is truly all ages, Little Vampire Does Kung Fu is probably just a shade too dark for the youngest or most fragile kids (“Ages 10 up” is printed on the back cover). There is a scene in Kung Fu where the monsters have eaten a little boy, then they spit out the pieces and sew them back together (don’t worry—it turns out OK in the end!).
Next week: Halloween Comics for Middle Grades