July 23, 2024

The Phoenix, progressive comicism

I am an avid buyer of books and comics for my children. I’ve always been interested in getting them interested in reading as a medium for exploring emotions, interests, laughs and whatever else. I remember reading a letter early on from one of the headmaster’s of their schools, that they encourage reading early on, because one you can read you can begin to teach yourself and it becomes to much easier to learn everything else. Reading is the bedrock of all other learning.

I know there has always been this comics v graphic novels v books debate, but in my mind it doesn’t have to be one or the other. I used to, to the dismay of my tidy wife, buy tonnes of books, some new, plenty second hand (including piles and piles of books that I’d mop up for almost free from second hand book sales, school fayres and whatnot) and just pile them up in the living room. The kids would love it, they’d be there sat in the middle of it, dipping in here, dipping in there, totally absorbd.

And with ebay you can get hold of so many title for relatively little money – and get really good bulk buy deals here and there.

Whilst in this vein, it was some years ago, that I thought it would be pretty cool to introduce my young children to manga cartoons, which I always thought, had the best looking covers and pictures and design. I remember ending up in one of those cool bookshops in Soho, scanning through everything they had, but eventually coming across Bunny v Monkey, by Jamie Smart, which immediately struck me as being the perfect manga comic for the younger reader.

My kids were utterly absorbed by it, I read the entire comic to them, on the bed, in one sitting. I was as much absorbed by it as them – the humour of the comic did stuff for them and for me, like Asterix, and just like Asterix, I always feel that children are a lot more into a comic, when they can see that it is giving their parent, who is reading it to them, something to enjoy too.

But anyway, having greatly enjoyed Bunny v Monkey, I decided to look Jamie Smart up online, and found that Bunny v Monkey, was one of the comic strips in the Phoenix comic, which I immediately subscribed the kids too. Once it started coming through the post, I was immediately amazed by the content in the comic. It was a mixture of fabulously funny comics like Bunny v Monkey and Gary’s Garden, and great storylines like Mega Robo Bros, and stuff for younger kids, which my kids liked, but I didn’t like so much. But the story lines were often taking in characters of different ethnicities, genders, ages, religions and sexualities. I had never seen anything like it in comic land, something that gently reformulated the heteronormative male focus of things like the Beano, Dandy etc and their female equivalents. Here was a comic, which arguably, had (more) of a gender balance.

There’s much more to say.


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