21 November 2011

From Matt . . . On Comics

Matt reads some things to Isaac that they have really connected with as only a father and son can, so I asked him to write about them . . . here is the first.

I collected comics when I was a young teen.  Where my buddy Don would read more traditional books like "Wolverine," "Punisher," and "Power Pack," I preferred "The Nam," "Groo the Wanderer," and "The Further Adventures of Indiana Jones."  I collected whatever I could get my hands on even if I didn’t read them because I liked the art, the characters, and the ads aimed at 12 year old boys promising a bounty of riches if I became my own boss and sold “Grit” magazine door to door.

The major comic book labels realize the importance of developing brand loyalty early and have been aiming toys, comics, and video games at younger and younger children. Usually Isaac enjoys them, but they are pretty awkward. (Kid versions of "Hulk" and "Wolverine" on a playground with a childish version of “Abomination?”) 

Last year when I was out of town at a conference, I stopped by a comic book shop near the hotel to pick up some goodies for Isaac and a copy of the recently published “Emma” for Nancy.  I asked the clerk if there was anything new for young boys and he pointed me to a comic that had just been printed for the first time that week called “Axe Cop."

It is written by five year old, Malachai Nicolle and illustrated by his 29 year old brother Ethan.  It had existed as a web comic for a while, but made the move to print last year for a three issue run. 

Reading the books is like listening to a child who has just eaten an entire box of Count Chocula tell you the story of what he dreamed last night.  The stories involve Axe Cop and his team of friends including Uni Baby, Sockarang, and Wexter (Isaac's favorite), his flying dinosaur with robot machine gun arms.  New good guys join the team, though, whenever Malachai thinks of them. Axe Cop’s team usually fights against bad guys which can include ninjas, robots, vampires, zombies, poop monsters, sharks or any combination.  Jesus, the devil, the Queen of England, Abe Lincoln, and Army Chihuahua all make cameos in the stories from time to time.

One of the things that I love about Axe Cop is that any character can change allegiances between good and evil two or three times in any given story.  A character’s powers change as they die, come back to life, have a spell cast on them, or get blood on them from decapitating a bad guy. 

There is violence in these books, but it is so absurdly over the top, that I never feel like it is going to scare Isaac.  On the contrary, these books take the things that would normally fascinate but scare a child and make them funny.  Malachai’s imagination seems to know no limit, a characteristic that I would encourage in any child. 

We often tell kids that they can grow up and do anything that they want.  After reading "Axe Cop," Isaac knows that even a kid his own age can create stories and worlds that other people want to read about.

I encourage parents to take their kids to a comic book store and see what is available. It can be daunting walking in for the first time, but most of the clerks are knowledgeable, friendly, and are more than willing to point you in the right direction to find something that you and your child will both enjoy.  The owner of our local store, Acme Comics, actually saved the last copy of "Axe Cop" behind the counter for us when it looked like it was going to sell out. 

I close with one Axe Cop’s prayers. “Dear God, Why did you make sharks evil? I would like them to be on my team.” 

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