by Meredith Flory

 

I have always loved science fiction books, movies, and television, but comics were not something I collected or that felt accessible to me as a kid.  I read old copies of my mom’s Archie comics when I was at my grandmother’s and the occasional collection of Calvin and Hobbes or Peanuts, but for a long time I only watched my favorite superheroes on the big screen or Saturday morning cartoons.  However, as an adult and an English teacher I began to look into graphic novels, picking up adult classics like The Watchmen to read and using newer memoirs like Maus and Persepolis in the classroom.  Then my daughter fell in love with Spider-Man and we decided it was time to get into the world of comics as a family. 

It can be overwhelming to start reading a series that has been around for over fifty years, or to enter into a genre where serious fans can be intimidating, but we have found that comic and nerd culture has been a creative way for our family to bond and spend time together, and it influences what we read, the entertainment in our home, and even trips and outings. 

One of the first outings we had around this new hobby was a mother-daughter date to Free Comic Book Day. Free Comic Book Day is an annual event the first weekend in May where comic book stores have special edition short comics available for free – allowing fans and those who want to try comics to get a sampling of all the different types out there.  There are always a few available that are age appropriate for children.  Augusta Book Exchange is one of the local stores that sells comics, gaming supplies, books and participates in the event.  Cosplay is encouraged for those participating, so I took a little Spider-Man in a tutu to collect comics for both of us to try.  She wanted to find Spidey comics, and one of the employees helped us locate some All Ages comics to purchase, and showed me how to find the suggested age range on the comic books.  I spoke with employees who shared that they will be participating again this year, Saturday May 4, and will have customer specials as well as showcases for local artists and writers.  For more information, check out freecomicbookday.com or the Augusta Book Exchange on Facebook.    

In addition to Free Comic Book Day, here are some ways to embrace being a geeky family throughout the year and raise comic book readers:

Podcast and YouTube Shows As I began to read comics, I realized that there was so much content both historically that as the genre grew, that I was going to need advice on what to read and look for.  I have recently found that there are a lot of YouTube and Podcasts devoted to giving synopsis of storylines or discussing comic book related topics.  Some of my personal favorites are New Rockstars, Only Stupid Answers, Comicstorian, Comics Explained, and DopeSpill Comics. Now, they are varied in appropriateness, language, and range of subjects and viewpoints discussed, so make sure to check descriptions or listen to an episode before deciding if you will listen alone or with your children.  I recently heard from a fellow military family that listening to Comicstorian was a way that they spent father-child time together.  Dad David Davis shared that, “Comicstorian has opened up opportunities for my kids and I to build on common ground. I get to introduce them to characters that I loved as a kid  and discuss the situations and scenarios they go through. Comics have often been a platform for discussing topics that no one really wants to address, like prejudice and PTSD as well as easier topics like teamwork and humor.” His kids shared that they love getting to spend this time with their dad and that Comicstorian does great voices and sound effects. 

Cosplay Cosplay is a hobby (and for some a profession) where people dress up as their favorite characters from science fiction and fantasy for events.  Many hobbyist make their own costumes, making it a way to enjoy artistic pursuits such as sewing, cosmetics, and 3-D printing. However, you do not need to be a seamstress to make it work; our family often pieces costumes together from thrift store finds.  Many events have costume contests, and as the hobby increases in popularity, this might include categories for youth or group entrees.  Many kids love to play dress-up naturally, so for crafty, imaginative children, cosplaying as a family can be a great way to connect.  My daughter has encouraged us to do family costumes at events, and we each placed in our age categories at a local May the 4th (Star Wars Day) event last year.  She and I are currently working on Captain Marvel and Goose the cat costumes for events this year.

Conventions and Vacations One of the events many families like to cosplay at are Comic Conventions.  Conventions are great ways to check out a variety of artists, actors, vendors, and businesses focused on the comic book genre.  Conventions might include both child friendly and adult only events or hours, and each should share that information on their website. Augusta now has it’s very own family friendly Con, happening in June. In 2018, the Augusta Toy and Comic Show debuted, and this is the perfect way to spend a weekend as a family “nerding out” over local comics vendors, watching artist’s competitions, and hearing from actors and industry insiders.  With parental admission, children under 12 are free, and there are costume contests with trophies and toy and comic giveaways on a first come first serve basis.  Check out their Facebook page or augustatoyandcomicsshow.com for more information and tickets. In addition to conventions, there are lots of museums, art exhibits, and other attractions like themed hotels, so for families that love science fiction, there’s an abundance of ways to incorporate your shared hobby into your next family vacation – that could be a whole other column! 

If comics become a large part of the reading that takes place in your household, there are a variety of ways to get your hands on comics.  Don’t underestimate the power of the library – as comics gain in popularity, more and more libraries have sections devoted to graphic novels and comic book compendiums.  Several comic book publishers, including Marvel, have streaming services where you can pay a monthly fee to have comics on your tablet.  This would work better for families with teens or for parents wanting to read, as I found the interfaces do not always have age filters or easy ways to search and use.  Finally, don’t forget to support your local comic book and gaming stores as these are great places to make the purchases you need and meet others with your family’s hobby in the area! 

This article appears in the May 2019 issue of Augusta Family Magazine.
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