Why Comic Books Still Rock

My kids and I routinely wear dark glasses during 3-D movies, play MMOGs (massively multiplayer online games) and toy with the DVR remote like it’s a musical instrument. While these activites are fun to do together, there’s nothing quite so compelling and refreshingly old-school as a trip to the local comic book store. How comic books outlasted VHS tapes, Rubik’s Cube, Atari and Teen People are beyond me.

Last Saturday, one of my seven-year-old girls grabbed a “Muppet Show” comic off the shelf and thumbed it excitedly while the other perused a copy of “The Incredibles.” My son got sucked into “The Amulet,” a graphic novel for kids, while I picked up the latest chapter of the new fabulously-gory Green Lantern series, “Blackest Night.”

The owner of this particular comic book store was proud to offer a wide selection of comic books for young children. He was as happy to talk to my kids about Mike Kunkel’s wonderful neo-comic “Billy Batson and the Magic of Shazam!” as he was to chat with me about the comparatively cheap Saturday morning cartoon version I watched as a kid.

Once considered a negligible habit like chewing gum and skateboarding (and I’m basing this only on multiple viewings of Back to the Future), modern comics are often as sophisticated as chapter books. They’re even an effective bridge for hesitant readers. My wife, a 5th grade teacher, tells me some of her students learn war history from comic books. Those middle-schoolers may not have the option to choose electives in “World War II Heavy Artillery,” but any interest in history is a valuable interest.

Some may argue that reading the comic book version of “The Incredibles” is like attending an opera based on iCarly, but comics have a simple elegance regardless of content. For a visual learner, comic books work the imagination muscles as much as chapter books, if not more.

I’m happy to share an experience with my kids that doesn’t require batteries, plug-ins or adept trigger-fingers. Sure, we could go to a playground, but playgrounds aren’t air-conditioned.

Oh, and did I mention we left the store having spent less than 20 bucks? Try to do that with a 3-D movie. They don’t even let you keep the glasses.

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