To the casual observer, my son is a lot like most other 6-year-old boys. He attends the first grade, where he’s learning how to read and how to identify that mysterious fluffy white stuff always used to represent “winter” in his science books. He’s also learning how to interact with his peers and how to avoid completely losing his composure when he encounters the word “but” on a spelling test.
However, those who know Ben well know that behind the freckles and snaggle-toothed grin hides a powerful superhero. When trouble strikes, he flips a secret switch on his special Dino-watch and transforms into a ferocious talking dinosaur named B-Rex. He roams the streets in search of bad guys, who he eats, and on the nights he fails to encounter any deserving prey, he ransacks Winn Dixie supermarkets in search of steak. That’s the way Ben explains it anyway.
I’ve come very close to meeting B-Rex on two occasions. Once, when I angered Ben by threatening to destroy his “Jurassic Park” DVD after he played it on repeat for an entire month, and he roared so loud I turned and ran, and another time, when I finally permitted him to order a steak at a restaurant. When I told the waitress that he likes his steaks cooked “medium,” he growled and quickly corrected me, telling her he likes his steaks cooked “large.” RAWR!
Recently Ben informed me and his father that he’d like to start reading comic books. We made a quick trip to FOS Comics at Government and Azalea, and after describing my son’s interests to store owner Daniel Westbrook, he quickly recommended the perfect series.
“Super Dinosaur” is a fairly new comic created by a pair of fathers who wanted something they could read with their children. The basic plot centers around a genetically and mechanically enhanced Tyrannosaurus Rex who was originally created by an evil genius who planned to use the powerful creature in his plot to take over the world. However, Super Dinosaur turned against his nefarious creator and joined forces with Derek Dynamo, an exceptionally bright 10-year-old boy. When the two aren’t fighting crime together, they spend their time hanging around the Dynamo Dome playing video games.
The recommendation couldn’t have been better and Ben was beyond delighted by his first few issues. As for me, I was thrilled to see him finally becoming enthusiastic about reading. While I do think children should be exposed to a wide variety of reading material, comic books are an excellent place to start as they increase vocabulary, expand the imagination, and encourage a passion for reading. Numerous studies have shown comic books provide substantial educational benefits to young readers and are often just as sophisticated as other types of literature.
According to Stephen Cary, learning expert and author of “Going Graphic,” comics motivate reluctant young readers. “Comics speak to students in a way they understand and identify with,” he writes. “Even after students learn to be strong readers, comics give them the opportunity to read material which combines images with text to express satire, symbolism, point of view, drama, puns and humor in ways not possible with text alone.”
I’m delighted to encourage my son’s new fascination and with any luck, perhaps his budding interest can develop into a lifelong hobby. To be honest, I don’t really want him to ever get a girlfriend anyway. (Kidding. Comic book fans are the coolest!)
FOS employee Ronnie Hayes remembers his introduction to comics very well. He fell in love with the Justice League and Avengers series as early as 1963 and he was hooked from the start. He says he has loved following the story lines of favorite characters throughout the decades and watching them grow and develop. Today he has over 34,000 comic books and says they have enriched his life greatly.
Store owner Daniel Westbrook has been a fan since he was 10, when his grandparents started bringing him comics they found at yard sales. It is difficult to miss the gleam in his eyes as he describes his favorite story lines, and he credits comic books with inspiring a lifelong love of reading.
Westbrook acknowledges that most of today’s comics are geared towards adults, but there has been a recent revival in children’s comics, with numerous publishers releasing quality material aimed at young readers. His store offers many age-appropriate selections for children, and he’s excited about the prospect of seeing more young fans (male and female!) showing an interest in his passion.
For the older reader, FOS has plenty of popular favorites as well as a good selection of local offerings. I’m very excited by the upcoming Inverse Press release of the “Last Ride for Horsemen” series, created by gifted writer Kevin LaPorte and illustrated by my talented artist pal Nathan Smith, both of Mobile.
The Steampunk style series, based on the tale of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, will begin with the introduction of the “Famine”-inspired Plowman, a fearsome villain who wreaks havoc on a small Western town. The first book of the series should be available in the coming weeks and I’ve heard enough to know it should be a treat.
If you’re interested in getting your kids (or yourself!) started in the exciting world of comic books, FOS will be holding their annual Halloween ComicFest on Oct. 26, from 9 a.m. until 7 p.m. They will have free comic books available as well as a costume contest with a cash prize, and the Grand Masonic Lodge of Alabama will be sponsoring a free Child ID Program.
As a special treat, a team of local artists (including Nathan Smith) will be in the store creating themed “art jam” pieces in front of the crowd. The finished collaborations will be sold to raise money for the Abba Shrines charity.
Don’t miss it! That would be dumber than standing between B-Rex and a large steak.