Comics Should Be For Everyone

Gloria writes:

My 6 year old son, Bobby Jr., just got done reading Atomic Robo: Ghost of Station X (part 1). Tomorrow he is taking it to school to read it to his first grade class.

He is the most advanced reader the school has ever had (he is reading at a 5th grade level now). I started reading comics to him since he was 3, and now we both can’t get enough. Every year he goes as a comic book superhero for Halloween. And everyday he builds robots with LEGO.

It is because of the hard work of his teachers and I, and his extreme love of comic books that he has excelled. It is because of writers and artists like yourselves that we both want to read. The wanting makes all the difference.

Thank you Red 5 for making reading fun for my son. I am really grateful that we saw your booth at the Dallas Comic-Con earlier this year. Now we make sure to pick up any Red 5 issues we can find. Thank you again.

-A very proud mom.

Gloria was good enough to provide a camera for the reading. These pictures come care of her and Bobby Jr.’s teacher.


Bobby introduces the class Atomic Robo.


Bobby knows robots are cool. He has all of life figured out at age six.


A room full of first graders are thoroughly entertained by Atomic Robo and the Ghost of Station X #1.

I would just like to point out that Volume 6, Atomic Robo and the Ghost of Station X, is the darkest story we’ve told. Yet it’s still appropriate for children.

There aren’t even any action beats in this issue to hold their attention like in cartoons. The whole issue is talking! About half of that is fairly technical sci-fi babble. My god, there’s an obscure time travel joke and a discussion of one of the weirder implications of a technological Singularity.

In a comic book enjoyed by first graders!

In a comic book universally praised by adults.

Marvel? DC? You guys say you want new readers? I hope you’re paying attention.

  • http://costak.wordpress.com/ Costa K

    There’s more to life than robots? Since when?

  • http://www.nuklearpower.com Brian!

    Yes, but nothing worth knowing about.

  • Edward Liu

    There’s a phrase that Dave Campbell would use for things as awesome as this. What was it again?

    Oh, right. F*@% YEAH!” (http://daveslongbox.blogspot.com/2005/10/new-f-yeah-files.html)

    Except he was talking about comic books and this is talking about real life.

  • Brian

    I agree that this is a great way for kids to learn. I learned to read from comics books as well as videogames (role playing games had a lot of words back then). If I found a word I didn’t know my parents either told me or I looked it up if they didn’t know.

  • Scott!

    It really irks me that now, in the 5th Grade my daughter can no longer read the graphic novels that she loves and have it “count” towards the 40 minutes of reading she has to log for homework every night.

    Anya’s Ghost, Smile, Bone -how are these any less legit? Also, they deal with concepts and ideas way more mature than the crap in the books she’s reading for class. Like the vapid story of a girl who wants to dance . . .for angels. Ugh.

  • http://twitter.com/Jawiin Jason Inman

    That’s awesome! Molding young kids minds through particle physics and quantum theory through comic books is always a good thing!

  • Anonymous

    I shared this with my building.

    Power Pack, Spider-Man, Hulk, Fantastic Four, and Iron Man will now be joined by ATOMIC ROBO in the library.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Marco-Lopez/558987280 Marco Lopez

    this is why i don’t put any faith into marvel or dc. creator owned is where you’re gonna find the type of all ages (and by all ages i don’t mean comic adaptations of marvel or dc cartoons. i don’t know how that became all ages) books for kids now a days.

  • Megan

    My 6 year old and 4.5 year old girls fight over who gets to read our Atomic Robo trade paperbacks (yes, *read* – my 4.5 year old has read 6 books and is using Atomic Robo now). It’s become a great family reading exercise, and the girls take turns as much as possible between themselves. I really am so glad a good, solid storyline like the Atomic Robo comics are available.

    I especially appreciate the last Free Comic Book Day Atomic Robo issue – an 11 year old girl works hard getting educated for 10 years so she can be an Action Scientist! A dream story in a world filled with princesses wishing for a better life and girl superheroes getting distracted by boys and clothes.

  • http://twitter.com/Featherweight_ Devin Harrigan

    this blog post was the best birthday present i got today! 

  • Anonymous

    Your question to DC and Marvel is obviously rhetorical. btw, I thought the Starfire cartoon you retweeted was brilliant satire. The Big Two have only two strategies left–milking fandom on “classic” titles, and providing man-boys with semi-pornographic “heroines” for lame teenage power fantasies. They’ve clearly bailed on creating new, worthwhile titles and new, worthwhile characters.

    I thought the FCBD issue with the scientist kid was brilliant. Also completely awesome for my favorite AR villain. “Behold, an ordinary motorist!”

  • http://twitter.com/Boone_Mason Josh Bell

    Always good to see positive news regarding comics, especially in the the fallout of the New 52.

  • http://www.nuklearpower.com Brian!

    I can’t wait for you guys to see Volume 7 were we finally get around to telling the tale of Atomic Robo and the Flying She-Devils of the Pacific  :D

  • http://heywomencomics.blogspot.com Angelica Brenner

    To be fair-ish, comics and novels are separate mediums, and it’s important for readers (young and old) to understand that distinction and for educational institutions to reinforce it (even if they might be doing so for eyeroll-inducing “comics isn’t /real/ reading” reasons.)

    That said, I do think comics should be allowed for in-class silent reading, and it would be nice to see comics literacy be rewarded in a school setting. Perhaps a separate extra-credit assignment: read 5 graphic novels (or 25 comic book issues,) get a bonus point on one of your tests?

  • http://twitter.com/Chompa Chompa

    Way back in the day, I had a strong hunger to learn how to read so I didn’t have to ask my parents to read my Batman comics to me. I truly credit comics as what led me to a life time love of reading and success in school. 

  • Gloria Henry

    Thank you everyone for the nice comments.  I am Bobby’s mom and we are all so proud of him.  He is a very good kid.  Oh and Marvel…we don’t let him read your comics.  The kid ones are too dulled for him and the adult ones are too graphic.  So kudos Red 5.  Ya’ll are awesome!

  • Scott!

    You are right. They are different of course. But I sort of feel that she is less likely to read those GN’s she so clearly enjoys because after a few hours of homework every day (her teacher is brutal) she’s got very little free time.

    I like the idea of allowing them for in-class silent reading.

  • Grandma

    Thank you!  I am proud of my children , daughter and son in love, Married, but much bettter than a son in law.  I know Bobby also enjoys all type of books.  What I find really find is wonderful is he is still a “bang off the wall,  dig a hole to China and knock down grandma’s Lego city with his Lego robots with a fantastic air plane.” normal 6 year old.  He is so excited to come and meet the you !
    Grandma Mary 

  • Scott!

    Thanks. That was my daughter, Emma. :D

    Her real talents lie in music. But hey; Action Musician! I can get behind that.

    She does have a real love for astronomy as well. But, like her dad, math is beyond confusing to her.

  • Scott!

    Agreed on all fronts. 

    If it’s any consolation, the folks I know at Marvel are just as frustrated with the state of things. They feel trapped in a cycle. And they are. Marvel and DC have cultivated the readership that they’ve got, and now they are stuck with them.

    The foundation of all this was laid years before anyone I know now came to work there. I would go out of my mind in that situation.

  • Scott!

    Are we going to get to meet Bobby Jr.? Cool!

  • Gloria Henry

    We will be bringing him out to the Fan Days in Irving on Saturday.

  • Scott!

    The thing in Irving TX? You’ll get to see “Other Scott” from Red5.

    Brian and I won’t be there I’m afraid. He’s in VA and I’m even farther North in NY. 

  • Anonymous

    Be very careful there. She might just have bad math teachers. If she gets turned off to math young, a lot of doors will slam closed. 30-40% of math teachers in the U.S. don’t even have a strong mathematical background themselves.

    In the 1970’s, there were hardly any Computer Science majors because computers were so new. HP used to hire music majors because apparently the understanding of composition flows well into programming. I also know many musically talented engineers, far above the per capita average you’d find in American society.

  • Anonymous

    So what puzzles me is, there is no reason why they couldn’t take a tiny slice of their resources and do a few limited series of experimental concepts. Heck, they could do it digital-only to reduce risk.

    Of course, I did a decade at American McMegaTech Corp. Once a corporate culture ossifies around a particular approach, it’s nearly impossible to change it. People recite The Formula with a holy fervor, and everyone basks in the good old glory days (including new hires). Never mind that the founders themselves would have changed their approach as times changed… The Formula says do it This Way, for it is the best way that has ever lived, The End.

    It’s also hard for a big company to see the benefit of small market experiments, because those are unlikely to shift the bottom line this quarter. So why should the shareholders care? It’s much easier to quantify a 10% increase in Spider Man revenue by introducing a new limited series to existing fans. After a few decades of success, nobody really remembers how to do things without a marketing staff of 25 people, 40 engineers and a $50M budget.

  • Ann McHenry

    I don’t live anywhere near a comic book store, and I know I could order online, but I like to support brick and mortar shops.  So when I visited my parents this past Saturday I stopped in at the comic shop, and was thrilled that they had both Station X, and volume 5. 

    The clerk at the shop decided he ought to help me find other titles that I wouldn’t have heard of.  (You’d think that if I make a beeline for an independent title that I do sort of know the business, but I’m a girl, so apparently not)  I told him that I liked Robo, and would be interested in other smart, funny, all-ages stuff.

    He tried to sell me Deadpool.  *facepalm*

  • Scott!

    The problem with Math is that it is a language. Like French or Spanish. Those languages are taught by people with a depth and breadth of knowledge that the primary (jack-of-all-trade) teacher just does not have.

    Add to that the problem that people who really understand math well enough to explain it to others are often paid a LOT more money to work in other fields.

    In Emma’s defense, the NYC public schools are about a year ahead of most of the country. So when she started 4th grade last year she ALSO had to learn everything that she missed in NYC’s 3rd grade. She worked her ass off and brought her scores up by nearly 200% from where they were at the beginning of the school year.

    She’s a hard little worker.  She’s still having trouble this year, but we* got her a tutor and I think she’ll be okay.

    *And by “we”, I mean Grandma Moneybags, because we can’t even pay all our bills each both. Yay for comic books! :P

  • Anonymous

    I was just informed of a Robo T-shirt sighting. The bookstore owner where I get Robo TPBs said his web designer walked in wearing an Atomic Robo shirt.

  • Scott!

    Silly Ann. Girls don’t know what they want to read. (KIDDING!!!)

    I had lunch last week with a woman who works for Marvel. If you ahve any interest in superheroes she noted that Nightwing, Batman, and X-Men are some of the books most favored by women readers. As she explained it, the appeal lies in the family dynamic at work in the core of each of these books. Even while Nightwing is flouncing around being all emo and punching the Riddler, his internal dialog is all about, “Why is Batman angry with my. How can I fix that. When will I get to kiss Barbara Gordon,” etc. 

    Relationships, rather than power fantasies.

    I strongly suggest LEAVE IT TO CHANCE (available from Amazon only I think), iZombie (Vertigo), Planetary (just got that back from a lady-friend who LOVED it), and maybe give Madman and Jack Staff a try.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1434574927 Rob Barrett

    If you like Marvel’s characters, you might want to check out the digests of Jeff Parker’s Marvel Adventures: Avengers.  Great, humorous all-ages stuff with strong female protagonists (Storm and Janet van Dyne as Giant Girl instead of as Wasp).  Parker’s stories are very much in a Robo vein.

  • TayJK

    This reminds me of a review written by a 12 (?) year old back for an issue in volume 1.  Anyone remember that review/have that link?

  • Miguel Rosa

    This is definitely something you should be proud of! I think it’s a mark of triumph to write/draw a comic book kids like reading.

  • Gloria Henry

    Sorry we’ll miss you.  But we will stop by the booth and chat with “Other Scott”.  It should be easy to tell which one is Lil Bobby.  He will be the one in this hat!

  • Scott!

    “Of course, I did a decade at American McMegaTech Corp. Once a corporate culture ossifies around a particular approach, it’s nearly impossible to change it. People recite The Formula with a holy fervor, and everyone basks in the good old glory days (including new hires). ”

    Pretty much.

  • Anonymous

    Well, when you’re CEO of Red 5, ruling the future comics world, you just remember that lesson!

  • J L

    I love Atomic Robo. I’ve paid for it in every way a person can, and it’s the only thing I’ve read in floppies in decades. I do have a bit of Devil’s Advocate in me.

    “I would just like to point out that Volume 6, Atomic Robo and the Ghost of Station X, is the darkest story we’ve told. Yet it’s still appropriate for children.”

    The one where  conscious people are mutilated to serve as human shields for the Shadow From Beyond Time? The one where Skorzeny describes (yes, with unknown veracity) killing Nikola Tesla, and dies of cancer?

  • http://www.nuklearpower.com Brian!

    I’m not sure what your point is. We never said all moments of all previous volumes were sunshine and happiness, so citing a couple examples doesn’t prove anything. And I don’t believe approximately 1 dark moment per 100 pages is enough to qualify whole story lines as dark.

    Vol 6, on the other hand, well, we push Robo further than we ever have with this one. You’ll see…if Diamond ever releases the damn thing.

    Lastly!

    The mutants: presumably they got better when the Shadow From Beyond Time disappeared. For example, we see Louis is cured of his “infection” when it’s defeated at the end.
    Skorzeny: possibly a lie. And anyway it’s a report of events not a depiction, so there’s an extra level of detachment.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1434574927 Rob Barrett

    Since my six year old daughter made it through the entire Harry Potter series without dying of the vapors, I think she (and by extension quite a few other children) can survive the darker moments of Atomic Robo.

  • J L

    I believe you about Vol 6 in the abstract. From the solicitations I currently assume Robo’s been set up for character assassination, and that it works to at least some extent – in addition to yet another threat to the very existence of humanity. Hatred is indeed a darkness we haven’t seen before. However I’m just a reader; I haven’t seen that yet.

    My point was just mild nerdery – that I don’t think what I’ve seen so far is comparable to a nightmare creature popping out of normal people’s faces and making them cry.  I think if an episode is distinctive enough it is reasonable to talk about its maximum, and that event is the only thing I can recall that *Robo* has reacted to with horror and pity, rather than simple panic, urgency or phobia. I’d think twice before giving it to someone else’s little kid, though I acknowledge I may be calibrated too conservative on that.

    My apologies for specifying a character in my example, BTW. I only came back to see if I could edit it out. I’m generally spoiler-blind; hopefully a dialogue-centric vignette is less vulnerable to my mistake.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Serge-Broom/1567496523 Serge Broom

    Does Catherine Zeta-Jones play one of the Flying She-Devils of the Pacific?

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Serge-Broom/1567496523 Serge Broom

    “…Action Musician!..”
    Kids are exposed to way too much sax and violins.

  • Scott!

    Noooooooo.

    The She Devils are actually going to be modeled on other artists/writers/creators that Brian and I admire.