There was a time, not so long ago, when you’d have been hard-pressed to find more than a handful of all-ages comics on the shelves of your local comic shop. Things are a lot different now. They aren’t perfect, of course, and we still have a ways to go, but at the end of the day, comics are a much more diverse, inclusive and representative medium than it was even five years ago.
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With the holidays around the corner, we thought it would be a great time to celebrate that newfound openness with a list of all-ages comics from across the medium that will appeal to kids from one to ninety-two. And while this isn’t a holiday gift list strictly speaking, we wouldn’t turn away any of these entries if they just so happened to find their way into our stockings this year.
[SPOILER ALERT] Spoilers ahead for numerous all-ages comics from a variety of publishers.
Don’t let the (much-deserved!) hype surrounding Scott Snyder and Jeff Lemire’s sci-fi epic “A.D.: After Death” fool you. People have been mixing prose with traditional comics for years. In fact, legendary creators J.M. DeMatteis and Mike Ploog used the technique to wonderful effect in their fan-favorite fantasy series “Abadazad”. Originally published in comic book format by Crossgen in 2004, the series went on hiatus after only three issues, due to the publisher’s sudden demise. Disney picked up the rights and republished the property, as a series of hardcover digests.
Unfortunately, the deal with Disney fell through and only three books of a proposed eight-volume series were ever produced, only two of which were made available in North America. A gorgeous, whimsical tale of a young girl’s quest to find her missing baby brother within the strange world of her favorite children’s books, this hard-to-find cult hit resonated with readers thanks to its beautiful art, vibrant world-building and hopeful message.
15. Moon Girl And Devil Dinosaur
Although it shares many similarities with Cullen Bunn and Drew Moss’ “Terrible Lizard,” Marvel’s popular “Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur” was actually inspired by a previous series from the ‘70s starring Moon Boy alongside the titular interplanetary beast. After the death of his original partner, Devil was transported to New York City from his home in the Savage Land and eventually ended up in the company of nine year old girl-genius Lunella “Moon Girl” Lafayette.
What makes this book such a joy to read for audiences of all ages is its positive depiction of youthful imagination. Too often these days, kids are plunked down in front of a TV or a tablet at the expense of their own mind’s eye. Lunella’s fierce intellect and exuberant personality remind us all of the power the human imagination possesses to change our world for the better. Plus, she rides around on a gargantuan fire engine-red dinosaur. How freaking cool is that?
14. Super Powers
Originally published in the mid-‘80s as a cycle of limited series in support of Kenner’s nascent toy collection, DC Comics’ “Super Powers” existed outside the publisher’s established continuity. Both the toy line and the associated comic books were rooted in Jack Kirby’s “Fourth World” mythology and developed around a conflict between the heroes of Earth and the cosmic evil of Darkseid. Kenner’s toy line received further support in the form of two iconic animated series: “Super Friends: The Legendary Super Powers Show” and “The Super Powers Team: Galactic Guardians”.
Free from the confines of mainstream DC continuity, “Super Powers’” enduring strength comes from the unbridled power of Kirby’s singular imagination, even more than 30 years later. Heroes and villains such as Superman, Cyborg, Darkseid and Kalibak leap off the page in Kirby’s robust, dynamic style, representing some of the best work of the King’s later career. More than 30 years after its launch, “Super Powers” remains the perfect introduction for young readers to DC’s most iconic heroes as distilled by Kirby’s limitless imagination and talent.
Brian Michael Bendis and Michael Avon Oeming are perhaps best known for their seminal collaboration on “Powers,” an original, down-and-dirty exploration of the superhero archetype created for mature readers. In 2010, the pair teamed up once again for a more light-hearted all-ages superhero romp under the aegis of Marvel’s Icon imprint, called “Takio.” Revolving around the lives of two super-powered sisters, who become the world’s first superheroes, “Takio” delightfully delves into the unique problems saving the world presents, when your curfew is a strict 6 p.m.
While superpowers play a huge role in the title, it is the relationship between sisters Taki and Olivia that serves as “Takio’s” main attraction. Belonging to a multi-racial adoptive family, the sisters must learn to get along in order to use their newfound powers responsibly. It’s a wonderful, relevant twist on the old “with great power” tenet of modern comics. Bendis co-created the property with his daughter, who lent not only her unfettered imagination to the book, but also provided a realistic template for the bickering sisters’ distinctive voices.
12. Sonic The Hedgehog
At the height of his popularity, Sonic the Hedgehog was the face of Sega’s popular Genesis gaming console. Published by Archie Comics, the third volume of his titular comic book currently holds the Guinness record for longest running series based on a video game, closing in on an amazing 300 issues. So, what’s all the hype about? Well, there’s actually a lot to like about Sonic and his crime fighting pals.
As in the popular video game, the comic series chronicles the adventures of Sonic and his friends Tails, Sally Acorn and a host of others, as they battle the evil Dr. Robotnik in his quest to take over the world of Mobius. At least some of the series’ continued success stems from its expanded comic book universe, where creators were free to explore the various corners of Mobius with few constraints. With its breakneck pace and bright, bombastic action, it’s no wonder this unstoppable juggernaut continues to chug along long after others of its ilk fell by the wayside.
11. Adventure Time
Spinning directly out of the Cartoon Network award-winning animated series, “Adventure Time” also took the comic book world by storm, snagging both the Eisner and Harvey awards for best publications for youth readers in 2013. Published since 2011 by BOOM! Studios’ all-ages kaBOOM imprint, the series follows a young boy named Finn and his adopted brother — a magical, shape-changing dog named Jake — on their adventures in the post-apocalyptic world of Ooo. There, they get into all sorts of trouble, while interacting with a colorful ensemble cast of bizarre characters, such as Princess Bubblegum, the Ice King and Marceline the Vampire Queen.
A true multimedia phenomenon with countless merchandising spin-offs, much of the franchise’s success can be laid at the feet of its use of more sophisticated humor and extensive world-building. The kind of read that boasts a little something for everyone, “Adventure Time” is a supremely well-balanced, true all-ages title that refuses to talk down to its audience, no matter what age they may be.
As we saw in our previous entry, BOOM! Studios has been a strong champion of all-ages comics for years now. Unlike “Adventure Time,” which is a licensed property, “Lumberjanes” is a totally original creation that has also won the versatile publisher oodles of popular and critical acclaim. Winner of two Eisner Awards in 2015, “Lumberjanes” initially began life as an eight-issue limited series, before BOOM! extended its run indefinitely, thanks to strong sales and positive reviews.
The series chronicles the adventures of a group of young women at Miss Quinzella Thiskwin Penniquiqul Thistle Crumpet’s Camp for Hardcore Lady Types, as they encounter a bizarre assortment of supernatural mysteries and creatures each summer. Lauded for its positive depiction of young female protagonists, striking visual tone and forceful imagination, “Lumberjanes” is a sterling example of “girl-centric” comic that appeals to all ages and genders. You don’t have to be a member of the Lumberjane Scouts to understand the value in that.
9. Return Of The Dapper Men
The brainchild of writer Jim McCann, “Return of the Dapper Men” is set in a richly-imagined world that exists between the ticks of the clock, where children work hard to continue playing all of the time. Published in 2010 by Archaia, featuring absolutely stunning artwork by Janet Lee, the beautifully-illustrated graphic novel took home the Eisner for best new graphic album in 2011.
A thought-provoking exploration of youthful imagination and the mechanics of play, the plot of McCann and Lee’s fantastic tale follows the journey of a trio of young friends as they strive to solve the mystery behind why time stopped. Along the way, our heroes learn about the true nature of friendship and how they fit into a world where tomorrow never comes. An exhilarating, enchanting read that appeals to all readers regardless of age, “Return of the Dapper Men” is a delightful story that easily supports multiple readings thanks to its universal themes and exquisite world-building.
8. The Batman Adventures
For many younger comic book fans, their first exposure to DC’s iconic Caped Crusader came courtesy of Bruce Timm and Paul Dini’s classic cartoon “Batman: The Animated Series.” The stunning success of the hit cartoon prompted DC Comics to develop a tie-in comic book series to help promote the show and capitalize on the legions of new Batfans. Praised for the franchise’s retro-futuristic visual tone and original storytelling, both the cartoon and comic book series helped redefine Batman (and his villains) for a whole generation of fans.
While the animated series garnered praise for its insightful development of perennial Batman villains the Joker and Mr. Freeze (not to mention the creation of Harley Quinn), the comic book series shouldn’t be overlooked. Numerous characters were included within its pages that never made it to the Batman universe of the small screen, including Alec Holland, the Bronze Tiger and the Phantom Stranger. Its popularity also spurred DC to develop an “Adventures” line of comic book tie-ins for “Superman: The Animated Series” and “Justice League,” providing a much-needed gateway to the rest of its catalog for younger readers.
7. Mouse Guard
David Petersen’s bestselling comics franchise “Mouse Guard” is a true creator-owned success story. A cycle of limited series chronicling the history of a brotherhood of sentient rodent adventurers, “Mouse Guard” taps into our fascination with epic fantasy in a fashion that remains unintimidating to young readers. Set during medieval times roughly corresponding to our own world history, “Mouse Guard” takes place during an era of much upheaval and danger for the Mouse Territories. Although no longer under the rule of the oppressive Weasel Warlord, there are still plenty of other predators to fear.
Petersen explores his fictional realm with childlike enthusiasm, revealing new corners of the Mouse Territories and new characters with each series. His eye-popping art draws readers into a rich world of magic and adventure that evokes the classic works of Beatrix Potter as much as the fantasy-laden realms of “Dungeons and Dragons.” This unique appeal continues to draw new fans to the property, while positioning it for greater acclaim in other media. If all goes well, we could finally be seeing a live-action “Mouse Guard” film in the near future.
6. Axe Cop
It’s pretty safe to say that, more than any other entry on our list, “Axe Cop” is a testament to the sheer creative force of the (relatively) unfiltered imagination of a typical five year old boy. By now, most of us should be aware of the remarkable success story of brothers Ethan and Malachai Nicolle, who created “Axe Cop” during a holiday visit in 2009. At the time, Malachai was only five years old, but already possessed a highly-developed imagination. Over the course of his visit, Ethan and Malachai brainstormed the first four issues of what would become the first “Axe Cop” web comics.
From those humble beginnings, the “Axe Cop” multimedia empire was born, including a publishing deal with Dark Horse Comics, a short-lived cartoon and a YouTube web series. Featuring a truly bizarre collection of characters such as Flute Cop, Uni-Man and Sockarang, the series’ ridiculously unpredictable plotlines and ever-evolving cast continue to tickle the funny bones of young and old alike. Even when it doesn’t make sense — which is pretty much always — the series somehow follows its own surreal internal logic, reminding us of those magical flights of fancy we embarked on as kids.
5. Atomic Robo
The long-time flagship title of indie publisher Red 5, “Atomic Robo” recently found a new home in 2015 at IDW. The brainchild of creators Brian Clevinger and Scott Wegener, “Atomic Robo” follows the titular protagonist on numerous adventures throughout his long history. Created by the mad genius of Nikola Tesla, Robo spends his days exploring the fringes of science for Tesladyne Industries, a think tank of “action scientists” dedicated to protecting the world from all manner of paranormal and extraterrestrial threat.
Published as a limited series taking place at different points in Robo’s adventuring career, the property fuses rubber science and revisionist history to delightful effect, creating an engaging fictional world that traverses several different genres. Older readers appreciate the various nods to classic sci-fi and horror, while their younger counterparts are drawn to the book’s kinetic action and slapstick comedy. One of the more engaging all-ages offerings in recent years, “Atomic Robo” shows no signs of slowing down, with new pages published daily online.
4. Usagi Yojimbo
One of the longest running and most respected creator-owned comics in the history of the biz, Stan Sakai’s classic anthropomorphic samurai epic “Usagi Yojimbo” has thrilled fans of all ages for over 30 years. Following the ongoing adventures of the titular rabbit ronin (Usagi Yojimbo literally translates to “rabbit bodyguard”), Sakai’s engrossing saga is set during Japan’s Edo period and features historically accurate depictions of Japanese architecture, arts and crafts, and folklore.
Even if talking animals aren’t typically your bag, Sakai’s impeccable visual storytelling and sophisticated character development will draw you into a fictional world of startling beauty and complexity. There’s much in “Usagi Yojimbo” for younger readers, as well, thanks in large part to Sakai’s eminently accessible artwork. His action sequences are precisely choreographed and kinetic, drawing the eye from one sequence to the next with uncanny ease. Constantly striving for balance in his stories, Sakai injects ample humor and romance into his plots, creating a fully-realized hero, who remains dedicated to pursuing a life of honor despite his flaws. In many ways, “Usagi Yojimbo” transcends its comic book roots, offering readers a truly enchanting cycle of stories, regardless of medium or age.
The premise of “Princeless” is really very straightforward. A young princess by the name of Adrienne refuses to be another in a long line of traditional cardboard cut-out princesses and embarks on a quest to save herself and free her sisters from her father’s unfair incarceration. Series creator Jeremy Whitley’s breakout creation turns all of the traditional conventions of classic fairy tale princesses on their ear with a good-natured relish that is both refreshing and timely.
As a multi-racial female protagonist who deliberately flies in the face of her family’s expectations, Adrienne resonates with audiences young and old alike, providing readers with an engaging heroine who actually looks and feels like the world outside their windows. Spawning a host of imitators, thanks to a pair of Eisner noms in 2012, “Princeless” remains an important touchstone for many young female readers starving for a relatable hero. Thankfully, there’s more “Princeless” adventures now than ever before, with an equally excellent spinoff series, “Raven: The Pirate Princess,” currently available from publisher Action Lab Entertainment.
It’s hard to believe it’s been 25 years since the debut of Jeff Smith’s seminal all-ages epic “Bone.” At last count, the winner of 10 Eisner awards and 11 Harvey awards, “Bone” is one of the most critically-acclaimed independently published series in the history of comics. It’s also one of the most widely read, made available to school libraries and educators across North America. The plot chronicles the fantastic journey of three friends after they are run out of their hometown of Boneville and find themselves transported to the Valley, a medieval fantasy realm living under threat of the despicable Lord of Locusts. And that’s just where the adventure starts!
A masterpiece of comics craft, Smith’s beautifully rendered epic draws influence from an eclectic array of sources, including (but not limited to) Herman Melville’s “Moby Dick,” the artwork of legendary Disney animators Walt Kelly and Carl Barks, and the “Star Wars” movie franchise. All of these influences are evident in the series but are perhaps most visible in his artwork. Consistently cited as an exemplar of the form, it’s interesting to note that “Bone” now serves as a major inspiration to legions of fans and creators in its own right.
One of the most iconic comic book characters in history, Archie Andrews debuted 75 years ago in “Pep Comics” #22. He was an immediate hit with teen readers, who identified with his humorous, hard-luck misadventures and woeful love life. Although much has changed over the course of his history — including the emergence of a more diverse supporting cast — Archie’s core traits remain unchanged. He still possesses that engaging everyman quality that initially drew fans to him in the first place. His exploits remain light-hearted, comedic affairs — unless you count that time he died, of course… or when he was fighting the predator… or fending off zombies.
Most importantly, Archie has retained his place in our collective psyches, a comforting, surprisingly resonant comic book archetype every bit as powerful in his own way as Superman or Spider-Man. Generations of readers have grown up with him and the rest of his Riverdale posse. His presence in the checkout lanes of supermarkets across North America remains ubiquitous to this day. Can any of us truly imagine a world without Archie? We think not. That’s why he rounds out our list in the coveted number one position.
These are just 16 of the best all-ages comics we could think of, but there are many more out there. Let us know your favorites in the Comments!
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