Get your children reading at any age with this list of the best comics for kids that love superheroes.
Although this is a nerdy parent site, it is still a parent site, which means that I am among friends when I complain, “Kids these days don’t know how good they have it! When I was a kid, we could only get our superheroes from comic books!”
Okay, that’s not entirely true. I grew up with the Tim Burton-directed Batman movies and the Superman movies with Christopher Reeves. I even have a soft spot for the corny 1990 Captain America movie, in which Cap had rubber ears on the side of his helmet. And, of course, there were the animated X-Men and Spider-Man cartoon shows, which weren’t good, but they did have killer theme songs.
But the main source of superhero enjoyment was the spinner rack at my local grocery store. Every week after soccer, my mom would stop by to get a frozen pizza for dinner, and I got to pick out a new issue of X-Men, The Flash, or Green Lantern. My world expanded when I got a little older and started going to comic book shops, which opened me to wonderfully odd characters like Beak, Impulse, and G’Nort.
Today, things have changed. All three of those weirdos I just mentioned have made appearances in movies and tv shows. In fact, I’m writing this a week after Hulu debuted a ten-episode series about the very odd Captain America villain M.O.D.O.K. Earlier today, Marvel released the trailer for The Eternals, a major blockbuster film based on one of their most obscure super-teams.
Superheroes are in movies, tv shows, video games, and toy aisles, but that doesn’t mean that they’re gone from comic books. If anything, comics are even easier to access, thanks to services such as DC Universe Infinite, Marvel Unlimited, and Comixology Unlimited. But the nature of comic books has changed. Most writers and artists shoot for an older teen/young adult demographic, leaving behind the simple and brightly colored stories on which the genre was built for darker, more complex fare.
Parents hoping to get comics for their superhero-loving kids might be initially discouraged to find only multi-part stories about foul-mouthed, sexually adventurous superheroes. But just because those comics are the big sellers, doesn’t mean they’re all that’s out there. Marvel, DC, and countless independent publishers still make comics for their original audience: kids.
This quick guide will take nerdy parents past the inappropriate stuff towards comics perfect for superhero-loving kids of any age.
If you’re looking for something more interactive that involves the whole family, check out our Best Superhero Games for Kids By Age article.
For Ages 2 – 5
Since the genre born with the debut of Superman in 1938, many publishers have assumed that superheroes were a boy’s game. Sure, there were occasional gestures to girl readers, with the introduction of characters like Supergirl, Amythest, and Shadowcat. But the overwhelming majority of superhero comics were directed at boys, with comics about dating and fashion (Superman’s Girl, Lois Lane and Patsy and Hedy) reserved for girls.
Fortunately, publishers are finally beginning to realize what girls have known for decades: everybody likes superheroes! DC Comics is putting that knowledge to good use with their DC Superhero Girls line, which brings together kid-friendly versions of female characters from across their universe. From mainstream heroes like Supergirl and Wonder Woman to lesser-known characters like Bumblebee and Katana, DC Superhero Girls tells kid-friendly adventures everyone will enjoy.
Mainstream Marvel comics tend to be densely serialized and knotty affairs, with a character going through numerous changes every year or so. A kid picking up a random issue of Spider-Man may find that they have only chapter three out of twelve and that Spidey isn’t even Spidey anymore.
For years, Marvel has simplified things with their Adventures line. Each Adventures digest contains four-six stories with all the superhero adventures your kids crave. But the stories dial way back on the violence and soap opera drama found in the mainstream books to accentuate jokes, daring-do, and lots of fun. With entries from top-level creators such as Daniel Kibbelsmith, Jeff Loveness, and Ty Templesmith, Marvel Superhero Adventures will introduce young superhero fans to the best the genre has to offer.
For Ages 6 – 12
Married writer and artist team Paul Tobin and Colleen Coover have a long history in the comics industry, working on everything from mainstream superhero books to decidedly adults-only fare. But they are perhaps at their best with the delightful indie comic Bandette.
With her domino mask and red cape, Bandette certainly looks like your average superhero. But she is, in fact, a super thief in the model of Robin Hood, stealing from the corrupt rich to care for her group of street urchins. While that might suggest some heavy socio-political talk that your child may not find interesting, Bandette is 100% pure whimsy. Set in the streets of Paris, Bandette is filled with wonderfully expressive art from Coover and great one-liners from Tobin.
Even Six-Year-Olds might balk when they see the artwork in Tiny Titans, a children’s adventure take on DC Comics long-running Teen Titans series. But once they notice the smart dialogue and ingenious gags, they’ll realize they aren’t reading something for babies. And as soon as they recognize deep-cut DC characters such as Lagoon Boy, then they’ll feel like pretty smart nerds. That’s the genius of Tiny Titans, from indie cartoonists Art Baltazar and Franco Aureliani. The duo possesses a clear love for the world of DC Comics, in all its weird permutations. But it pairs that passion with second-to-none cartooning skills, which allows them to bring new levels of whimsy to costumed classics. Fans of Calvin & Hobbes will love introducing their kids to these colorful and inventive versions of mainstream superheroes.
Although some dismiss superheroes as escapist fantasy, the genre has its roots in real-world concerns. Over the years, the Justice Society has fought Axis powers, Spider-Man and the Fantastic Four aided the homeless in New York, and Green Arrow has taken on the drug trade. In one of the more famous incidents, writers of the 1940s radio show The Adventures of Superman worked with members of the Anti-Defamation League to disrupt Ku Klux Klan operations.
Teaming with Japanese art collective Gurihiru, writer Gene Leun Yang adapts and reimagines that story for modern audiences. Told from the perspective of Chinese Americans Tommy and Roberta Lee, who recently moved to Metropolis, Superman Smashes the Klan marks an early chapter in the life of Superman, as he fights for justice against the Klan of the Fiery Kross. A rousing adventure story, Superman Smashes the Klan teaches kids important lessons about tolerance, accepting others, and accepting yourself. We’ve also featured this book in our Best Graphic Novels for Middle School Aged Kids article.
DC Comics’ efforts to reach female readers aren’t limited to just the DC Superhero Girls books they publish for young kids. Over the past few years, they’ve added YA graphic novels to their stable, bringing in some of the best writers in the genre. These books feature everyone from Aquaman to Harley Quinn to Batman, using the characters to tell coming-of-age romances and dramas with a superhero twist.
For Diana, Princess of Amazons, New York Times bestsellers Shannon Hale and Dean Hale team up with artist Victoria Ying to imagine the tweenhood of Princess Diana, the future Wonder Woman. Before embarking to the world of men to have superhero adventures with the Justice League, Diana was the lone child on an island full of grown Amazon women. While your children (probably) haven’t had that experience, they’ll certainly be able to relate with Diana’s feelings of loneliness and belonging, as she sets out on a quest to discover her place in the world.
Superhero comics have always appealed to teenagers, but none have been as relatable as X-Men. Since the team’s creation in 1964, the X-Men have been required reading for anyone who feels alone, misunderstood, and yet undeniably special. Over the years, the X-Men have grown into a twisty soap opera of revisions and resurrections, making it impenetrable to some readers. But even at its most confusing, X-Men remains irresistible to adolescent fans.
In 2020, X-Men relaunched its premier team of mutants under the headship of writer Jonathan Hickman. Scuttling the plotlines of the past, but keeping the essential dynamics, Hickman and his cadre of artists has created a new status quo for the X-Men, imagining a world in which mutants enjoy sovereignty as their own nation – whether the world likes it or not. Combining dense storytelling with genuinely moving dramatic beats, this most recent run on X-Men is perfect for any misunderstood teen who doesn’t mind sinking their teeth into a vibrant superhero world
The Justice League is the premier superhero team. Even more than the X-Men or the Avengers, the Justice League brings together some of the greatest heroes of all time, including Superman and Wonder Woman, to square off against reality-warping villains. Over the years, the JLA has battled large-scale threats, including the mind-controlling starfish Starro and the brutal Despero. But writer Scott Snyder and his collaborators, including occasional co-writer James Tynion IV, take things to another level with their version of the Justice League.
Using the structure of the immensely successful Justice League Unlimited cartoon show, Snyder pairs members of the core team – including Flash, Green Lantern John Stewart, and Hawkgirl – with C- and D-list heroes from across the DC Universe to take on a threat that crosses all time and space. It’s superhero action at its finest, embracing all the goofy storytelling conceits and over-the-top adventure that the genre can offer.