The Big Two (DC and Marvel) have issues with all age comics — traditionally they haven’t sold well, younger readers are less likely to pick up new titles and the price point is a harder sell for many parents. As a result, DC and Marvel children’s titles can have issues finding projects that work for them and with printing comics that actually have quality.
One of the best all age comics, Thor: The Mighty Avenger by Roger Langridge and Chris Samnee, suffered a fate worse than Loki’s eternal punishment from the Midgard Serpent. When the series that sold poorly was collected, it went into a pair of two digest-sized trades that were reprinted along with old Thor comics. The paper quality was low, the print colors had lost some of their luster, the details in the art were hidden thanks to the small size, and ultimately the experience from the comics was diminished — and this is a critically acclaimed book that would make a fantastic large print trade for all ages. The digest size books have set an unfortunately low standard for the Marvel Adventure series, which typically features fantastic all age comics.
DC, on the other hand, has shown some progress, printing certain all age books in larger sizes – Shazam and The Monster Society of Evil and Supergirl: Cosmic Adventures in the Eighth Grade but these are often the exception, if the titles are printed at all in trades.
The single issues themselves show even less promise. I ended up grabbing copies of the most recent issues of The Avengers: EMH (#10) and the now cancelled Superman Family Adventures (#8).
The Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes #10
I am an avowed fan of the all ages Avengers: EMH cartoon series (season 2 is now on Netflix, though the series itself is no longer in production). It does a fantastic job of bringing disparate elements of the Marvel Universe together to tell often well paced stories that actually build together into arcs. The comic series does not aim as high — though that is a good thing! The series features a pair of stand-alone stories using characters from the cartoon in new ways. While the two stories lacked the depth of Thor: The Mighty Avenger or Shazam and the Monster Society of Evil, it was an enjoyable read with action packed illustrations that told the story visually, which can be important for younger readers. I’d give both of the stories a B average for being solidly written, but unambitious.
The biggest issue I had with the comic itself was The Fury Files. As a tie in for the Ultimate Spider-man series (season 1 available on Netflix) it serves solely as advertising using stills from the series that do very little to tell a story — it was simply Nick Fury talking about Nova as a character — which was cheap. It was not enjoyable or creative. Marvel has a separate Ultimate Spider-man series comic that it could have taken stories from instead of making a dark and boring four-page interlude between stories.
However, the issue closes with a Mini-Hulks one page comic that does a nice job of ending on a fun and well illustrated note.
All being said, I recommend the series. For the most part, you can pick up issues pell mell as there is no overarching plot. Pick up the series while it lasts for a solid comic for all ages.
Superman Family Adventures #8
The follow up to Art Baltazar and Franco Aureliani’s Tiny Titans (which won the Eisner Award for “Best Publication For Kids”) feels sufficiently more like a kid’s title as opposed to an all ages book. The series, which follows a loose storyline, is simply Superman, Supergirl, Superboy and the Super Pets going on adventures in Baltazar’s kid friendly style.
Issue number 8 follows what seems to be the return of Brainiac as the Superman Family faces the Heralds of Brainiac, elemental forces that force the family to think about how they will defeat their enemy. The violence is simple enough to be non-existant and there is ultimately a lack of levity to the issue. For readers above 10 it may be too kid-ish but for younger readers the book is perfect.
My one gripe is that the paper for Superman Family Adventures is lighter than the normal stock which means it is flimsier and easier to rip which may be problematic for some younger readers.
I recommend the series, while it lasts (till issue 12), and Baltazar and Aureliani have announced a future title they will be independently publishing called “Aw Yeah Comics”.
While on the topic of all ages DC Comics, I would be remiss if I weren’t to mention JL8, the Justice League as children fan comic by Yale Stewart published as a biweekly webcomic. The series is all ages appropriate and has a more mature feel to it than Superman Family Adventures, which means if you can trust your older children to follow a comic online, this might be perfect for them.