One of my goals for attending New York Comic Con last month was to get a sketch for my twelve-year-old son from Artist’s Alley. More specifically, from the Small Press Artist’s Alley because I wanted to see what the less famous artists had to offer and thought it would be a little less crowded.
We stopped in front of Mark Mariano’s table because he had a display of children’s graphic novels and he was offering sketches on a postcard for $5 each. At first, my son was too shy to talk to him but then Mariano asked him about his favorite manga characters, they struck up a conversation, and Mariano eventually drew a postcard of my son’s favorite anime character, Kimba the White Lion.
When we picked up the sketch, I finally had time to look through the books. Mariano insisted I take a couple of review copies. And I intended to sit down and read them several weeks ago but then the great power outage hit my state and my life become hopelessly behind.
The HappyLoo characters are for younger readers and the charm of their adventures made me compare them favorably to Owly. Most of the stories tell the tale almost entirely through the artwork and so those not even reading yet can enjoy these. In the first adventure, “The Balloon Flower,” the characters take an ill-advised but amusing trip on a flower that blows up into a balloon. After reading that, I was hooked. There are eight stories in this collection and it’s like getting eight picture books in one volume. There are also fact pages and questions after each story. After the balloon flower, there are entries about real flowers with color photographs and images of masterpieces of art that use flowers as a starting point. That’s a lot of entertainment for $11.99.
The Flabbergast collection is for older children all the way up to adults, starting about age seven, though that depends on your child’s appetite for zombies. It’s not gory but the characters encounter scarier situations than in HappyLoo. In the story, two slackers stumble across a laboratory studying the zombie virus and accidentally set the zombies loose. Along with the scientist’s daughter, they have to work to save the world from what they’ve unleashed. And that’s just the beginning as the trio form a team to investigate any paranormal or fantastical activities.
Both my older son, sixteen, and my younger son, twelve, enjoyed Flabbergast which is full of many inside jokes about geeks and pop culture. When I could pry it away from them, I loved it as well, especially since the story holds together nicely and gets more complicated as it goes on.
And a bonus, my younger son was inspired by Mariano to pick up his own pencil and begin making art.