Howdy! This page is part of a guide to comic books recommended for younger readers (along with some stuff their parents might like as well. This page covers the letter "C." Other books are linked to below.

So, come celebrate that groovy, geeky, magical medium that we all grew up on... and share that special sense of wonder with someone smaller and newer than you. By the way, this is a work in progress, and your recommendations are always welcome... )








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"Calvin And Hobbes: The Complete Calvin And Hobbes"
Written and illustrated by Bill Watterson
(First Second, 2008)

I am a diehard, lifelong Calvin & Hobbes fan, back from Day One. Literally: I remember the day it debuted in my local newspaper. I devoured the series religiously every morning and even read the daily strips aloud on my radio show, back in the day. Greatest thing ever. Revisiting Calvin & Hobbes as a parent, I find it even more wonderful -- still an open invitation to a word of absolute imagination and chaotic, playful abandon, and funnier than I remember. Now, I do know one family where the parents told me that reading Calvin to their son at too early an age turned him into a crazy, unmanageable wild-child... but I say, oh well -- it was probably going to happen anyway. In the meantime, he's developing a good sense of humor and enjoying some of the best cartoon artwork this side of Walt Kelly and Charles Schulz. As far as this giant-sized, hardbound omnibus collection goes, I got it as a present and think it's really cool, although I have to have to admit that it is a bit unwieldy and hard to read, compared to the more portable paperback collections listed below. Apparently a couple of strips were altered for this edition (one dealt with the question of adoption, not a big problem for me, but apparently sensitive enough to require a change...) and some folks have complained about the binding of this edition... But as an archival resource: WOW! (A+++)


"Calvin And Hobbes: The Essential Calvin And Hobbes"
Written and illustrated by Bill Watterson
(Andrews McMeel, 1988)

There are multiple, overlapping editions of the Calvin And Hobbes paperback collections... I'm told that the volumes below include the complete ten-year run of the newspaper strip, although I haven't personally sat down and and counted each cartoon or cross-referenced them, or whatever one does to make sure that a statement like that is accurate. I'll leave the detail work up do Susie Derkins. Or Dad. Anyway, this is great stuff, in whatever version of edition you find. Dennis the Menace has got nothin' on this kid!! (A++)


"Calvin And Hobbes: The Authoritative Calvin And Hobbes"
Written and illustrated by Bill Watterson
(Andrews McMeel, 1990)

(A++)


"Calvin And Hobbes: The Indispensable Calvin And Hobbes"
Written and illustrated by Bill Watterson
(Andrews McMeel, 1992)

(A++)


"Calvin And Hobbes: Attack Of The Deranged Mutant Killer Monster Snow Goons"
Written and illustrated by Bill Watterson
(Andrews McMeel, 1992)

(A++)


"Calvin And Hobbes: The Days Are Just Packed"
Written and illustrated by Bill Watterson
(Andrews McMeel, 1993)

(A++)


"Calvin And Hobbes: Homicidal Psycho Jungle Cat"
Written and illustrated by Bill Watterson
(Andrews McMeel, 1994)

(A++)


"Calvin And Hobbes: There's Treasure Everywhere"
Written and illustrated by Bill Watterson
(Andrews McMeel, 1996)

(A++)


"Calvin And Hobbes: It's A Magical World"
Written and illustrated by Bill Watterson
(Andrews McMeel, 1996)

(A++)


"Casper The Friendly Ghost (Harvey Comics Classics, v.1)"
(Dark Horse, 2007)

Just about the time my kid expressed an interest in reading comic books, and I thought, oh crap, I don't have anything age appropriate! and started looking around for some old Harvey comics to give her, then discovered how expensive back issues of those silly old baby books had become. Then along came this collection of classic adventures of Casper The Friendly Ghost, perhaps the wimpiest comic character in the world. I thought it would be perfect, and ordered it right away. Turns out, even in the wimpazoid world of Casper there are still a few elements that are a bit disturbing -- lots of robbers with guns and light slapstick violence -- but overall I'd say the stories are pretty kid-friendly. Weighing in at nearly 500 pages, however, the book itself is kind of unwieldy, at least for a little person to handle, but it's a good bargain for what you get. A big downside is that most of the pages are in black-and-white -- that's what makes the book affordable, but it greatly undercuts the magic of the medium, so it's something of a devil's bargain. In this same series there are also reprints of old stories featuring Hot Stuff, the little devil, Little Dot and Little Lotta, the ever-irritating Baby Huey, and even a ruby-encrusted volume of Richie Rich, The Poor Little Rich Boy (reviewed below). Personally, I'm holding out for a collection of Wendy, The Good Little Witch who I've had a crush on since I was three. (B+)


"Casper The Friendly Ghost: The Ultimate Casper"
Edited by Sid Jacobson
(Random House/iBooks, 2005)

Out of print but worth tracking down. This is a more slender collection, but it's all in color, printed on high-grade paper and with a great selection of stories. Casper teaches a wimpy scarecrow how to be frightening, settles a big war in Toyland, rescues his ghostly horse, Nightmare, from a wicked sorcerer and has a really trippy encounter with the cartoonist that draws the Casper the Friendly Ghost comics(!) Lots of Wendy the Good Little Witch in here, too, which is always a treat. (A)


"Casper The Friendly Ghost: 60th Anniversary Special"
(Dark Horse, 2009)

This hardback edition reprints the first Harvey Comics-published issue of Casper's own comicbook, from 1952... Personally I don't care for the early 1950s stuff as much as the stories from the 1960s (which is when the artists really hit their stride...) but for Casper fans, this is a pretty sweet edition. (B)


"Chiggers"
Written and Illustrated by Hope Larson
(Aladdin, 2008)

Author-illustrator Hope Larson (creator of "Mercury," "Gray Horse" and "Salamander Dream") captures the still-innocent side of teenage angst in this gentle, compelling graphic novel about a young girl, Abby, and her second year of summer camp. Larson perfectly captures the endless give-and-take and tiny emotional landmines that come with friendship between young girls. Abby's pals bicker and gossip and weave each other friendship bracelets; her new bunkmate, Shasta, is the focus of scorn from the other girls, but Abby kinda likes her... And of course, she also kinda likes a boy, and he kinda likes her, too. It's familiar territory for anyone who's been through it before, and Larson tells her story with economy and skill, with a little dash of magic and magical thinking (as in her other works) and rich, subtle writing. An excellent selection for parents or teens looking for intelligent, literate comic book lit: there's no sex, violence, machineguns or super-powers, just a pleasantly ambiguous slice-of-life story about the days when adventures would end when your parents came to pick you up. If you're looking for comic books that value intelligence and originality over formula and violence, this is a very good choice. (A+)


"Chi's Sweet Home, v.1"
Written by Konami Kanata
Illustrated by Konami Kanata
(Vertical Press, 2010)

It's challenging to find Japanese manga that are really suitable for smaller children, but this series is one of the gems. It's a thoroughly charming story about a stray kitten who gets taken in by a warm Tokyo family, who give the kitten shelter and food and love, and grapple with all the typical hazards of raising an adorable little cat: torn clothing, sandbox training, getting "pinned" on your lap, etc. The story is told from Chi's perspective, although we the readers can also understand what the humans are saying, although Chi does not, setting up many of the comedic elements of the story. This really is a wonderful series, and is also free of many of the fetishistic peculiarities of modern manga. Highly recommended, although if your child enjoys this and wants to read other manga, you may have a hard time finding anything else that will match this one's light, little kid-friendly tone. (A+)


"Chi's Sweet Home, v.2"
Written by Konami Kanata
Illustrated by Konami Kanata
(Vertical Press, 2010)

Chi settles into her new home, and explores the world around her, playing with scraps of paper, napping, and charming her human family... She also meets a mysterious large tomcat who brazenly walks inside Chi's house and takes over Chi's training.. Which is a good thing since Chi didn't realize she's a cat! Super-cute but not super-saccharine -- a pretty good job of putting readers inside the feline mind! (A+)


"Chi's Sweet Home, v.3"
Written by Konami Kanata
Illustrated by Konami Kanata
(Vertical Press, 2010)

(A+)


"Chi's Sweet Home, v.4"
Written by Konami Kanata
Illustrated by Konami Kanata
(Vertical Press, 2010)

(A+)


"Chi's Sweet Home, v.5"
Written by Konami Kanata
Illustrated by Konami Kanata
(Vertical Press, 2010)

(A+)


"Classics Illustrated Deluxe, v.1: The Wind In The Willows"
Written by Kenneth Grahame
Adapted and illustrated by Michel Plessix
(Papercutz, 2009)

This is an excellent, highly recommended adaptation of Kenneth Grahame's "The Wind And The Willows," a classic children's novel that was first published in 1908. Grahame's novel has long attracted devoted fans, with its literate, lyrical writing and evocation of the natural world. This comicbook-format graphic novel version transforms the the delicious but sometimes densely thicketed prose into vivid, detailed images, allowing readers to more easily visualize the story... There have been several film and animation adaptations of the book, but this version comes perhaps closest to the quirky charm of the original. The Papercutz edition is an American reissue of a comic that first came out in Europe, originally printed in a larger format (with art the size of the Tintin books). Cut down to about half its size, the artwork does seem a bit squinched, but still retains most of its power and charm. This is one of the best volumes in the newly-revitalized "Classics Illustrated" imprint... Highly recommended as a rich, thoughtful retelling of a timeless classic. (A)


"Classics Illustrated Deluxe, v.2: Tales Of The Brothers Grimm"
Written by The Brothers Grimm
Adapted and illustrated by Mazan, Philippe Petit & Cecile Chicault
(Papercutz, 2009)

(-)


"Classics Illustrated Deluxe, v.3: Frankenstein"
Written by Mary Shelley
Adapted and illustrated by Marion Mousse
(Papercutz, 2009)

(-)


"Classics Illustrated Deluxe, v.4: The Adventures Of Tom Sawyer"
Written by Mark Twain
Adapted and illustrated by Jean David Morvan, Frederique Voulyze & Severine Le Fevebvre
(Papercutz, 2009)

One of the most modern, and best, books in this new series of "Classics Illustrated" comicbook adaptations of youth fiction. This book features artwork influenced by the cartoonish Japanese "manga" genre -- at first, this might seem like an odd match for a classic set in the 19th Century American frontier, but actually, the style works beautifully. The hyperaccentuation of manga -- the exaggerated expressions and liberal use of action lines and various graphic techniques used to heighten the emotions really help to tease out the twists and drama of this Mark Twain classic. Also, this adaptation is quite faithful to the original book, with many of the narrative set pieces that generations of readers have grown up with -- Tom painting the fence, Huck and Tom seeing Injun Joe in the graveyard, Tom and Becky getting lost in the caves. Because this graphic novel is so long -- 144 pages, compared to the rushed, regular-length comics of the old Classics Illustrated series -- there is the luxury to do a story justice and to retain the full plot, with many of the rough edges left intact. Of course, there's no substitute for the original crisp, clever prose, but as an introduction or supplement to Twain's work, this comic is a real gem. Recommended. (B+)


"Classics Illustrated Deluxe, v.5: Treasure Island"
Written by Robert Louis Stevenson
Adapted and illustrated by David Chauvel & Fred Simon
(Papercutz, 2010)

I recently had the good fortune to listen to a marvelous audio book version of "Treasure Island," deliciously read by actor Alfred Molina, so the story is fresh in my mind, and I was well-primed for this outstanding graphic novel adaptation. As with the other books in the Papercutz series, this is a long book -- 144 pages, as opposed to the 48 pages of the old 1940s/50s Classics Illustrated comics -- and with the extra pages they are really able to capture the flavor and include many of the details of the plot. The artwork in this volume is slightly cartoonish, which makes the story more accessible to younger readers, but also omits some of the grit and seaminess of the tale; likewise, with much of the storytelling done visually rather than through Stevenson's masterful prose, some of the salty flavor of the narrative is muted, particularly the distinctive English-ness and the biting class-based snobbishness that lurks in young Jim's lofty appraisals of the piratical lowlifes in Long John Silver's crew. Nonetheless, this is an excellent adaptation, worthy of inclusion in school libraries and reading lists across the land. Definitely recommended. (B+)


"Classics Illustrated, v.1: Great Expectations"
Written by Charles Dickens
Adapted and illustrated by Rick Geary
(Papercutz, 2008)

(-)


"Classics Illustrated, v.2: The Invisible Man"
Written by H. G. Wells
Adapted and illustrated by Rick Geary
(Papercutz, 2008)

(-)


"Classics Illustrated, v.3: Through The Looking Glass"
Written by Lewis Carroll
Adapted and illustrated by Kyle Baker
(Papercutz, 2009)

Comicbook auteur Kyle Baker would seem like an ideal match for the madcap spirit of Lewis Carroll's absurdist classic, "Through The Looking Glass," the chess-themed sequel to "Alice In Wonderland." Indeed, Baker's mania-fueled visual style and penchant for warping perspectives (both visual and mental) seem in synch with Carroll's own idiosyncratic sense of humor. This graphic novel adaptation functions best, however, as a supplement to Carroll's work, rather than a free-standing book in its own right... Baker makes a key choice that effects the entire project, and this is to include only the spoken dialogue (and poems) from the original text, and none of Carroll's loopy, delirious prose. This would be okay, if Baker had been able to stretch out and be more expansive in the artwork that replaces the narrative, but in the digest-size of the current "Classics Illustrated" series, his artwork is compressed and functional, rather than chaotic and rule-bending -- there are many close-ups of character's faces, but the settings and scenarios are not always made plain. If you already know the "Looking Glass" story (and know it well), this version may be fascinating in termes of what it has to offer and the artistic choices Baker makes in his presentation. But if you were to use this to try and introduce this Alice story to a younger reader, it might quickly become too confusing. Worth checking out, particularly is you are a Kyle Baker fan (like me), but not a substitute for the richly-written kookiness of the original. (B)


"Classics Illustrated, v.4: The Raven And Other Poems"
Written by Edgar Allan Poe
Adapted and illustrated by Gahan Wilson
(Papercutz, 2009)

(-)


"Classics Illustrated, v.5: Hamlet"
Written by William Shakespeare
Adapted and illustrated by Steven Grant & Tom Mandrake
(Papercutz, 2009)

(-)


"Classics Illustrated, v.6: The Scarlet Letter"
Written by Nathaniel Hawthorne
Adapted and illustrated by P. Craig Russell & Jill Thompson
(Papercutz, 2009)

(-)


"Classics Illustrated, v.7: Doctor Jekyll And Mr. Hyde"
Written by Robert Louis Stevenson
Adapted and illustrated by John K. Snyder III
(Papercutz, 2009)

(-)


"Classics Illustrated, v.8: The Count Of Monte Cristo"
Written by Alexandre Dumas
Adapted and illustrated by Steven Grant & Dan Spiegel
(Papercutz, 2010)

An outstanding graphic novel version of this classic adventure tale, originally published in 1990. Artist Dan Spiegle is a favorite of mine, a multi-decade veteran of the comicbook and news-strip mediums, with a very formal, realistic art style. He has a background in "genre" titles (romance, action, horror, etc.) and was one of the last great masters of the short-form comicbook story, where plots were resolved in four- five- or seven-page episodes. This mastery of concise storytelling serves him well in this brisk, but compelling, adaptation of one of the great French adventure novels -- each page is rich with stylish artwork, full of detail and texture, and pulls you into the next. Definitely recommended. (-)


"Classics Illustrated, v.9: Cyrano De Bergerac"
Written by Edmond Rostand
Adapted and illustrated by Kyle Baker
(Papercutz, 2010)

This is an outstanding graphic novel adaptation of one of my favorite plays, Edmond Rostamond's marvelous tragic farce about Cyrano de Bergerac, a dashing, heroic poet-warrior who writes poems of love for another man to read to a woman he loves, but it too insecure to woo himself. Everything about this version is pitch-perfect, from the fluid translation and deft page layouts to the marvelous illustrations by comicbook auteur Kyle Baker. Baker, whose wild, elastic style was perhaps miscast on the earlier "Alice In Wonderland" edition, is hands-down the perfect artist for this book... The energy and playfulness of his style matches the wit and brio of the original play -- indeed, this graphic novel evokes the ambiance that must have greeted Parisian audiences when they first saw this story in 1897: you can practically hear the actor's lines echoing in the rafters and hear the rustling bustles and chortled laughter of your fellow theatergoers... Of all the Papercutz Classics Illustrated editions, this is my favorite to date, and the one that most causes me to want to revisit the original story. It's quite a tour-de-force.. (-)


"Classics Illustrated, v.10: The Jungle"
Written by Sinclair Lewis
Adapted and illustrated by Peter Kuper
(Papercutz, 2010)

(-)


"Classics Illustrated, v.11: The Devil's Dictionary And Other Works"
Written by Ambrose Bierce
Adapted and illustrated by Gahan Wilson
(Papercutz, 2010)

(-)


"Copper"
Written and illustrated by Kazu Kibuishi
(Scholastic Books, 2010)

Episodic early works by the artist of the Amulet series. This book gathers numerous short cartoons -- most are one page long -- in which a young man named Copper meanders around in fantastic landscapes full of giant mushrooms, imaginative cityscapes, flying in outer space, diving under the sea, having whimsical conversations with his grouchy talking dog, Fred. The book reminds me of Dan O'Neill's old strip, Odd Bodkins (which also featured a talking animal named Fred), in which two characters wandered around spacy, surrealistic scenes, having disjointed philosophical conversations. Copper, however, seems much more one-dimensional and aimless: the artwork is fantastic and evocative, but the writing, such as it is, goes nowhere. Copper and Fred, both of them pessimistic and fearful of life, discuss their fears, and sometimes one or the other will play the cockeyed optimist, with the general message that you can't predict or control life, just live it. The same message, over and over again, with lots of whimsy on top, and occasional hints of romance, with the brief appearances of two inaccessible female characters. (There's also a similarity to Little Nemo In Slumberland, including several early episodes where Copper wakes up in the last panel, blinking in confusion after having flown through space, or whatever.) This strip -- which originally was published online -- feels very much like the creation of a young man setting out into adulthood, working out his own insecurities on paper. While the formula strikes a chord the first few times, it quickly becomes repetitive: I had a hard time finishing this book, because I just got bored. Great artwork, though. (B-)


"Cul De Sac - This Exit"
Written and Illustrated by Richard Thompson
(Andrews McMeel Publishing, 2008)

This is the first collected volume of the "Cul De Sac" newspaper strip, a delicious new series that has completely won me over. The strip is sort of like "Calvin And Hobbes" with an ensemble cast; there's a shared celebration of the twisted, mordant sense of humor that kids can have (and that adults often find so surprising) and a familiar imaginative twisting of reality. The main characters are the preschool-age, not-too-naughty Alice and her older brother Petey, an agoraphobic, grumpy fraidy-cat who nonetheless has a pretty good sense of humor. Their parents are likable: Mom always tries to put a positive spin on things, while Dad (much like Calvin's dad) is more laconic and low-energy -- a hard day at work makes him just a little bit too grumpy to follow all of Alice's flights of fancy. Much of the action takes place at Alice's nursery school, where a handful of oddball kids cluster together and try and figure out the world, all under the guidance of their too-perky teacher, Miss Bliss; there's also a lot of talking at the family dinner table and Alice coming into Petey's room to try and pry him away from his ever-present comic books, or Mom trying to get him to step outside and enjoy (ugh!) nature. The humor is idiosyncratic and hard to describe; but parents who like to laugh at their own foibles as well as those of their kids, along with devoted fans of "Calvin And Hobbes", will find a lot to laugh about here. Definitely recommended -- the second volume, "Children At Play," is even better! (A)


"Cul De Sac: Children At Play"
Written and Illustrated by Richard Thompson
(Andrews McMeel Publishing, 2009)

More great stuff. Thompson's grasp on his characters deepens, as does his reservoir of running gags. Addled, harried parents will appreciate the jokes about Alice demanding attention to explain all the quirky little ideas in her brain, while weirder and more mystifying events also swirl about in the subdivision. A few strips that were in the first volume are also reprinted here (oops.) but that won't interfere with your enjoyment of this kooky, fun daily comic strip. Highly recommended. (A)


"Cul De Sac Golden Treasury: A Keepsake Garland of Classics"
Written and Illustrated by Richard Thompson
(Andrews McMeel Publishing, 2010)

This omnibus gathers strips previously printed in the This Exit and Children At Play collections... Good stuff, either way! (A)


"Cul De Sac: Shapes And Colors"
Written and Illustrated by Richard Thompson
(Andrews McMeel Publishing, 2010)

(-)




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