21+ Comics That Kids Will Love (And This Adult Did Too)

   September 25, 2018    Comments Off on 21+ Comics That Kids Will Love (And This Adult Did Too)

Y’all, it has been WAY too long since I did a fresh roundup of great comics for kids. I’m mending my bad blogger ways, though! Here’s a roundup of twenty great comics for kids – not optimized for the bitty kids, not YA, but for the kiddos in between. I’ve also double-checked and freshened up the following older posts: 19 Good Comics for Even the Littlest Kids, 21 Good Comics For Kids and 17 More Good Comics For Kids (both for the same age group as this post), and 17 Good Superhero Comics for Kids.

THAT IS A LOT OF COMICS! So here’s hoping you find something new and fun to read! If not, never fear, I’ve got a stack of stuff to check out from the library and I’ll be back later this fall with more recommendations.

Before we jump in:

  • All comics listed here can be bought as graphic novels/collections, not only as single issues. Your library may own many of these!
  • Amazon links are affiliate links.
  • Need more recs? All my kids’ comics recommendations are here.
  • If you find this post helpful, please SHARE it!
  • Any questions, corrections, recommendations? Let me know via the comments or my contact form.

The Deep: Here Be Dragons by Tom Taylor, illustrated by James Brouwer, and lettered by Wolfgang Bylsma

A multi-ethnic family of underwater explorers (a.k.a. science superheroes!), amazingly funny writing, an art style that looks like animation in the best way, and the best pet fish EVER. The Deep started as a comic and became a Netflix series, I think (?), before Boom re-issued the comic in November 2017. It’s one of my favorite kids’ comics in the past couple years for fun, adventure, and submarine living. If another volume appears, I’ll be pre-ordering it for sure.

The Backstagers by James Tynion IV, illustrated by Ryan Sygh, with colors by Walter Baiamonte and letters by Jim Campbell

Diverse, deeply caring series about a group of boys in a private high school who work backstage in the theater. It so happens that said backstage isn’t exactly normal. New kid Jory finds a world of magic there, but more importantly, a world of friendship. This series allows its boys and young men to be full people with a full range of emotions, and that is such a powerful thing in a culture of toxic masculinity. Hat off to all the creators for making this gentle, safe space for all these characters and any readers who desperately need that as well.

The Baker Street Peculiars by Roger Langridge. Art by Andy Hirsch.

A fun supernatural mystery/adventure in 1930s London with three very different junior detectives. Molly is a Jewish girl living with her strict grandparents, Humphrey is a posh white boy from a rich family who was sent off to boarding school early, and orphaned girl Rajani, of Bengali descent, has been living on the street. When giant statues in London start coming to life, the three kids get involved with a mysterious detective who’s trying to solve the case. The villain is hilarious without losing his menace, and the kids really do have to be smart to get out of some bad situations. I also loved how they don’t just automatically become friends, but have to negotiate how they each have different life experiences. For kids into weird happenings and detective stories, this is a must-try.

Bera the One-Headed Troll by Eric Orchard

This book is spooky art + a heart of gold. Bera is a friendly little troll who tends an island pumpkin patch, just chilling, until she rescues a human baby from some nasty mermaids. Two challenges arise: (1) How do you take care of a human baby? (2) The evil witch Cloote wants the baby. So Bera sets off on a quest to find a hero who can get the baby to a safe human settlement. What she finds, though, is that heroes aren’t always what they seem. Eric Orchard is becoming one of my fave comic creators and this is a lovely little fantasy tale.

The Big Bad Fox by Benjamin Renner

Funny barnyard tale about an underachieving fox who ends up raising a trio of chicks. It was the wolf’s idea! Steal the eggs, raise the chickens, then chomp them up! Unfortunately, the chomping part is a little more difficult when the chicks in question call you Mommy. The cartooning is amazingly skilled – I love the panel-free layout – and Renner managed to delight me with the characters and storytelling even though (as an adult) I saw most of the plot beats coming. Nicely done.

Bird Boy by Anne Szabla

Lush, gorgeously detailed fantasy set in a winter landscape, with possibly the cutest protagonist in comics ever. Bali, a boy from the Nuru tribe, ends up with a legendary sword while trying to prove he’s old enough to take care of himself. Unfortunately for Bali, all kinds of men and creatures want the sword. Szabla clearly put in time to nail down the mythology, culture, and world Bali lives in, giving his story an epic feel from the very first pages. The storytelling is slow, but even the pages “without plot” are these gorgeous vistas of snow and ice. She’s leaving room for the story to breathe, getting you completely grounded before things start happening.

Two volumes are out so far, and the webcomic is ongoing, so I’m looking forward to more. This is one of those “all ages” comics that’s truly all-ages, as satisfying for adults as for children.

Breaking Cat News: Cats Reporting on the News That Matters to Cats by Georgia Dunn

Cats, but as if they’re reporters for a feline news network, relating dramatic events within the household. Three adults and one ten year old in my household read this book, and none of us could keep from laughing out loud. Unless you despise cats and all their cat-related ways, give this a try.

The Cardboard Kingdom by Chad Sell with co-writers Jay Fuller, David DeMeo, Katie Schenkel, Kris Moore, Molly Muldoon, Vid Alliger, Manuel Betancourt, Michael Cole, Cloud Jacobs, and Barbara Perez Marquez.

A lovely, diverse, queer-friendly series of loosely interconnected short comic stories about kids in a neighborhood and how they meet and build friendships through imaginary play. It’s fun, it’s silly, it also tackles some serious topics with great compassion, and I was really impressed. The dress-up cover of this graphic novel fooled me into thinking it was for the younger set, maybe preschool age? I think it’s more lower/upper elementary, though as an adult reader, I found it pretty enchanting.

The cast is quite large, but introducing characters incrementally works fabulously here. I’ve never seen a collaborative project like this hang together so well, visually and tonally, and it’s wonderful. If the kiddo in your life is into imagination, especially fantasy and magic, this is a great pick.

Dog Night at the Story Zoo by Dan Bar-El, illustrated by Vicki Nerino

Framed as an open mic storytelling night for dogs, this graphic novel contains four stories that range from humorous to deeply touching. I was really just reading this to see if kids would like it, but I got caught up. This is a great kids’ comic when you’re looking for something that’s more quiet and thoughtful than wild and adventurous. My 10 year old generally likes more action, so I was worried he might not be down, but he loved it too.

Feathers by Jorge Corona, with colors by Jen Hickman and lettering by Deron Bennett

Solid, intriguing fantasy with celestial overtones, in a somewhat Victorian setting. I think this would be a hit with kids who groove on Amulet by Kazu Kibuishi, because it’s got the same dark vibe and some hella creepy magic. It’s the story of Poe, who was born covered in black feathers and raised by his adoptive father in a poor neighborhood called the Maze, outside of the rich walled City. It’s also the story of Bianca, who grew up in the City but dreams of adventure. A menacing figure is already stalking the children of the Maze when Poe and Bianca meet, and her presence makes things even more dangerous.

Corona draws expressive people, otherworldly beings, clothing, and uniforms so well. I love Hickman’s muted color palette in this book too! The ending felt a little shaky, but I can forgive it that. I would have eaten this up with a spoon in middle school, and my 8 year old son inhaled it.

Glister by Andi Watson

A big book of fanciful tales about Glister, a young girl living in England, who gets drawn into magical and strange adventures on a regular basis. if you’re looking for quirky, this is definitely the place to be, but it’s not without depth, particularly the story where Glister goes to Faerieland to find her long-missing mother. I love Watson’s 1-color cartooning, especially how much emotion he gets out of such simple lines for faces. If the kiddo in your life is into the kind of fantasy that involves haunted teapots, houses that rearrange their own rooms when you’re not looking, and trolls in wishing wells, give this one a whirl.

Goldie Vance by Hope Larson, illustrated by Brittney Williams, colored by Sarah Stern, and lettered by Jim Campbell

This book hasn’t gotten as much buzz as it should. Diverse cast! Smart girls! Drag racing! Mysteries and adventure! Young queer love! This book just about sparkles with energy. Williams and Stern are a fantastic pairing for the art, and the three volumes out so far have been quite entertaining. Fans of young detectives and girl power should really try this out.

My only complaint is that the character design for Goldie makes her appear younger than her contemporaries. Having seen a separate side story by a different artist in an anthology by this publisher – and seeing that artist depict her as short but looking the same age as her girlfriend – I’m now more bothered by this when I re-read.

Laser Moose and Rabbit Boy by Doug Savage

The perfect kind of absurd for my sense of humor!

“Do you ever get tired of watching out for danger, Laser Moose?”
“Do you think danger ever gets tired of being dangerous?”

I read this first in our household, and then desperately wished I’d read it aloud at storytime instead, so my son and I got to crack up together. But how could I have known it would be so good?! He ended up loving it as much as I did. The friendship between Laser Moose and Rabbit Boy is priceless. The Aqua-Bee-Bear is terrifying. Frank the deer carrying his leg around is macabre but hilarious. We can’t in good conscience monopolize the library copy, so we have one on order. It’s the kind of book that if you don’t think it’s funny, you’ll probably think it’s really dumb, but good people can disagree.

The second wasn’t quite as funny, in our opinions, but that’s because it’s probably impossible to strike that kind of gold twice. We will definitely buy a third book, if there is one, sight unseen.

Little Dee and the Penguin by Christopher Baldwin

For such a funny book, this starts with a big emotional wrench! Now granted, it would be hard for Dee to need adopting – per the back of the book – if her parents were still around. But I didn’t realize I was going to meet her dad first! Only for three pages, granted, but dang. That was harsh. Once his FUNERAL is over, though, this settles into a zany animal adventure with lots of heart. And banter. Oh, the banter. It’s wonderful banter. I’ve never had a vulture as a favorite character before, but he gets all the best lines.

The cartooning is cute. The plot moves along at a good clip. There’s a happy ending. What more could you need from an all-ages comic? Bonus: we get another POC girl lead character to help with the lack of diversity in kids’ comics.

The Nameless City by Faith Erin Hicks

Faith Erin Hicks has been one of my favorite comics creators for years, and I was excited to see her turn to a fantasy series. While I’m still not sure exactly how I feel about a white person writing a colonization story in an Asian-inspired historical setting, I did really like both lead characters and I found the plot compelling. Kaidu is an immigrant to the city, the son of a ranking official from the Dao ethnic group that’s the latest in a series of conquerors/rulers. Rat is a city native, quasi-homeless, and she has no love for the Dao. When a political conspiracy threatens the fragile not-fighting (is it really peace?), Kai and Rat must work together. Along the way, the story engages with militarism, war, power, culture clash, and more issues that may be familiar to adult readers, but aren’t a staple in kids’ comics. Definitely worth checking out.

Nathan Hale’s Hazardous Tales: The Underground Abductor by Nathan Hale

I’d previously recommended the Hazardous Tales series, highlighting Big Bad Ironclad, but this installment deserves its own time to shine. Hale tells the story of Harriet Tubman, born enslaved, who would go on to lead numerous African-Americans to freedom – as well as serve as a spy against the Confederate Army. Hale isn’t afraid to use humor, and portray Tubman as a real person instead of an inaccessible icon. A real person who could totally kick your ass.

Hale doesn’t sugarcoat slavery for the sake of keeping the story light, which I totally respect. This was a great book in our house for building on picture books we’d read about slavery when my son was younger. I’m for any book that gets kids to joyfully and respectfully celebrate heroes like Tubman.

Princess Princess Ever After by Katie O’Neill

Cuteness! Dragons and unicorns! Heroes with great hair! Girls falling in love! A fantasy story with diverse characters! First published online, this is a sweet little hardcover short graphic novel about two brave princesses who work together against evil and jealousy. Totally satisfying.

The Short Con by by Aleks Sennwald and Pete Toms

The setup of “kid detectives living in an orphanage” cannot begin to explain how fun this comic is. Mary Branwell, recently orphaned, is teamed up with Popowski, a hard-boiled homicide cop, to investigate the fire which killed Mary’s parents. Popowski’s dialogue is stellar. There are robot dogs. I wish, oh how I wish this was an ongoing series. But there is only one small volume, which you should buy, read, and cherish.

The Space Battle Lunchtime duology by Natalie Riess

Fun graphic novel duology with a queer girl main character, about an intergalactic high-stakes cooking competition reality show. I’d felt lukewarm about the pitch for this because I’ve never really watched cooking shows, but I’m so glad I got over myself and gave it a shot. Peony, a baker from Earth, gets picked to compete in an elimination-style cooking program. The competition is much more brutal and backstabbing than she’d imagined, threatening not only her dreams for the prize but her budding romance with fellow chef Neptunia. Totally satisfying “underdog wins the day with help from her friends” story. My son (nine at the time) fell for this instantly. Can’t wait to see what Riess does next.

Tom’s Midnight Garden by Philippa Pearce, adapted by Édith

Fascinating, magical graphic novel about a boy who’s sent to live with an aunt and uncle for the summer and discovers a portal to another time. Tom meets a little girl named Hatty in the garden he finds behind the old grandfather clock in the wall, and as he passes nights in her world, he starts to think he wants to stay there forever. What starts as an intriguing adventure becomes quite emotional, and this really reminded me of some favorite portal fantasy books I read in my childhood. If the kiddo in your life is sensitive to strong feelings, you might want to pre-read, but I can’t recommend this enough for its artistry and its deep respect for the emotional lives of children.

The Witch Boy by Molly Knox Ostertag, with additional color by Niki Smith, Barbara Geoghegan, and Shannon Murphy

Fairly straightforward but heartfelt tale about the toxicity of rigid gender roles, with lovely art because Molly Knox Ostertag is amazing. It’s the story of Aster, a boy growing up in a society where women do magic and men shapeshift, and that’s that. Except it isn’t, because Aster does magic and doesn’t shapeshift. What I particularly appreciated: (a) Aster’s confidence-building friendship with a girl outside his community who also doesn’t follow gender norms, (b) The diversity of skin color among the magical community, and (c) the magic system, because I would love to talk to a tree with a cool-looking symbol and have it give me an apple. The resolution with Aster’s parents was bittersweet but realistic given that they’re fundamentally good people but severely blindered by their culture. Hopefully every library in the entire country has this on the shelves, it’s both entertaining and sorely needed.

you might also like

I haven’t had time to write reviews of these, but I adore them just as much. One of them may be a perfect fit for you! (Blurbs may be condensed.)

The Double+ Adventures series, starting with Night Air (Amazon / Goodreads) By Ben Sears.

“Plus Man is a roguish knave without equal, an antihero in his own mind. His coolheaded robot, however, knows better. This odd couple has just been given a break: a tip on a score of valuable alloy. The catch? The alloy is in a haunted castle. One really haunted castle. Like a young Indiana Jones with super science, Plus Man successfully bumbles his way through hair-raising heists and sticky situations.

Corrupt cops, hive-like henchmen, begoggled boy heroes, labyrinthine HQs, unlikely team ups, heartbreaking best friend breakups, and a liberal dose of super science, zingers and explosive action. Sound like a Double+ adventure? It is.

Plus Man and Hank have been blacklisted and have replaced treasure hunting with job-hunting, before landing a catering job at a swank hotel. But trouble doesn’t wait for hors d’oeuvres as the boys find themselves with a main course of counterfeiting crooks to crack!”

Sanity & Tallulah (Amazon / Goodreads) By Molly Brooks.

“Sanity Jones and Tallulah Vega are best friends on Wilnick, the dilapidated space station they call home at the end of the galaxy. So naturally, when gifted scientist Sanity uses her lab skills and energy allowance to create a definitely-illegal-but-impossibly-cute three-headed kitten, she has to show Tallulah.

But Princess, Sparkle, Destroyer of Worlds is a bit of a handful, and it isn’t long before the kitten escapes to wreak havoc on the space station. The girls will have to turn Wilnick upside down to find her, but not before causing the whole place to evacuate! Can they save their home before it’s too late?”

Cucumber Quest (Amazon / Goodreads) By Gigi D.G.

“What happens when an evil queen gets her hands on an ancient force of destruction? World domination, obviously.

The seven kingdoms of Dreamside need a legendary hero. Instead, they’ll have to settle for Cucumber, a nerdy magician who just wants to go to school. As destiny would have it, he and his way more heroic sister, Almond, must now seek the Dream Sword, the only weapon powerful enough to defeat Queen Cordelia’s Nightmare Knight.

Can these bunny siblings really save the world in its darkest hour? Sure, why not?”

And that’s the latest list of good comics for kids! If you have any suggestions, please leave them in the comments – and thanks for sharing on social media or with friends!