For some parents, the idea of comic books only conjures images of spandex-wearing, square-chinned heroes employing superpowers in the face of evil. But the literary traditions of the genre – in particular the comic books that emerged in Europe during the middle of the 20th century – stretch far beyond the disposable format of heroes like Superman and Captain America.
As well as being beautifully drawn and dripping with suspense, these comics have provided a window into the social and political contexts of faraway lands and bygone times to generations of children.
Here at beijingkids,we retain fond memories of our own favorite childhood comics. So, we put together a two-part list of our top 10 recommendations. Part one looks at the adventure genre and next week we’ll post our top five comedy comics. Happy reading!
The Adventures of Tintin
Suitable for ages 7+
As journalists, perhaps it was inevitable that we would feel some affinity with Tintin, the sprightly news reporter who travels the world (and the moon) fighting crime and exposing injustice. Along with his pet dog Snowy, the bumbling Professor Calculus, and the foul-tempered but ultimately heroic Captain Haddock, Tintin’s adventures are as much a guide to 20th century history as they are tales of adventure. In The Blue Lotus, Tintin even finds himself in China during the Japanese invasion in an attempt to expose a drug-smuggling ring.
Suitable for ages 8+
Providing a modern twist on the Franco-Belgian cartoon tradition, Yoko Tsuno is a female Japanese-born electrical engineer with a black belt in martial arts. She may be a role model for girls, but her adventures have captured the imaginations of countless young technology fans as she battles aliens using robots, time travel, and even cryogenics. The more down-to-earth side of the books tackles themes like friendship, loyalty, and honor.
Suitable for teens
Although not strictly an adventure comic, this beautifully crafted Iranian graphic novel certainly deserves a mention in our top 10. Tracing autobiographical tales of childhood during the Iran-Iraq war of the 1980s, cartoonist Marjane Satrapi paints a vivid picture of life in the wake of the Islamic revolution. But as well as providing parables on the ills of totalitarianism, the striking black-and-white comics are a coming-of-age tale that deals with family pressures, social change, and personal identity.
Suitable for ages 8+
Like his Belgian compatriot Tintin, Spirou is also a journalist, though he normally finds himself doing much more adventuring than reporting. Dressed in a distinctive hotel bellboy uniform in his earlier incarnations, Spirou’s keen moral compass leads him into the path of evil captains, mafia bosses, and megalomaniacs. He can usually be found with co-adventurer Fantasio, who provides comic relief and an untamable imagination.
Jo, Zette and Jocko
Suitable for ages 5+
Although the cartoonist Hergé will always be best known for the Tintin series, he also created a wealth of other characters over his 40-year career. The best of the rest has to be the brother-and-sister team of Jo and Zette Legrand, who, along with pet monkey Jocko, take on pirates, cannibals and gangsters as they travel the world with their jet-setting parents. The family’s adventures take the protagonists across Asia, the Americas, and the North Pole – which seems fitting for expat kids.
All of these comics have been translated and published in multiple languages. This includes Chinese in the cases of Tintin and Yoko Tsuno. Click here to consult our Directory of bookstores and libraries in Beijing. Or, try Taobao.
Photos: swanksalot, jorgempf, pittaya, marsupilami92 via Flickr and Wikimedia Commons