Next week, Arcana Studios will be releasing two comics geared towards the younger crowd. Unlike most of the competition for younger readers, Arcana has taken a rather unique approach. The Ancient Oak and Gordon the Giraffe are books that will not only appeal to those who are not old enough for the likes of Stormwatch or Dark Avengers, but are also comics with a social conscience (unlike many other titles out there, who focus mainly on the “beating people up” aspect of story telling). While most of the comic reading public will see these titles as being too preachy, to see a publisher willing to put out books like this makes me proud of the comic book industry.
The Ancient Oak
The Ancient Oak tells the story of a young princess, on a quest to save her kingdom from an endless winter. The story by Arcana CEO & Publisher Sean O’Reilly, with artwork by Chris Uminga, is a simple parable about the issues facing the environment due to rapid deforestation. This issue is a complicated one, and O’Reilly and Uminga do a superb job of explaining the situation so kids can understand, while at the same time avoiding oversimplifying the issue. The thing that struck me the most about this book was that it didn’t attempt the traditional “happy ending”, going instead with the lesson that no matter how bad things got, as long as one person had the strength of will to change them, then there was hope.
Gordon The Giraffe
While The Ancient OakTdealt with matters on a global scale, Gordon The Giraffe is a story about interpersonal relationships. Written by Bruce Brown, and illustrated by A. Shelton, this storybook tells the story of the titular giraffe and the issues he has because he is different. In the jungle where Gordon lives, there is a special game that the giraffe children play with each other (much like 1-on-1 volleyball, but with bananas). Gordon’s issue is that, instead of playing banana volleyball with a girl giraffe, he finds it much more fun to play the game with Gary. So the other boys decide to play a trick on Gordon. When that trick backfires, it is up to Gordon to rescue the other boy giraffes. While the plot might seem a bit clichéd, Mr Brown is still able to make the challenges of growing up gay relatable to a young audience. The artwork by Mr. Shelton is simplistic, but highly stylized, and adds to the story, making it more myth-like than child-like.
If you are looking to get your small children into the world of comics, and are becoming frustrated with the brainless, cutesy approach that other publishers are using, or if you’d like to have what book your young child reads to have more of a message than “beat the bad guys up,” these two books are sure to please.