GU Comics Day: Making zombies safe for kids

In the television series Heroes—a strange, scenery-chewing show, check your local listings—two guys from Japan, lost in the Midwest, hope to find clues to a mystery of world-shattering ramifications in a comic book that predicts the future. They head into the local comics shop with confidence the latest issue will be waiting, because there’s one thing they can be sure of anywhere: Wednesday is new comics day.

Making the middle of the week a great excuse to talk comics.

I can’t always promise world-shattering prophecy in midweek Graphic Universe posts or the upcoming GU blog, but maybe a bit on the future of comics publishing, its Paleolithic origins (really!), zombies, and my shiny new iPhone with comics downloaded onto it. Wednesdays in shops may have been more of an event when most comics were floppy periodicals, but comics have stretched along with everything else: webcomics; downloads; in something called the newspaper; in hardcover books, a highly-tested technology even better than a cave wall for splashy illustrations. Publishers are even experimenting with old-style periodicals, supposedly full of old-style adventure. Through it all, comics shops, instead of just having hidden sections for grownups (I think you know what I mean), are adding sections that are strictly “kid safe.”

In that show Heroes, an aimless young man discovers he can fly, a bored office worker time-travels, a teenage girl becomes invulnerable, an introvert aims to rule the world. Good show or bad, it’s about human wishes fulfilled comics-style—and, like many things comics-related, its tone is not for children. But the “kid safe” label on GU books shouldn’t mean substituting simplistically sugar-spun stories. Kung Fu Masters by Evonne Tsang has ancient Chinese zombies, and zombie-fighting is generally considered no profession for the squeamish. But it’s also gruesomely great fun, as the reader picks which twists the plot will take. Artist Alitha Martinez (not a professional zombie-fighter herself) also illustrated comics adaptations of Heroes. It was satisfying to work with her on a book she can safely show off at her son’s school, one in which younger readers can fulfill those wishes for adventure, comics-style. Becoming the hero—or at least understanding the hero—is pretty much what all stories invite us to do. Whatever the form.

(Kung Fu Masters is #12 in the Twisted Journeys series and will be out in September. You could look for it on a Wednesday.)