Gransnet forums


KatGransnet (GNHQ) Thu 29-Oct-15 13:04:34

Are comic books 'proper' reading material?

We encourage children to read 'proper' books - but what about comics? Are they 'proper' reading material?

Tom Fickling

The Phoenix Comic

Posted on: Thu 29-Oct-15 13:04:34


Lead photo

Phoenix Comics

My Granddad was a Rear-Admiral in The Royal Navy. He was good at maths and physics and a prodigiously talented man with an eye for making things. It took him ages to reach his rank because - and wait for it - he was an engineer. That’s right, he knew stuff and that apparently made him LESS suited to the role than someone who didn’t know as much about the machines the Navy relied upon.

That’s just one of the many silly snobberies that we humans have managed to shed during our history. A more recent one would be our attitude to TV. About 15 years ago the idea that all the best stories and dramas would be on TV and not film would have been laughable. And now TV is THE storyteller’s medium. All the great sagas of our time are happening on TV. Film is now playing catch up. And there are too many examples like this to count.

Though I’m here to talk about one more: comics. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve seen someone turn their nose up at a comic. It’s a number only matched by the times I’ve seen a child grab a comic and devour it from cover to cover.

My father and mother grew up on comics. Millions of kids did. The Eagle, June, Schoolfriend, Beano, Bunty (I used to steal my sisters) Dandy, Hotspur, Boys World and all the rest. A great weekly treat that filled your life with excitement. Then they just sort of… stopped. But kids love comics! And they particularly like really brilliant funny ones or swash buckling adventures. And you know what? We do actually make a couple of those in the UK. I know of one or two…

You can't foist reading on someone. They have to discover it for themselves.

But back to that prejudice. Comics are a medium. You can’t say comics are X or Y any more than you can say TV is. There are so many different comics, so many genres, so many flavours. Experimental digital ones playing with an infinite page and more traditional ones like Tintin and Asterix. People still read those you know, by the million.

And that brings me to reading. There is now so much research showing that people who read are happier and healthier than those who don’t. As in if you read, if you develop the habit, then you will literally be a happier person. Sounds like a pretty good deal to me.

Reading opens the mind and children must be encouraged to read, particularly today when there are so many other distractions. It is a vital gift we can give them. A gift that basically costs nothing. And to get them reading? To get them to move on to the infinite array of amazing texts out there you can’t go wrong with a comic. This is an object that a non-reading child will pick up and look at of their own accord. And that is the key. You can’t foist reading on someone. They have to discover it for themselves. Reading is a wonderful adventure that can open doors to everywhere and comics are a great first step.

So when I hear people talk dismissively about comics I think of those who must have looked down on my grandfather. People were wrong about him. And they’re wrong about comics too.

What was your favourite comic? Do your grandchildren like to read comics?

Tom Fickling is editor of The Phoenix: which makes a great gift for boys and girls aged 6-12. You can get a range of subscriptions at

By Tom Fickling

Twitter: @phoenixcomicuk

feetlebaum Thu 29-Oct-15 13:28:22

We were started on Chicks Own, Playbox and Rainbow (this was in the 1940s) Then graduated to Knockout, Beano, Dandy, Film Fun and Radio Fun. Later it was The Wizard (or Champion, Rover or Hotspur - we swapped among ourselves). My brother, four years younger, had the Eagle, which was a bit preachy, being edited by Rev Marcus Morris - ast one time it featured a bible story on the back page... it could have been worse: the Rev's original idea for Dan Dare (the cover hero) was that he should be a Space Chaplain! Happily someone mus have talked him out of that.

What really put the wind up the older generation was the American Comic books, which came over, I believe, as ballast. These were not, for the most part, comic in any sense of the word. Or at least I couldn't see the joke.There was a sensationalist book by a Dr Frederick Wertham condemning them; the title was 'Seduction of the Innocent'

stillhere Thu 29-Oct-15 13:31:01

When I was little, my author father was an editor for a publishing company. A comic-publishing company, so we had free comics! We were very popular at school. grin It didn't stop us reading books as well, but we always looked forward to the comics and annuals turning up at home. An extra bonus was that one of the artists who drew/painted the heading pictures for the printed longer stories lived nearby. He allowed me (aged from around 7) to go and sit quietly and watch him as he created them, I felt very privileged.

I had a look at The Phoenix, it's tempting to buy a subscription once my DGCs all get to the age where they can share a copy, but until then I shall probably just buy a copy for when they visit, to see how it goes down.

No, they don't have comics at home, they have lots and lots of books. Both sides of the family are huge bookworms.

Luckygirl Thu 29-Oct-15 13:32:16

There are lots of comics - it is just hard to see them because they are stuck all over with plastic "freebies."

TheMillersTale Thu 29-Oct-15 14:02:16

Huge fan of the Freak Brothers here. Loved them since my first reading back in 1979. And the old Yogi Bear, Road Runner and Porky Pig comics with the Bazooka Joe adverts in the back.

I loved Cancer Vixen too. I believe it's being made into a film?

ninathenana Thu 29-Oct-15 14:29:29

I loved Judy and Bunty and then as a teen Jackie.
DGS is 6 and loves all the age appropriate comics but at his age he is more interested in the games and puzzles in them. He does read books and is a good reader for his age.

KatyK Thu 29-Oct-15 14:31:18

I used to love comics. I was a child in the '50s/early '60s. I used to love The Dandy The Beano, The Beezer, The Topper (I think it was called). My older sister used to have a comic called Girl and I had School Friend. I also loved Bunty and was intrigued by the Four Marys. I think it was Bunty that used to have a cut out doll with cut out clothes and accessories that you used to fix on with flaps - I loved that. I also remember a comic with Rupert the Bear stories in it, which I found fascinating in a strange sort of way! I used to hope for a Beano, Dandy or Bunty annual at Christmas. Also when I was a teenager and Beatle mad, I used to buy all the comics/magazines I could afford with Beatles pictures or news in them I think my granddaughter used to have comics when she was younger but I don't think she does now that she is in her teens.

Greenfinch Thu 29-Oct-15 15:23:20

Call me a meanie if you like but I think comics now are far too expensive for what they are and I for one would prefer to encourage my DGC to borrow better quality literature from the Library.

feetlebaum Thu 29-Oct-15 17:21:59

Ooh! I forgot - intermediate between the kiddie comics with the syl-lab-les all huph-en-at-ed and the anarchy of hte Bash Street Kids, and Lord Snooty and His Pals, came The Mickey Mouse Weekly, 2d.

TerriBull Thu 29-Oct-15 18:16:25

According to one of my sons and some of his peer group, Batman comics are coveted collector items, very dark stories and a wonderful art form allegedly. Before he moved out he had a stash of them under his bed. Could have a more objectionable stash I suppose grin his girlfriend allows them space in their flat, I just hope they don't all come back here again, the comics that is!

I was a reader of comics myself when I was growing up, I enjoyed them nearly as much as my Blytons.

hamster111 Sun 01-Nov-15 09:55:03

My son didn't want to read when he was young, then we discovered he was Dyslexic and his teacher suggested he read comics. At first he only looked at the pictures and made up his own stories, but then he started to read, and progressed to comic books. Then followed newspapers and eventually books. I have never been a comic snob, because I don't think we would ever have interested him in reading otherwise.

whitewave Sun 01-Nov-15 10:02:02

All reading is good

glammanana Sun 01-Nov-15 10:06:55

When we where little mum used to buy us all a Christmas Annual,Bunty/Jackie for us girls and my brother used to get Beano or Dandy, any publication be it books or comics that attract the interest of little ones to read imo is a good thing and should be encouraged.

annodomini Sun 01-Nov-15 10:21:01

My parents didn't encourage us to read comics or comic strips but we used to go round the corner to Granny's to read Oor Wullie and the Broons in the Sunday Post. Then when the Girl arrived on the scene, that, apparently, was different enough from such classics as Dandy and Beano that I was allowed to have it from the very first edtion and how I wish I'd kept them all!

rosequartz Sun 01-Nov-15 10:29:33

Tom, your Grandad's rise through the ranks of the Royal Navy is legendary! DH has told me about the engineer who joined as an ERA (Engine Room Artificer) and ended up as an ERA (Engineer Rear Admiral) - was that him?

I loved comics when I was a child, and so did my DC.
I read Chicks Own, then Girl and School Friend
It didn't stop me going to the library and devouring books and asking for books for birthday and Christmas - in fact I think it encouraged a love of reading!

jinglbellsfrocks Sun 01-Nov-15 10:31:34

I have supplied my two with a regular subscription to Beano for years now.

As a child I used to inherit my uncle's Beano, Dandy, and, sometimes, Eagle comics. I didn't care for the Eagle, but loved the two.

jinglbellsfrocks Sun 01-Nov-15 10:32:12


Bellanonna Sun 01-Nov-15 10:43:59

Sunny Stories (Enid Blyton), Playbox, Rainbow, and later School Friend and Girls crystal, with Film Fun and Radio Fun when the boy next door had finished with them. In between, it was library books and at Christmas School Friend annual or a book about ballet. I've no idea what today's comics are like as DGCs. are too young. I think as long as they are reading, or having read to them, " proper" books why not enjoy a bit of comic fun ?

henetha Sun 01-Nov-15 11:02:33

Comics have been around for donkey's years, haven't they, and done no harm whatsoever. In fact, if they get children reading then that's a good thing, providing they are not then the only thing that they read, but go on to proper books as well.
It sure is a sad world if children can't read comics any more.

Greyduster Sun 01-Nov-15 11:07:35

I was an avid reader of both books and comics when I was young. We all had Dandy, Beano, Topper, and the rest, and I loved School Friend. We also used to make our own comic strips and I was surprised recently when I was asking GS about his school day. He said they had an English lesson and they had been making comic strips. So nothing much changes it seems. What I really used to like when I was a child were the classic story comic strip books - Count of Monte Cristo, Three Musketeers, The Man in the Iron Mask, etc. They were a useful lead in to the actual books, which were a bit heavy going at an early age.

suzieq Sun 01-Nov-15 11:48:25

What an insightful blog, with which I totally agree.

I can well remember the excitement of the day my comic was published and racing down to the newsagent to get it - my mother used to have one for each of us four, which must have been quite a commitment. Yes, as others have said - Bunty (with the paper dolls that my schoolfriend and I were just remembering last week, and which encouraged the inner dress designer), in particular. In the house were Robin, Jack and Jill and a Beano / Dandy. I went on to read Mirabelle, where I still so vividly remember reading that people who were tall (I am now 5'10") should stand up straight otherwise they look taller, then Honey. In the sixth form, I went into town to a newsagent where I wasn't known, to buy the second edition (to scared to buy the first) of Cosmo - obviously not a comic.

I still experience a bit of a thrill with a new magazine in my hand.

rosesarered Sun 01-Nov-15 12:45:02

Loved my weekly comic, as a child.It was cheap though back then, and we also bought comics every week for our own children.However, they now retail at about £2.50 ( Beano) so they don't get bought very often for our grandchildren.

JanT8 Sun 01-Nov-15 12:48:46

My Dad was an avid reader of everything from Greek mythology to Sci-Fi and everything in between. The love of reading was passed down to me and my three sisters and to our children and grandchildren.
He also loved comics and was often heard to say 'It doesn't matter what you read, even if it's only the label on the sauce bottle '! There is always a natural progression to other reading material.
As a child I remember going with him to the local library, perched on the 'child seat' of his bike, and this was the highlight of my week. Libraries to me were a treasure trove and I still get this feeling now when I walk into a library.
So little time and so many books!

tigger Sun 01-Nov-15 13:45:29

If only to encourage reading, then suitable comics are great for kids.

tigger Sun 01-Nov-15 13:45:31

If only to encourage reading, then suitable comics are great for kids.