Welcome to my new weekly column about comics -- and comics culture -- for kids! Want to get your children or nieces and nephews hooked on comic books? Start here! Today's post is a review of two recent Tiny Titans releases from DC Comics, Tiny Titans: The Treehouse and Beyond trade paperback, and Tiny Titans #47
A lot of adult comic fans love the acclaimed Tiny Titans for its intensely self-referential nature in regards to the larger DC Universe -- but how does it stack up as reading material for actual kids? Surprisingly well, if you keep in mind that they are probably encountering 80% of the characters and concepts for the first time. That, in-and-of-itself, is not a terrible thing. I encountered many superheroes for the first time reading comics that were meant for readers far older than I was. I watched the 1960s Batman as a child and didn’t get most of the jokes; instead, I considered it to be a very serious action show. Tiny Titans opens up for children a textured version of the DCU that they can carry over to the “grown up” comics quite easily as they age; this makes it quite the “gateway” comic for new readers.
The Treehouse and Beyond collects Tiny Titans#33-38 and focuses on tales like that of the multiple Robins (the Red Hood wears a red bucket on his head and Damian is apparently feral) and other-dimensional dopplegangers of the Titans. To be honest, I kept getting the feeling reading the book like I was way behind on my DC continuity knowledge...and also that I was being given a CliffsNotes lesson on certain aspects of it. But there were also gentle, and at times quite subtle, commentaries by writers Art Baltazar and Franco on various DC lore that I picked up on and appreciated: for example, a little version of Cassandra Cain opting for the scary black Batgirl outfit and creeping the Barbara Gordon version out.
Kids will respond to artist Baltazar's endearing miniature versions of the DCU crew (reminding me, in both look and tone, of Peanuts meets Calvin and Hobbes), and the at-times surreal nature of the storytelling. Not every story or plot point ends in a "neat" resolution -- but instead some just fade into bizarre (though adorable) non sequiturs. It is the absurdist humor of the comic that is the most appealing to me, giving it a "weight" that goes beyond many other comics for kids. Tiny Titans is often just really strange, as the best of children's fare such as Spongebob Squarepants or Yo Gabba Gabba! is strange.
I’ve paired this review of the latest trade paperback collection of the Tiny Titans with that of the newest issue, #47, so you could have the option of testing out the single issue first. But at $12.99 for 144 pages, The Treehouse and Beyondis a great deal and you won’t mind your little one “deminting” the book as he or she reads it from cover to cover. In fact, I really prefer its larger comic book-sized dimensions rather than the digest size many kids comics find themselves in bookshelf format...easier to open with big colorful pictures!
If you're a Bat-Fan you'll find more to love in Tiny Titans#47, continuing the adventures of bucket-head Jason Todd and doggie Damian. The somewhat obscure Titan Bumblebee has a starring role as a babysitter, and "Mrs. Atom" (am I the only one who thought of the ill-fated Jean Loring here?) and a flipper-handed Miss Martian are also on-board.
So if you're a DC fan and looking for a good "starter" comic for the child in your life -- or just want a whimsical bit of "indie"-styled cartooning -- these Tiny Titans offerings are a good bet.