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Published March 8, 2013

If I burst into a daycare and told the staff there that all the children should look at pictures of men and women in tight spandex outfits shooting things with their bodies, I might be looking at doing some time.

However few realise the benefits of the paper-back mask-mag on the young and developing mind. Traditionally, a love of comic books has been associated with nerdiness and unpopularity. But as we teeter precariously upon the edge of the digital age, such needless prejudices are falling aside and rather than the idea of superheroes becoming old fashioned, they can now be tentatively labelled ‘happening’.

Maybe even ‘hip’.

I know what you’re thinking. As a proud mother/father of 1/2/3/4/5/6+ child/ren, you worry that your precious ball or balls of sunshine will be encouraged to commit acts of flamboyant violence whilst replicating their favourite superhero.

I’m sorry, but if your kid jumps off the roof because he thinks he is Superman… well he was never going to be the Pope. (Though I’d pay to see the Pope try that).

Here are five reasons why your kid should read comic books:

1. Vocabulary.

To many people’s great surprise, to truly appreciate a comic you’ve got to be prepared to read.

A lot.

The characters above are falling through a window and still have time to use a word I had to Google.

Characters talk at surprising length over minute detail, and the experience is significantly more thought out than the cover ever truly lets on.

With so many stylistic characters tottering around their respective universes, the big comic book companies need writers that can spice up their panels and really burn into your mind on an intellectual level, as well as a visual one.

I personally absorbed words from comic books like a sponge. The context is always clear, the writers never dumb it down and some great additions to the word-bank can be made by almost any kid picking up almost any comic.

I learnt the word ‘onomatopoeia’ from an Iron Man comic.

He was fighting Fing Fang Foom, a perfect example of Stan Lee’s addiction to alliteration.

2. Imagination.

Sports are a great way to get a kid active, but it’s always a bit tragic when twenty kids sit down to do some creative writing, and thirteen of them return with stories of them playing football in the big leagues.

Don’t get me wrong Timmy, I’m sure it’d feel great to win the Cup, but writing about it is a little bland, and I can guarantee you the teacher didn’t have you picked for an All Star.

The problem, Timmy, is that you have imagination, but only in a thin band headed in one direction. You’ve absorbed all there is to know about one thing from one hobby.

Now, had you been reading comic books you would be exposed to several real world issues per issue, whilst subconsciously being taught the art of narrative development and character control, all the whilst getting your action fix. Thousands of characters exist and all (well most) are lovingly tended to and developed by people who love the character.

Characters experience time-travel, sea-travel, air-travel, hell even underground travel…a lot of the world can be glimpsed through the ink in an issue, and all of this is just new fodder for the churning, whirring war machine children keep in their heads and call a growing brain.

A game of soccer can be great fun and keep your kids out of the chubby shorts, but most ten-year-olds aren’t doing much in the way of cognitive growth when they’re on the field: comic books and sport therefore don’t collide but rather make a great combination.

Timmy can be working toward Captain America’s pecs on the volleyball pitch, and still sharpen his mind on some old Flash on the car ride home.

3. Justice.

I was going to call this section ‘A Sense of Justice’, but just ‘Justice’ sounded much more dramatic… Though it is a sense of justice the kiddies will be soaking up.

Reading book after book on how a character doggedly fights for the right thing can really have a striking effect on a young mind. Whilst it mightn’t have the resounding impact that a retelling of a real world hero’s story might, you can certainly understand how pairing Batman’s determined dedication to justice with stories of people who fought for truth, liberty and equality in real life, such as M. L. King or the tooth fairy, can have a profoundly guiding influence on a young childling’s life.

Moral compasses aren’t sold in backpacking stores, and as such it’s good to know that your child is looking up to someone who, at the end of the day, is fighting the good fight. Personally I got my can-do community spirit from The Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers, but trust me, comics will have your kid quietly reading a lot more, rather than singing the power metal theme song while banging on pots, pans and pets.

4. Repartee.

No, that does not say re-party, though as a uni student re-partying is about as high as priorities come.

Repartee: witty and quick dialogue, the ability to think quickly about many things in a conversant, engaging and often clever way. Characters in the comic book universe are ridiculously eloquent. Don’t get me wrong, writers ain’t stupid. A character who hasn’t gone to school and grew up on the mean streets of Egypt won’t be busting out ‘perspicacity’ or anything equally fancy. Writers do however want characters to be engaging, so unless it is a major character feature they will be doing a lot of talking. And making a lot of comebacks. And interacting with a lot of people. Catch my drift?

Reading about interesting, socially capable people, no matter how broken, will inevitably impart a sense of confident converse. Often people shy away because they don’t know what to say. Well, that doesn’t really happen in comic books, because people always have something to say.

If you want your laddy or lassy feeling firm and solid in conversation and human interaction, then feeding them a dialogue heavy literature format is totally an ace move.

5. Context.

Dealing with nearly every issue under the sun, and with every character flaw under the sun, comics serve as a fantastic way to view your own life from an altered perspective. If reading about an ex-terrorist who lost his family in a fire and is working three jobs to support his daughter, all the while committing to make a positive change in the world through super heroics, the task of the dishes seems much less gruesome.

I think it’s a trend with kids to grow up not knowing how lucky they are, and extended narratives can really help them with that.

Though great achievements are had in the super-heroic world, a great deal of it is concerned with isolation, pain and sacrifice; concepts that a child growing up is blessedly shielded from, but unfortunately often overwhelmed by in times of hardship. Perhaps having someone they can look-up to and relate will make all the difference. I know it did for me growing up.

BONUS – Concerning ‘What’s in it for Mum and Dad’?

Seriously: It is really easy to buy presents for a kid into comics.

Christmas? Batman Toy.

Birthday? Batman Shirt.

Bris? Batman Band-aids.

It’s really that simple.

Furthermore comics are a great shared passion between parents and children. Comics often appeal to kids for the action and heroics, while the adult in us can look upon narrative and character progression with a contented grin. It’s a broadly appealing interest, guaranteeing each issue will become dog-tagged and well loved.

Last but not least: Most of the time kids who read comics don’t turn out as assholes. It’s a generalisation, and there are exceptions to the rule (definitely), but as a rule of thumb the kids learning about heroism don’t push kids around during recess. And, though I don’t need to say it, you don’t want your kid to be an asshole.

There you have it! Comprehensive, irrefutable, infallible and empiric evidence that my opinion is the best or else.

Have a heart mums and dads, buy your kid some comics.

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