January 27, 2011

Why I Love the Fraggle Rock Comic Book (some thoughts about comics and kids)

Why do I love the Fraggle Rock comic books?

Because my kids do.

Now, my kids love to read. Everything. Books. Magazines. And they love other comics as well. (For example, they're loving the Smurfs reprints from Papercutz.) (They even, sometimes, love some of the comics I've written. Sometimes.)

But Fraggle Rock is one that does it right, which is why I keep bringing it up. I've written about it before at length. And my kids reviewed Fraggle Rock in an episode of the podcast I co-host. And I've been thinking about all ages comics for a long time (and writing all ages comics for a long time as well). But here are a couple things I've been thinking about today.

Here's what I like about Fraggle Rock. It contains high quality artwork, yes, but it does something else: it encourages kids to be artists as well. Case in point:

Last week's Fraggle Rock had a little art project. "How to Make Fingerprint Art" or something like that. And today, my middle daughter (who is just learning to read) came walking in with the above picture. "Look Daddy," she said, "I made Red."

While her brother and older sister were playing video games, it seems she was looking at the comic and came to the activity page in the back and decided to do it. She followed the visual instructions and was quite proud of the result. (I was too.)

UPDATE: When my son and oldest daughter saw what my middle daughter did -- and that I put it on my blog -- they had to join in:

 Red, by my oldest daughter

 Doozers, by my oldest son

The problem: there's not a lot out there like this. Material that engages and entertains and educates and inspires. There needs to be more. But, sadly, it doesn't sell (or, at least, that's what we're told). I'm curious what sales figures actually are for different all ages books.

What's the solution? I don't know. I have some ideas. Comic ideas . . . iPad type ideas . . . I was just on hte phone today with one of my publishers talking about this very question. But there's two questions that need to be answered: what are the stories that will engage young readers and, maybe more importantly, how do we get it to them?

~ Ben

PS -- Of course, I'd be remiss if I didn't mention my own all ages book, coming to stores soon!

January 26, 2011

The Fanboy Tollbooth -- "new" podcast

Here's something for you to listen to on your commute into work.

I'm co-hosting a podcast called The Fanboy Tollbooth, an all things geeky type of podcast, with my friends Jeremy Zehr and Stephen MacDonald. It covers films, comics, books, music, and all sorts of pop-culture-y things.

There are a couple twists. For one: it's clean. A lot of pop culture podcasts out there, well, they just aren't very clean. Another twist: it's not just us talking, we have skits and interviews and stuff like that. It's like a variety show . . . without the singing. Wait, no, we did sing a couple times. (It wasn't as bad as it sounds.) The special "guest" comic book reviewer is a supervillain and wanna-be comic book writer, Professor Negatron. Finally, we do take a look at pop culture through the lenses of our worldviews: we're all dads, we're all artistic types, we're all Christians.

There's also the blog, which features some commentary on pop-culture news, reviews of movies and comics, and one of my favorite things: Cool Comic Covers, a gallery of, well, cool comic covers. (The most recent one is a favorite of mine: an unusual comic book coincidence from my child hood, featuring two different and completely unrelated books from two different publishers that I saw next to each other on the comic book rack at a bookstore.)

We have a lot of fun producing the podcast and the blog that goes along with it . . . and we do it for a simple reason: we want to converse with each other and our listeners about stuff we enjoy.

So if you enjoy comics . . . if you enjoy movies . . . if you enjoy pop culture . . . if you enjoy not having to cringe through bad language and the like . . .  if you enjoy any of that kind of thing, you should enjoy The Fanboy Tollbooth.

You can listen to our most recent episode here. We talk about the X-Men, what we like and don't like about them, and why we think they've lasted so long.

You can also listen to us or subscribe to us via iTunes here.

And please LIKE us on Facebook, where you can get news and updates and the like.

We hope you like it and we hope you join the conversation . . .

~ Ben

January 24, 2011

Cover to TimeFlyz Book 7!

The cover to TimeFlyz Volume 7: Battle Between was just approved by the publisher!

Drawn by the incredibly talented Eric Merced (he's the artist for books 7 and 8), this book is a little bit of a departure from the rest of the series, which is why no specific time period or scientist is depicted on the cover.

I don't yet have an exact date for the release of this book, but I will definitely let everyone know as soon as I do.

In the meantime, here's a peek:

~ Ben

January 17, 2011

Comic Creators for a Cause: The Comic Creators Alliance

This is a topic that I believe many people do not even realize is an issue: human trafficking and child sex slavery. But it is real. And it's just as horrible as it sounds.

Lora Innes, a comic book writer/artist (she created the incredible web series The Dreamer), has decided to try doing something about it. Last year, she gathered together a large group of artists to contribute to a single image, which was available to people as a download if they donated to a PayPal account she set up. These donations were not to "buy" this desktop wallpaper image. These donations were split 50/50 between two charities that are working to fight against human trafficking.

One charity is Love 146, an organization working for the abolition of sex slavery. The second charity is Gracehaven, who provide shelter and rehabilitation to victims of sexual exploitation.

So this year, over one hundred artists have rallied around the cause, contributing a picture of one of their characters for a Brady Bunch inspired desktop wallpaper. (My character Laurel Templeton, from TimeFlyz, is on the top row.)

But obviously, when you click on the link below, you're not clicking to get a cool piece of art featuring a ton of cool characters . . . you're clicking to donate to a great cause. Apparently, donations are down this year. Last year, they collected $10,000 during their donation drive.

Click here to find out more and make your donation.

~ Ben