There’s a girl, all 42 inches of her stretched out on the family room couch, reading a comic book. There’s a dad or a mom, standing over her, failing to get her get her attention.
Not a muscle moves.
“Phoebe. Come on. It’s time for dinner.”
“Phoebe! Put the book down. Time to eat!”
The comic book is slowly, reluctantly lowered to her chest, and the face of an eight year old girl is revealed. “Do I have to?” says Phoebe. “Just a few more minutes.”
Some variation on this scene has played out pretty much every night before dinner in our house for the past two years, with one of us trying to pry Phoebe away from her book as dinner sits on the table, growing colder, and Phoebe so deep into her world of comic book heroes that her ears seemingly cease to function. It’s the good kind of problem, but still: it’s a problem.
And it all started with Jules Feiffer.
In the summer before first grade, Phoebe discovered a book at our local library called Meanwhile… by the great Jules Feiffer, which is about a boy who loves comic books – loves them so much that he dreams he is living inside of one, fighting pirates and running from mountain lions and floating weightless through outer space. From there, it was a short trip to Phoebe trying to draw her own comic books (called “Mini Man,” which drew, um, heavily from Feiffer), and then from there, onto The Adventures of Tintin. We bought her all six volumes, eighteen stories in all, and she read them non-stop for the next few months, over and over and over again, until she practically had them memorized. When that phase ended, she looked around like, “So anyway, that was fun. What’s next?” We needed some new material. Not knowing where to turn, I asked my much smarter and comic-savvy former colleagues at GQ, Alex P and Raha, for some cool suggestions – comics that were girl-friendly but not princessy, challenging but not too adult, not likely to cause nightmares. Raha actually (more…)