Welcome back parents of the geeky and geek-adjacent variety. I got a lot of attention on my last Geek Parenting article so I’m back to offer a few more suggestions for those looking to support their double-digit Supermen and Wonder Women.

This list is once again going to look at books I’d suggest for nerds at that in-between age of 10 to 15.

This time we’re going to look at a couple of old classics that are currently out of print but should be easily available online or at comic conventions.

Spider-Man: India

Part of a joint experiment between Marvel Comics and Gotham Entertainment Group in 2004, Spider-Man: India is an interesting addition to Spidey’s library.

The story follows Pavitr Prabhakar, a young man whose aunt and uncle have moved to Mumbai so that Pavitr can get the education he deserves. The set up should be pretty familiar for fans of the Web-Head, Pavitr is a smart, quick-witted boy whose village upbringing makes him a target for bullies almost as much as his friendship with Meera Jain, one of the popular girls. Life changes for Pavitr when an old Yogi grants him a boon, the proportionate strength and speed of a spider.

Like many of DC’s Elseworlds, half the fun of Spider-Man: India is seeing how the original material is translated into this new setting. Kids who have some familiarity with India will enjoy seeing how Spiderman’s costume, quips, and supporting cast have been interpreted, while those who aren’t can get a small taste while they enjoy this mythologically themed take on the familiar story.

Despite the similarities, however, the book differs from the Elseworlds series in that it was originally written for an Indian audience. While that helps ensure a certain faithfulness to the culture, it means that the book wasn’t written to make sense to an American teenager. In order to help with the culture shock, Marvel has included a short glossary of terms after each chapter to help explain concepts that might not be immediately clear to an American audience.

The series sets Spider-Man up as not just a  “mere” superhero  but as a reflection of the heroes of Indian myth, like Rama or Arjuna. Three of Spider-Man’s greatest foes are reimagined as villains empowered by Rakshasa magic and the stakes of their conflict are far greater than one city. However, if you’re looking for an Indian answer to Thor or Percy Jackson, you’ll probably be disappointed. Though it’s decidedly in line with Indian tradition, the conflict here is phrased in terms of heroes and demons rather than tying the series directly into Hindu belief. I expect that decision was made to ensure that Spider-Man didn’t take sides in India’s culture wars, as he belongs to all people. It’s kind of a shame, but I imagine some parents will prefer it that way.

On my first reading of the book, I felt that the story was a fairly generic Spiderman yarn with some Indian flare thrown in. However, upon rereading the trade, I’ve really come to love it. Spider-Man: India is a classic Spidey tale with plenty of character, some gorgeous art, lots of interesting deviations from its American counterpart, and some really clever writing. Some of the work with Doctor Octopus in particular always sticks out to me as an interestingly thoughtful character arc.

If it was good enough for India’s censors, I expect it will be tame enough for American children. Spider-Man: India provides a window into a beautiful culture, some lovely art, and a really fun take on a classic story.

Spider-Man: India has been collected in trade and was available in America. Currently it is out of print, but the graphic novel can be found online for a reasonable price.

 

 

Runaways

Runaways was a very special little book that Marvel published in the mid 2000s. Comics are notoriously hard to get into and a large part of that is due to the omnipresent belief that we should start at the beginning that’s taken hold of us in the age of binge-watching. Of course, nothing really has a beginning anymore, as any new comic property these days is just a spin-off of the same old white men from the 60s. Runaways is one of the rare exceptions, a completely new Marvel IP created by acclaimed writer Brian K. Vaughn and targeted at the teenager in all of us.

The premise is pretty simple: what if everything you felt as a teenager was true? What if you were destined for something more? What if you were different from everyone else? What if your parents were evil? When six kids discover that their California yuppie parents are actually a cabal of supervillains called the Pride who are the reason Marvel’s supercrime doesn’t dare move out west, they go on the run to put them away. Along the way they realize that they’ve inherited some powerful gifts from their parents and form a team to put an end to the Pride when no one else will.

Adrian Alphona, the artist on the similarly fun and high-minded Ms. Marvel provides the art. The characters are fantastic and the plot gripping. The kids feel realistic and engaging without feeling overpowered. It’s a smart and surprisingly funny book. Admittedly it does pander a little bit to the angry teen in all of us a bit but, for the most part, it doesn’t speak down to its audience.

There are implications of parental abuse, menstruation, homophobia, and societal pressures toward sex, but it’s all handled rather tastefully and in a way that was almost certainly designed to be comforting to teens in its honesty. There’s also the requisite superhero violence but nothing gruesome.

Despite coming out in 2003, Runaways still holds up pretty well. Nico’s goth look is a little more niche now, but Gert’s delightfully obnoxious proto-hipsterism has never been more timely.

Runaways is also commendable for its large female cast. Four of the six children are girls and, of those, only one doesn’t have built-in superpowers (she gets her own raptor): while neither of the boys do. It’s a great inversion of the paradigm and one that will likely lead teen boys to identify with the highly likable guys on the team as well as the badass girls.

In the end, Runaways is a great comic. It’s lively and entertaining with a thoughtful and well-written cast and, most importantly, it respects teenagers. It may lean a little heavily on themes of teenage rebellion but, come on: if you wanted someone to listen to you, you wouldn’t have had kids.

Runaways is currently out of print, but you can still find most of the early volumes for reasonable prices. It’s worth mentioning that Marvel relaunched the title in 2005, meaning that the book containing Runaways (2005) #1-6 comes after the one containing Runaways #7-12. No one said they make it easy. Regardless, the first book is called “Pride and Joy” and can be bought in hardcover, trade paperback, manga-style digest size, and even digitally. You’ll need to look online or in a store that has some older books on the shelves, but it’s well worth it.

runaways

 

 

JLA: A League of One

Finally we come to Wonder Woman. Despite being one of DC’s biggest names, Wonder Woman doesn’t have a lot of stories that I can put on this list, which is a particular shame, given what a good role-model she should be.

Wonder Woman has never had the backing, or the writers that Batman or Superman have received for very long. Though there are a couple of truly great stories out there, she’s only ever had one title, recently gaining the digital-first Sensation comics and second billing in Superman/Wonder Woman. That means that writers have had to compete to make Diana seem equal to her peers. Runs like George Perez’s and Greg Rucka’s are brilliant, but I don’t know that I could recommend them to a tween.

Likewise, there currently aren’t any Wonder Woman TV shows to produce tie-in books the way that Batman, Superman, and even Green Lantern have had.

But that’s where Chistopher Moeller comes in.

Released in late 2002, A League of One is one of the few original Wonder Woman graphic novels and, unsurprisingly, tries to market itself as a Justice League tale. Beyond that, it’s a smart read full of magic, brilliant ideas, and gorgeous art.

When an oracle foretells the destruction of the Justice League and the return of a powerful dragon, Wonder Woman must devise a way to save her teammates. It’s basically a different perspective on the seminal “Tower of Babel” storyline, but Moeller introduces a number of excellent ideas that make this volume a unique and valuable addition to any fan’s library.

Moeller’s take on Diana isn’t quite what you might be used to, but it’s a largely faithful rendering of the iconic heroine that builds upon her connection to truth to accomplish that most honored feat of giving Diana a distinct place on the League. Likewise, our villain is a truly impressive piece of work. Though Wonder Woman handles this threat largely by herself, Drakul Karfang is a League-worthy threat and one that I honestly wish we would see again.

Another wise choice is giving Diana a greater connection to Themyscera and providing a supporting cast for her. The addition of two nymphs and the sense of belonging that come with them is something truly valuable. Though the Amazons could easily fill such a role in general, the nymphs are perfectly suited to this story and bring a sense of wonder into the book.

I couldn’t recommend this story without mentioning how phenomenal the art is. Moeller’s art is full and realistic in a way that very few comics can claim instantly placing himself among the likes of Alex Ross and Adam Hughes. Our villainess is especially beautiful in all her monstrous glory. The unspoiled beauty of Themyscera is brought to life and the grandeur of the Watchtower is plain to see. Moeller’s talent is on full display and he uses it wisely, summoning the best elements of Wonder Woman’s mythos while still setting up an original setting for the story.

Really the only serious problem with this graphic novel is that there isn’t any more. It’s entirely possible that DC asked Moeller to return and he turned them down or vice-versa, but regardless of what circumstances were in play, it’s really a shame that there isn’t more of his work.

The potential for a line of Wonder Woman graphic novels was immense. Imagine how incredible it would have been to have all manner of adventures featuring Diana and her nymph friends. And if Moeller wasn’t interested in that, there’s the entirety of the DCU to entice him with.

It is my fervent hope that it was Mr. Moeller’s decision not to return, because in this single volume he really does make an impressive case for himself and for Wonder Woman.

A League of One is one of a distressingly small number of Wonder Woman stories available in trade paperback and one of even fewer that I would recommend to a younger reader. It’s Wonder Woman vs. the Justice League and a dragon! What kid could want more?

It’s an astonishingly pretty volume that will appeal to boys and girls alike.

JLA: A League of One is out of print to my knowledge, however I’ve seen it multiple times in stores and online for around its original price of $14.95.

 

These are three very different comics, but they’re all gems. Talk to the nerdling in your life and find out what they like, what makes a comic speak to them, and pick the best one you can find. These may be my suggestions, but it’s all about what they love.

As ever, I’m happy to answer any questions you have in comments.

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