Thursday, October 25, 2007


AUTHOR: Steve “Ghoulish” Niles
ILLUSTRATOR: Benjamin “Fiendish” Roman
PUBLISHER: Image Comics
GENRE: Comedy, Horror

ISSUE 1: Super Spooktacular Special
ISSUE 2: To Heck and Back
COLOR: Full color

Our mini-monsters (Drac Jr. Wolfy, Sea-boy and Jekyll/Hyde), offspring of the infamous adult creatures, are elementary students trying to make it through life. It can be heck at times what with all the rules of life and their quirky goings-on.

These titles are “for immature readers only!” Says so right on the front cover of issue 2. Such a declaration was enough to make me stop and take a look. Kids read for enjoyment, and as a teacher I cannot forget that fact. Reading is about more than the intake of specific information for the purposes of assessment at a later date. THE CRYPTICS is certainly fun and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that, but the deeper meaning is that students learn to read well.

Vignette styling makes for a quick read. Some stories are a single page while others span the majority of the book. The boys play war with squirt and Nerf guns, only to be reprimanded by Ms. Feratu, Drac’s mother, because she simply loathes firearms, including play guns. She sends the boys to Drac’s dungeon bedroom to play with the maces, flails, electric chair and other miscellaneous mechanisms of death. Monster or not, the boys must still deal with childhood and manage to get out an “awwww, Mom” when things do not go their way. The boys also go to school, take tests, play tricks on one other, and get into all kinds of mischief. In one story, the boys, tired of Jekyll’s academic achievements and constant bragging, sneak some of his potion into his milk. By the time his test comes around, he has transformed into Hyde and all but the basic brain function is gone. He flunks the test.

After the first two issues, the characters are still a bit flat. This is probably due in part to the use of small stories as opposed to one story line per issue. It will take longer for the characters to develop. This is also because the stories focus more on plot than character development. I think it will take some time to see how the characters are flushed out, but I think this title is worth that wait. The boys will develop as time goes on. I really appreciate that the boys act like boys. I think kids will respond to that too.

The fanciful and almost whimsical nature of the illustrations is enticing. Neither too scary nor too cute, the characters all have the feel of typical human boys. The fact that they are the undead, part animal, or some form of monstrous creature is almost incidental, as far as the art is concerned. The illustrations are brilliant in that regard. The following examples are from issue 1.

My Rating: Ages 8 and older
Publisher’s Rating: All ages
All Ages Reads: No rating
Comics in the Classroom: No rating

In issue 1 there are some choice words that may not fly with some teachers. They kids say “sucks” and one says that he is going to be “shaggin’ ass out of here” when on an adventure. There is also an exchange dealing with sex. Considering the Judy Blume brouhaha of years past, I’ll offer up the exchange and let you decide.

Wolfy: But I’ll say it again. It’s the scariest thing you’ll ever see.
Drac: Scarier than your parents make-out video?
Wolfy: That wasn’t them.
Drac: Sure, it was another Frankenstein bride and a werewolf getting it on.
Jekyll: You guys are so immature. Sexual intercourse is a perfectly natural …
Everyone: SHUT UP!

It is common for boys to talk about sex. They will tease one another about their parents having sex and will even make comments about one’s mother being attractive. However one might feel about such things, it is a common discussion in male circles.

I have no warnings for issue 2. There are no objectionable words or subjects.

A teacher can do good text-to… discussions with any books, but THE CRYPTICS seem especially good for text-to-self analysis. The characters are varied enough that students will be able to talk about which character they relate to the most. I stated earlier that the character development is a bit flat. That is true, but not so much so that children cannot begin to relate to them. As the title grows, so will the students’ understanding; they may even realign themselves with another character later on.

This is not a monthly title, but rather more haphazardly published. If you like it, then signing up for it at your local comic shop will ensure you get a copy when the next issue comes out if there is another issue.

ISSUE 1: Recommended with Reservations

Because the creators choose to use vignettes, the reader is not restricted to having to read every issue in order to keep up with the story. This is quite handy for a classroom. If one issue seems inappropriate, the teacher can simply not make that issue available to the students.

THE CRYPTICS offer good stories for kids. Monsters are interesting and kids need to explore typical childhood dialogue and mischief. Kids are pushed to be mature and self-governing, but it can be nice to read something as pure escapism and … entertainment. I will have copies of issue 2 available in my classroom and I am still debating about issue 1. I could also use an ELMO to read hand picked stories from issue 1. There’s good stuff for kids in THE CRYPTICS.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007


This week is the last of the Halloween-inspired comics. Next week expect a review of a science-based graphic novel to hit the shelf.

This was the week for the traditional literature as comic genre as 10 titles made their way into the classroom. I have previously reviewed the Bram Stoker title in the Graphic Classics series, highly recommending the title for high school. Also in this week were three other titles: one from DC, one from Marvel and one from Image.

  1. Adventure Classics: Graphic Classics Volume 12
  2. Graphic Classics: Edgar Allan Poe
  3. Graphic Classics: Arthur Conan Doyle
  4. Graphic Classics: H.G. Wells
  5. Graphic Classics: H.P. Lovecraft
  6. Graphic Classics: Jack London
  7. Graphic Classics: Robert Louis Stevenson
  8. Graphic Classics: O. Henry
  9. Graphic Classics: Rafael Sabatini
  10. Horror Classics: Graphic Classics Volume 10
  11. Legion of Super-Heroes in the 31st Century 7
  12. The Man in the Iron Mask 4 of 6
  13. Glister Vol. 2

Friday, October 19, 2007


Michael Martin
ILLUSTRATOR: Brian Bascle PUBLISHER: Capstone Press
GENRE: Nonfiction

FORMAT: Reinforced Library Binding
PAGES: 32 pages
COLOR: Full color
DEWEY: 133.4/3/097445
ISBN-10: 0-7368-3847-3
ISBN-13: 978-0-7368384-7-4

Betty Parris and Abigail Williams were quite ill. Daughter and niece of the local minister in Salem in the 1600’s, the strange illness did not bode well with the locals. Fears that the devil’s hand was at work, colonists started pointing fingers and accusing one another of witchcraft. People were jailed and hanged based on the false accusations of the scared populace. Soon many girls were making accusations, but once they started accusing the governor’s wife, people became suspicious of the girls. After the hangings were stopped at the hand of the governor, one girl apologized for the part she played in the accusations of innocent people, but she was never punished.

A succinct story of fear and death in the 1600’s, THE SALEM WITCH TRIALS graphic novel is a wonderful book to use for children, pre-teens and young teens when studying our nation’s interesting history. It is a great place to start when talking about the horrors that humans can inflict upon one another. History comes alive in this graphic novel. What else can we ask for when teaching our youth?

The art is realistic, but not overly detailed. The colors are warm and the inking is moderate. Young students will pick up on the seriousness of the story through the facial expressions and the displays of hangings.

My Rating: Ages 8-13
Publisher’s Reading Level: Grades 3-4
Publisher’s Interest Level: Grades 3-9

Guided Reading Level: O
Lexile Level: 580L
ATOS Level: 4.2
AR Quiz No: 85206

All Ages Reads: No rating
Comics in the Classroom: No rating

The reading level is low, at third or fourth grade, in order to peak student interest and not overwhelm the student. There is a glossary in the back of the book to help students with the vocabulary. I would say that the most appropriate age for this title would be kids ages 8 to 13.

THE SALEM WITCH TRIALS is about the trials and hangings of accused witches. In my opinion the depictions of hangings are both appropriate and educational.

There is a lot that can be done with THE SALEM WITCH TRIALS. Sure, the title is not only about our history but about how fear is a force with which to be reckoned. A class can talk about how religious beliefs can affect politics, a community and even a nation in both a positive or a negative way. Parallels can be drawn between those fearful days and other more current events. Fear, power, death and group dynamics all play a role. When kids have an understanding of the bigger picture, the key concepts, then the details will fall into place naturally. I think it is important to understand the motivations and different theories behind this terrible event in our nation’s history. Starting with this book, students can engage in the three major aspects of understanding: connections, causation and change. These key concepts allow for inquiry and engagement.

This series of books offers all kinds of goodies at the end of the story. Students can learn more about the dates of hangings, theories, and other information through the glossary of terms, recommended Internet sites, timelines, lists of other books, the index, the bibliography, and the statistics.

Walter W. Woodward, Assistant Professor of History at the University of Connecticut in Hartford was the historical consultant. He was also appointed the Connecticut State Historian in 2004.

Capstone Press offers other books in the Graphic History series:
  • The Adventures of Marco Polo
  • The Assassination of Abraham Lincoln
  • The Battle of the Alamo
  • The Boston Tea Party
  • The Curse of King Tut’s Tomb
  • Harriet Tubman and the Underground Railroad
  • The Sinking of the Titanic
  • and others

A look at the Capstone Press website shows that the titles can be purchased as an “Interactive Book”. Those editions come with a CD. The title I received did not have the CD so I cannot review it at this time. However, I will request a copy of one of the Interactive Books for a later review.

Also note that I have previously reviewed another book, Lords of the Sea, in this series here.

Highly Recommended
What makes this book unique is that it is a nonfiction title intended for older kids, but the reading level remains fairly low. Students will not be overwhelmed to read this book and learn about our history. From there, they can expand their inquiry into other events. I cannot wait to introduce THE SALEM WITCH TRIALS graphic novel to my elementary students.

Thursday, October 18, 2007


The scary and bizarre will continue this month with all kinds of Halloween-inspired comics and graphic novels. Stay tuned and have fun. If you do not care for scary stories, rest assured it will not last forever. All kinds of trade paperbacks from Viper Comics came into the classroom this week as well as some Marvel, DC and Image. Be sure to check them out.

  1. A Bit Haywire
  2. Death Jr. 3 of 3
  3. Emily Edison
  4. Sasquatch
  5. Marvel Adventures: The Avengers 17
  6. The Batman Strikes 38
  7. The Middle Man Vol 1-2
  8. The Underworld Railroad
  9. Treasure Island 5 of 6
  10. Villians

Friday, October 12, 2007


ADAPTATIONS BY: (see below)
ILLUSTRATORS: (see below)
PUBLISHER: Eureka Productions
GENRE: Horror and Traditional Literature

FORMAT: Trade Paperback
PAGES: 144 pages
COLOR: Black and white
ISBN-10: 0-9787919-1-6
ISBN-13: 978-0-9787919-1-9

Eureka Productions presents a series of Bram Stoker stories in graphic format for your horrifying pleasure. Edited by Tom Pomplun, these stories are a fantastic way to explore and experience traditional literature. This edition is revised with 48 new pages and offers seven different stories:

adapted by Rich Rainey and illustrated by Joe Ollmann

The Vampire Hunter’s Guide
adapted by Tom Pomplun, and illustrated by Hunt Emerson

The Judge’s House
adapted and illustrated by Gerry Alanguilan

The Bridal of Death
adapted and illustrated by J.B. Bonivert

Torture Tower
adapted and illustrated by Onsmith Jeremi

The Wondrous Child
illustrated by Evert Geradts

Lair of the White Worm
adapted by Tom Pomplun and illustrated by Rico Schacherl

Graphic Classics offers a great way to introduce a classic author to a young, contemporary audience, which is handy for those who do not have access to a lot of literature. The graphic adaptation helps make Stoker’s writing relevant and excited to readers leading to what we hope will be an experience with the original sources.

I must admit that I have not read any of the source material, so I cannot compare the adaptations to the originals. I can, however, discuss the quality of the graphic adaptations as works in and of themselves. While each story is graphically different, the tone and voice of the stories remains very constant, leading me to believe that in most cases the writing is mostly Stoker’s own. Many of the stories focus on revenge; coupled with the fact that there are vampires and ghosts a plenty, this is the perfect graphic novel to curl up with on a dark, windy October eve.

I thoroughly enjoyed Dracula. It was thick with panels, which can be cumbersome in some instances, but not in this case. The story moved well and was intriguing. I also loved the Vampire Hunter’s Guide, the text of which was a straightforward guide on Vampires. The art, however, is where the real creativity came through, allowing for a nice bit of humor. The Judge’s House was a more traditional tale of terror, warning all to beware. It was nicely done: creepy and haunting. The Bridal of Death was less interesting to me. The art distracted from the story, rather than enhancing it. The Torture Tower was a great yarn of revenge. The illustrations were jam packed, maybe a bit too much, but the story was solid and interesting. You cannot help but cheer for the death of the bumbling and egocentric Elias Hutcheson. The Wondrous Child was on the far end of the “comic” scale, in that it was designed as one page of illustration per page of prose. It was a departure from the other stories as it was spiritual in nature as opposed to a horror story. As for the Lair of the White Worm, it was a gory tale, brutal in fact, with an exceptionally interesting female character.

The beauty of this compilation is that each story is its own, being different from the others, graphically speaking. The art is very diverse and allows for a larger audience appeal. Usually I complain about a publisher’s choice to restrict the color palette to black and white. This is one instance when black and white may very well be the better choice. Certainly, a creative argument could be made regarding the use of the black and white palette for artistic expression, rather than for economic reasons. In this case, I am supportive of the choice for black and white.

This is a sample of the art,
without the text, of


This is an illustration

My Rating: Ages 12 and older
Publisher's Rating: Ages 12 and older
All Ages Reads: No rating
Comics in the Classroom: No rating

I have no problems with rating this appropriate, beginning with middle school students; however, I am not sure that most 12-year-old kids would understand the stories.. The language can be a bit dense at times and there are cultural issues that young teens may not understand without help.

Then again, we all know those discerning young students who are craving classic, dense, interesting literature. In the end, I have decided to recommend this for middle school students assuming they are either very astute or that they will receive some scaffolding. Ultimately, I think it will be high school students who will benefit and enjoy the text the most.

Besides the typical and irrational argument that students should never be exposed to vampires, ghosts, ghouls and the like, the only thing that stands out as being inappropriate is one of the illustrations. On page 138, Lady Arabella is on the couch naked. Her leg covers her groin and her breasts are covered by her arm. It is tasteful nudity and is part of the story, but it is nudity just the same. Use your own judgment.

Traditional literature must be in the classroom; this includes graphic adaptations of classic literature. If we are to continue to instill an appreciation of older texts in younger generations, we must, as teachers, find ways to make it relevant to them. Seeing GRAPHIC CLASSICS as an introduction to the classics, gives way for the discerning and inquisitive learner to discover the beauty of the original writers that he or she may have avoided otherwise.

There are several other titles in the series including: Robert Louis Stevenson, O. Henry, Rafael Sabatini, Edgar Allen Poe, Arthur Conan Doyle, H.G. Wells, H. P. Lovecraft, Jack London, and Ambrose Bierce. The Mark Twain edition is coming out in December 2007! He is one of my favorite classic writers and so I look forward to that book. Click here for more info.

Highly Recommended
I love the idea of having graphic adaptations of classic literature for reasons discussed above. This was a great title and absolutely should be in any high school classroom and even many middle school classrooms. I look forward to other editions in the series.

Friday, October 5, 2007


AUTHORS: Marc Bilgrey, Rob Vollmar, Neil Kleid, Don McGregor, & Jim Salicrup
ILLUSTRATOR: Mr. Exes, Tim Smith III, Steve Mannion, Sho Murase, Rick Parker
PUBLISHER: Papercutz
GENRE: Horror

FORMAT: Paperback
PAGES: 112 pages
COLOR: Full color
ISBN-10: 1-59707-082-3
ISBN-13: 978-1-59707-082-9

Papercutz presents five spine-tingling stories to tempt your senses and disrupt your day in the long forgotten TALES FROM THE CRYPT series. Brought back from dead after more than 50 years, the Crypt is full of old time scary and suspenseful vignettes for your frightful pleasure.

TALES FROM THE CRYPT is more about suspense and horror than it is blood and gore. This is not a disgusting display of buckets full of blood and cheap thrills like many of today’s modern horror movies. This series is more in line with the old Tales from the Crypt television show and the Twilight Zone.

Presented as short vignettes, each story has a different writer and illustrator, creating a diverse book of tales. The vocabulary is rich and the jokes are plenty. Dark humor is certainly a driving force, along with the idea of irony and revenge. Together Papercutz has created a perfect series of books for young readers looking for something new and interesting.

I tried two of the stories out on my 7-year-old second grader with no problems or nightmares. We talked about “reality” and discussed how these were just-for-fun stories and nothing more. That satisfied her and she enjoyed hearing about how the zombies came to get the bad people who stole their next door neighbor’s paintings. She also thought it was a kick that a man bought a toy that came to life and destroyed the entire toy collection. Correction: they are not toys and they are not dolls. They are “fully poseable, micro-articulated action figures”. Crack me up. Kids will love the fact that this 30-something man still plays with his “toys” and gets teased about it.

More varied than the writing styles, the only comparison is the fact that all the stories are in full color. Other than that, there is little drawing the tales together in a cohesive way, which is perfectly fine. The ink, color palettes, and panel placement are all very different. Personally, I think that works well for kids, allowing for a wide audience.

AGE RECOMMENDATION My Rating: Ages 10 and older
Publisher’s Rating: Ages 10 and older
All Ages Reads: No rating
Comics in the Classroom: No rating

In the Afterward, Papercutz is clear about the audience of the TALES series stating, “The point here is that the stories that Papercutz will be creating will be aimed at readers age 10 and up. Instead of excessive blood and gore, we’ll be sticking to the TALES FROM THE CRYPT tradition of stories filled with interesting characters, lots of dark humor and of course, the trademarked EC “shock” endings.

So far Papercutz have stuck to their guns, making these books very accessible to a young audience. I think many kids will agree that we need more child-friendly scary stories. It is a good thing, because there is a strong push to up the ante, as it were, and try to create bloodier, hard-boiled, teen- and adult-oriented works. There’s plenty of that to choose from already. Kids deserve their own horror books and I’m glad that Papercutz is there to create them.

It is a horror series, so one must expect horror elements to be present. I saw nothing to be worried about. No cursing, no excessive blood and no nudity. Just good, old fashioned scary stories for young students.

Alliteration, malapropisms, puns, play-on-words and rich vocabulary: all, and more, can be found inside TALES FROM THE CRYPT. From a word study perspective, this book is fantastic, opening the doors for many discussions about language. Some examples include: razzle-dazzle, stabbing red lights scream, cloistered, indomitable personality, hit-and-pun driver, steely-eyed, devilish designer dress domain, boils and ghouls (boys and girls), you dismember my two fiends and me, don’t you?, mortgage, abomination, exquisite, oh sweet plasticky thing of penultimate excellence, and shred-ex (Fed-Ex). Again – crack me up.

Lucy may need to do some splainin’ but the kids will enjoy all of the humor, puns, jokes, play-on-words, pop culture references and the like. It will keep them interested and spark questions. The good teacher always appreciates the inquisitive and curious student.

The publisher also has a “HARDY BOYS” and a “NANCY DREW” line of graphic novels. I do not remember reading THE HARDY BOYS as a kid, but I do remember loving the ENCYCLOPEDIA BROWN books, which are very similar. I look forward to the day when the HARDY BOYS and the NANCY DREW graphic titles make their way into the classroom.

Highly Recommended
Get it. Your kids will thank you for it.

Thursday, October 4, 2007


They’re here: my Halloween comic books. I received 75 mini-comics to give away to trick-or-treaters. Amazingly, that is all that came into the classroom this week, so I have no links for you.

Speaking of Halloween, this month’s reviews will be related to all things spooky. I have some freaky-fun fiction, a graphic adaptation of traditional gothic literature, and even a piece of nonfiction lined up for review.