It’s hard to find role models for young women.
I mean, really.
As a teacher, trying to become someone respectable is a process all its own. You really wish you could be someone that your kids would look up to. I’ve never been a parent before, but I can only imagine that the change comes just as suddenly.
So when it comes to the girls in my class, the ones whose lives I’m responsible for shaping for their 5th grade year, I work a little harder to try and be someone they can respect or admire. I don’t know if I always succeed, but it’s a challenge I push myself to undertake.
Failing that, I use comic books.
Long ago, back when this column was young, I wrote about a specific comic.
In fact, this was the first analysis of a comic book that I did. It was on a book called Takio, and it was written by Brian Michael Bendis and drawn by Michael Avon Oeming. I think the fact that they have 3 names translates to their superstar comic creator status.
Anyway, this book was launched as their first collaboration on an “all-ages” comic book. Now, people that usually hear the term “all-ages” typically associate it with little kids, meaning the story won’t have much value for them as big, old adult-type people.
Doesn’t Pixar do “all-ages”?
At least, that’s the argument that Taki and Olivia, our two main characters, make in this little two page short where they discuss that being “all-ages” isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
So you see coming from their point of view, being “all-ages” isn’t that bad. All it means is that more people get to read and enjoy.
I believe this is the point that creators Bendis and Oeming are trying to make in their new, monthly series Takio. Before, the two creators had planned on releasing the series as complete graphic novels every year or so, now, though, they plan on making it a monthly comic book series. So once a month, you can get a heaping dose of Takio goodness.
If you were ever looking for a great way to introduce comic books to younger readers, this is the series to do so.
When I brought the first book into my class almost a year ago, there really was not a day where one of my students did not ask to check it out, and last year’s class was not the biggest group of readers. This year’s class: major reading group. Most of my class comic books have some good wear and tear from how many times they’ve been taken home.
So, when the new Takio monthly series was released, I had to grab and read it for myself. Because, hey, it’s “all-ages” and I enjoy the heck out of the series. Brian Bendis writes some of the snappiest, funniest dialogue that I have read before. His characters constantly explode with personality and wit.
In this first issue, classified as “1st Issue Collector’s Item!! BOOM!”, we are given an opening 10 page sequence of adopted sisters, Takio and Olivia, stopping clown robbers from robbing a donut store.
As the two insult each other in only the way a sister would know how to, they use their (incredibly well named) powers, Kung-Fu Telekinesis, to stop the robbers and both become an internet phenomenon.
Later on, we are witness to Olivia, in true little kid fashion, pretending to be on a late night talk show, interviewing herself, as she explains how awesome she is and how being the first super heroes in the world is the best thing ever.
Truly, these are characters to model yourself after. For as goofy as it sounds, these girls are some of the best role models I could find for my girls.
At this time, it’s possible to really only think of one other girl hero that’s a great role model for young women, and that’s Hermione from the Harry Potter series. Unfortunately, we’re moving past that series time in the major limelight and my students are not as familiar with that series as myself and my peers were growing up.
I think it’s time for new girls to step into the spotlight. I think it’s time for Takio, the superhero tag team combination of Taki and Olivia.
What else does this series offer besides engaging and humorous writing? The illustrious and animated artwork of Michael Oeming. The opening sequence of the girls stopping the clown robbers feels almost like any properly animated kids cartoon.
Smaller, moments, too, are given the attention and detail like the bigger moments. Moments like Taki freaking out when her peers talk about her former best friend, Kelly Sue, using powers to blow up a bus are used to showcase her insecurities. (This scene is not in the comics, but, in the previous graphic novel.)
Even the darkness is brought in a menacing, but not overdone way. It is meant for “all-ages” after all. Kelly Sue and her father are plotting against the girls. Her father, Dr. Rothchild, distraught over losing his wife and career, is attempting the same process that gave Kelly Sue, Taki and Olivia their powers.
And he may have succeeded.
After reading the first issue, you are given a great idea of what the series and, more importantly, the girls are all about. Bendis and Oeming really seem to have a grasp on what the series can be: A fun, romp through the excitement of having super powers.
See, I think this is where many super heroic displays on television and movies lose their resonance. For example, as amazing as the new Spider-Man movie looks, I hope it doesn’t dwell too much on the negative and burdens of having superpowers. I mean, come on, it has to be somewhat enjoyable.
Taki and Olivia sure seem to act as such.
Will there be burdens for them to face as sisters? Oh sure.
Can they ever truly make amends to Taki’s former best friend, Kelly Sue? Maybe not.
Will their powers get more awesome? I can only hope.
I cannot predict what will happen story-wise, but these girls will challenge it head on. They will stick together. They may not know what to do, but they’ll try it anyway.
As an “all-ages” offering, this is one of the best ones out there.
That two page introduction from above, the one that talks about how great “all-ages” comics are, is actually considered the epilogue of the comic’s first issue. Take their words to heart.
If you have kids in any way, encourage them to read.
Read with them.
Then, when they’re not around, pick this up and read it by yourself.
In addition to writing for the column “Comic Matters” for the Tucson Citizen website, Bobby Acosta is also a 5th Grade Elementary school teacher, frequenter of local comic book shop Heroes & Villains, and explorer of the importance of comics. He recommends each and every comic he writes about. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org
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