He picks out his own books now. This year, he grabbed a “Sonic the Hedgehog” book because his best friends, whom we took along, also got Sonic books. He also picked one called “Space Goat Presents: Dark Lily and Friends.” I’m assuming because it has a vampire on the cover who looks like something from “The Nightmare Before Christmas.”
I started thinking about the comics I could introduce him to as he grows up. He’ll have a good selection of Superman books to choose from because I buy him a March issue every year for his birthday. But comic books go so far beyond capes and tights that getting into books can be difficult. He’ll always have Superman and Batman and a good dose of Archie thanks to his mom, but there is so much more. There’s also the problems of where and when to start.
The more I thought about it, the more I realized I have already started him on this journey. While his namesake had a part to play, the real hero of this story is a young panda named Chu.
Neil Gaiman can write anything. Further proof of this will be revealed on May 31 when his first nonfiction collection, “The View from the Cheap Seats,” is released by William Morrow. It’s hard to say what he is best known for in any real sense, be it the Sandman comics, adult fantasy novels such as “American Gods,” or young adult fiction such as “Stardust” and “Coraline.” For my son, Gaiman’s best works involve Chu, a panda who causes massive amounts of destruction from sneezing.
The first line of the three Chu books is, “When Chu sneezed, bad things happened.” It is a quintessential Gaiman line.
It has character development, plot revelations and predicts the structure of the story. All things that no 3-year-old in the world cares about in the same way many adults do. But that’s part of Gaiman’s brilliance. Whether writing for children or adults, it is important for him to write the best story he possibly can. The cast of characters in “Chu’s Day,” “Chu’s First Day of School,” and “Chu’s Day at the Beach” matter just as much to those stories as the characters in the adult books “Neverwhere,” “Anansi Boys” or “Good Omens,” which he co-wrote with the late Terry Pratchett.
Most of the world discovered Gaiman’s deft touch with characters through “The Sandman,” his 75-issue universe published by DC Comics imprint Vertigo. The Justice League shows up sometimes, as does fellow dark DC character John Constantine. No, these books are not yet appropriate for my son, but he is very interested in the large book Daddy brought home from the library. I’m working my way through the series thanks to the “Absolute Sandman” five volume set. It beats binge-watching just about anything on Netflix.
Someday Clark will be ready to meet Sandman, the fictional King of Dreams. Until then, we have Chu (brought to life by illustrator Adam Rex) and “The Day I Swapped My Dad for Two Goldfish.” When he’s a bit older, we can read “Coraline” and “The Graveyard Book” before we reach the short story collection “Trigger Warnings.” There’s a good chance he’ll still be interested in such stories. I’m planting the seeds now for a lifelong love of books, be they text or comic.
It is, after all, tradition.
Tranchell is trying to take Neil Gaiman’s advice to make good art. He’ll be talking about his art and love of horror at Crypticon Seattle on May 27-29. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org