For all those librarians and parents who breathed a sigh of relief when Ralph Cosentino came out with the Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman picture books because there was finally something to offer three-year-olds desperate for superhero books, Eisner winner Art Baltazar is here to answer the question,”What do we do after we’ve read those books a zillion times?” Baltazar and Franco’s kid-friendly stories and accessible cartoon drawings are a great place to start. In Superman Family Adventures, the team that brought us Tiny Titans, turn their focus on Superman and his cohorts in a similar format, where nothing too terribly awful happens and lots of funny antics ensue.
Volume 1 collects issues #1-6 of the series, and Volume 2 collects issues #7-12. Both books are chock full of stories with occasional vignettes to break them up. There’s no origin story, but readers who don’t know much about Superman will catch on quickly as Volume 1 plops us right into a story that begins, “Meanwhile…in the far reaches of space…a fiery meteorite is on a collision course towards Earth!” Along comes Superman, accompanied by the familiar refrain, “Look! Up in the sky!” From there we’re taken through the paces that will become familiar as the books progress: Superman saves the day, Perry White yells out for Jimmy Olsen and his coffee, Lois Lane gets the scoop, another emergency happens that calls for Superman’s intervention, and off Clark Kent goes, quickly transforming into his alter ego. The action is frenetic and funny, and many of the quips become a wink to the reader as they are repeated and referred to over and over again throughout the books. The meteorite in the first story, for example, is by no means the first flying object to come plummeting toward Earth. These refrains should have great appeal to kids who love to run a joke into the ground—and I mean that in the best of ways.
The “family” referred to in Superman Family Adventures stars just about anyone who’s ever had anything to do with Supes: Conner as Superboy, Kara as Supergirl, Superdog Krypto, Ma and Pa Kent, various super pets—even a lovable, nonthreatening Bizarro is welcomed into the fold. In this world, Superman’s tragic past of being forever alienated from his birth family and home planet is lessened by the appearance of dad Jor-el and mom Lara, both of whom escape their different prisons to help their son out when the occasion demands. (The two even get to go on a date before Jor-el returns to the Fortress of Solitude and Lara returns to the Phantom Zone.) Volume 1 features guest appearances by Baltazar’s Tiny Titans and John Henry Irons, and in Volume 2 the Justice League shows up to cheer Superman on and help him out.
The peril is all good, goofy fun: In Volume 1, evil genius Lex Luthor is the primary foe, weaving in and out of the stories, constantly being thwarted in his efforts to outsmart Superman. In Volume 2, Zod tries to take over the world by opening up a hot dog stand that features hot dogs engineered with red Kryptonite, causing giant hot dogs to go on the rampage. Ma Kent is extra spunky and even puts Solomon Grundy in his place. The villain Parasite absorbs Superman’s powers and takes a moment to sweep Lois Lane off her feet before engaging in a battle with Superman.
The artwork is drawn digitally with bright, fully saturated colors, and the characters have the same round-faced cuteness Baltazar has become famous for with his Tiny Titans comics and Super Pets chapter book series. The books are laid out in classic comic book style, with six to ten easy-to-follow panels per page, along with some variations to make room for large flying objects and explosive villains. These comics will work wonderfully for children ages 5 to 9, but the slapstick humor will appeal to older kids (and adults), too.
Superman Family Adventures
by Art Baltazar, Franco
DC Comics, 2012
DC Comics, 2014