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The kids have been begging to go to Comic-Con for years. This year I yielded, on the condition that we seek out age-appropriate offerings.

After 30 minutes of swimming through an ocean of people decked out as everything from Ghostbusters to Wonder Woman and pushing past booths featuring busty fairies and scenes of epic carnage, I happened upon the happy realm of Don’t Eat Any Bugs Productions (donteatanybugs.net). There I spoke with Ray Friesen, creator of such titles as Cupcakes of Doom!

“I do zany stuff,” said Friesen, “but it’s kid-friendly. No monsters or anything like that. Cupcakes of Doom! involves a clash between pirates and Vikings to decide the fate of a kingdom, with baked goods as the weapon of choice. Another of my stories has Melville the Penguin in a race to save exploding cheese from a horde of ninja chickens. I put crazy things together and try to make it funny.”

And educational. “I’ll visit schools…I tell stories and draw cartoons. I teach cartooning. I like to emphasize that the kids can use cartooning to tell their own stories — draw the story in pictures and then add words. The drawing seems to free them up; it’s a way for them to express ideas and be creative. My website has fun sheets that show kids how to draw Melville, and there’s a comic sheet they can print out that has blank speech bubbles for them to write what they want.”

Before I left, I picked up a sampler comic book of Friesen’s work ($2), which contains excerpts from titles such as Yarg! A few steps later I stopped to gawk at a Gargamel-sized Papa Smurf. Nostalgia for many wasted childhood hours in front of the TV drew me closer, and I wound up at the Papercutz booth listening to editorial associate Michael Petranek.

“The Smurfs started out as a French comic book by Peyo. We’ve translated these new graphic novels from the original texts. The first is The Purple Smurf, which reintroduces the characters. One Smurf gets bitten by a strange fly, and that leads to an epidemic that turns the Smurfs purple. The second is actually the first comics story that ever featured the Smurfs: The Smurfs and the Magic Flute. The books, hardcover or paperback, will be available in September, but you can get a preview comic in stores for $1.”

As I pressed on, I ran into booths for Jeff Smith’s graphic novel Bone and David Petersen’s Mouse Guard. Both were gorgeous — and, apparently, kid-friendly. While I didn’t get to speak to the creators, the next day I put in a call to Comickaze in Clairemont Mesa (858-278-0371; comickazeonline.webs.com) to speak about those titles with owner Robert Scott.

“I think Bone is appropriate for any kid of almost any age,” said Scott. “There are some elements with monsters that might be scary, but no more so than Pinocchio being swallowed by a whale. It tells the story of the three Bone brothers and their many adventures. We have the Bible-sized complete Bone saga in black-and-white [$40] and the more recent printings of the separate volumes from Scholastic [$10–$13 each]. They’re in full color, and they look really nice.”

As for Mouse Guard: “It’s set in the Robin Hood era, but all the characters are animals. That was the premise David Petersen started out with, but he found he had the most fun writing about the mice. So the story evolved into something about this group of mice that protect their shire — the Mouse Guard. Sort of like the Three Musketeers. The style is more fine art than Bone, which is more like a cartoon. The series is still being published. It’s available in individual issues [$3.99], and there are two collections that sell for $24.99. We have the first one, Fall 1152, on sale for $19.99.”

Comickaze carries some Ray Friesen titles ($3.50 each) and the Smurfs preview comic ($1).

“We have another good kid-friendly title as well: Geronimo Stilton.” It’s another mouse story, though more educationally minded than Mouse Guard. “It’s sold in the European format: more magazine-sized and bound instead of stapled. It runs about $9.99.”

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