Welcome to NH's comic book world
Enter a magical place where kids learn and families come together
Reading comics with his 3-year-old daughter can be nostalgic for Scott Proulx. The illustrated stories might be My Little Pony-themed as opposed to the superhero ones that he tends to reach for, but it still reminds him of when he was younger.
“Kids still want to read comics like their parents do,” he said.
Proulx is one of the owners of Double Midnight Comics & Games in Manchester. The store opened 15 years ago, selling comics, games, toys and apparel. He said from the beginning, the focus of the store has always been to be a family-friendly place, because all the owners have kids.
“It’s the first thing we wanted to stress,” he said.
Over the years the increased popularity of the Marvel superhero movie series has helped to make comics more popular, particularly with younger kids and teenagers.
“I think it’s been steady for a few years now,” he said. “It’s just so commonplace and mainstream now.”
Events designed for kids are held at the store, showcasing different interests in different genres.
And it’s not just for boys either. “Girls were wearing superhero clothes just as much as princesses,” he said.
Through the years Proulx said he’s noticed that a trip to the comic book store has turned into a family outing; fathers are bringing in their daughters and mothers are tagging along with their sons.
Why read comics?
The experience of reading comics also has its benefits as well, Proulx said. The colorful, vivid illustrations keep kids’ attention. And because the overall story format doesn’t follow the usual left-to-right reading format, it can be a good challenge for the younger readers to make sure they’re following along correctly and helps with inferencing skills.
“It’s more stimulating,” he said.
Studies show just as much. Graphic stories can increase creativity and as well as vocabulary. Michael Chaney, chairman of Dartmouth College’s African and African American Studies program, knows that from both a personal and professional perspective.
“My literacy is due in large part to my interest in comics,” Chaney said, in a March 2017 article in the Valley News. “When other kids did sports, I was reading comics and coming across these words I’d never heard, like ‘sibilant,’ in the context of a sentence like ‘The alien tentacle emitted a sibilant hiss as the laser struck it.’ And you wonder, What the heck does ‘sibilant’ mean? Those kinds of passages sent me to the dictionary again and again.”
The comic book experience also provides another outlet in a world that has become screen-based, Chaney said in the article. Part of their appeal is that they provide an experience similar to that of watching a movie, he said.
“The coincidence of that shift in culture from analog-based to screens was just starting when I was in graduate school,” Chaney said, in the article. “The culture was becoming image-saturated, and for a while we had no idea how widespread the small screen would become, and how impactful it would be on our sense of identity. … We weren’t noticing, as a culture, how screens were defining what we see.”
For younger kids, too
When it comes to finding comic books marketed specifically for younger kids, there can be a void in the market.
That’s why Emily Drouin stepped in. For the last few years, she and her husband, Jeremy, have been designing and self-publishing a comic book series called Eplis.
“I’ve always loved drawing comics,” she said.
The sci-fi themed story chronicles the journey of scientist Dr. Archimedes as he battles against his enemy, Krios, who tries to devour entire star systems as a source of energy.
She, too, tries to make the comics colorful and full of whimsy to keep kids reading.
“For me, I always felt like comics should be fun,” she said.
The medium, she said, allows both her and her readers to be creative and silly. She saturates the pages with colorful images of the heroes and uses illustrious action words to help narrate the story.
“It’s appealing because they have a lot of excitement and color on the page,” she said.
The Drouins also started Kids Con New England, a convention that holds a bounty of arts-themed and educational workshops for kids about the field to introduce them to the world of comics.
This June will be the second year the event is being held as a standalone event, though Drouin said she’s held small kids conventions within other comic conventions. Last year, about 1,000 kids and their families showed up for the inaugural event.
Freelance writer Melissa Proulx is a New Hampshire native and avid coffee drinker whose work can be found in publications including the New Hampshire Union Leader and New Hampshire Business Review. She graduated from the University of New Hampshire in 2015.