Confessions of a Comic Book Guy is a weekly column by Steve Bennett of Super-Fly Comics and Games in Yellow Springs, Ohio.  This week Bennett gives us his choice for a great all-ages comic from Marvel, plus some thoughts on animation.

I don’t want to open this topic up for discussion again but it’s occurred to me there are some good all-ages, mainstream superhero titles being published today, they’re just kind of hidden amongst all the Dark Reign and Blackest Night spin-offs.  And since its latest issue shipped Wednesday I’ll begin by pointing out one that’s among my favorite comics, Fantastic Four by Jonathan Hickman and Dale Eaglesham.  If the current circulation numbers are accurate not nearly enough people are reading it which is a shame because the title hasn’t been this good in years.

I place the attrition in readership squarely on the shoulders of Mark Millar’s recent much heralded but disappointing, very late run.  Most likely it’ll only be remembered for creating a ridiculous new status quo for Dr. Doom (that, if his behavior in current Marvel comics is anything to go by, has already been ignored), which ranks only slightly lower than the one when he ran around looking like Leatherface.

Wisely, besides giving Reed a constant two day beard and the entire team a short-sleeved version of their traditional unitards, Hickman has changed very little about the book.  He seems to have an instinctive grasp of the characters and Eaglesham does a suburb job staging the cosmic stuff as well as giving quiet family moments flashes of felt life.

Hickman’s first story arc, “Solve Everything,” deals head on with a longstanding question that’s never been completely answered.  It’s known over at the TV Tropes Website as “Reed Richards is Useless,” meaning, “If Reed is so smart why hasn’t he come up with a way to fix the entire world’s problems?” Hickman comes up with an answer that isn’t an easy cop-out.  At the moment their entire run is currently available absolutely free over at Marvel Digital Comics Unlimited; if you haven’t tried it yet you really should.

Of course what I consider “all-ages” might be different than yours.  So far the storylines are probably a bit too cosmic for the youngest of readers; there have been on-panel fatalities; and Reed is complacent in the murder of an alternative universe Galactus and turns a blind eye to a cellar full of lobotomized Dr. Dooms (neither of which is exactly Silver Age heroism at its best but I will allow it).

Fat Guys everywhere should convey their thanks to J. Michael Straczynski for giving the much maligned Volstagg the Voluminous a chance to step up from his traditional role of extremely reluctant hero to flat-out save the day in the pages of Thor Giant-Size Finale #1.  Hopefully he’ll survive being used as a pretext for starting the Siege of Asgard and inadvertently blowing up that football stadium.

On one of those completely unrelated notes, they’re making a lot of movies where CGI cartoon animals interact with live action humans these days; and while I realize we’re talking about something inherently silly, once you start making it “more real” questions are going be raised.  For instance, right now they’re busily working on a CGI/live action version of Yogi Bear and I doubt the scriptwriters have dealt with something which has bothered me since I was ten:  when you acknowledge that you’re treating intelligent creatures capable of speech like “animals,” Jellystone Park isn't so much a “park,” but a District 9-style ghetto.

I bring this up because our reality is about to face another incursion from Alvin and the Chipmunks.  In The Squeakquel the rodents enter high school and if the relentless TV commercials are to be believed manage to hold their own in a battle against the jocks.  I believe at this point one has to consider just what protection the Chipmunks have under the law; they can’t be classified as people, pets or property… so I guess what I’m asking here is, why doesn’t one of those jocks just take a shovel to their tiny little heads and brag about it afterwards?  I mean, what’s the worst thing they could be charged with, cruelty to animals?

But to end this one on an appropriately upbeat holiday note--if you go to the Slate website you can read "Nordic Quack:  Sweden’s bizarre tradition of watching Donald Duck on Christmas Eve" by Jeremy Stahl.  In it Stahl reveals that for reasons too complicated to go into here:

Every year on December 24th at 3 p.m., half of Sweden sits down in front of the television for a family viewing of the 1958 Walt Disney Presents Christmas special, From All of Us to All of You.

I can remember this one from my childhood (I can still hear Jiminy Cricket singing the theme song even now) and only wish the Disney Channel would create a modern version of it for today’s kids.

The opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the writer, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the editorial staff of