I have two children, Princess Thunderella and Prince Gajjito.

(Believe it or not, those are not their real names.)

Like any overly involved and passionate Dad, I have passed along the disease that is comic book fandom to them. While Gajjito is four and has only started to learn to read, Thunderella has been reading on her own for years now. She still allows us to read to her at night, but she does plenty of solo enjoyment of comics as well.

Since she turns 7 tomorrow and is endlessly curious about what exactly it means that her dad is a freelance writer, we decided to collaborate together on this column. She selected 8 of her current favorite independent books, I wrote up the plot synopses, and then we briefly discussed why she chose each one.

Please enjoy. And if you see Princess Thunderella around, be sure and wish her a very happy birthday.

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ANIMAL JAM Vol 1 TPB

The Plot: Inspired by the National Geographic online game, artist Tony Fleecs and writers Fernando Ruiz and Eric Esquivel take you to Jamaa. As the story opens, newcomer rabbit Clover Greenleaf becomes the new resident of the mystical realm where all animals live together in harmony.

Unfortunately, she also ends up triggering a portal that allows in the phantoms, inkblot type monsters that have apparently bedeviled Jamaa for some time. Anxious to rectify her error, Greenleaf joins the Alphas — a kind of Royal Guard — to track and round up the massive influx of monsters.

Princess Thunderella: Animal Jam
Cover to the first volume of ANIMAL JAM stories. (Courtesy of Dynamite Entertainment)

Princess Thunderella’s Take

Princess Thunderella (PT): You know I love animals!

Dad: I do.

PT: This is all animals. Except they get along. Like the tiger would never eat any of his friends even though he’d eat them all if they were real.

Dad: Do you like the bad guys?

PT: They’re called the phantoms. You aren’t supposed to like them.

Dad: I mean, are they interesting bad guys?

PT: I like how they’re drawn. I can draw them!

They’re easy and they don’t scare me. But I can still see how they would be scary if they were real. They’re just circles and arms and legs. No faces. But the size of the rabbit. If I saw one outside that size with no face, I’d be scared.

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AWAKE: GREMON’S WRATH and AWAKE: ESCAPE FROM GREMON

The Plot: Writer Susan Beneville and artist Brian Hess tell a future fantasy story set in a universe where young men and women — the Chkarta Dola — are trained in the “art” of healing planets. The newest pupil is Regn whom everyone seems to be talking about in hushed tones without explaining why.

Despite not feeling anywhere near ready, Regn is dispatched to the world of Gremon. Ruled by a pitiless barbarian dictator Baron Korup, Gremon’s people have grown desperate and nearly hopeless. Making matters worse, Gremon has increasingly suffered from droughts, storms coming out of nowhere, and all another manner of natural disaster.

When Regn travels to the planet’s core to awaken the sleeping guardian she finds that someone already awoke him but left him captured. The Guardian, angered by captivity and lack of slumber has no desire to save his planet. Can Regn convince him? Even if she can, will the people of the planet be strong enough to overthrow Korup? And what is Regn’s connection to the Chkarta Dola that left Gremon’s spirt awake but imprisoned?

Princess Thunderella: Awake
The cover to Volume 1 of AWAKE. (Courtesy of Action Lab)

Princess Thunderella’s Take

Dad: How about AWAKE? What do you like about that one?

Princess Thunderella (PT): Well they have, like, superpowers. But it’s not superheroes. So…I think that’s cool. Superpowers but not the same kind of story.

The colors are really cool, too. The good characters have these marks on their faces and the color of the mark matches the color of their powers. I really like how it looks.

Do you remember the part where the dad brought his sick daughter up a mountain to see the sunrise?

Dad: I do, kiddo.

PT: That part was really sad. I don’t like feeling sad, usually, but…I don’t know.

Dad: You liked that it made you sad?

PT: I don’t know. Maybe. I think I just think it’s hard to make people sad with a comic so you have to be really good if you do.

Dad: Did you like Regn?

PT: I think she’s my age almost so I was excited. And that she was scared but still did what she had to.

Dad: You said before you wanted to talk about her friend. The furry guy, Operi.

PT: Oh yeah! He looks like a polar bear but he’s really nice and helpful. I think he’s kind of like that rock guy.

Dad: The Thing?

PT: Uh-huh. I bet they sound the same.

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DREAM JUMPER: NIGHTMARE ESCAPE

The Plot: Ben is the Dream Jumper, a pre-teen with the ability to travel into the dream realm and through the R.E.M. experiences of others. When his classmates start falling prey to something that strikes while they sleep and locks them away in dreams, Ben must step up. Not a natural hero, however, Ben only has a strangely familiar animal mentor to help him rise to the occasion. From creators Greg Grunberg — yes, that Greg, the actor — and Lucas P. Turnbloom.

Princess Thunderella: Dream Jumper
Cover of Book One of DREAM JUMPER (Courtesy of Scholastic Books)

Princess Thunderella’s Take

Princess Thunderella (PT): I don’t always remember my dreams and sometimes I have bad ones so I think having this power would be cool.

Dad: Would you do what Ben did with it?

PT: I don’t think I’d have to. This story is made up.

Dad: Sure. Do you like Ben?

PT: He gets scared like Regn too, but still saves the day. And I think he gets a girlfriend at the end.

Dad: Is that important?

PT: No. It’s nice though. Like mom was your girlfriend once.

Dad: That’s true.

PT: I like that it sort of seems real, the art. But not the same. So you can tell it is a dream place. Not just a normal forest.

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GERONIMO STILTON: THE MYSTERY OF THE PIRATE SHIP

The Plot: Based on the Italian book series, the Geronimo Stilton graphic novel series chronicles the adventures of Stilton and his friends and family. A crusading journalist and Editor-in-Chief of The Rodent’s Gazette — the most popular and important newspaper — Stilton is actually a bit of an anxious coward. However, when the chips are down, he manages to pull off a victory. His friends and family are often a big reason it all works out.

In this installment, Geronimo heads to the 18th Century to lock swords with the Pirate Cats. Stymied by Geronimo in the present, the Cats are planning to rob the East India Company blind, no matter the harm to the timeline. Written and drawn by a writer-artist under the pseudonym Geronimo Stilton. Well, probably a pseudonym. Maybe that mouse can really draw?

Princess Thunderella: Geronimo Stilton
The cover to Geronimo Stilton Vol 17 (Courtesy of Papercutz)

Princess Thunderella’s Take

Princess Thunderella (PT): He’s like you, Dad!

Dad: What do you mean?

PT: He writes! About important stuff!

Dad: I haven’t written about important stuff in a while.

PT: That’s not true. Remember? You wrote about people being sad about everything and it is okay to take a break?

Dad: I did write that. Okay.

PT: So I like that he’s kind of like you. He writes stuff and he has a newspaper.

He also tells you facts every few pages. About history. I make sure to write them down so I have them.

Dad: Anything else about the story?

PT: I like at the beginning when he gets nervous because of the story because I do that too sometimes. I love stories but they still get me scared. So I liked that he did, too.

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MY LITTLE PONY: FRIENDSHIP IS MAGIC, MY LITTLE PONY: FRIENDS FOREVER, MY LITTLE PONY: LEGENDS OF MAGIC Multiple Volumes

The Plot: Twilight Sparkle and her dragon Spike come to Equestria at the behest of Princess Celestia. There Sparkle meets five friends from a variety of socioeconomic circumstances who possess a range of interests. They have adventures of all kinds and Sparkle reports back to Celestia with the lessons about friendship learned by those quests. By various creators.

Princess Thunderella: My Little Pony
The cover to the MY LITTLE PONY: FRIENDSHIP IS MAGIC Volume 1 (Courtesy of IDW Publishing)

Princess Thunderella’s Take

Princess Thunderella (PT): Ponies was the first comic I ever got!

Dad: Right. You liked the show so I took you–

PT: To the comic store! And we got one! And now I get them all the time.

Dad: All the time?

PT: We buy them. We get them at the library. Sometimes I get them as presents.

Dad: I’m not telling you if you are getting any for your birthday.

PT: Can’t you at least tell me what [Prince Gajjito] is giving me so I know I’ll like it?

Dad: No.

PT: Fine.

Dad: So, MY LITTLE PONY?

PT: I love that it’s all about friendship. They’re all different but still friends. I like the colors in this one a lot, too.

Dad: And who’s your favorite?

PT: You know!

Dad: But people reading this don’t.

PT: I like Princess Luna the best. I think I liked the way she looked better when she was Nightmare Moon. But she’s good now. I love the drawing you got me for Christmas with her and [Radiant] Hope.

Dad: Any other ponies you like?

PT: Pinkie Pie is SO funny!

Can I say Discord too? I know he’s not a pony but I really like him.

Dad: Sure.

PT: Ok, Discord too, then.

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PRINCELESS and PRINCELESS: RAVEN THE PIRATE PRINCESS Multiple Volumes

The Plot: From the mind of writer/creator Jeremy Whitely and a variety of artists including Mia Goodwin, Emily Martin, Rosy Higgins, and Ted Brandt comes PRINCELESS. The series revolves around Princess Adrienne. On her 16th birthday, she is imprisoned. Already inclined to question tradition and reject her birthright, she does not bother waiting for her rescuer to come. Instead, she wrangles a dragon, armors up, and sets off to free her sisters in similar situations across the land.

Adrienne encounters Raven along the way and the two share an adventure. Then Raven heads off on her own to oppose her brothers who have seized control of her father’s ships and are locking her out of being an heir to the family business and fortune.

Princess Thunderella: Princeless
The cover to PRINCELESS: BOOK TWO (Courtesy of Action Lab)

Princess Thunderella’s Take

Dad: So back in September I tweeted out that you said this about PRINCELESS: “It’s so awesome. A girl with a dragon? Humans and dragons aren’t even friends, like, in real life!” Do you still feel that way?

Princess Thunderella (PT): Of course!

Dad: Anything else to add?

PT: I think it’s cool how she made friends with Raven and the girl that makes the armor. And the joke they make about fighting in bathing suits.

Dad: Did you get that?

PT: Sure! Like I’ve looked at lots of comics. Wonder Woman wears a bathing suit. She-Hulk does I think. I saw one with like a lightning bolt…

Dad: That’s Ms. Marvel.

PT: No it isn’t. Ms. Marvel wears a dress.

Dad: That’s the new Ms. Marvel. Old Ms. Marvel had the one piece bathing suit.

PT: Well I like the new Ms. Marvel one.

Dad: Ok. What about PRINCELESS?

PT: I like that she gets to have fun and get in trouble but solve her own problems. And I love the way the dragon is drawn.

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SPARKS!

The Plot: Creators Ian Boothby and Nina Matsumoto tell the tale (hehe) of cats August and Charlie. August is a genius cat thanks to some fairly heinous experiments while Charlie is brave and a natural pilot. Together the two power Super Dog, a robotic canine suit, to commit anonymous acts of heroics. The secrecy is at August’s insistence while Charlie hungers for attention from the wider world. Complicating matter is a dogged (HAHA) reporter who thinks covering Super Dog is exactly the kind of break she needs to become a respected journalist.

Super Dog’s days of mundane heroics may be coming to an end, however, as an alien invader disguised as an adorable baby has come to Earth. Convinced cats hold the key to making her a galactic ruler, Princess has come to Earth to find that one right cat to lead her army. When she hears of Super Dog, however, she thinks that, perhaps, it might be a better choice.

Princess Thunderella: Sparks!
Cover to the SPARKS! TPB (Courtesy of Scholastic Books)

Princess Thunderella’s Take

Princess Thunderella (PT): Everyone thinks they’re a dog. But it’s really two cats in a dog suit. [Laughs] It’s hilarious. Remember when the reporter tries to pretend that stray is Super Dog? And she gets bit? So funny.

Dad: You like that?

PT: Yeah, she shouldn’t have lied.

Dad: What do you think of the baby bad guy?

PT: It’s funny that she looks like a baby but she’s really mean. She keeps hurting her parents. Are those her real parents?

Dad: I think they’re supposed to be like aliens under her command who are just pretending to be her parents.

PT: Oh. Cause I was gonna say… you can’t do that to your parents.

Dad: Right. Especially me!

PT: Daaaaaaaad!

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HERO CATS OF STELLAR CITY: THE CITY CALLS

The Plot: These cats are no mere tabbies. Instead, in the hands of writer Kyle Puttkammer and artist Marcus Williams, these felines work covertly to save our planet.

Princess Thunderella: Hero cats
The cover to HERO CATS Vol 1 TPB (Courtesy of Action Lab)

Princess Thunderella’s Take

Dad: Wait, Nonie just got this for you. We haven’t even read it yet.

Princess Thunderella (PT): But I looked through it! And we read the free one.

Dad: Ok, lay it on me.

PT: They’re cats AND superheroes. It’s cute and funny.

Dad: So you wanna start reading that one next.

PT: Yes, please!

Dad: Anything else to say before we go?

PT: No. Can we do this again sometime? Maybe I can talk about when Spider-Man and Captain America fight the head, guy?

Dad: MODOK?

PT: Yes, him.

Dad: We’ll see. Depends if enough people read this.

PT: Make sure they do!

Dad: I’ll try.

PT: Ok, Dad. I’m going to go draw.

Dad: Ok, love you kiddo.

PT: Love you so much!

Be sure to look for all of these titles at Comixology, your local comic book store, or independent bookstore. Keep reading ComicsVerse for more coverage of these and other great kids’ titles!

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