Things change, the people who brought you comics that weren't just for kids anymore, Francoise Mouly and Art Spiegelman, have now decided comics aren't just for grown-ups anymore.  Perhaps attempting to balance the situation once more, Mouly and Spiegelman were the editors of Raw which, alongside Watchmen and Dark Knight returns, was a a major player in moving public perception away from comics as a medium for kids entertainment.  Perhaps recognising their part in this Mouly in recent years founded the excellent Toon Books to make comics for kids.  Now, with husband Art  she has given us the wonderful Toon Treasury of Classic Children's Comics.  This is really a book that lives up to the cliche of being for "children of all ages".  At age 45 and 1/4 I revelled in a first chance to read stories I'd only ever heard about, Dick Briefer's comical Frankenstein, Walt Kelly's Albert and Pogo, John Stanley's Melvin Monster and Little Lulu, Sheldon Mayer's wonderful Sugar and Spike and a dozen or more others I'd never even heard of.  My 8 year old daughter was equally delighted to be able to read about Gerald McBoing Boing, Jigger and Little Archie.

The book is broken down into sections according to the comics main theme, kids, funny animals, fantasy land and so on.  Very few stories in any section left you wondering why they were there, perhaps the main one being Dan Noonan's Rover, a realistic animal strip told in six panels per page with text under each panel which was very much at odds with the rest of it's neighbours.  Each section had it's dud, though these were different depending on the age of the reader.  It was interesting to see things like John Stanley's Melvin Monster.  The lead character is a shy child living with abusive parents and if Stanley had used a human child instead of a monster he'd probably have faced a barrage of complaints from parent groups across the USA.  Probably this is part of what makes many of the better stories stand out, they work on more than one level, able to entertain both kids and parents.  One of the finest examples of this is the Uncle Scrooge story chosen.  Trala La is set in a mythical Shangri La where there is no greed or wealth or Money.  Uncle Scrooge flees there when the demands people place on him because of his wealth becomes too much and he has a kind of breakdown.  The story acts as a stinging criticism of capitalism, or the collector mentality, when a single bottletop destroys the peace of the whole country.  It's also very funny and the use of a bottle top as catalyst is wonderfully absurd.

My personal favourite has to be Sugar and Spike.  Why DC have not released a Showcase of this yet is beyond me.  Mayer's genius is that in this series he caught the spirit of babies perfectly, particularly in "Pint size love story".  Spike cries because Sugar is mean to him, She's removed to her own home next door and Spike then spends the next few pages missing her rotten behaviour until they are reunited and she dumps a bucket load of snow on his head.  The last panel is the bucket of snow going over Spike's head, the panel is heart shaped and hearts surround the two kids.  The story is succinct enough to avoid being saccarine and just long enough to hit all the right emotional notes.

Any adult with a broad interest in comics should buy this book.  It has enough gems in it's 340 pages to be more than worth it's price, and if you can share it with a son or daughter of the right age all the better.  Comics aren't just for grown-ups any more.