‘Spaced Out’ is a great sci-fi romp for kids with a unique hero

(Bluewater Productions)

I like looking at kids’ comics.

It’s the teacher in me and I can’t help it. I like to see what kids are reading to get a better handle on how to introduce literature into my class; to discover what new tactics or enticements that the text that a kid has in front of his nose will get him to read it … and I think Spaced Out  by Brent Sprecher and Ramon Salas at Bluewater Comics has the right tricks. Let`s take a look at what these guys did.

First of all, the art is appealing to young kids. The penciling is wide and attainable for them to appreciate. Comprised of fairly simple layouts and basic frames, there isn`t a lot of distracting visual information that interferes with a young reader`s ability to decode or decipher graphic cues. Also, the lettering is also fairly wide and expansive, which makes it easier to read the dialogue. Basically, the drawing in this comic makes it easier for kids to appreciate it.

I also like the angle of a space chimpanzee from Earth as a space hero. There`s a lot of hidden backstory to this: how did he get there? What’s Bops the Monkey’s origin story and how does he relate to the space chimpanzee experiments of the 1970’s? These are all good talking points to bring up with kids to further engage their thinking and literacy skills.

The dialogue is snappy and to the point. Again, it’s vital to make the text attainable for your audience. The sci-fi terminology isn’t too complicated for a kid to understand but it’s at the right general level to describe technology and the purpose Bops wants to use it for. It’s straightforward enough with enough action that can keep a kid’s attention. Ending on a cliff-hanger is always a great tactic in continuing a kid’s reading habit – it gets his imagination going and kids love to speculate.

(Bluewater Comics)

It’s an active and engaging comic that doesn’t have any grandiose aspirations or complicated meaning. It is what it is: a story about a space monkey with a cool sidekick and some sort of scheme going on. It’s definitely the fun type of story that a kid would like to read. Talking animals in space are always a success; I can’t see why this should be any different?

This is a book that’s a great match for its audience. It doesn’t take itself too seriously and that’s something that a kid can sense. If the writer and artist can convey to their reader that they’re having fun, it’ll come out in their work. Kids can be pretty astute at detecting authenticity. If something is forced or seems awkward, it’ll register with a young reader on a subliminal level. They may not know how to express their reaction in an effective or sophisticated manner, but trust me, if it’s no good, they’ll know it. But I’d say that Spaced Out  has the right qualities for a kid to appreciate and enjoy.

Speaking as a teacher, I think I can safely say that this is a book I’d recommend for any kid who enjoys a good space story with a unique hero. Speaking as a comic reader, it’s got dynamism, a totally appropriate story and is engaging enough for a kid to immerse himself in without feeling intimidated.

Oh … and it’s got poop-bombs. What kid doesn’t like a good poop-bomb joke?

About Captain John K. Kirk

Captain John K. Kirk
John Kirk is an English and History teacher and librarian in Toronto, Canada. In addition to the traditional curriculum, John tries to teach his students to make sense of geek culture. And with the name "J. Kirk," it's hard for him to not inject "Star Trek" into his lessons. Comics, RPGs and the usual fanboy gear make up his classroom resources.