Before I ever got into comic books, I was raised on a healthy diet of newspaper comic strips. They were free, came every day, and had something for everybody. My favorites were Calvin & Hobbes, The Far Side, Bloom County, and back when I didn't know any better, Garfield. Nowadays the newspaper comic strips almost feel ancient, because this medium was the granddaddy of webcomics and the like. They certainly have the longevity needed for several decades to come, and there's still a plethora of great strips I enjoy on a regular basis. One of the strips I make an effort to always read first is Liō by the wonderful Mark Tatulli.
Liō first debuted back in 2006, and instantly was recognized as being quirky and fresh, and riddled with dark humor. It focuses on a boy genius, Liō, and the ongoing mischief he gets into. His father and multiple 'pets' (squids, cats, spiders, snakes) are reoccurring characters, always adding to the punchline in some way or another. Another thing unique about Liō is the lack of dialogue in the strips. Depending mainly on the art, it's refreshing to have the illustrations tell the story, which also makes it accessible to all ages. And that's exactly what Andrews McMeel Publishing is aiming for with the AMP! Comics for Kids line of comic stories targeting younger readers.
Liō: There's a Monster in My Socks is a collection of some of the earliest Liō strips, and came out in October through the AMP! line. We follow Liō as he helps animals defend themselves from predators, interacts with aliens, constantly takes care of his plethora of strange pets, and always finds time to act like a mad scientist as he builds evil robots. I was laughing throughout all 224 pages, for honestly anyone can enjoy this book even if it's aimed at the 8-12 year old demographic. The storytelling and themes Mark Tatulli touches on in Liō reminds me of a blend of Calvin & Hobbes and Sergio Aragonés, but it never feels like he's copying either. It's its own beast, and sometimes I'm surprised at what unusual things he can make me laugh at!
So if you have a younger reader in your household, and want to find something that bridges the gap from newspaper comics to graphic novels, I highly recommend you pick them up Liō: There's a Monster in My Socks this Christmas. It's a great place to start, and you also get a good idea of what Liō's all about as you proceed to track his strip down in your local paper. Everyone you introduce this to will laugh at something or another, for we have a little of Liō in all of us.
Liō: There's a Monster in My Socks
224 Pages, Black & White