Tweens will love this Ghostbusters spinoff

ghost busters graphic novel series review tween and YA readsI can just about strangle out these words, but they are nonetheless true: I am the parent of a tween boy. In addition to getting ridiculously tall (soon I will be able to steal his clothes! Woo hoo!) he is also about to find out that being a young man is very different from being a little boy. Right now, while most of what he’s into is still silly Minecraft jokes, is the time for me and his father to be teaching him the difference between being an actual nice guy (not to be confused with a “nice guy”) and being a creep.

One of the many, many, many streams of information trying to indoctrinate him in How To Be A Man is literature. In particular, he likes graphic novels. (Side note: Graphic novels are a godsend for anyone with dyslexia or other decoding issues, because the text is already formatted into manageable chunks that makes it more accessible.) As a female person who has spent time in the world of fandom, it is not a surprise to me that a lot of graphic novels are chock full of toxic masculinity.

Please just stop turning our favorite characters into terrible creeps.

I volunteer at our school library once a week. I highly recommend this if you love books… there is something so wonderful about the kids all excited about what they are going to read next. If your library is as busy as ours, your help with shelving, tidying, or running the checkout line could free up your librarian’s time for things like building up low confidence readers, discussing books, and teaching kids to be good library patrons.

Sometimes our librarian receives titles that turn out to be better suited for an older age group, and sends them over to the middle school, and sometimes she receives things that are right on the line and she isn’t sure whether they are good or a no go.

Recently, the “maybe” pile included two series of graphic novels based on movies we had enjoyed as a family. The first one I looked at was really disappointing.  The first thing I noticed was that the only woman who has a spoken line in the first chapter is implying that she is a prostitute. The second thing I noticed is that one of our beloved characters actually begins harassing a woman who doesn’t want his attention. After that, the terrible way women’s bodies were depicted was almost (but not quite) beside the point.

The Ghostbusters graphic novel series was next in the stack. Knowing what I did about how you get confined to the “maybe” pile, I was not sure I was going to think they were ok for my son to read.

Ghostbusters has healthy and appropriate themes for tweens

Opening these books was a pleasant surprise. My son is a big Ghostbusters fan, so I anxiously scoured the pages looking for any sign of the toxic attitudes toward women I had just rejected in the other series. In fact, I felt comfortable enough, at the end of volume 1, to bring the whole set home with me and finish reading them with my son. That lasted for one installment. Then he read his own way through the whole pile, twice, without waiting for me. He’s read them several more times since, so I’m going to return them to our library, but first I wanted to share them with you.

The characters treat each other appropriately. The female characters have lines that actually move the plot forward. There are a few comments made by Peter Venkman in these that approach the line of good taste as far as misogyny is concerned. However, there is also a reference to the fact that these comments make people uncomfortable, which is exactly the kind of context I want my sons to see.  And, If you’ve seen the original movie, you understand that this balancing act where he is slightly inappropriate without being completely tasteless is an integral part of the Venkman character.

This artwork is just really great.

These stories, in my opinion, respect the original characters and movie plot in ways that spin off fiction often does not. I can easily imagine the original actors delivering these lines, and I can picture their facial expressions and body language in my head. I am particularly in love with the vocabulary used. The “graphic” part of the genre did not prevent Burnham from introducing a lot of words that are new to my fifth grader- and that’s fantastic. When my kid is reading, I do want him to be engaged and entertained, but I  also want him to be encouraged to stretch as a reader and to expand his knowledge of English. These novels are approachable without any “dumbing down,” and I love that.

Please cross the streams… I mean, combine my fandoms.

I have naturally also shown my children The Blues Brothers. So when we found a Blues Brothers reference at the beginning of volume 1, chapter 1, my kid was hooked. The ability to “catch” this kind of joke is exactly what every good geek mom wants her kid to have in his life. I applaud the creators of this series for helping me give it to him.

As far as other concerning plot elements, like how scary the monsters are, the level of violence depicted in the action scenes, profanity, and so forth… I would say that it depends. My personal judgement is that if you felt comfortable letting your kid watch the original movie, these books are probably going to be okay from any of those standpoints. If you had concerns about the original movie, some or all of these novels may still “pass” for your family or your kid, or you may decide that your kid isn’t quite ready for them yet.

You can find more of my family-friendly book reviews here.

Story Synopses (via Amazon)

Ghostbusters Volume 1: The Man From The Mirror

Ghostbusters Volume 1: The Man From The Mirror
Ghostbusters Volume 1: The Man From The Mirror

Are you troubled by strange noises in the middle of the night? Do you experience feelings of dread in your basement or attic? Have you or any of your family ever seen a spook, specter, or ghost? If the answer is yes, call the professionals! Psychokinetic energy is on the rise again, business is booming for the boys, and Ray is troubled by what could be a prophetic dream. Is this an ill omen of an upcoming apocaplypse, or just a little indigestion?

Ghostbusters Volume 2: The Most Magical Place On Earth

Ghostbusters Volume 2: The Most Magical Place On Earth
Ghostbusters Volume 2: The Most Magical Place On Earth

The smash-hit ongoing series continues in this second story arc! Thanks to the contract they signed, the Ghostbusters are temporarily barred by Walter Peck from taking any work (without his express permission) in New York City. The Ghostbusters skirt the edict by taking a job in Schenectady. It’s a simple haunted amusement park upstate — what could possibly go wrong? Plus, a new short story only available in this collection.

Ghostbusters Volume 3: Haunted America

Ghostbusters Volume 3: Haunted America
Ghostbusters Volume 3: Haunted America

New York City doesn’t have a monopoly on the supernatural, and it was only a matter of time before apparitions in other areas were enhanced by the expansion of psychokinetic energy! Haunted America finds the Ghostbusters venturing out far beyond the comfortable confines of the Empire State. This ghostly tour has stops in Detroit, New Orleans, Roswell, and Seattle.

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@erikburnham

About Meghan G

I like blues, punk, and crime drama. I love having boys, keeping active, and the outdoors. I'm a cat person, but I think dogs should have equal opportunities.

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2 Comments on “Tweens will love this Ghostbusters spinoff”

  1. I’m curious to know what the other graphic novel series was, as I wonder what the characterization change was. Could you fill me in, please?

    1. Peter, I didn’t anticipate wanting to refer back to that series, so I didn’t keep the information on it. Trying to look it up, I see that there’s more than one adaptation of that movie. Rather than risk naming and shaming the wrong one, I’ll see if I can backtrack and send you the info on the one I read via email.

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