The Creators of Primer Solve the Question: How Do We Find the Perfect Comics for Our Kids?
When trying to search for comics your kids might enjoy, it can certainly be tricky. There are an endless number of stories that have positive messages, but sometimes, the illustrations or violent sequences might not be perfectly accessible for younger audiences. My kids are ages 6 and 8, so it’s without hesitation that I recommend Primer for this age group. This is an all-ages story that generates several themes that are important to see play out: discovering trust, feelings of acceptance, and doing what’s right in the face of great challenges.
Primer is the work of writers Thomas Krajewski and Jennifer Muro, artist Gretel Lusky, letterer Wes Abbott, and editor Jim Chadwick. The story revolves around 13-year-old Ashley Rayburn, a fun-loving character who has to adjust to life in the foster system – all along wanting to be loved and to find those who believe she’s worth their time.
Plus, this story starts with a flash-forward sequence where we get a brief glimpse of Ashley as a superhero. It’s delightfully fun, vibrant with colors and attitude, and an immediate reason to see why Ashley is the new superhero on the block and a wonderful character for kids to look up to.
After saving a plane from crashing (with a big, muscular airport luggage carrier stunned by what he’s just seen), she lands the perfect line: “Awww, don’t worry, pal. Maybe someday you’ll grow up to be as big and strong as a girl, too.” This is within the first few pages, and it’s a perfect highlight to girls - and boys - that girls can do anything. Don’t let others dictate what you can do – just know that you can do it. That’s the message I saw up front, and it only led to more amazing storytelling along the way.
The Inner Workings of Primer
In an interview, co-writer Krajewski noted, “She overcomes great obstacles and self-doubt to become what she’s always wanted, and I want the reader to realize they can do that, too, for whatever they aspire to become.” As a superhero character, Ashley Rayburn is super unique. Not only is she learning to live with new foster parents, Kitch and Yuka Nolan, who truly want her in their lives, she’s discovering what she’s capable of when she encounters body paints that give her different super powers.
Krajewski and Muro bring a thoughtful collection of characters who want to be there for Ashley, showing her that she is worth the love and caring support that comes with being friends or in a family. This type of connection might be exceedingly difficult to grasp, as Ashley has to navigate memories of her past relationship with her father (Spoiler alert: He’s in prison.) and the trauma associated with bad deeds that revolve around him. Despite still being able to have a presence in her life, her father does nothing to support Ashley or indicate she has any kind of worth beyond what he’s capable of giving to her.
The storytelling in Primer really gives our main character a counterbalance of characters, and it’s beautiful to see the path that Ashley does follow throughout. The artwork by Lusky, in particular, is fantastic. Panel sizes vary from page to page, while facial expressions amplify tense moments or funny sequences that highlight Ashley’s character in the best way possible. Plus, brilliant colors fill this entire graphic novel with vivid backgrounds, clothing, and hair, and the splendid mixture of body paints that give Ashley her super powers.
Having a mixture of paints provides endless possibilities to how this superhero might look from one day to the next. Krajewski also highlighted the added appeal of having a superhero who might look different each time she “suited up,” with the question, “What if a superhero never looked the same way twice?” He adds, “I’m a visual guy and at one point wanted to be a comic book artist, so having a character with no limitations for how she looks is just a dream come true for me.” The number of power combinations is staggering, with “over 5,000 combinations of powers she can use.”
Primer Is a Positive Light
Primer presents a new superhero character that is not only light-hearted, a story that’s visually appealing and fun to read, but a moment for kids to connect with someone who doesn’t feel like she belongs. Krajewski and Muro and the creative team carefully crafted a character and story that shows us that our past does not have to dictate our future.
Krajewski said, “I’d like anyone to take away from this book the idea that they do not need to feel stuck believing they can’t accomplish more because of whatever negativity has burdened their lives.” The idea that someone isn’t worth anything, because someone says so, does not have to be the narrative in our lives. In fact, Primer is a phenomenal representation of what life looks like when positive influences and kind hearts are there to highlight the good that’s possible in life.
Ashley’s new foster parents aren’t perfect, and dealing with new challenges mean that we all, kids and adults alike, go through life in our own unique way. It’s the support we lend each other that helps make those challenges easier; the burden might not seem so unbearable with loved ones around who believe in each other. Primer tells that kind of story. It’s a story that generates the importance of finding trust in others, believing in yourself enough to find acceptance from within and those around you, while standing up for those who need help when it’s needed most.
Trust me, Ashley does plenty of standing up to villains in this story, and she does not disappoint. Doing what’s right means not giving up, even in the face of challenges. Ashley portrays that resilience in a wonderful way, along with her parents and best friend who want nothing but the best for her. One thing I hope my kids take away from Primer is that anything is possible, and that they have parents (similar to Ashley’s) who will support them in whatever they hope to achieve.
Overall Assessment for Parents
Primer is a must have. I love how accessible this story is for my own kids. I do not mind them sitting down with this story and flipping through the pages. It’s funny, heartfelt, and genuinely unique. This is the kind of story you hope becomes a staple in the DC world, because when you find an undoubtedly solid character, you want to hold onto it for as long as possible.
If this story is meant to continue, which I wholeheartedly hope there’s more Primer, you can bet that I will pick up any future chapters quicker than you can say prime time. Ashley Rayburn is a superstar, and the world deserves more of her in our lives.
A sneak preview of Primer is available here. For all of the places where Primer is available for purchase, go to dccomics.com. If you’d like to see more coverage of all-ages DC Comics, or other comic books in general, don’t forget to like and share this with all of your geeky friends over on Facebook and Twitter.
Until next time, happy parenting and happy geeking.