Robot 6

Gorillas Riding Dinosaurs | Should There Be an Intestine-Tripping Double Standard?

Face it, Tiger. You just ate the jackpot.

Face it, Tiger. You just ate the jackpot.

So last week Robert Kirkman made a statement that got some folks kind of riled up. Kevin already quoted the relevant bits, so I’ll just try to paraphrase it the way I understand it. Everyone remembers Kirkman’s controversial plea from a couple of years ago when he asked “top creators” to give up doing corporate-owned comics and concentrate on their own stuff, claiming that’s what it’ll take to save the comics industry.

At the time, I could sort of see what he was getting at, but disagreed with how he was getting there. If I understood him correctly, what he meant by “top creators” was older writers who are producing overly complex, dark stories that kids can’t connect to. The implication was that these top creators needed to move on to their own material and make room at Marvel and DC for new blood that – Kirkman assumes – will be better able to write the kinds of corporate-owned stories that kids want.

The problem with this was that he was dismissing the efforts that Marvel and DC were already making in that direction. He briefly mentioned Marvel Adventures – a much bigger endeavor in 2008 than it is in 2010, as was Johnny DC – and immediately blew it off it as an imprint that “talks down to kids” and said that “that’s not what kids want.” As a grown-up who loves Marvel and DC’s kids comics and the parent of a kid who loves them just as much, I beg to differ. And from all the stories I’ve heard from other comics-loving families, my son and I aren’t alone. I question if Kirkman had ever read a Marvel Adventures comic when he made that statement.

Guys like Jeff Parker, Paul Tobin, and Fred Van Lente were killing on those series two years ago and – no coincidence – they’re still killing on the “regular” series they’re currently writing for Marvel. The issue isn’t the age of the writers or whether they’re a “top creator;” it’s the kind of stories they’re telling. There’s a lot more causing the failure of Marvel Adventures and Johnny DC to thrive in the Direct Market than just “kids don’t like them.” In fact, since I know that kids do like them, I’m pretty sure we can eliminate that as a cause altogether. Far more relevant to the discussion is whether or not parents are willing to buy them for their kids, and there are all sorts of pieces we need to look at in preparation for that discussion. My point is that it’s going to take a lot more than new blood at Marvel and DC to fix what’s wrong with their comics. Which brings us to Kirkman’s comments this week.

After the break: Image vs. Marvel over who gets to keep the kids grown-ups.

This has been fun.

This has been fun.

While asking Kirkman about his old comments, the GQ interviewer turns the discussion to “the aging of [Marvel and DC’s superhero comics] audience, and by extension the cultural irrelevance of comics in general.” We’ll set aside that Marvel and DC’s superhero comics are not the same as “comics in general.” Let’s pretend they are for the sake of argument. Or we can at least acknowledge that that’s what GQ and Kirkman are talking about when they say “comics.” Kirkman’s argument is that particular writers like writing these dark, complex stories. I’ll argue with him about whether these guys are “top” or old or whatever, but not that they exist. No one’s denying that this kind of storytelling exists in mainstream superhero comics. And fewer and fewer are suggesting that it’s not hurting those companies in some way.

Where I part ways with Kirkman again is his assertion that if you want to tell “mature” superhero stories, then the only place for that is a creator-owned book. It’s okay in Invincible, but not in Spider-Man. As Tom Brevoort pointed out, that’s a double standard. The question is: should that be okay?

I’m all for double standards. They’re just another way of saying that life’s not fair, a lesson I learned a long, long time ago. I get to do things that my son doesn’t get to do because he’s eight and I’m not. I have friends who are richer than me and they get to have boats and Lexuses and gigantic RVs when I don’t. I don’t have to like it any more than my son has to like waiting until he’s older to watch Predator, but I’m not about to use the “that’s not fair” argument.

So, sure, it’s okay to have a double standard here if it’s warranted. Whether or not it’s warranted is the real question. Some comments in the Brevoort post suggested that it’s all about the licensing. If we’re going to sell bedsheets and action figures to the kids, then we need to make sure that the comics are appropriate for them as well. But is that really the issue? Yes, I think we should have some comics appropriate for the kids if we’re going to ask them to buy merchandise, but why do all of them have to be that way?

Urp!

Urp!

Look, I’m writing this as a guy who loves fun, kid-friendly adventure comics. That’s what this column is all about. In fact, my strongest disagreement with Kirkman is when he says “it’s cool to see superheroes rip people in half.” Personally, I don’t think it’s cool at all. But if you like that kind of thing, I’m not going to tell you that you shouldn’t be able to read it. Or that Marvel shouldn’t publish it. As poorly as he worded it, I’m with Brevoort on that one.

I want Marvel and DC to figure out a way to make Marvel Adventures and Johnny DC profitable. If single issues in the Direct Market aren’t the answer, find another way, because I know there’s an audience for it.

But I also want them to figure out a way to identify their grown-up books better. Just throwing a “mature readers” warning on them isn’t the answer. Besides their being easy to miss, I don’t like the stigma attached to those warnings or the constant arguing about whether or not the books are actually “mature.” We can do better than that. What I’d love to see is a full-blown superhero imprint for grown-ups – like Marvel has with MAX – that’s easily identified with complex, darker stories. Vertigo isn’t it for DC; that’s its own thing. Let the creators who want go as wild as they want within those imprints, but maintain strict guidelines for what is and isn’t appropriate in the core line.

This lets everyone win. Big name creators get to keep writing the books that they want, even if someone else owns them. Everyone gets to read the books they want and thanks to the imprints’ trade dressing, those books are easy to identify. Where’s the hole in my thinking on this?

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102 Comments

A huge part of the problem is that people think of in-continuity comics as more “real” than out-of-continuity comics, which is such a ridiculous notion that it pains me. Marvel Adventures (the one comics-for-kids imprint that I think doesn’t talk down to kids) would be more profitable if adults AND kids alike didn’t continually say (and this is from firsthand experience in dealing with kids and overhearing it at comic stores) “This is fine, but it’s not REALLY what happened,” or whatever. Why, I once heard someone complaining that the Tiny Titans/Little Archie crossover was a shame because they’re not using either the real Archies or the real Titans!

The problem with the Marvel Adventures line is that it’s not sustainable, unless Marvel plans on making it the main continuity eventually. What’re you gonna do, ask kids to read Marvel Adventures, invest their time and emotion in that continuity, and then when they’re all grown up, move them over to the 616 universe and have them catch up on that?

The best solution is to make it so that the ICONS are all-ages friendly. I’m talking like the quality that we had in the 80s when ANYONE could read these comics – literally – and adult, a kid, even a little kid who wouldn’t get the dirty subtext and it wouldn’t matter because it would be done subtly enough. Then as you move farther and farther away from the icons, you can get more and more risque. I doubt that any new reader would be buying Secret Six right off the bat.

My nephew is eleven years old. I think he can read most of the modern comics (violence isn’t an issue for me – he sees much worse in his video games), but I wouldn’t want him looking at Identity Crisis and asking what the hell Dr. Light did to Sue Dibny. And those are ICONS, and kids should love those stories. And he won’t read Marvel Adventures, partly because he thinks it talks down to him (though I don’t think so) and partly because it’s “not the real Spider-Man.”

It’s like this: It’s okay to tell the kind of story Alan Moore told in MIracleman in Miracleman. That was Miracleman, a character that was out of print for God knows how long and no kids would buy it anyway. But it would not have been okay if he did it to Captain Marvel.

Mostly – MOSTLY – I’m with Kirkman on this one.

I’m with you sir, all the way. I like Kirkman sometimes, but I definitely dont like the heroes ripping people in half. That’s actually what finally turned me off of Invincible. And I am glad that there is a wide range of books that appeal to a wide variety of people. I just wish, like the poster before me, that we could have some books similar to what we used to have in the 80′s. We’ve been kinda lead on after Infinite Crisis, Final Crisis, Brightest Day, and The Heroic Age that we’re seeing a reversal of the dark moods from the previous decades. I’m still not seeing it, and I don’t think anyone is surprised that that hasn’t truly happened.

Honestly, when I still picked up books on a weekly basis, Sonic the Hedgehog and Tiny Titans were usually my favorites. However, pricing has gotten out of hand, and I had to give up all of the few that I still read.

I think people see the comics from the 1980s through somewhat rose-colored glasses. They were not as explicit as the modern comics, but nowhere near as innocent as people remember. The best-sellers from each publisher – Uncanny X-Men and New Teen Titans – were pretty dark and “overly complex”, actually. And most other comics with the “iconic” characters were considerably angst-ridden, even if they lacked the graphic violence of today’s comics.

Marvel Adventures and Johnny DC are not like the comics in the 1980s, and I can see why real kids (as opposed to adults concerned about kids) may think they talk down to them. They go too much in the other direction – bright, fluffy. I don’t see many comics published today that reproduce the delicate balance of the comics from the 1970s and 1980s. Whenever they go all-ages today, they remove any and all hints of darkness and melancholy.

Perhaps the closest we’d get to a genuine 1980s comic would be something like Kurt Busiek’s Astro City. No excessive violence and sex, but no kiddie stuff either.

Yeah, it’s okay in invincible, but not okay in spiderman. I don’t want Norman Osborn deflowering Gwen Stacy in Spiderman. Do whatever you want in invincible, tear people in half, impregnate girls with goblin babies, it’s fine by me, that’s the point of doing a twist on the traditional superhero concept. It’s not a valid criticism of Kirkman’s argument to say “oh, he does it in invincible, what’s so bad about doing it in the avengers”. What might be a better criticism would be to go back and look at Kirkman’s Marvel work, any gruesome violence in his Ultimate Xmen run?

Rene: I’ve been reading 80s mainstream comics recently and yes, you’re right, they’re not all completely innocent. But they were also nothing that you can’t show to a kid. If there were adult themes and subtext, it would be such that the kids could understand something important was going on even if they didn’t get the specifics.

I don’t think the Marvel Adventures books talk down to kids, but I can completely see why kids think they talk down to them, and they’re probably a better judge of it than I am.

If we’re to take Brevoort’s argument to the logical extreme, we could say “Hey, Kevin Smith does such and such in Bluntman and Chronic, why can’t we do it in Batman?” Because Batman’s the inappropriate place to do it, that’s why.

Might I add, you can’t just selectively do “adult” themes for a character sometimes and then not for others. Why, when I got my nephew and my niece (5 years old) Shazam!: The Monster Society of Evil, my niece absolutely fell in love with Mary Marvel, and then wanted to see more Mary Marvel stories! And her brother, who has the complex about things being in the “real” universe, asked where they were now and what’s happened to them recently. It’s not cool!

To me, that 70s-80s comic is a good model. I see no point in having separate imprints relegated specifically for kids. They’ll eventually outgrow it, and I doubt that they’d take the time to get acquainted with the “real” universe when they do.

I agree with Kirkman 100% on this one.

I think Comics Cube is exactly right on this one. When I was 10-12, I had a subscription to “Amazing Spider-man” (do they even still do subscriptions)? I didn’t want “Marvel Adventures: Spider-man.” I wanted the real deal. When does a kid ever want a product that is specifically intended for a kid when there is an adult version? Kids, especially the 8-12 year olds, hate being perceived as kids. And you can tell great “PG” stories that touch on complex issues, but don’t talk down to kids. Curse words, sex, and violence don’t make a book “dark” or “complex,” they just alienate an entire (and profitable) demographic (8-12 year old boys). And most of the

Right now, it’s either “G” or “R,” there’s no “PG” which is the sweet spot for the major books in my opinion. And the sad part is that most of the tweaks they would need to do to tone it down to “PG” probably wouldn’t change the overall story at all.

I completely agree with Mr. May: the problem isn’t that there is too much violence or sex in comics, the problem is that it shows up everywhere these days without warning, leaving no room for those of us who wants stories that are neither gross nor for little kids.

And Cosmic Cube, you’re being unfair. Looking for an “official” version of anything is hardly a comics-only problem. Movie fans often ask “but is movie part of what came before or a new thing?” And it may actually affect their movie-watching choices (or not.) You can’t criticize it anymore than than you can criticize people liking gory stories: it’s all a matter of personal taste.

I’ll haven’t read the comments attached to this–yet–so I hope I’m not recaping anyone else, but I want to restate something that I said in a related story about this a couple days ago.

I think perhaps the problem is recruiting creators who want to tell those all ages stories.
The Big 2 market is very very creator driven these days, which is surprising given how the industry is structured.
Regardless, the truth is (as I see it) that if you find creative people who WANT to tell those all ages stories–stories that are great, fun, and the kind people of every age will [really] want to read then you’ve got to go out a find those creators and hire them and pay them.

Hire the brothers who’re doing “Axe Cop” to do an all ages line for either company–and before you say it, yes I know there’s tons of blood/gor in Axe Cop, but it has a lot to do w/ the way that strip is drawn. I get the feeling that those 2 could even do a killer [pun intended] Punisher series for the all ages crowd if they WANTED to. Simply because it has a kids perspective of how deep/bleak/crazy the world is/can be, and his brother knows how to pitch the art in the right absurdist direction, sometimes going way over the top, sometimes pitching it just right “over the plate.”

Thor the Mighty Avenger – this is the style book the big two should be emulating. The Johnny DC line and Marvel Adventures skew a little too young, and while the cartooning in both is fantastic, there is a gap in age groups between those lines and the “older” lines. The constant move to grim and gritty within the respective universes post Watchmen and TDK have hindered the industry more than helped them. There is nothing wrong with more mature series, hell some of the best stuff I read in the 80′s were all creator owned and definitely mature Grendel, American Flagg!, Elementals and others. All ages can be done and done well and I find it FAR from hypocritical of Kirkman to commit these acts in Invincible or Walking Dead vs the acts of those in the big two. (Of course I think Brevoort likes to hear himself spew out garbage too much.)

Like some have said before me, It’s okay to do whatever you want in a superhero comic, provided it’s not one featuring icon mainstream characters. The Warner Bros. cartoons are perfect all-ages material, and if more comics were written in that manner (and more available) I sure the industry would be healthier saleswise.

The problem is comics written by immature aging fanboys for immature aging fanboys. The goal of most writers today seems to be topping the vulgar stupid shit the last guy did.

I predict that Disney will shut down Marvels monthly publishing output within 3 years and that DC will soon follow suit. The numbers don’t lie, monthly comics just aren’t making money anymore, and more importantly, they are not attracting new consumers to the characters/products that make the real money.

I first got hooked on comics while watching the Electric Company.
Spidey Super Stories #4 was the first comic book I read, and he was my “hero” when I went through that phase. I also have some the regular Spidey books from that tim

1984, I’m in a grocery store, and see Amazing Spider-Man #254. He’s wearing the black costume. I buy it, get hooked, and now I’ve got a five-year-old nephew doing the same thing.

Here’s what I do not understand: if Marvel Adventures isn’t the “real” Spidey (and I’ll ignore the fact that the current Spidey hasn’t been “real” since One More Day), then why was the Ultimate line so successful? Why did Spider-Girl survive so many cancellation threats?

What Marvel should do:
1) Publish an easy-to-read line geared towards the beginning reader. Done-in-one stories, with some conflict, but nothing too serious or controversial.

2) Re-direct the mainstream line. Serious adult stuff happens off-panel, implied. I remember how Marvel handled the sexual assault of both Mockingbird and Sharon Ventura. Marvel also told some serious tales with Kraven’s Last Hunt, The Death of Jean DeWolff, and Demon in a Bottle. I feel that implicit storytelling is better… it causes the reader to think and connect the dots, just like the reader must make the closure between panels.

3) Expand the Marvel MAX line. Tell stories here which don’t necessarily fit in the regular continuity, or should stand alone. Marvel Noir, What If, Marvel Zombies…

@Comics Cube –

I still disagree with the majority oppinion here. I don’t think the comics from today are that much more extreme than the mainstream comics from the 1980s (and even the 1970s).

Yes, there are a few instances that would be clear no-nos in the 1980s. Some scenes in IDENTITY CRISIS, sure. Mirror Master snorting cocaine so casually in FLASH. But 99% of monthly comics from the Big 2 would not be so out-of-place in the 1980s, if you obscured the blood in one or two panels.

Mary Marvel in bondage gear? In the 1980s we had Jean Grey in bondage gear and Terra as jailbait slut. We had the entire X-Men in bondage every other issue (Chris Claremont was really into it). I hate SINS PAST with a passion, but there is nothing in it that we didn’t see in the 1970s. There is no explicit sex scene between Gwen and Norman. It’s really no worse than Marcus transforming Carol Danvers in his love slave in AVENGERS #200.

Most of Bendis’s Marvel stuff, dark and cynical as it is, would not be out-of-place in the 1980s. Civil War would not be out-of-place in the 1980s.

I think the real double standard is that we don’t want our children to be exposed to the same things we were exposed to when we were kids. It’s a natural instinct for parents to want to shield kids from risque stuff they loved when they were kids themselves. As we enter middle age, that cynicism and darkness that is so seductive to pre-teens and teens starts to lose its appeal for many of us.

All of this heresay about what kids want and need from comics doesn’t regard what they actually, currently LIKE — and in graphic entertainment they like manga and card games. I’ve worked with kids in after school programs for 10 years, and while they know iconic heroes like Batman and Spider-man through franchising, they’re genuinely invested in the likes of Naruto, Yu-Gi-Oh, etc. Of course, this is a general assessment, and I know that some kids dig “the classics,” but these manga titles target the ‘tween market Johnny DC and DC proper skip entirely. I really dug the manga Wonder Woman pitch I saw here a few weeks ago. Something like that would market well to kids — and ‘tween girls. They like that art style, that digest style, and it’s generally more content for just a few bucks (if that) than a standard $2.99-3.99 single comic. Comics don’t cost a week’s allowance anymore, that’s for sure! Also, the violence therein can be all bang, pow, without token spurts of blood or broken teeth. Visually, that seems to be what up’s the ante.

Do kids want to read about the tourtured relationship Parker has w/ Mary Jane?
F*CK NO!
They might read it simply because it’s sold to them w/ a spidy suit on the cover, but give them a choice between OMD and the 1st Sinister Six story and you know which one they’ll pick.

All ages stands arm-in-arm w/ New Reader Friendly.
If I got my first Batman or Capt. America comic today I’d be lost.

On the flip, I recently picked up a huge stack of Power Man & Iron Fist comics from 1980-83 and EVERY ISSUE explains who the characters are, in-story w/ out a damn recap page, and lets me know exactly what’s going on. Is it a little heavy on exposition, yes, but there ain’t a damn thing to confuse or turn off a new reader. And not only that, but they’re f*cking awesome fun stories.

Also, has any of the most recent “adult material” actually contributed to the growth of our favorite characters? I’d consider the Norman Osborn and Speedy drug stories of the ’70s controversial yet foundational for those characters, and they captured headlines accordingly. Is a Sue Dibney rape or a Mirror Master snorting coke doing something to advance the characterization — or is it controversy for controversy’s sake? I guess time will tell on that one.

I like the suggest of adult-oriented subplots happening off-panel — but are there any writers nowadays that can or would be willing to do this? Are modern writers too spoiled by their attempts to push the boundaries that they simply can’t pull back and try to be subtle anymore?

I tend to agree with JRC.

The amount of violence and sex is a point of contention for the adults afraid of what the kids will be exposed to, but to the kids themselves, it isn’t what makes comics less attractive.

Less decompression and more superhero action in every story would be a step in the right direction, regardless of the amount of violence and sex. And affordable prices too.

I think everybody’s putting the cart before the horse here. Before you can do a serious line of all-ages comics, you have to be able to get them into places that children actually go. And the American funnybook store ain’t it. So the industry’s caught in a bind: there may be a huge kid market out there waiting to be tapped into, but their primary distribution outlet doesn’t reach that market. So the Big Two are creating the comics they can sell in their current marketplace, and those are comics aimed at an adult audience. They could do more kid-friendly books, I suppose, but they wouldn’t sell in the comics shops. They never do.

Personally, I’d love to see comics written for people of many different age groups, and in a range of genre and subject matter that could attract readers of all stripes. But the distribution model’s going to have to change for that to happen, and the publishing model’s going to have to change for the distribution model to change. And until then… We’ve got the comics we, as a collective market, have asked for. Or at least spent our money on, which is pretty much the same thing.

Rene: I’ve been reading 80s mainstream comics recently and yes, you’re right, they’re not all completely innocent. But they were also nothing that you can’t show to a kid. If there were adult themes and subtext, it would be such that the kids could understand something important was going on even if they didn’t get the specifics.

I don’t think the Marvel Adventures books talk down to kids, but I can completely see why kids think they talk down to them, and they’re probably a better judge of it than I am.

If we’re to take Brevoort’s argument to the logical extreme, we could say “Hey, Kevin Smith does such and such in Bluntman and Chronic, why can’t we do it in Batman?” Because Batman’s the inappropriate place to do it, that’s why.

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I pretty much agree with everything you said.

Like John Byrne has said numerous times on his message board, many of those past all ages Marvel comics (or as I like to call them, the pre Qyesada Marvel comics) were written in “LAYERS” so that they can appeal to readers of all ages on many different layers. This is why Marvel was able to put out all ages CCA approved action packed PUNISHER comics with very little or no controversy. The PUNISHER comic was dark and delt with SOME mature subject matter, but it was all done very tastefully and in a layered all ages manner so that a kid could read the book.

The current version of the Marvel Adventures books, while not completely talking down to the readers like many of the previous versions of those books did, often tell very “silly” and “over sanitized” stories that make some silver age DC superhero titles seem like Vertigo titles by comparison. For example, issue #4 of MARVEL ADVENTURES SUPER HEROES guest starred Deadpool, but they couldn’t call him “Deadpool” in that issue and had to only call him “Wade Wilson”. And don’t get me started on how “Wade” was able to give Nova and the other Avengers a run for their money in that issue (talk about being “silly”).

Might I add, you can’t just selectively do “adult” themes for a character sometimes and then not for others. Why, when I got my nephew and my niece (5 years old) Shazam!: The Monster Society of Evil, my niece absolutely fell in love with Mary Marvel, and then wanted to see more Mary Marvel stories! And her brother, who has the complex about things being in the “real” universe, asked where they were now and what’s happened to them recently. It’s not cool!

To me, that 70s-80s comic is a good model. I see no point in having separate imprints relegated specifically for kids. They’ll eventually outgrow it, and I doubt that they’d take the time to get acquainted with the “real” universe when they do.

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Again, I agree with everything you said.

I would also like to point out that back in the 70′s and 80′s, the only time Marvel superheroes were allowed to star in “more adult/mature” (in terms of more graphic violence,stronger language,and stronger sexual innuendos) non CCA approved stories and titles, were in stand alone and/or out of continuity stories in either of their B&W or full color magazines,graphic novels,or Epic Comics mini series. Which is something I don’t have a problem with.

Right now, it’s either “G” or “R,” there’s no “PG” which is the sweet spot for the major books in my opinion. And the sad part is that most of the tweaks they would need to do to tone it down to “PG” probably wouldn’t change the overall story at all.

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I agree with everything you said.

Yep, to clarify: I have no problem with excessive violence; kids see much, much worse on cable and in their video games. And I don’t even have a problem with sex, but I just want it to be kept tasteful, appropriate, and subtle. “Sins Past” is none of those things, what with Gwen Stacy’s extended neck and Norman Osborn’s O-face.

Mary Marvel is an example of doing something to a character that you shouldn’t be doing that thing to. Jean Grey? The X-Men have always had that dark side to them. Terra? Oh please, we all know the deal with her. But Mary Marvel, and the rest of the Marvel Family for that matter, have always thrived on being whimsical and kid-friendly, and to turn one of them flat-out evil – bondage gear or no bondage gear (and the girl, no less) – is just inappropriate because of young fans of that character.

As I said in my original comment, there are stories that you can do in Miracleman (being a much less well-known property) that you shouldn’t do with Captain Marvel. The whole “turning the youngest one evil” thing is one of them.

Thor the Mighty Avenger – this is the style book the big two should be emulating. The Johnny DC line and Marvel Adventures skew a little too young, and while the cartooning in both is fantastic, there is a gap in age groups between those lines and the “older” lines.

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I agree. THOR:THE MIGHTY AVENGER (along with the short lived and excellent, THE FAMILY DYNAMIC from Johny DC) is the type of of LAYERED all ages style and format the MA and JDC books should be emulating. Heck, IMO, I think that Marvel should cancel both it’s MA and ULTIMATE lines of books, and replace them with a line of interconnected and layered all ages books set in the same continuity as THOR:TMA.

The problem is comics written by immature aging fanboys for immature aging fanboys. The goal of most writers today seems to be topping the vulgar stupid shit the last guy did.

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I agree.

The problem is comics written by immature aging fanboys for immature aging fanboys. The goal of most writers today seems to be topping the vulgar stupid shit the last guy did.

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I agree too. Comics used to be full of a sense of wonder, then they tried making it more serious. Somewhere along the way, “more serious” meant “more stupid.”

Without the sense of wonder.

I just come from it from a different angle. It’s just not in my mindset to feel offended by it or feel worried about the kids. It just sounds so conservative, and it’s not me.

So, speaking only for myself, and not for any kids (I notice that real kids never join these discussions), pushing the envelope will never bother me. But it DOES bother me that it’s very silly, very infantile, very obvious sort of pushing the envelope.

Mary Marvel in bondage gear isn’t risque, it’s desperate.

I guess my stance is just “Would I want to show this to my 11-year-old nephew or my five-year-old niece?”

Again, it’s not the Mary Marvel in BONDAGE gear that gets to me – it’s that after a lot of searching, my niece finally found a superhero she can relate to in Mary Marvel, and when she asked me for more, and when her brother asked me what Mary’s been up to lately, do I really want to disillusion my niece with “Oh, well, she turned bad”? No, I don’t. Like I said, Miracleman is different, because the people reading Miracleman (even back in the 80s) will have been at least teenagers, but if we’re going to get kids into comics, we should realize that the icons provide an entry point. Captain Marvel, especially, is the perfect vehicle to get really young kids into comics. It’s not the bondage gear; it’s her being turned evil in the first place.

As for my nephew, there’s not a lot I can’t show him these days, but I’m not his parent; I’m his uncle. And when his own parents haven’t had the talk with him yet about the birds and the bees, it’s sure as hell not my place to tell him what Norman Osborn was doing to Gwen Stacy in that not-at-all-subtle panel sequence in Sins Past. And it’s not comfortable either – unless you’re a 28-year-old man comfortable with watching Buffy Season Six with an 11-year-old kid, in which case, you’re either a much better man than I or a much worse man than I.

I don’t care if Gail Simone pushes as many envelopes as possible in Secret Six, or if Robert Kirkman does whatever in Invincible. But when I take my nephew or my niece to a comic store, I don’t want to have to say that a Spider-Man comic will require adult explanation for him to at least enjoy the story.

I don’t have kids, nor nephews or nieces. The closest I got is a few young cousins, but I have to admit I don’t socialize much with them. I just don’t like children very much, I suppose. So that may color my impressions, it’s not personal for me. I’m not the kind of man that would be that comfortable watching television with kids at all.

I do think the amount of S & V should be toned down in the mainstream books.
Kids pick those up to.
Maybe I’m miss remembering it, but even though there were healty doses of romance and action in the 80s, I didn’t feel creeped out when I read them, and more to the point my parents didn’t feel the need to question my purchases.
When I was ready–and I found out through my own LCS exploration–I started drifing toward the stuff pitched at adults & teens. AND, I’ll add, because I grew up reading comics I think I matured into them a little quicker then other non-comic readers my age who jumped in because of [lets say] Sandman.

It helped A LOT that I went to a comic shop that wouldnt’ just sell anything to any kid w/ a buck.
The guys knew me over the years and knew what I could handle.
Remember customer service?

. . . anyway . . . enough thoughtful discourse, here’s what I want:
Secret Six every other week, w/ a backup feature of Tiny Titans because I LOVE THEM BOTH. Also, it should be 50 pages and cost $2.

I remember we had this conversation years ago when Batman kept getting darker and darker.

When The Amazing Spider-Man goes from wise cracking fun adventures to the Lizard eating his child and rapping his lab assistant, I’m done. When Green Lantern has child sex rings, I’m done. I don’t want to read this crap and I don’t want my kid to read this crap. Kirkman’s right, these guys are killing the industry.

I’ll tell you what I would want if I was a kid. I would want to read the “real” books, and I would not want them toned down for me. In fact, I would try to get my hands on the Max or other “adult imprint” titles if I could. Maybe that freaks parents out a bit, but guess what, kids find this stuff. They find it on tv, in movies, and all the $*%& over the internet. In fact, comics are probably among the more tasteful places they could encounter scary sex talk.

I’m not saying we should just let creators run wild with iconic characters like Spiderman and Superman. I just honestly don’t see what they have done with them that would be SO terrible for kids to read lately. Identity Crisis and the Grey Goblin stories are probably the worst example anyone has brought up here thus far, but I think Marvel and DC realize the folly of those stories and aren’t likely to repeat them any time soon.

Kids are smarter than we give them credit for. They can understand and “deal with” more than we give them credit for. I don’t see the problem with letting theme explore more adult themes, especially in a medium like superhero comics where, ultimately, the protagonists struggle to do what is right.

A great example of how to write a kids’ book without shying away from adult themes is Orson Scott Card’s Ender’s Game. I have never met a 12-year-old boy who did not absolutely love that book. But have you read it lately? It is extremely dark and violent, and the Ender character is a child in name only. That book treats kids as adults and is not afraid to confront them with some dark realities, and it’s a modern classic of children’s literature. Why shouldn’t comics strive for the same goal?

I want to read a complex,dark,sexy comic. With a Superhero who is a Superhero. I think there is a place for Marvel Kids books, but i think the thing every one keeps getting hung up on is that every one is going to experirce comics the same way.
what i mean by that is this, I have two sons. My youngest son loves Superheroes but he has no intrest in reading comics. He wants Cartoons and he wants all the other products Marvel and DC put out. He most likely wont want to actually read comics until he is older. Now those that mean that every kid in the world will want to do this..nope.
I for one never wanted anything more than just Comics. Maybe an occasional Cartoon but all i ever wanted was a comic. Since i was about 12 or 13 i wanted to read complex,sexy, SUPERHERO comics. There was no formula, no magic bullet if you will that was going to give me what i wanted. I looked and found the comics i wanted to read. i kept reading until the industry kept trying to tell me what i wanted. Right now i am going to go through was second exile from comics because now all any one is doing is kid friendly boring comics. So there is no place for me so i leave. I’m just one man so its no big deal, but I’m most likely not the only one.

What the comic book industry needs to do first and foremost is stop complaining about whats working. And just start doing a better job of fixing what is not. Kids who love comics just want to read comics. Parents who are worried about their kids reading racy stuff are the ones that want their kids to read “Kid friendly comics”. Fan boys who are nostalgic about their youth or are looking to hide from the World are Screaming for “Kid friendly comics”. Kids just wanna read good stories. Be honest with your self comic book industry.

When i was a kid there was one spider-man comic. the idea of it being Kid friend didn’t exist. When the Green Goblin killed Gwen Stacy i wasn’t thinking “Boy this is really grown up, i hope my mom don’t get mad” I thought “HOLY CRAP! this is awesome@!@” and i went about next moth and picked up Spider-man ‘cos i wanted to see what happens next. But thats me. I was reading back issues.

A man who was once wise and is now a boob once said something to the effect of “Write a Mature story and the kids will follow”. Understand that kids want to feel like adults. You can do that with out crossing the line.

Everyone seems to miss the point. The reason comics are dying is visibility and cost.
If the latest issue of Spider-man was in the the local newsagent (drugstore? sorry, I’m a Brit) at a dollar fifity, people woould just pick up out of curiosity. I know these dollar comics were a thing in the nineties and they didn’t work out but that was because they were only available in comic shops.
Same for Johnny DC and the like. I have a kid on the way and I am sure that I will buy these comics for them but only because I will be in the LCS already.
You want kids to buy them make the afordable and cut back on the 36 part crossovers.
As far as violence/adult material goes, I think it is mostly beside the point. Swearing, nudity and gore aside pretty much anything goes. Always has always will.

Marvel had it right with Runaways. In an era where books like Young Allies, SWORD, and Agents of Atlas can’t survive a few months or a year, Runaways came along with all new characters that had a wide audience of all ages. It even managed to snag the elusive female readers. It wasn’t part of a kids line. It functioned within the mainstream Marvel universe. And it was a success.

Marvel also scored with the Ultimate line, although I’d say part of that had to do with accessibility. I can’t even remember a crossover event in the Ultimate universe until Ultimatum. It wasn’t convoluted. I remember all my friends preferring the Ultimate line over their mainstream counterparts – at least until some terrible storytelling in Ult. FF and X-Men… Professor X was in love with Jean Grey…. seriously? It was so poorly written. And wasn’t it Kirkman who wrote that story…? But back on topic, the Ultimate line was easy to follow. When I was a kid, I was lucky if I could afford 5-10 comics a month on my allowance. If asked to invest in a storyline like Final Crisis or Civil War when I was that age, I probably wouldn’t have lasted as a reader very long. With the Ultimate line, if a reader just wanted to read good Spider-Man stories they could.

I think Geoff Johns is DC’s superstar for a reason also. I have never really been a huge fan of the Flash. I always felt Hal Jordan was a flat character, especially compared to Kyle Rayner. I couldn’t possibly have cared less about the Justice Society. Along comes Geoff Johns, who truly writes for an all-ages audience. Anyone can enjoy a Geoff Johns book. Sophisticated themes, likable characters, no gratuitous sex or violence. His work on Teen Titans is definitely in my personal hall of fame. Writers like Geoff Johns remember what made superheroes popular to begin with. Not everything has to be the Watchmen or the Dark Knight Returns.

Kids love likable characters with super powers. There’s no rocket science there. Otherwise Harry Potter or Percy Jackson wouldn’t have been such big deals. DC and Marvel have hundreds, if not thousands of super-powered characters that can be likable is presented as such. That’s what Geoff Johns does so well.

I just have to poke my head in with a sort of “told ya so!”. ;)

This goes back almost a decade. Who’s to blame for it? Well, Marvel hasn’t helped but I lay it at the feet of a few people. DC (especially DiDio),customers and comics press. When DC published the trash(imo) “Identity Crisis” which took one of the few remaining funny characters, Ralph Dibney, and made him “dark” they started down a certain path. The next step was canceling “Young Justice”. Not only canceling it but making it’s replacement “Teen Titans (The Johns Era)” more “adult” by immediately shooting Impulse in the kneecap. For me I stopped reading DC Comics when Wonder Woman became a murderer. And the comics press for the most part not only gave DC a pass, they hyped it as a great thing. And readers ate it up.

Violence doesn’t bother me btw. It’s the who and why that make it or break it for me. Some superheroes have ability to handle a situation without undue violence and some don’t. Wonder Woman can take care of a mortal without snapping his neck. Others might not have that option due to power differences. And some characters have become very inconsistent about when to utilize violence. Look at Connor Hawke. A Buddhist at one point who refused to kill people, ends up on the cover drenched in blood and killing someone.

Marvel then says “well it’s working for DC so we should do it too…” And thus Spider-Man makes a deal with the devil and a Thor clone gets killed. Image always did this sort of thing but Marvel and DC had not gone this far. The closest previous to IC was The Authority, but that was Wildstorm I believe and who ever heard of them in the mainstream?

I love the Marvel Adventures line and I hope it keeps going. The magazine format Marvel has going on also helps because parents are more likely to put out the money for it than a single issue and the magazine fits into a retail/drug store environment.

And don’t expect the darkness to go away anytime soon, considering the effect movies have on comics now. WB has handed Superman to the guy who made “The Dark Knight” who has already stated he’ll do with Supes what he did with Batman because “That’s really the only way we know how to do it”. Bryan Singer made a very positive Superman story and got crucified for it because “it didn’t have any fights!”. And the creators of the new “Young Justice” cartoon have already promised a death on that show. I recall DiDio saying how horrible the YJ comic was because it made fun of Lobo. And again the readers and press just let it go because he pushed IC into existence.

We readers and fans need to be more vocal and vote with our dollars. I don’t buy DC’s core line and only occasionally buy any of their product. Until DiDio’s gone it makes no sense for me to because he and his group will just end up infuriating me at some point. If you don’t like the direction, buy something else. It’s not easy, I miss my Wonder Woman etc. fix but nothing will change if I keep giving money to the people who make books I don’t like.

Madmike is totally right. Modern comics are complete fanboy shit, as I’ve been saying longer than ANYONE. I’m glad to see that SOME people are FINALLY starting to agree with me. Not that it matters now, of course, because the damage that’s been done has reached the point of irreversibility. And that’s the other thing he’s right about: Companies like Marvel and DC are probably not long for this world (at least not as publishers of NEW material), since their sales have now fallen to all-time lows and continue to drop. But all the stupid fanboys with their precious “continuity” and their pretentious “maturity” can rest assured that it’ll be COMPLETELY their fault when it happens and it’ll be VERY RICHLY DESERVED, as well. But hey, they don’t need to take my word for it. After all, they never have…even though I’ve been proven right EVERY TIME.

I would look to animation for guidance when determining the content level for a lot of mainstream superhero comics. Batman the Animated Series, the recent Spider-Man series, none of them need any massive amounts of gore, etc, to get by, and the stories they tell are perfect. Hell, Fleischer Superman cartoons were better than a ton of the more recent DC stories I’ve come across.

Tell a good story, and avoid the urge to toss in mindless guts, gore and rape to spice it up.

“no gratuitous sex or violence”

I like Geoff Johns, but after Blackest Night, Infinite Crisis, and the Red Lantern stuff especially, the violence part of that is pretty laughably wrong. His stuff tends to be loaded with hyperviolence. Not always, and not with everything, but his major books tend to get pretty bloody for the major stuff.

Also, having grown up in the 90s and paid attention to the buying habits of young customers at my shop, I can safely say that there are few things kids love more than crossovers. It doesn’t even matter if they get the whole thing. They just like seeing all the characters in one book. They’re also much less anal-retentive about getting the ‘whole’ story than adults.

I say this because I think there’s a real gap between what adult customers think kids will like and what kids will actually like. Hell, even with people who grew up in the 60/70s…Marvel was considered the best around then, and they specialized in storylines that flowed one into another endlessly…which generally left more loose ends per issue than the current model.

The problem is that kids like adult comics. Adult mainline comics. That’s not to say they can’t or won’t enjoy other stuff aimed at them. But what they really want to be reading is Blackest Night.

My absolute favourite television series growing up was Gargoyles. I’ve been rewatching it recently, and I’m just blown away by how well the show is balanced. The stories are complex, the characters are deep and layered, there’s drama and tragedy and mythology and continuity aplenty, and yet there’s still enough action and cool stuff to draw in kids of various ages. I remember asking my mom to watch one or two episodes with my brother and myself, and before we knew it, she was as hooked as we were. Even now, almost 20 years later, the show stands head and shoulders above anything else aimed at “kids”. It was an adult show in kiddie show clothing, or maybe a kids show that trusted its younger viewers to be able to understand more mature concepts such as tragedy and love and revenge and betrayal.

To me that’s what’s lacking in most comics today. As has been pointed out, comics targeting kids are so unbearably shallow and fluffy that any kid who’se been exposed to more than 5 minutes of modern media will walk away sneering, while mainstream “more mature” comics are so viscerally … jaded, I guess, that no kid’s really going to want to read them. I don’t think the problem is necessarily the portrayal of violence, or the swearing, or even the sex – again, you can get all of the above in spades from movies, video-games and television. The real problem to me, is that you’ve essentially got two diametrically opposed generations trying to communicate with one another. Comics are, by and large, being writtend by Gen-X’ers today – cynical, jaded, and largely focussed on individual concerns. By contrast, think about your average tween or teen – they’re interconnected, social, socially conscious, and in most cases, remarkably optimistic despite all the looming grimness out there.

It’s not that comics are grim and dark. The world is like that, and kids are well aware of the fact. It’s that comics seem to have lost hope, stumbling from one overwhelming, galaxy-spanning tale of woe to the next without seeming to ever offer a real vision of something better. Mary Marvel is a good example of that … not innocence, but maybe sense of hopefulness being lost, but to me the best, and saddest of all, is how Ted Kord’s story ended.

Too many interesting and well-thought out points above. So I’ll just add two points to the general conversation:

1) I think kids line would work better if directed mostly to bookstores. That’s where parents (mainstream) usually are. The kids section in a bookstore is where kids like hanging out. So I think Johnny DC would have a much better response as an almanac of 96 pages (at 9,50 or something) of really cool Batman Adventures. As a Brazilian, I loved those 224 pages Disney Specials that were packed with Carl Barks and other masters at an affordable price.

2) Wilstorm should be the label for more complex storytelling at DCU. As it used to be, but placing books like Secret Six and Doom Patrol among them. They simply get lost in the shuffle these days of blood-spitting Lanterns.

I think the biggest issue is that publishers need to have a real understanding of their audience and what they are trying to present them.
If they want certain titles to be accessible to 12 year boys and girls (and 12 always seems to be the magic number I read when publishers are talking about that elusive market they are trying to get a stranglehold on), then they need to make sure the books they want to be the gateway for that market is actually appropriate for them.
When Marvel introduced the Ultimate line, the idea (as I understand it) was to create a more accessible line for readers of their big properties. Ultimate Spider-Man was clearly aimed at that 12 year old market. I’m not quite sure Ultimate X-Men was really appropriate for their market (or whether that was the desired market for it). Ultimates was definitely not aimed at that market.
So Marvel had a very solid gateway with Ultimate Spider-Man for that market. And yet, Joe Quesada was set onmaking Amazing Spider-Man accessible to that market as well because that was a part of his argument for ending the Peter and MJ marriage. He didn’t want Peter to seem to old and wanted a single Spider-Man.
Why that was so important when Ultimate Spider-Man was already there to accomplish that, I don’t know.
But that to me is a clear case of not really understanding your audience. Because how having one of your biggest super-heroes make a deal with a entity who has some equivalence with the Devil is appropriate for a 12 year old market is beyond me. The only way I see that working in his mind is that OMD was not intended for that audience at all, it was the after-product (BND) that would then be appropriate in his eyes.
I think there is definitely some merit to what Kirkman is saying. I remember a few years ago I picked up a couple of Teen Titan trades to give to my 11 year old nephew. He had really been enjoying the Teen Titans Go! animated series on Cartoon Network as well as a few of the digest collections of that incarnation that I gave him, so I thought it was time to step up to the ‘regular’ comic. After I got the trades home, I thumbed through them (I should have done that at the story) and found them to be full of blood and and violence (this was the Geoff Johns/Mike McKone series). Not something I considered appropriate for an 11 year old. Or a 12 year old. Maybe not even a 13 year old.
So I stuck them on my shelf with plans to give them to him a few years later when they were a little more appropriate to his age. Of course, he is 14 now and not so interested in comics anymore. So while the material is more age appropriate for him, they are still sitting on my shelf because I don’t think he would bother to read them now if I gave them to him.
Now perhaps Geoff Johns never intended those stories to be accessible for 12 year olds. But honestly, given the makeup of the team members in that book, that is absolutely the age that series should be aiming at. So I see it as a missed opportunity and a perfect example of what Kirkman is talking about.

I think there’s some truth in this. Should mainstream supers comics be accessible to all-ages? Definitely. Should there be some more mature ideas for mainstream characters? Sure. But they don’t go hand in hand obviously. I think a kid, no matter if he’s 5, 15 or 25+, should be able to walk into a comic shop and buy a Spider-Man comic off the shelf without any worry to a comic book retailer. These days, all I hear is how the local shop here has to be careful of letting kids look at issues on their shelf. I mean, the last thing a kid needs is to see The Blob eating The Wasp, right?
I think that there’s some sight that’s been lost with comic books these days. I’ve been collecting for around 30 years now and following several titles as they interest me. My fondest memories of comics that I really enjoyed were in the mid-80s. There were several standards that were still adhered to and many of the mainstream comics were still fairly accessible to most readers. Sure, you had some comics coming out that said “Mature Readers” or mainstays such as Epic Illustrated that were geared for an older audience. But for the most part, you didn’t have to worry about a mainstream character in his main title being too racy, or too mature for someone to go in and pick it up. Now, I’m not saying to write down to someone like I believe someone’s mentioned. No, not at all. Instead, write intelligent stories that tell heroic tales. Sure, challenge the hero … but having Hank Pym strike his wife was enough. We didn’t need to see him spray her down with pesticide and then order his ants to attack her.
But what about mature comics? What IS their place? Well, I was a reader of some mature comics as I got older. I read comics like Sandman, Hellblazer, Swamp Thing, Elementals and even Faust. But I also read them when I was 18+ and enjoyed some of the stories. But in addition, I was still reading Batman, Titans, Spider-Man, Avengers, X-Men and pretty much anything else that the “Big Two” could put out for their universes. Why? Because there were good stories being told.
These days, I’m a bit older and possibly a bit wiser, and I still collect some titles that I’ve been collecting since I was a kid. It’s a hobby I’ve shared with my wife, friends and daughters. But, as a parent, I’ve been more cautious about what they read, as well as what I bring into the house. I can honestly say I love comics, but I think there’s an example that needs to be reset … where heroes are heroic and examples of living life the right way. In the post “Kick Ass” world, I believe that we need to have some comics carrying a “Mature Readers” label a bit more, and that the mainstream comics need to be more accessible to everyone.

Perhaps part of the problem is that children simply aren’t as interested in the classic characters as they used to be, and not just because of a lack of “suitable” comics. As another poster mentioned, manga is doing really well with younger readers. Kids ARE reading comics, they’re just not reading comics featuring the characters we grew up with.

I agree that many of the points raised above – high prices, content, continuity issues, etc. – are making comics a tougher sell to kids. But I think maybe we need to accept that kids aren’t going to like the characters we grew up with as much as we do. And that’s OK. Batman, Spidey, and the rest will be around for us fogies as long as we support them. It’s great to expose kids to our childhood (and adulthood) heroes, but ultimately, they might not be interested in them. And there’s really nothing wrong with that.

The artist formerly known as Ninja Bob

August 15, 2010 at 1:02 pm

The problem with comics today is that too many of the fanboys writing them aren’t Kurt Busiek. That guy writing “Empowered” also needs to get some mainstream attention. Hacks like “John Michael what’s his name” and that Bendis yahoo need to be at some black and white fanzine and not be allowed within several miles of any Marvel super hero book.

I think one problem with the mindset that mainstream superhero titles need to be more “kid friendly” is that it might be underestimating young readers. Maybe I was just a screwed up kid, but when I was little, I LOVED violence and gore, I loved being scared. I could have read some of the “distressing” stuff in superhero comics that have been deemed so controversial without batting an eyelid. I’d have just thought it was cool.

Could it be that we’re wrapping today’s kids in cotton wool by thinking that Black Lanterns ripping folks’ hearts out or Sentry ripping Ares in half is too much for them to handle? It’s in a fantasy setting, and I think most kids are smart enough to realise that.

Formerly Ninja Bob, I totally agree. There’s a reason that often times great movies are not directed by the writer. They’re too close to it. They’ll hold the material as too precious. Same goes with fanboys. Would I make a good Wonder Woman writer? Maybe but maybe not, since I love the character. However that doesn’t mean I don’t want my shot and so this is where editorial thinking comes in.

I just really also wanted to add that years ago I read an interview with Frank Miller (as much as people credit Alan Moore, I think Miller is the real father of the modern dark movement) and he said something really profound about the Comics Code Authority. I can’t remember his exact words (apologies) but what he said basically was that the Code wasn’t all bad. In fact in someways it helped especially during his Daredevil run. He said it forced him to think of new visual ways of telling story and what content.

My thoughts go like this. You can hammer the steel all day but you also need the anvil to make a great sword, if that makes sense.

Some of the things in comics are really sick, but I give some of it a pass if it’s actually good and they actually worked on the material. Take Green Lantern for instance, never read GL because I was a Marvel guy. Sure Blackest Night had people exploding and such, but it was a great action story. Didn’t read all of it,but what I did read was great.

Let’s take Spider-man and the New Avengers stuff: Terrible. Years ago Spider-man was beaten to death by some guy and somebody ate his eyeball. This was about the time I figured that they were going to trash the book and promise things to readers that never went anywhere and I was right. Infact, it’s the worst comic book I ever read. Now, even as they try to promise readers ‘happy happy’ stories I hear Kaine was murdered and Kraven’s back. Wow, that’s fun. No wait, that’s stupid. New Avengers has the Sentry ripping Ares to pieces. Sentry wasn’t much of a character, they kept redefining his origin ever time they did a story on him. They can’t do better than this?

This is comic books, however. You don’t need to do this. Movies have to do it becuase more than ever they are being challenged by other mediums and technology. They also uped their prices more than comics have. It refuse to believe more people went to see Avatar than went to see the original Star Wars. We know that’s a lie. You see all the horror movies coming out each one promising to be gorier than the last. When does it end? Comic books you can do impossible things and make it believable. Given, Quesada has made his most popular character completely unbelievable and indeed unrecognizable and along with morbid stuff he’s been doing in that book you can certainly say that it isn’t needed especially for something so poorly thought out.

I found a few issues with your article that I thought I would share.

1. I don’t think you understand what a double-standard is. Telling your kid he can’t watch a movie you don’t think is appropriate for him is a nod to your judgment as an adult. It is your JOB as a parent to teach your child and to guide their development. That includes restraining their curiosity and impulsiveness until you are satisfied that they have achieved the intellectual and emotional maturity necessary to understand what they are seeing.

2. Can we define “dark and complex” stories for a minute? I read the Brood Saga in the X-Men was I was 12 or 13 and it sure seemed pretty dark and complicated to me. The X-Men end up committing genocide against the Brood because the sleazoids were plotting the wholesale slaughter of billions of beings by implanting queen embryos in the X-Men. This is similar to the Doctor Who story “Genesis of the Daleks” (which I KNOW I saw for the first time at 12 ) where the Tom Baker Doctor refuses to destroy a lab full of Dalek embryos BECAUSE it would be genocide. Pretty dark and sophisticated stuff, if you ask me.

3. Marvel and DC imprints for kids aren’t selling and yet you insist there is a market for it because your kids and their friends like it. Fair enough, but if this market exists why isn’t it being tapped? How are these companies, who have been in this business for decades suddenly unable to reach their target audience, children?

Just saying is all.

The artist formerly known as Ninja Bob

August 15, 2010 at 2:52 pm

@Michael Excellent point about Miller and the comics code. There’s no one to reign in the fanboys now and it shows. But the one good thing about the current decline in comics is that I’ve come to respect Stan Lee and Jack Kirby way more than I did when I was a kid and I loved them more than I loved my parents( I’m kidding). Writers like Bob Layton, John Byrne and Chuck Dixon as well. These men are truly talented and I take my hat off to them. Chuck Dixon’s “Way of the Rat” would be an epic Hong Kong action flick or anime and it’s a shame that it probably will never happen.

I’m grateful that when I was a kid the writers actually seemed to like kids and they didn’t feel the need to have heroes ripping people in half. That’s something villains do and I realize that the lines have been blurred and it’s not so black and white anymore, but come on. Then again, Stan and those guys could actually talk to women without curling into the fetal position–the same can’t be said of some the modern day fanboys writing comics nowadays.

It doesnt matter if the violence and language of comics are toned down.Most parents arent going to pay 3.99 or more for comics for their children.Besides kids would rather watch the movie or tv show version of a comic than actually pick one up to read.Also what worked in the 70′s and 80′s wont always work in todays market.Look at Chris Clermont for instance great writer in his heyday but now his style just isnt satisfying.

When I was a kid, that magic age of 12, I liked Mortal Kombat. And yes, it was in part due to the violence. It was luridly fascinating in a way that gives a 12-year-old boy the impression of being “adult” without really being mature. But at the end of the day, I still preferred Street Fighter as a fighting game. And in general, I preferred stuff like Mega Man, Mario, Zelda, and Final Fantasy to both of them. Even today, I’d rather play something whimsical like Dragon Quest than something gritty and gory like Modern Warfare.

Not to say I won’t play any “adult” games. I love the Metal Gear series, as ridiculous as it is, and I really got into Persona 4 recently. But I also love that Mario is just as bright and cheery and fun today as it was when SMB3 came out. And it’s not like that necessarily means you can’t use darker themes. Dragon Quest IX certainly has its moments of pure tragedy.

I sometimes think shonen manga has a better handle on things. It’s not afraid to get its characters bloody, or knock off some heads, or get some girls naked. Don’t forget that Death Note, Drifting Classroom, and Black Jack were all boy’s manga. The black and white art blunts things a bit. I also don’t recall many shonen manga where people are tripping over intestines, so to speak. Sure, there’s blood, and dismemberment, and death, but it’s usually pretty quick, and pretty stylized. When Cell punched a hole through Yamcha, we didn’t see his organs spray over the pavement. And for all its darkness, Death Note wasn’t really very violent at all. Tezuka drew the surgery in Black Jack like medical diagrams, which don’t tend to be [i]that[/i] disturbing.

Besides that, they’re more in tune with the audience. There’s actual variety in genre. If someone wanted to do something like Blob eating Wasp, they’d actually label it “horror.” If someone is bored with the action series, there might be something else in Jump about sports. Yes, 12-year-old boys are often into sports, and like stories about sports. Who knew?

Not to mention, but they stay in touch with boy’s -values-. Things like friendship, competition, family, and love. Just yesterday I read the first volume of Bakuman, about two middle-school boys who decide to become manga-ka. But it’s not just about that. It’s also about the main character deciding what he wants to do when he grows up; how to get the attention of the girl he likes; and how to honor the memory of his uncle. Naruto’s a social misfit trying to make a name for himself. Hikaru Shindo’s finding something he’s interested in that a lot of people don’t know about (Go) and giving his all to it.

Also, I agree with the idea that kids today are more optimistic. Well, I don’t know about -more- optimistic compared to before. But optimism does still exist, and it’s sorely neglected in superhero comics. They seem to have fallen en masse for the notion that “real art is dark,” I suppose to try for some credibility. Maybe all Marvel and DC need to do is just get over themselves. The Adam West Batman was over forty years ago; they don’t have to try to live it down.

Finally, I continue to be mystified by the fact that Marvel doesn’t try to push Power Pack more. They barely even have a presence on the Marvel Kids website. How does that even make sense?

The artist formerly known as Ninja Bob

August 15, 2010 at 3:36 pm

@Jimmy Claremont rode the X-men wave way too long and yeah, he was a good writer but the quality of the stories went down in my opinion when Byrne left. Most parents would buy comics if they knew where to purchase them. How many parents know where the local comic shop is? Not too many and that’s also one of the reasons that comics are spiraling towards the grim and gritty black hole. When comics were everywhere, you had a wider variety of stories being told, but when you cater to the fanboy/comic shop denizens you get the whole “I need more adult stories and angles in my comics”. Mainly because these same fanboys are now in their 30′s and 40′s and have forgetten that comics should be like baseball. You can make money playing profesional baseball but at it’s roots, it’s a kid’s game.

Truth be told, that what comics have always been–a kid friendly medium that got kids hooked on reading.

Oh yeah, and I honestly believe that Fullmetal Alchemist gets everything exactly right. It’s dark–even horrifying–without being dour or depressing, it’s violent without being disgusting, it has plenty of humor to balance itself out, and well-constructed plot that’s relatively low on filler and high on satisfying character development. The bond between the Elric brothers, and between Edward and Winry, give the story a strong emotional and moral core. If anything, it’s only dark so the characters will work harder for their victories.

Oh yeah, one thing I forgot about from my B&N excursion yesterday: while I was in the comic section, a guy and his son, maybe 4 or 5, came up, the boy going, “Batman!” The boy saw Batman: Hush and Superman: Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow? facing out, and asked his dad to take a look. The dad flipped through Hush, and said he was too young for it. The Superman book, however, got his approval.

Take that as you will.

New Marvel Sucks

August 15, 2010 at 4:03 pm

What do you expect from New Marvel, people? Quesada and his cronies are the Kings of Filth!

Does no one remember Joe’s cringe-worthy comments regarding DC and their sexual inadequacies? Or his sexist defense of the divas line?

Or how about his bovine brood of writers and editors? Are not Slott, Breevort, and Bendis’s Twitter accounts — that any kid can acess, mind you — always full of obscenities and snide remarks, and posted right here on CBR?

Ask yourselves, is it any wonder Marvel’s books are the way they are when they’re written and approved by immature douchebags?

@New Marvel Sucks

What are you even talking about? And how is Marvel to blame for DC’s inability to create and promote generally all-ages books? Even the one book that should be all ages (Teen Titans) fails to be that. I’d say it’s one of the darker books DC publishes but in a totally unenjoyable way.

Meanwhile Marvel has in my opinion published quite a few all-ages, layered stories that a lot of people here are calling for, but nobody buys those books. Incredible Hercules and Captain Britain and MI-13 were just two of the critically well-received books that failed to light up the charts. And as long as readers fail to support those books that they always seem to beg for, Marvel and DC will fail to see why they should publish and promote books like that.

I think Alex Scott has given by far the best response of anyone here.

” Ask yourselves, is it any wonder Marvel’s books are the way they are when they’re written and approved by immature douchebags? ”

Hello, pot. I’d like to introduce you to a nice gent named kettle. You may not warm up to him at first, but trust me, you have a lot in common.

I really love Kirkmans work, really. But what is so wrong with the marvel and dc. Serious. I have been reading Marvel and dc since I was 6 it has never been better. Never. Now I am growing up with these characters sure, but for every evolving classic there is always a newbie super dude to look up to. And even with darker stories, marvel and dc heroes at the end of the day are much better role models for younger kids than 96% of tv,movie, sports, and radio celebrities. Marvel and dc are fine.

New Marvel Sucks

August 15, 2010 at 7:34 pm

@Neil

Oh, so let me get this straight:

I’M in the wrong, or a hypocrite, for calling out “professionals” in an open forum — who write superhero comics read by kids — for cussing in public on their twitter accounts and bad-mouthing other companies and professionals online and in the mainstream press?

If you think that’s professional, mature, or even acceptable behavior in the REAL business world, junior, you better hope your boss doesn’t read your Facebook account.

I’m with Kirkman. What he says may not be phrased perfectly for the nitpickers, but he’s right. There’s also the possibility of a middle ground between the status quo and what Kirkman advocates, but good luck getting that across on the internet.

I think that if you shouldn’t demand others to show maturity if you can’t or won’t show it yourself. Wether you use your full name or an anonymous handle expressing a negative opinion is irrelevant.

I can certainly agree to disagree with the original post here, but reading the comments got me tremedously depressed. I’m appalled at how “politically correct” comics readers have become, and I can only attribute that to the fact that most of my generation are becoming parents and now want their kids to read the characters they love, but feel they shouldn’t be reading violent stuff. Or Fox News. I don’t know, but it’s certainly fitting with the current mindset in America. It’s all very hypocritical and CCA-worthy. I also “love” the “THIS IS WHY COMICS ARE DYING” rants. How are you lot any different than Walter Kovacs holding a “The End is Nigh” sign? If comics are dying, well, it’s because of stuck-up snobs like you.

I have to side with Kirkman on this somewhat. I think there’s a significant difference between say creating a property specifically to cater to an older audience with more graphic content(like The Walking Dead), as opposed to taking characters and stories that originally catered to a younger or more all-ages audience and changing them by adding content that’s arguably inappropriate to younger readers(like Identity Crisis).

I opened a collection of Green Lantern or Blackest Night or what-have-you and the first thing I saw was a man of some sort punching a woman’s head off of her shoulders.

In my day I’ve read a good number of violent and gory comic books. I’ve read sexually provocative comic books. But there’s something really desperate and creepy when these elements are found in comics that used to be Comics Code Approved back in the day.

I’m not saying that the Code should have been kept.

I’m saying that that is one hell of a jump. To go from a comic that a parent could blindly give to their child to putting out stories where women’s heads get punched off. Not to mention the other stuff that happens in your usual DC comic.

I don’t understand what is wrong with the editorial groups in Marvel and DC–if they want to write extreme superheroes, they have the power to do so. But why would you have such gory violence in a comic featuring Green Lantern? Or any of those people. The answer is simple:

We’ve allowed the mainstream comics industry to focus on a this system of relay-race writing. The characters and their adventures continue simply because they have always continued. Even though NOBODY seems to have any interest in writing about the appropriate subject matter. If DC wants to put out gory heroes–they own Wildstorm. Nobody’s got a problem with The Authority being gory. It is what it is.

There has to be a sense of responsibility–and a sense of letting go. There needs to be an acknowledgement that your “brilliant” idea of having Green Lantern covered in blood on a comic book cover is not really a “Green Lantern idea,” but rather an idea that you should pursue with a new, unrelated character.

If DC and Marvel felt comfortable with using their many and various imprints to put out these other types of hero comics, it would really do a lot more to make their iconic products more readable and marketable.

For my money, that THOR: THE MIGHTY AVENGER is the “real Thor.”

I have a challenge for both Marvel and DC. Try for at least one full year to write all of your MU and DCU superhero comics in a LAYERED all ages manner and standards (in regards to content) similar to books like Hama’s original G.I. JOE and WOLVERINE run,Byrne’s FF run,Claremont’s UXM run,PAD’s first INCREDIBLE HULK run,Chuck Dixon’s WAY OF THE RAT,Defalco’s SPIDER-GIRL and MC2 books,THE FAMILY DYNAMIC,Shooter’s STAR BRAND and current Gold Key characters from Dark Horse,and THOR:THE MIGHTY AVENGER.

You know there’s something wrong with the Big 2 when an R rated movie like THE EXPENDABLES has less blood and gore in it then most current MU and DCU superhero titles.

@darrylayo

I wholeheartedly agree with you on THOR: THE MIGHT AVENGER it is a great book accessible to all ages.

Blade X: I don’t think that EVERY comic should be written in a layered all-ages manner. The 80s certainly benefited from having those, but also having things like Moore’s Swamp Thing. Like I keep saying, I think the icons should be written in a layered all-ages manner – that means Superman, Captain Marvel, Batman, Wonder Woman, Flash, Green Lantern, Justice League, Spider-Man, Captain America, THor, Iron Man, the Avengers, the X-Men, and Wolverine (although Wolverine is the type of character that readers flock to as adolescents anyway). Once you move away from that center, you can get more and more risque. You obviously can’t tell a Punisher story without a bunch of killing.

Having said that, I’m not getting the backlash against all the gore and violence either. Kids see much, much worse in their video games today, and the superhero genre, by nature, is a violent one.

There’s something i learned early on in life that Marvel, DC and many of you havent: You cant be all things to all people and you cant make everyone happy, what you love i may hate and vice versa. Comics will never be what they were “when you were a kid” because comics cant compete with video games, the internet, tv, myspace and whtever else rolls in to occupy their time, its hard enough to get an adult to put down the controller(myself included sometimes) let alone a kid. Why would a kid read the book when they can watch the cartoon, play the game an go to the movie. Should Marvel and DC put out more all-ages books….sure, will it really change things probably not.

There was no ‘Golden Era” of comics in the 70s and 80s because you were kids and thats how you saw it while others thought that era was terrible. I mean i loved Dragonball Z and TMNT as a kid(im 26) but i look back on those shows and i cant remember why i liked it. Its like when you look back on a certain time in your life and realize it wasnt as good as you remembered.

As far as violence goes, does it matter? Violence is in everything, hell the most violent cartoon i ever saw is still Tom and Jerry yet parents are ok with that…..funny, look superheroes are violent whether you leave the blood in or out, cant Superman solve all his problems with non-violence….yeah, is that a good lesson to teach kids that everything cant be solved with fists….yep, is that a really a book you or any kid wants to read….nope.

I think if you go back and read Kirkman’s original “call to arms” about big names doing more creator-owned work, you’ll see that too many people have since wrongly framed it as an attack on Marvel and DC, and over-emphasized the “Mainstream superhero comics are for kids” aspect of his speech.

Originally, the core argument of his point was that the industry would stagnate if the big names just kept on writing the big superhero books. He reasoned that big brand-name heroes like Batman or Spider-Man or Superman essentially sold themselves, so they didn’t necessarily need the all-star creative teams. His point was that he feels the comic industry has it backwards, where writers do low selling creator-owned work until their status grows, then they only get the big superhero gigs once they’re experienced, recognised creators. When in fact, according to him, it would make more sense if Marvel and DC sought out new talent to work on their superhero books, while the famous names did creator-owned work. This way, you’re diversifying the market, as you have readers buying some superhero books for the heroes and other books of different genres for the creators attached, thus diversifying the market. And when new writers make their name of their Marvel/DC superhero work and THEIR status grows, they too move onto creator-owned work and, in theory, fans follow them, getting even more eyes on creator-owned books. Meanwhile, another new generation of writers takes over the superhero books. This way, the industry is constantly creating new stars out of writers and artists rather than creating this heirarchy where there are less and less jobs available for young creators.

And Kirkman wasn’t attacking Marvel or DC, or saying “these books are just for kids”. He said at the time he was a fan of many of these superhero books himself, and he felt that making them more accessible to young readers (rather than making them so closed-off and heavy in continuity that only the existing, aging readership feels welcome) would help with their long-term success.

funkygreenjerusalem

August 16, 2010 at 5:35 am

Where I part ways with Kirkman again is his assertion that if you want to tell “mature” superhero stories, then the only place for that is a creator-owned book. It’s okay in Invincible, but not in Spider-Man. As Tom Brevoort pointed out, that’s a double standard. The question is: should that be okay?

It’s not a double standard at all.
Invincible has always been over the top violent.
Spider-Man has become that in the last ten years.
Invincible wasn’t a product designed for kids, and still in spin off properties aimed at kids, Spider-Man is.
Having a villain eat their own child wouldn’t have stood out at any point in Invincible, it’s utterly bizarre that it happened in Spider-Man (actually, that would still probably stand out in Invincible).
I understand Tom Brevoort pretending not to get it – spinning things against all logic is what gets him going in the morning – but for someone on the outside looking in not to get it… I’m a little shocked!
(Am I misreading what’s being said?)

This lets everyone win. Big name creators get to keep writing the books that they want, even if someone else owns them. Everyone gets to read the books they want and thanks to the imprints’ trade dressing, those books are easy to identify. Where’s the hole in my thinking on this?

The ever dwindling sales since ‘big name creators’ got to do whatever they wanted with company owned properties?

I’m a UK reader and I buy my kids loads of comics, none of which are from my LCS and all of which I have no need to vet because I KNOW what they are getting is age appropriate because their publisher knows their audience. Therefore comic strips such as Doctor Who, Batman: Brave and the Bold, Spectacular Spiderman and Ben 10 (who is arguably the most popular kids hero in recent times) are what my kids will grow up liking.

I got my first taste of superhero comics from Marvel UK reprints (Spiderman, Transformers and GI-Joe in the 80′s) in my locals newsagents, so I think one of the main points is distribution. You have to put the comics where the kids are. I rarely take my kids into our LCS because a) it’s not a child friendly environment (probably because of a lot of they people there have the same attitude towards kids as a lot of you on here do) b) there’s no discrimination about which comics are on display. Wherever, the kids go, presumably with parents who have the money (toys’r'us, Supermarkets etc) that’s where comics should get a greater push, especially if they’re located near the action figures that are spawned from them or magazines that parents will buy. The latter is pretty much how we do it over here. I go to get my newspaper or magazine whilst shopping and the kids come up to me to say they have the latest comic in store. That’s one comic sold per child every visit just because of where it is placed!

My kids know I read Marvel and DC characters but they are put off by them because they are more familiar with the animated versions (even the nineties stuff which is on DIsney XD over here atm), but at the same time there is no way I would let my 9 y-o read about some of the stuff that happens in the main line hero comics currently. As a parent I value my kids innocence and I’m not going to throw that away just to keep the comics industry alive. Those in charge had better buck up their efforts if they want me to give my kids money to spend on their product (and marvel/dc have no shame admitting that comics are a product anymore).

To be honest though they have the right idea when it comes to digital. My kids have no problem reading comics on the PC or their PSP’s and would be happy to do so more often judging by the times they ask me to pay for it. However, I’m not!! To me a comic isn’t a comic unless you can hold it in your hands. If they could come up with a system that meant buying a physical copy of a comic also meant you could download it’s digital equivalent it would bridge that gap between the old generation who are keeping it alive now and the next generation who could ensure its continuation.

Also, I remember being a kid and reading comics and wanting to emulate the heroes I read about. It’s because of that, and knowing my own kids not anyone else’s, that I am reluctant to let Quesada and Bendis et al, who use the Marvel universe as playground for some of their twisted fantasies, be responsible for feeding my kids aspirations or sense of right and wrong when they seem to have no clear idea themselves (it’s no coincidence that Wade Wilson will be Quesada’s legacy, a mercenary without any moral direction, willing to do whatever it takes to satisfy his current whimsy). Don’t get me wrong, Deadpool, is a crazy, cool character, but that’s because of the way he plays AGAINST convention, but he is not by any means a mainstream character, any more than Freddy Krueger is.

Any responsible adult knows that you need to censor your own behaviour around kids otherwise they’ll copy you without any real understanding of why someone may behave or act in a certain manner. If comics are dying its BECAUSE they abandoned their own form of self-censorship and just totally indulged themselves with the fact that no-one was telling them what to do anymore, just like a teenager leaving home to go to university. This leads to stories that the writer likes writing or an artist likes to draw but which NO-ONE WANTS TO READ!! Marvel and DC need to grow up!!

I have no problem with storyline’s being dark and complex either. DW and Ben10 are both good at giving kids meaty adventures with weighty issues. If anything I’ve been happier for my kids to read Morrison’s Batman run because at least he seems to know where and when to channel his talent to suit the character and audience and tell an interesting story. That has hardly been light reading but it was challenging and verging slightly on the horror but I don’t think it crossed the line. My kid was freaked by it, but that’s good he’s MEANT to be freaked out by some of these characters. That’s why they are evil, but we’re supposed to get comfort from knowing that the heroes are there and will prevail in the end, not letting their resolve crumble and become just as bad as those they are fighting against. This is what Mainstream heroes should represent, the mainstream.

Anti-heroes have their place, but kids need a certain level of maturity in order to understand why these vigilantes do things the way they do. If Anti-heroes are promoted as the norm and are considered ‘heroes’ then the next generation of Anti-hero has to be more over-the-top and shocking than the previous and I think that’s the path comics have gone down for the last 20 years.

I used the analogy of the current state of comics being like a teenager experimenting with its freedom but now companies have to decide whether they’re going to carry on like that and become 20-something slackers or start to take on responsibility and admit that maybe they’ve taken it far it enough and it’s time to get professional about it. I think there’s room for both ends of the spectrum in the grand scheme of things but when you’re talking about selling to young children (8-12) then you have to assume that most kids these days have parents who are more media savvy and if they have any sense of parental judgement, will generally censor the types of media their children have access to. Hence parental controls on computers and TV etc.

Obviously, I’m using a generalisation when talking about kids here and only a parent can make the judgement as to whether comics are suitable at a particular age or not as every child is different. Essentially my points are though that wider distribution should help reach a new audience (although I know there’s the whole returns issue that led to comics becoming more of a direct market in the first place) and that the content should be such that parents don’t feel like they HAVE to make a decision as to whether something is suitable in the first place. Make it easy for them to say ‘oh its spiderman, of course you can have it.’ not have them think ‘Will my child see someone having sex, or see someone his own age torn apart by his father or recreationally taking drugs/getting drunk’ and then because the doubt is there (whether supported by fact or not) choose something else every time because they know it’s an easier and safer decision to make.

With great power comes great responsibility. Stan Lee knew it. How about you Quesada?

God, did I really just write all that?

hold you mean those hulk sheets i keep buying are for kids? no wonder they don’t fit my bed. lets face it , very few kids these days read comics, their exposure to these characters is cartoon and movies. For various reason and changes we 80′s babies didn’t face , like the internet and the x-box . my girl friend has a ten year -old , who has shelves of bat-man toys never reads the comics – loves the movies and brave and the bold, i often have to tell him- the cartoons aren’t real as they don’t fall into the cannon- imagine that talk with a kid. The ten year old also has seen scar face six times and plays video games more mature than any thing i see in the fairly tame comics these days. i should him the panel of the sentry ripping ares in half and he just said it was kinda gross. i thought it was awesome but am also a big horror fan and think human centipede is the best movie to come out so far in 2010. so give me my mature comics they kids aren’t reading them anyways, though they do love super hero squad on their psps

I love Invincible and all the violence and gore, it seems more realistic in a “comics” sense. If youre strong enough to pull a cruise ship by yourself and you punch a guy I fully expect his head to explode. I read Marvels MAX titles, The Blackest Night and other Marvel titles and I appreciate the slightly more realistic violence and more adult subject matter. While I don’t expect to see Captain America being as violent as The Boys I do expect to see people hurt and a little blood. I disagree with the thought that mainstream comics need to dumb down to appeal to a new, younger audience they just have to be written well and not gritty for grits sake. As a preteen I read mainstream books (Teen Titans, X Men ,LoSH etc) but I also enjoyed alternative books like American Flagg, Judge Dredd and other “mature” titles. I was smart and
mature enough to understand or figure out most of the adult stuff as were alot of the other posters here so Marvel Adventures wouldn’t have appealed to me.

We are sounding so much like old men who are afraid of change.

This discussion always winds up drowning in its own pool of minutia.

I think there are valid arguments to make, and there are things that sound be done/could be done.

But having an infinite number of monkeys tying on an infinite number of typewriters isn’t going to change anything.

Companies don’t really go after the money they are losing (because they don’t see it), they follow where the money is already coming from–hence 15 diff Deadpool / Batman comics.

If Tiny Titans was selling those numbers, we’d be having a debate about the lack of mature adult stories.
Although, we could be having that debate anyway if you think about it.

What makes a story Adult? Mature, for that matter as opposed to FOR adults?

“Where I part ways with Kirkman again is his assertion that if you want to tell “mature” superhero stories, then the only place for that is a creator-owned book. It’s okay in Invincible, but not in Spider-Man.”

I don’t think the issue is that one’s creator-owned and the other is corporate-owned, I think it’s that one is Invincible and the other is Spider-Man.

Watchmen is owned by DC, and I certainly don’t think Kirkman’s argument is that Watchmen shouldn’t have included adult content — though perhaps he could argue that it would have been inappropriate if it was Captain Atom’s penis hanging out and the Question mutilating people in prison.

Some characters are suited to nasty, dark stories, and some just aren’t. While Dark Knight can coexist with The Brave and the Bold, I don’t think that, for example, the Lizard eating his son or the Black Cat being raped are appropriate storylines for Spider-Man.

Kids books don’t sell. But it’s not a lack of interest, I don’t believe. Kids are open to reading comic books, but lose interest when they simply can’t find or afford them. A kid can’t drive to the comic shop, which are usually located (at least the ones I know of) in downtown areas or out-of-the-way shopping centers, rarely near any store where the parents would be going anyway. It’s not even a matter of the kids asking to go to comic shops and being told no; if you ask your non-collecting friends, you’d be shocked how many of them simply assume comics aren’t being made at all anymore because they never see them anymore. (The fact that the media has chosen to call comics “graphic novels” doesn’t help if people really think they’re different things, which a surprising number of people do.)

And how many parents do you think there are, those of the variety who read comics as kids and want their kids to do so as well, who went to the comic shop to introduce Junior to comics and picked up an innocuous-looking book, only to find it contained–without any warning–content that they felt inappropriate to their youngster. “Oh, look, this one has Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, and Green Lantern. ‘Identity Crisis.’ That’s a cool name.” “Mommy, what’s ‘rape’?” My guess is those kids aren’t going to be getting more comic books.

Personally, I think self-control isn’t “dumbing down” comics by any means. If anything, it requires more creativity to tone down the supposedly mature content (that, in most cases, I’d argue is immature). Someone brought up Hama’s GIJoe run in the 1980s earlier. In one issue, Doc gets his head blown off at close range by a Cobra with a heavy machine gun. There’s absolutely no question that he’s dead, or exactly how it went down. But there isn’t a full-page spread of his head exploding, followed by shots of his fellow Joes covered in ridiculous amounts of blood and bone fragments. The content is the same, but the delivery is way, way different.

I don’t buy that kids can’t handle darker subjects. (What’s the body count in the Harry Potter series again?) But there’s a way to handle such subjects if you’re dealing with characters whose books have been kid-safe for longer than most of our parents have been alive, and who suddenly aren’t but don’t have any sort of warning label to indicate this?

You obviously can’t tell a Punisher story without a bunch of killing.

_____________________________________

True. However, you can still tell a an all ages layered Punisher story with a bunch of killing. After all, Marvel did exactly that before Quesada became EIC.

As far as violence goes, does it matter? Violence is in everything, hell the most violent cartoon i ever saw is still Tom and Jerry yet parents are ok with that…..funny, look superheroes are violent whether you leave the blood in or out, cant Superman solve all his problems with non-violence….yeah, is that a good lesson to teach kids that everything cant be solved with fists….yep, is that a really a book you or any kid wants to read….nope.

________________________________________

There’s a big difference between bloodless action/fight scenes with the more gruesome scenes shown either off panel or in shadow and bloody and gory on panel graphic scenes of violence.

The Lizard ate his son??

Raise your hand if you were entertained by this. Or if you feel it developed the related characters in any productive way.

Absolutely tasteless. Pardon the pun.

Brian from Canada

August 16, 2010 at 12:08 pm

There’s a number of very important points in this discussion.

Kirkman is wrong to speak about continuity as being a weight to superhero comics of the main two. It’s what propels them forward. It’s what makes them stand out. Nobody in Scooby Doo or Bugs Bunny pauses to remember what’s happened before. Heck, The Simpsons makes fun of it from time to time! But in superhero comics, what has come before dictates a lot of what’s going on now. The challenge of the writer is to make it both continuity relevant AND open to today’s new readers, and that’s become a very difficult challenge when the market has moved away from the monthlies into something more substantial.

And by that, I mean the trades. THAT is where new readers are made now. They see the characters on television, buy the toys, and then may be walking into a book store and see the trades on the shelf. The idea that there are individual comic books that make up these bigger stories is the next step. The teenagers I teach all come into comics that way now, and it’s not surprising that they move to manga first because it’s closest to what’s on television in terms of cartoons (because Japanese animation still dominates in certain time slots and toy shelves).

OmniAural talks about the comic store being unfriendly to children and he’s right. It’s also unfriendly to comics in general, as that most comic stores are supported by card games too — and those that use tournaments to support the sales often end up in situations where the emphasis is on games rather than comics. Working in a comic store with the gaming-centered owner (I was the comics expert) led to many arguments over the fact that he was pushing Pokémon to the family that came in for a Batman comic because it was more profitable to him… in the short run. When the bottom falls out of the game market or the kid gets bored, the LCS becomes a turn off rather than a gateway to something else they may like more often than not.

Someone mentioned Runaways. Runaways was part of Marvel’s digest line and the one that got the most trades that way. It wasn’t until later that Marvel switched to larger trades because they were better in the eyes of true comics readers — and sales took a dive to match. The availability, and the connection to how readers get their comics, makes a huge difference in how comics reach the market they want.

Will that kill the monthlies? Of course not! Tom Breevort said it best when talking about Vertigo re: CrossGen — the monthlies provide the content and some basic cost recovery BEFORE the trades.

As to the content itself, there are two points to consider — one of which having been discussed already, and the other skirted around.

In terms of the former, it’s the particular character used. Blood and gore has its place in Deadpool and Punisher, and maybe Batman, but not in brighter characters like Superman, Spider-Man and Wonder Woman. That’s called diversification and we can all agree that Marvel and DC need to start setting internal rules as to what can – and cannot – be done with certain characters.

Uncanny X-Force is a great example. These are the badasses of the X-Men universe and readers who are familiar with the title will know that immediately. The rest of the X-Men are nowhere as brutal and have the right to dominate the other titles.

Unfortunately, and here’s where I think Marvel and DC are getting some of the flack when they shouldn’t, store owners don’t care as long as it’s a sale. They leave it up to a warning on the cover and the parents present rather than their own opinions and sales ability.

Which brings me to the other point of discussion skirted about, and that’s the competition against comics.

Video games are more violent. We all get that. But look at television too: the hottest series on television are the most violent (hello, HBO) or explicit in other ways. Networks don’t show full nudity or swear… but the movies have it, and the movies are easily accessible. And the Internet, which is full of porn.

(If you doubt me, look at the level of violence Brave & The Bold shows, and then watch Joker beat up Robin at the beginning of Under The Red Hood. Even my non-comics friends were shocked at how violent the latter was and commented that they’d never see that on tv.)

In THAT market, comics have to re-envision themselves as competition for a different set of exposures. Claremont’s X-Men competed against shows like Dukes Of Hazard, not The Sopranos. Spider-Man’s relationship with MJ was more in keeping with Sam & Diane on Cheers rather than any of the ladies in Sex & The City.

And how does Disney respond to it? By becoming the bastion of all that’s good in keeping away everything that’s naughty, that’s how. Disney’s kid shows are sooooo sacharine that they make Full House look evil. It’s old 80s plots without anything controversial. Where does a kid go from that?

There’s nothing to transition Hannah Montana into Greek, or Jet Jackson into Hung. Heck, the Disney stars that have made it were saccharine teases at the start and are now super sex sluts — Christina, Britney, etc. Britney’s not wearing underwear and Justin’s singing about his d**k in a box. And that’s all aimed at the same market of pre-teens/teens that were days before reaching for the nightlight and wearing full pyjamas.

Obviously, I’m talking about an extreme, but the signs are clearly there. The transition into darker, adult themes is harder because the middle ground is essentially lost. It’s either very childish or very adult — so much so that Sesame Street has devolved the ages they once targeted because the kids at 4 and 5 find them immature.

This doesn’t absolve Joe Q’s horrible OMIT idea — there’s no excuse for lousy writing, period — but in a market that’s so concerned about the 12-year old audience and their gateway into other comics, being more progressive to get other audiences is worth it. Punisher was cool because he wasn’t promoted as a good symbol of what comics were about.

That only came about because comics got darker and it sold so well they kept at it. “Brightest Day” is a story to follow the darkness, but it should be coming about in reality to an age that celebrates heroes for being heroes, not questioning how hard it is to be one.

” There’s a big difference between bloodless action/fight scenes with the more gruesome scenes shown either off panel or in shadow and bloody and gory on panel graphic scenes of violence. ”

Devil’s Advocate: the difference ideologically is that bloodless fight scenes that cut away from the gruesome bits make violence into a cheerful sport, while showing bloody and graphic violence portrays it as unsavory and horrifying– which real violence is. If I were a parent, I’d be more worried about the message behind something like Larry Hama’s G.I. Joe ( where military conflict is glorified and few characters face any serious injury or death, save a few exceptions like Snake-Eyes ) than something like X-Force ( where the violence is gruesome, but something that expresses just how evil the villains are, the heroes use it as a necessary means of survival, and most of the heroes who kill are unhappy and traumatized ).

Just want to say OmniAural has got it spot on. I’m with them 110%.

Superheroes are good guys. Spider-man, superman etc
Antiheroes are good guys with major flaws. old style-Wolverine, old-style Punisher etc
‘postheroes’ are the next progression, heroes so bad they may as well be villains. Modern wolverine, modern punisher, plus Deadpool, Sentry and far too many others for my liking

I hope that Disney enforce as much control over Stan and Jack’s creations as they do for uncle walt. Marvel are publishing their own ‘Sky Pirates’ these days. Beyond parody or ridicule. Which is not a good thing. Just to be clear.

One of the worst thing to happen to comics was the big two dropping CCA without an equally robust system to replace it.

All mainstream comics should be of PG13/12A. Thats the way it always used to be. Seemed to work pretty well. Some meaty storylines still made it out under CCA. The successful stories used Subtlety, layers and in the most part, keeping things tasteful.

If the storytellers feel the need to show all the gory detail in the artwork and dialogue then thats irresponsible and unimaginative. Assuming of course they arent doing it just to be provocative. Which would be sad.

People use the word censorship as derogatory but it has its place. In a medium which is ostensibly aimed at juveniles, there is a responsibility to keep the product age appropriate.

Marvel just doesnt get it. Ghetto-ising kids to solely kid-friendly titles wont save the industry. Anyone of any age should be able to pick up a mainstream comic without worry about what they will encounter. Fluffy goofy kids only books dont sell because kids dont want them. If they are buying them its because the main titles are closed to them.

BBC’s doctor who has a ‘no blood, no bullets’ policy. There is violence and danger, but its thrilling not chilling. As I understand it there are scriptwriters and producers which keep an eye on all of this.

The death of the editor as collaborator in comics has been welcomed by some. Personally I’ve found the light-touch editing distasteful. There is no-one watching out for inappropriate content or continuity like there used to be.

So many of the developments over the last ten years which have turned me off marvel have been under JoeQ’s watch. The badboy say-anything/do-anything creators he has championed have taken the traditional marvel upstart to the nth degree. Stan always referred to DC as the distinguished competition. It was playful, sarcastic but never badmouthed them outright. These days, I don’t dare see what tirade Joe or his gang have shot off. The cussing and dissing just isn’t cricket.

To me, comics have always been about hope. good overcoming evil. You’re hard pressed to see much of that these days. What was civil war but a grand example of ‘shades of grey’ writ large.

Watchmen and Dark Knight returns were the pinnacle of what you can do in the medium. Alan and Frank seemed to use them as ‘this is far as you can go’ where creators should have learnt to work within the boundaries of the genre, instead have tried to top it over and over again. The trouble being, the further you move away from that, it becomes a different animal entirely. Books like Invincible, Kickass or The Boys are good examples of Posthero. This is where too many mainstream creators seem to want to go. But Spider-man, Batman etc are superheroes. They are good guys who stop the bad guys. If the ‘good guys’ are as bad as the bad guys then that isnt superhero comics to me

I would also like to voice my admiration of Kurt Busiek. He writes real superhero books. Content is age appropriate but can still be dark, mature, complex, and above all layered. Which echoes John Byrne’s opinion that age appropriate need not mean immature somehow. He’s a middle aged with some traditional views. I dont necessarily agree with everything he says, or quite how forthright he expresses himself but i think he knows comics and doesnt get the props he’s due.

The mainstream comics are part of wider universes, a shared tapestry or garden. Each writer or artist is merely just another gardener tending after Siegel, Shuster, Kirby, Simon, Lee and so many others. If nothing else they have a responsibility to leave the garden in as good if not better place than when they found it.

To me; Showering guts and intestines, rapings, child murder and molestation are the equivalent of doing donuts in a Quadbike all over the garden. Nothing to be proud of. Shame on them and good luck to future creators who have to dig themselves out of it. Spider-man being married doesnt seem nearly as controversial.

In my mind, postheroes have no place in mainstream comics. If creators want to do these kind of stories, then creator owned is just the place to do that. Its their own creation so they can do what they like with their own creations. And good luck to them. There has been excellent work come out under CO imprints. The industry is mature enough to support that and its vital this is maintained in parallel with the mainstream. But please keep all this toocoolforschool nonsense away from the creations of better men than yourselves.

Devil’s advocate to devil’s advocate: I started to type a list of characters from the GIJoe comic who were killed or spent several consecutive issues in the hospital recovering from injuries, but it got too long to manage.

I would argue, however, that the book, though violent, in no way glorified the violence, and, in fact, showed the consequences of violence far better than most comics with graphic content.

Take the death of Doc, which I mentioned earlier. How would it be handled today? We’d see the SAW Viper, probably cussing at him, then a panel of a super closeup of Doc’s head exploding, and gore flying everywhere, followed by the other Joes covered in pieces of Doc. In the actual comic, we see Doc climbing out of a ravine, a closeup that establishes exactly where the gun is in relation to his head, a shot of the SAW Viper firing (with, I think, a snide comment), and then a shot of his body falling back into the ravine at such an angle that the reader can’t see his head, or what’s left of it.

The *REALLY* important part comes afterward. His death isn’t blown off. Almost immediately, Quick Kick basically goes insane, screaming and firing a machine gun, tears streaming down his cheeks, for several minutes after he’s run out of ammo and wiped out the Cobras in the area. The next issue, when the rest of the team comes to the rescue (after the mission has gone even further south), we see Duke sobbing on Hawk’s shoulder, essentially saying he blames himself for the deaths and is unfit for command.

Through the course of the series, I can’t count the number of times we see some otherwise pretty hardcore characters (including Snake Eyes, Quick Kick, Cross Country, Hawk, Duke, Stalker, Baroness, and even, once, Cobra Commander) crying over the death of injury of someone close to them. It makes you think, “This other character was a real person in the context of the story, with people who cared about him, and now he’s dead.”

I’m not saying that crying is necessarily cool, or that comics should be a big sob-fest. I’m saying that showing the real repercussions of killing or injuring characters is far more important than showing the actual violence when it comes to expressing that violence isn’t a good thing. Showing violence without showing how it affects other characters results in a sort of “Mortal Kombat effect,” where lots of blood is cool, and potentially desensitizing. The real aftermath, unless handled really incompetently, is far more unsettling than blood and guts will ever be.

I’m not saying that crying is necessarily cool, or that comics should be a big sob-fest. I’m saying that showing the real repercussions of killing or injuring characters is far more important than showing the actual violence when it comes to expressing that violence isn’t a good thing. Showing violence without showing how it affects other characters results in a sort of “Mortal Kombat effect,” where lots of blood is cool, and potentially desensitizing. The real aftermath, unless handled really incompetently, is far more unsettling than blood and guts will ever be.

____________________________________

Not only do I agree with every single thing you said, you said it better and much more eloquently then I ever could have said.

And speaking of Larry Hama, one of the best issues of his WOLVERINE run was an issue of Wolverine sitting in a bar drinking and mourning his decision to mercy kill Mariko (at her request) who was painfully dying of blow fish poison several issues earlier. Like the G.I. JOE scenes you listed as examples, that scene with Logan showed the true consequences of death and it’s effects on the loved ones left alive.

Ritchard;

I’ve only been reading the Larry Hama GI Joe in trades, so I’m glad to know that’s in store for me. I can’t wait to catch up.

” All mainstream comics should be of PG13/12A. Thats the way it always used to be. Seemed to work pretty well. Some meaty storylines still made it out under CCA. The successful stories used Subtlety, layers and in the most part, keeping things tasteful. ”

IN SPITE of the CCA, not because of it. This is a system that completely banned portrayals of anything questioning authority.

“I’m saying that showing the real repercussions of killing or injuring characters is far more important than showing the actual violence when it comes to expressing that violence isn’t a good thing.”

Exactly! To go back to my earlier example of Fullmetal Alchemist: it definitely doesn’t shy away from the horrifying. The very first page depicts Edward Elric at 12 years old with a bloody stump where his leg used to be. People die, sometimes quite horribly. But again: the art doesn’t dwell on the gory details. The more gruesome death scenes often take place offscreen. And they have consequences, sometimes right up to the end of the final chapter. Roy Mustang’s whole character arc is built on his part in a recent genocide.

And again, the struggles mostly mean the characters have to fight harder for their victories, rather than plummet into despair. It’s interesting to compare Edward Elric to Roy Harper. When Roy loses his daughter and his arm, he goes on a heroin-fueled frenzy, and it’s a miserable experience for everybody. When Ed loses an arm and a leg, it becomes the whole reason he sets off on his journey and becomes a hero. And now we’re right back to that “optimism” thing. There’s a place for pessimism and cynicism in superhero comics–that’s what Watchmen is for–but Spider-Man and Teen Titans, less so.

I found the Larry Hama’s G.I. Joe example laughably incorrect – if anything, Larry Hama’s G.I. Joe showed me as a child that, unlike what I saw in the cartoon, guns can and do hurt and kill people and that war is dangerous and downright ugly. What G.I. Joe comics were you reading? The terrible ones at the end of the original series where there were space monsters and stuff? :rolleyes:

Don’t know if this is salient or not, but, you know, on the DVD of Favreau’s “Iron Man” there is a “deleted scene” where Tony and Rhodey are in a Stark plane and the Stark Flight Attendants all of a sudden become pole dancers and Tony ends up going to another part of the Cabin with one and Rhodey ends up with the other two.

So Tony is “fraternizing” with his female employees? And pimping ‘em out for his buddy. And the girls are all for it?

Wisely, this questionable (on a whole bunch of levels) scene was not in the PG-13 picture proper.

The Comics should at least adhere to that kind of sensible editorial scrutiny. IMHO.

****
By the way, never a big fan of blood in mainstream comics. Like the image of Green Lantern on this page, it’s hard to reconcile a character who can whip up a giant pair of pliers to fix a runaway roller coaster (or whatever) to the guy who is drowning in a sea of his blood.

Blood and guts in The Punisher makes sense ‘cuz that guy is using live ammo! But, I mean, didn’t he use some kind of “concussive projectile” in his first appearance in The Amazing Spider-man?

I guess things were easier when I was 10-12— Vampirella, Savage Tales, and Eerie were on the magazine racks, next to Argosy and such, and the comics were on the spin rack. I still bought some of both, though.
If I remember, certain cashiers at my local store would not let me buy the Warrens, so… I had to come back the next day when someone else was working.

And no, I didn’t grow up in Mayberry.

I’m sorry for spoiling one of, I think, the best scenes in the entire run of the series. I’m not being sarcastic here; that scene was a huge shocker, even for those of us who knew in advance that Hama had finally gotten the go-ahead to kill off some characters.

The final issue (#155) is one of the best single issues along these lines, too. The son of a Vietnam buddy of Snake Eyes writes to him about considering going into the military, and the entire issue is a letter back from Snake Eyes, essentially an essay on the burdens and duties of being a soldier.

One other thing that stands out about the old Joe comic was the letter page in response to the first issue with actual “toy” Joe deaths (#109–there’d been at least two Joes killed earlier who weren’t toys). Folks were livid about the characters who were killed, and I won’t spoil any more aside from saying there were more shockers than just Doc, though I think his was the most disturbing of all (given both the way it was portrayed and that he was a non-combatant). The answer from the editor to the letters was something to the effect of, “You asked us to kill off characters to make this more realistic. We listened, and got permission to do so. But this is war, and war is hell. You don’t get to pick who lives and who dies, and, a lot of the time, it’s the people you really care about.

Violence is violence, are we really arguing about how much is too much, any violence depicted in anything is glorifying it, Ben 10 punches a guy and blasts him thru a wall, Pokemon has cute animals fighting each other till they’re unconscious and Fullmetal has gore and blood in it(ex: the chimera that was actually a little girl and dog fused together is killed and it shows her blood smeared on the wall and its corpse) Having blood and gore or not makes no difference because it teaches kids the same thing: Solve your problems with violence because Superman, Batman and Spider-Man are.

Things progress, take music for example: Music is very different than it was in the 70s/80s and has progressed in good ways and bad, im not saying violence is progression but it ispushing things forward the same way many comic writers have done for decades. If you don’t like the era of comics now then dont read them, all those “classic” stories everyone keeps touting still exist and you can read them anytime………and who knows maybe the next era in comics will be to your liking.

Its just comics guys and girls, enjoy yourselves or not…………………its ultimately your choice after all.

I don’t remember my comics as a kid shying away from violence. I remember Colossus snapping Riptide’s neck. I remember Wolverine being crucified. I remember Venom talking about eating brains.
And I don’t remember them shying away from adult themes. Madelyne Pryor was planning to sacrifice babies, including her own son. Spider-Man and the Punisher busted up a coke-dealing ring using a military academy as a front. Look at Peter David’s entire Hulk run.
And comics have always been overly, if not overtly, sexualized.
Maybe they were less visually gratuitous to an extent, but I think that was less a function of comics or the comics culture and more a function of society as a whole. Compare movies or TV of twenty-five years ago to today and you’ll see the same thing. The content matters a lot less than how it’s contextualized – both in the book and in the child’s life (by friends, siblings, and parents).
There are extremes, of course. But there always were. I really don’t think comics have changed as much as everyone things they have.

I’m agreeing with Comics Cube, pretty much… and Kirkman, though maybe we just need to stop putting people like Gaiman, Ellis, Moore, etc. on such pedestals in the first place.

I agree that the mainstream superhero lines need to be kid-friendly. They also need to get back into mainstream venues — even if that means bringing back the Comics Code.

As for ’80s nostalgia. Well, I think it’s more Roy Thomas era nostalgia, looking back at the 70s and early 80s, before the ultimate effects of the Secret Wars and the first Crisis became evident. Even ignoring the confusion caused by this constant continuity shuffling, those huge crossover events (that now seem to come along twice a year) are downright hostile to the kid market, where an allowance only goes so far.

Let’s be very clear what the Comics Code did and didn’t do: here it is, verbatim:

—————————————————————————————————————————————————-

CODE OF THE COMICS MAGAZINE ASSOCIATION OF AMERICA, INC.

General Standards – Part A

1. Crimes shall never be presented in such a way as to promote distrust in the forces of law and justice, or to inspire others with a desire to imitate criminals.

2. No comics shall explicitly present the unique details and methods of a crime, with the exception of those crimes that are so far-fetched or pseudo-scientific that no would-be lawbreaker could reasonably duplicate.

3. Policemen, judges, government officials and respected institutions shall not be presented in such a way as to create disrespect for established authority. If any of these is depicted committing an illegal act, it must be declared as an exceptional case and that the culprit pay the legal price.

4. If crime is depicted it shall be as a sordid and unpleasant activity.

5. Criminals shall not be presented in glamorous circumstances, unless an unhappy end results from their ill-gotten gains, and creates no desire for emulation.

6. In every instance good shall triumph over evil and the criminal punished for his misdeeds.

7. Scenes of excessive violence shall be prohibited. Scenes of brutal torture, excessive and unnecessary knife and gun play, physical agony, gory and gruesome crime shall be eliminated.

8. No unique or unusual methods of concealing weapons shall be shown, except where such concealment could not reasonably be duplicated.

9. Instances of law enforcement officers dying as a result of a criminal’s activities should be discouraged, except when the guilty, because of their crime, live a sordid existence and are brought to justice because of the particular crime.

10. The crime of kidnapping shall never be portrayed in any detail, nor shall any profit accrue to the abductor or kidnapper. The criminal or the kidnapper must be punished in every case.

11. The letters of the word “crime” on a comics magazine cover shall never be appreciably greater in dimension than the other words contained in the title. The word “crime” shall never appear alone on a cover.

12. Restraint in the use of the word “crime” in titles or subtitles shall be exercised.

General Standards – Part B

1. No comic magazine shall use the word horror or terror in its title. These words may be used judiciously in the body of the magazine.

2. All scenes of horror, excessive bloodshed, gory or gruesome crimes, depravity, lust, sadism, masochism shall not be permitted.

3. All lurid, unsavory, gruesome illustrations shall be eliminated.

4. Inclusion of stories dealing with evil shall be used or shall be published only where the intent is to illustrate a moral issue and in no case shall evil be presented alluringly nor so as to injure the sensibilities of the reader.

5. Scenes dealing with, or instruments associated with walking dead, or torture shall not be used. Vampires, ghouls and werewolves shall be permitted to be used when handled in the classic tradition such as Frankenstein, Dracula and other high calibre literary works written by Edgar Allen Poe, Saki (H. H. Munro), Conan Doyle and other respected authors whose works are read in schools throughout the world.

6. Narcotics or Drug addiction shall not be presented except as a vicious habit.

Narcotics or Drug addiction or the illicit traffic in addiction — producing narcotics or drugs shall not be shown or described if the presentation:

(a) Tends in any manner to encourage, simulate or justify the use of such narcotics or drugs; or

(b) Stresses, visually, by text or dialogue, their temporarily attractive effects; or

(c) Suggests that the narcotics or drug habit may be quickly or easily broken; or

(d) Shows or describes details of narcotics or drug procurement, or the implements or devices used in taking narcotics or drugs, or of the taking of narcotics or drugs in any manner; or

(e) Emphasizes the profits of the narcotics or drug traffic; or

(f) Involves children who are shown knowingly to use or traffic in narcotics or drugs; or

(g) Shows or implies a casual attitude towards the taking of narcotics or drugs; or

(h) Emphasizes the taking of narcotics or drugs throughout, or in a major part, of the story, and leaves the denouement to the final panels.

General Standards – Part C

All elements or techniques not specifically mentioned herein, but which are contrary to the spirit and intent of the Code, and are considered violations of good taste or decency, shall be prohibited.

DIALOGUE

1. Profanity, obscenity, smut, vulgarity, or words or symbols which have acquired undesirable meanings — judged and interpreted in terms of contemporary standards — are forbidden.

2. Special precautions to avoid disparaging references to physical afflictions or deformities shall be taken.

3. Although slang and colloquialisms are acceptable, excessive use should be discouraged and wherever possible good grammar shall be employed.

RELIGION

1. Ridicule or attack on any religious or racial group is never permissible.

COSTUME

1. Nudity in any form is prohibited. Suggestive and salacious illustration is unacceptable.

2. Females shall be drawn realistically without undue emphasis on any physical quality.

MARRIAGE AND SEX

1. Divorce shall not be treated humorously nor represented as desirable.

2. Illicit sex relations are not to be portrayed and sexual abnormalities are unacceptable.

3. All situations dealing with the family unit should have as their ultimate goal the protection of the children and family life. In no way shall the breaking of the moral code be depicted as rewarding.

4. Rape shall never be shown or suggested. Seduction may not be shown.

5. Sex perversion or any inference to same is strictly forbidden.

—————————————————————————————————————————————————-

I think the biggest problem with the CCA was not it’s rules on content but who was in charge of it. If the standards weren’t applied objectively (and they often weren’t), who was there to complain to, since the same New York publishers were running the outfit as producing the comics? Worse, it gave those publishers leverage to impede upstart competitors.

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