Vaughan & Chiang's "Paper Girls" Builds a Familiar Yet Disconcerting World
“A ton of guys who do super violent, adult books complaining about no books are made for kids. Odd trend. Me? I just go make a book for kids.” – Skottie Young, via Twitter.
I love this comment. Young doesn’t actually call anyone hypocritical, he just notes the strangeness of complaining about something that you have the power to change, but are choosing not to. I don’t know; is that the definition of hypocrisy? Maybe it is.
I think there’s a connotation though that hypocrisy involves willful deception and Young’s not accusing anyone of that. Without knowing exactly whom he’s referring to, I can imagine that a creator like that simply hasn’t thought through the disconnection between his words and actions. I don’t have to contribute time or money to the alleviation of world hunger in order to state correctly that it’s a horrible problem. And not contributing doesn’t necessarily make me dishonest. I can truly, legitimately believe that there’s a problem without taking a single step to solve it. And perhaps I believe that by drawing attention to the problem, I am contributing in some way to its solution. But – and I think that this is Young’s point – it’s a very tiny contribution and my complaining loses any power it had once people realize that that’s all I’m doing to help.
Like I said, I don’t know for sure whom Young was referring to, but I imagine that it’s at least indirectly inspired by Darwyn Cooke’s comments at Fan Expo. At the time Young wrote that, Twitter was all a… well, atwitter with folks’ responding to Cooke’s statement from a variety of angles. Even if Young wasn’t talking about Cooke, he was likely referring to someone who was. But since I don’t know, I want to be careful about how I talk about this. Young’s comment does apply to Cooke’s statement, but I don’t want to suggest that Young specifically had Cooke in mind when he made it.
After the break: So what was Young talking about and what does Cooke have to do with it?
Here’s an example of why care is called for: Cooke got a lot of heat for saying, “I don’t want to see characters who’ve been straight for sixty years become lesbians overnight.” Though that understandably upset some people who thought Cooke was lumping lesbians in with a list of items that cater to “the perverted needs of 45-year-old men” (J Bone explains that that’s not what Cooke is doing), far more commentary has been spent on trying to figure out just which character Cooke was talking about and then defending that character’s specific outing. If it’s Batwoman, she’s okay because she’s not the same woman who used to hit on Batman all the time. It it’s Renee Montoya, she’s okay because she hasn’t been around that long. If it’s someone else… who the hell are you talking about, Darwyn? I’ve got to know so I can shoot down your argument.
If what I believe isn’t a strong enough position to stand on its own without punching holes in off-the-cuff remarks someone made when cornered at a convention, I shouldn’t be making comments about it. So, it doesn’t matter if Skottie Young was talking specifically about Darwyn Cooke or Erik Larsen or anyone else. His point is still worth considering: people who complain about the lack of kids’ books – and who are in a position to do something about it – are sort of morally obligated to do something about it.
Which brings us back to Darwyn Cooke. His comments are an explanation about why he doesn’t want to go back to superhero comics “in any big way.” If we understand that his laundry list of items was hastily constructed on the spot, we can forget about the details and focus on the big picture of his argument: that superhero comics have become too dark for a general, all-ages audience. And since we were just talking about this a few weeks ago in response to similar comments from Robert Kirkman, it’s a topic worth revisiting from Cooke and Young’s angles.
Cooke’s major work right now is adapting Robert Parker’s Hunter novels. Not the most kid-friendly stuff perhaps. But I don’t think that necessarily condemns him in light of Young’s statement, because where Cooke is specifically talking about superhero comics (and ones from DC and Marvel in particular), Young appears to be talking about comics in general. Cooke isn’t saying that that there are no comics made for kids; he’s just expressing displeasure that DC and Marvel’s main lines of superhero comics aren’t made for them. We know that he’s pitched ideas for kid-friendly superhero comics and been rejected, so he’s making a reasonable choice by not contributing to those lines until things change.
My observation that Young must be talking about comics in general is based on his major work right now: Marvel’s adaptation of The Wizard of Oz. That puts a hole in his statement that we could pick at and make bigger if we wanted to. Since we don’t know which creators he’s talking about or what their specific complaints are, we don’t know if they’re complaining about comics in general or – like Cooke – superhero comics in particular. If it’s comics in general… well, they’re just wrong. There are tons of comics – like Wizard of Oz – that are made for kids. If it’s superhero comics, then Young’s statement doesn’t hold up all that well when we realize that the “book for kids” he’s talking about isn’t actually a superhero comic at all.
But I’m not interested in picking apart Young’s comment. I don’t really care how well it bears under scrutiny as an argument; its use is in holding up a lens through which to view this discussion about comics for kids and the creators – like Cooke and Kirkman and Larsen – who are complaining about them. Are these creators putting actions to their words? I’d argue that Cooke is when he refuses to do any more comics in the genre and for the companies he’s complaining about (besides, he’s already given us New Frontier). Kirkman and Larsen may be as well, though they’ve formed their complaints in such as way as to make DC and Marvel the only possible offenders while leaving themselves free to go as dark as they want with their own stuff.
I’m still not sure that’s fair, but neither does it relieve DC and Marvel of blame. You’d think that if anyone could force DC and Marvel into making comics for kids a major part of their publishing plans, it would be talents like Darwyn Cooke and Skottie Young. That they aren’t able to do that is alarming.