Robot 6

DC Comics brings on the bad guys, but for whom?

While I would generally applaud efforts by comics publishers to reach young readers, the newly announced “DC Comics Super-Villains” program strikes me as more than a little tone deaf.

To celebrate October, “the spookiest time of the year,” DC Entertainment is introducing kids to the bad guys of the DC Universe with a multi-platform “Know Your Super-Villains” campaign that includes a mini-poster (above), an online quiz, “Who’s Who”-type guides in the DC Nation comics, a contest and the release of the DC Comics Super-Villains: The Joker’s Last Laugh DVD collection.

Never mind the Aaron Lopresti poster, which features a mishmash of villains from different eras, from early-’80s Lex Luthor to New 52 Darkseid (admit it, you went straight to continuity concerns). My question is, aside from extra website traffic and some DVD sales, what’s the purpose of this campaign?

DC publishes just five titles geared specifically to kids — Superman Family Adventures, Green-Lantern: The Animated Series, Scooby-Doo, Where Are You?, DC Nation and Young Justice — with the bulk of its output targeting a decidedly adult audience. That’s not a criticism, or a longing for comics to revert to the way they were when I was a child; it’s just a statement of fact. They’re comics where a hero impales his opponent with a trident, a villain has his face removed (only to later reattach it), and a costumed blue kitty vomits blood. They’re also where readers, both children and adults, are most likely to find most of those 30-odd villains showcased in the platform (albeit in different costumes).

After kids check out the villain secret files using their DC Nation app and take the personality quiz to see which supervillain they’re most like — the homicidal maniac? the ruthless dictator? the killer for hire? — then what? Although some of those villains show up in radically different (i.e., “safer”) form in DC’s all-ages books, what we see in that poster are the DC Universe versions, even if they’re not all exactly up to date. And, let’s face it, by and large the DCU isn’t suitable for children. So at the end of the month, once Little Steve has become obsessed with Dex-Starr and Little Vicki wants to find out more about Deathstroke, where do they go? Certainly not to the local comic shop, where a casual flip-through of their adventures would lead parents to determine rather quickly that those issues probably aren’t right for their 10-year-old.

It’s by no means a new problem; there’s long been a disconnect between the characters DC and Marvel license for toothbrushes, sneakers and Underoos and the versions that actually appear in their books. But with its “Super-Villains,” DC appears to be driving kids toward its expansive comic-book universe despite not having much for them to choose from once they get there.

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Comments

18 Comments

A Concerned Citizen

October 1, 2012 at 12:18 pm

I definitely see where you’re coming from with this.

It’s the same concern I have every summer when a slew of toys inspired by PG-13 movies are sold to kids ages 3-12.

haha…reminds me of when I was little and the first Alien movie came out. I so wanted that Alien “doll” (it’s not a doll…it’s an action figure…yeah whatever). http://www.freddyinspace.com/2012/06/vintage-video-of-week-1979-kenner-alien.html

Yeah, DC doesn’t publish much today for kids, but they do have a wealth of material in back issue form, trade paperback and digitally that’s excellent for kids. My kids love the Batman The Brave and the Bold comics and the collections are still coming out. Also via the apps you can get all of the Batman and Superman Animated comics. Hell, my kids favorite DC book is still the DK character encyclopedia. And all of that is current stuff in print, before I start diving for back issues. There’s 80 some years of published comics out there, and while I’d love there to be more current stuff, you just can’t ignore it.

Correction: Lex Luthor recently wore the green suit during the last few Crisii before the New 52 relaunch. I forgot which one it was (either when Lex gets the Black Lantern ring) or when Superboy Prime was running around punching holes in continuity.

Also, add Looney Tunes to the list of DC kids titles. Still wish there were more.

That being said, none of these characters reflect their New 52 counterparts. Everyone’s been redone I think.

Kinnickinnic Ave.

October 1, 2012 at 1:22 pm

I like the initiative. I love bad guys and my son loves bad guys. Who cares if they say my kid is like Gorilla Grodd? The boy manipulates me and gets what he wants. Heaven forbid a kid finds out he’s like the Joker, someone call the FCC!!

It’s the issue that DC has struggled with for fifteen years. They cultivated an older readership, but abandoned the goldmine associated with selling to kids. I’m of the generation that had Superfriends on TV every Saturday and then weekdays in syndication – but that was before the ruling that made for He-Man, Transformers and GI Joe a possibility by making cartoons an advertising platform for toys. When DC did have the chance with Justice League to reach kids, they aired the cartoon after bedtime on Saturday nights. It was mind-boggling (except to CN execs who aired cartoons tied to lines of toys from which they could draw a profit back to CN).

Marvel seems to have no problem serving both audiences, or at least recognizing that they have two audiences. DC Nation is a step in the right direction, but even the name of the block is sort of “inside baseball” for a five year old. They can build their brand recognition at the character level, not in company identity.

While things are less bleak at DC than a few years ago, it still seems like the ability maximize any license but Batman is well beyond their reach.

Here’s what gets my goat. We are told by DC that continuity has become way to restricting and that they need to reboot the DCU to bring their characters up-to-date and eliminate the confusing aspects for newer readers and customers. Except, in every marketing campaign, they continue to use the same old licensing images, be it heroes or villains. Now, seriously, what is more confusing for the average customer? Seeing Superman in the costume you have seen and known for years, then seeing him in some sort of armored outfit, but still seeing him in the old red and blues on everything from toys to cups to underoos?

The idea that Didiostorm gives a damn about younger readers is laughable at best. Actually the idea that they give a damn about anyone besides male wannabe Sith Lords is friggin hilarious.

My 11-year-old boy has seen all of the latest Marvel films – he loves them – but not Dardevil, Ghost Rider or Punisher. We didn’t see The Dark Knight Rises for the same reason. I want to see Dredd, but if I can’t take him, what’s the point? We watch the DC Nation and Marvel Universe cartoon blocks together and we both have a blast.

He’s more into video games, Avatar and Power Rangers, which means my comic book collection is still ALL mine – yes, I’m Larfleeze.

Mainstream comics haven’t been kid-friendly in a very long time…I’d say since the ’80′s.

Are we sure that’s Lopresti and not Marcus To?

I honestly can’t believe I’m reading this, not because of DC’s program, but because of the INSANE overprotectiveness on display not only in the article but in the comments. It really does seem like no one that has commented remember when they were a kid. Every kid I knew when I was younger, including myself, knew RoboCop. We knew Rambo. We saw stuff like Ghostbusters and Indiana Jones, and keep in mind, back then PG was WAAAAAAAAY different than PG now. Back then PG included rotting corpses, faces melting and a scientist having a wet dream where he gets some happy time with a female ghost. Hell, I distinctly remember knowing how Alex Murphy died in RoboCop before I was ten. I saw T2 in theatres around the same age. I saw Die Hard With A Vengeance as well as the first two way before I turned seventeen, though With a Vengeance was in theatres as well.

The same goes for comics. I was reading stuff because the good guys beat the bad guys in the beginning, and as I kid I remember stuff like Wolverine getting his adamantium torn out of him and Superman being beaten to death, both characters looking like bloody pulps. I remember Batman’s Back breaking and, going back to Wolverine, the moment it was discovered he had bone claws and the chunks of flesh and pools of blood that came out from the wounds.

Nobody ended up warped or nuts. Hell, some things I didn’t even get until I was older, then I enjoyed the movies and such even more because I could get all of it. And wasn’t alone. I came from a generation where we knew John McClane, Freddy Krueger, John Rambo and Jason Voorhees on site. We could name our favorite kills.

Kinnickinnic Ave. has the right idea. This is a cute little initiative to get kids into the world. The world isn’t going to end because a kid knows who the Joker is, nor Grodd, nor Darkseid. Kids are a lot tougher and more intuitive than a lot of people realize, and that’s sadly been forgotten somewhere along the way, which is sad.

It’s not all bad. It was really awesome this weekend at a con seeing kids, real young ones, going nuts for Deadpool. So not everyone is so milquetoast. But too many are, and this article just seems to be a symptom of the sad state of things.

Kids aren’t as sensitive as we think they are. Get on Xbox Live chat and you’ll hear crazy kinds of profanity. Its a different time and different world nowadays.

The New 52…… “the spookiest time of the year”, indeed.

Kevin, I agree with the gist of your article. Quite. But I humbly disagree with the statement “with the bulk of its output targeting a decidedly adult audience.” That’s funny!

Because the bulk of DC’s output is targeted towards adolescents, not adults. I’m an adult and I can’t read their current swill. I tried!

If I was fifteen, and had no outlet for my sexual fantasies and teenage angst, I might like what DC is doing these days. But only if I was uninformed about all the truly great comics books and (prose) novels that are already out there, just waiting to be discovered.

The above statement might be one of the most condescending things ive read.I am a adult and I do read DC comics weekly and enjoy them and will continue to like DC comics. Ive also read comics that are considered classics,books such as Maus,Watchmen and Dark Knight Returns so I know what good comics are.
Just because i read DC on a weekly basis does not make me some type of inferior reader that cant appreciate the good things that are considered classics. For you to make a claim that ppl who like DC are basically teenagers who are angry and cant get laid is just ridiculous. Get off your high horse dude.

WHAT MIKE T SAID!

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