Look … up in the sky … it’s … rape, murder, and profanity!
Thursdays were the most important days of the week back when I was in grade school.
In the late 70s/early 80s, new comics were released on Thursday, and that’s when I’d make my weekly visit to the spinner racks of my local newsstand to pick up the latest issues of the “satellite” Justice League, George Perez-drawn Avengers, and Claremont/Byrne X-Men. The beauty of comics back then was that I could pick any Marvel or DC title off the rack and my parents wouldn’t have to worry about the language or content within. Granted, the Punisher and Ghost Rider weren’t exactly Disney characters (yes, the present-day irony is noted), but their stories weren’t as … mature … as they are today.
Over the past decade, I’ve watched comic book content become darker, more sexual, and disturbingly more violent. The much-cited example of this sort of material is the Identity Crisis mini-series published by DC in 2004. I don’t remember many of the fine-print details of the story, simply because the call to action made them immaterial: Super-villain Dr. Light raped Sue Dibny, wife of the Elongated Man. Worse, she later was murdered by her friend Jean Loring who went on to burn the body in a panic.
Once the bad guys started raping the good guys, it was clear that comics had sexually assaulted their way into “mature content” territory, never once looking back.
(Sue Dibny, below, before she was raped by a super-villain and then murdered and incinerated by a good friend)
I’ve read interviews from both of the “big two” companies citing various stats that their audience is older than it was “back in the day,” and that audience demands more mature storytelling. Comic companies should use the medium to tell mature stories. That said, they should not continue to freeze children out of the medium entirely. Superhero titles are about people with extraordinary abilities who wear spandex and fight crime because they feel it’s their calling. This is
classic youth escapism, and it’s rude of us adults to take it away from the kids.
Oh sure, DC and Marvel have taken credit over the past few years for launching a handful of throwaway “kids-only” titles, but that’s like a cigarette company saying “we know we’re addictive and damaging to your health, but we post announcements about that fact on our advertisements, packs, and cartons, so it’s all good.” The only kids-only title worth reading is Tiny Titans, and that’s because it has a legitimate all-ages appeal.
When DC relaunched their entire line last month (the “New 52”), I had hoped that the new direction would be more open to all-ages readers, and that my son could actually read a fucking Batman comic before I send him to college in ten years.
As far as I can tell from what I’ve read so far, he can read Aquaman. That’s it. Here’s a sample of what I found in the three comics I most recently downloaded:
Justice League International #2
The JLI features Batman and a handful of second-stringers like Guy Gardner and Booster Gold in a government-sanctioned parallel to the Justice League of America. When the concept first launched in 1987, it was hilarious, well-scripted, and beautifully drawn. The only drawback for kids back then was that it might’ve been a bit over their heads.
Page 5-Booster Gold says, “other than a 500 ft. tall ass-kicking giant?” “Ass-kicking” is admittedly low on the profan-o-meter, but it’s little things like that which make Dan Jurgens’ writing a 12+, rather than all ages, affair.
Page 8-Female hero Godiva is portrayed as a sex-starved nymph. As Booster Gold pulls her in to protect her in a force bubble, she purrs, “Mmm, didn’t know you were so cuddly.” Two panels later, she adds, “the interesting thing about these tights is that they’re … you know — TIGHT.” Which is to say, Booster got a FUCKING HARD-ON through his super-hero costume. Seriously? This is the best Jurgens can do? Regardless of the medium, sex jokes and references most frequently play as cheap, uncreative, and uninspired.
Page 15-As members pledge their allegiance to team leader Booster Gold, Godiva chimes in as the third follower, saying, “Mmm. Menage a trois.” That’s the second sexpot move from Godiva in seven pages, both of which start with “Mmm.”
Green Arrow #2
Green Arrow is one of my son’s top five comic characters, so I bought the new issue and crossed my fingers thinking that perhaps he could read it.
Page 3-Green Arrow, vaulting through the sky, says to his opponent, “Why can’t you just get drunk and expose yourself like all the other attention whores?” Her reply? “Bet you’d like to see that, you big perv. And who says I’m NOT drunk?”
He can read it when he’s older. In summary, DC has created a monthly Green Arrow comic with a rating of “T,” for “Teen.” For Green Arrow. The guy who fights bad guys with a bow and arrow, and whose girlfriend fights bad guys with her loud voice.
The Fury of Firestorm #1
The original Firestorm series followed the Spider-Man model of taking a bookworm teen and endowing him with great powers and responsibilities. Like Peter Parker, Firestorm alias (one of two, but I don’t want to make this too complicated) Ronnie Raymond was an everyman who kids could easily relate to.
Page 1-A covert ops team threatens to kill a Turkish boy’s father, while holding a gun to his forehead and showing a knife at his dad’s throat.
Page 2-The father is shown in bloody shadow after having his throat slit. His assailant stands next to him holding the bloody knife.
Page 10-The same covert group is seen standing over someone who they’re clearly torturing. He’s shown strapped to a table, sporting a black eye and bloody face, wearing only his boxer shorts.
I gave up there.
I like violence, profanity, and innuendo. It’s just fucking ridiculous in superhero comic books. I can’t believe the words coming out of my mouth when I tell my son, “I’m sorry, but you really can’t read DC Comics until you’re a little bit older.”