I feel like Norville Barnes in the movie The Hudsucker Proxy when he is trying to pitch a new idea to the board room.Norville invented the hula hoop you see, but the simple round object was a bit perplexing to the heads of business. “For kids,” Norville added, with a shaky smile.
Every so often the topic of kids and comic books rears its serpentine head among fans and professionals. Are comic books supposed to be made for kids? Were comic books ever made for kids? Why not? Who is the target demographic for comic books? I’ve seen these questions and more online in last few days and thought I would give my couple of cents on the topic (my opnion, alas, is such only and thus it could be declared totally ignorant by anyone else). I think that most of comic book fandom will admit that they were introduced to comic books when they were young kids, yet what are kids these days introduced to in comic books? An abundance of dark themes. Plots boiled in “reality.” Women in costumes that would be welcome in a strip club. Profanity. Grey morality. These are all featured in the books of the big two companies; Marvel and DC Comics. I even remember the first Swimsuit edition comic books that appeared in the 90s, tell me who those were created for.
Do all comics need to be for kids? Certainly not. However, it is my lament that the vast majority of books from the big two are no longer made for kids. When I started reading comic books, it was with Spider-Man when I was about ten or eleven years old. I would not feel confident handing a current Spider-Man title to a ten-year old kid these days. You may call me a prude, and that is fine, but I don’t believe that I am the only one that feels this way. Now don’t get me wrong, I still can enjoy some of the current crop of comic books that fall into this category (Bendis’ Moon Knight, Remender’s Punisher: Franken-Castle and Brubaker’s Captain America to name a few), but would enjoy them more if I could pass on the fun of this medium to the younger generation.
Who is afraid of the “all ages” moniker? When I write material for comic books, I make certain to keep it appropriate for all ages (my money is where my mouth is, so to speak). Some may look on that as handicapping yourself. I feel it does otherwise. Look at the Disney animation branch as an example. Pixar alone could prove my point. Anyone arguing that Up, The Incredibles, Toy Story and Monsters Inc aren’t enjoyed by my 6-year-old daughter, myself and my grandparents equally are out of touch with reality.
When I was growing up, I looked up to the heroes in the comic books like Spider-Man, Captain America and even the X-Men. Though I realized they were not real individuals, they represented real ideals and morals that were to be admired. I can’t argue that the heroes in today’s comic books don’t also inspire, yet the baggage they come with due to the push to be relevant and real, can do more harm than good. The real world is all around us everyday and often all too sobering. Heroes with flaws are welcome, we all have flaws, but let’s also remember that these heroes are super, keep them super. If it somehow angers the fanboy or girl within yourself to read a slightly de-fanged comic book from one of the big two, remember the wonder that beheld the kid you once were when those first comic book pages flashed before your eyes. You might just find yourself in wonder again. Then go grab a copy of the Watchmen or Constantine comic book and read the night away.
In summary; I wish there were more comic books from the big two companies featuring the main cast of heroes that were targeted to all ages and not just adults. If you wish otherwise, so be it and have a nice day. We now return you to your regularly scheduled internet browsing.