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Superhero comics versus superhero movies: Why does one get a bigger audience than the other?

02-24-2013 03;29;31PM (2)

A few weeks ago I got into a bit of an argument in the comments section for my latest “Flippin’ through Previews” post. After it had played out, I thought the kernel of the argument would make an interesting post about the prevalence of superhero movies even as superhero comics are still ghetto-ized. Yes, it’s another post where I postulate. I can postulate with the best of ‘em, I reckon!

The argument concerned DC’s April stunt, the “WTF” covers. If you don’t want to go read it, I’ll rehash: I wrote to Dan DiDio:

I know you’ve pretty much given up on trying to expand your audience by making your comics the slightest bit “kid-friendly.” That’s cool, too. Eventually old nerds will die off, and my kid and others like her (I have a 7-year-old daughter, Dan, who digs comics) will be too busy reading comics that you don’t publish, but until that happens, I’m sure you’ll be peachy. But to name the entire month of gimmick covers “WTF April”? … When you and your cabal came up with it, did anyone … speak up and say, “Maybe we shouldn’t do a cover promotion that is well known shorthand for ‘what the fuck’ when our stated goal of this non-reboot was to draw in new readers, which might include a younger audience?”? … [M]ight you concede that the [theoretical] person has a point?

Well, that was the wrong thing to say, apparently. It began with Alex, who wrote:

you’re really showing your age if you honestly don’t believe that “wtf” and, when spoken, what it stands for isn’t in the common parlance of today’s 13 year olds. And given the actual content of DC (And Marvel’s) comics these days, that’s really the lowest age bracket they’re shooting for.

Stuff like that is stuff that concerns hand-wringing parents; it is far from mystifying or off-putting to the kids themselves. Remember, this is a world where 12 year olds are gleefully playing Call of Duty and Gears of War and are hugely active online. Curse words were tossed around liberally when I was 13 and that was 14 years ago.

I mistakenly said I was trying to raise my daughter to be a “good kid” in my response, but my point was that I know kids know what it means, but why should DC encourage it? Another commenter, Peter, wrote that his young grandson reads CBR and my use of “motherfucking” in the same column in which I took DC to task is … hypocritical, I guess? And that’s cool. I noted that I’m a different animal than DC – I don’t claim to produce comics for the largest audience possible and that anything I write here should be read by children. DC, however, is very much concerned with producing stuff for kids, like lunch boxes and backpacks and such … but their comics aren’t very kid-friendly.

Sam chimed in with:

As amusing as your pearl-clutching offense at “WTF month” is, I really don’t think your argument makes much sense. You don’t think there’s a middle ground between, say, The Disney Channel and HBO? Between movies rated “G” and movies rated “R”? Because almost everyone else thinks there is. That’s the realm where broadcast network TV resides, that’s there the vast majority of movies rated “PG” and “PG-13″ reside, and DC keeps its standards for books not labelled either “All Ages” or “Suggested For Mature Readers” right in that middle ground. You can and do hear expressions like “WTF” on broadcast TV (I’m pretty sure Marc Maron has plugged his podcast by name on talk shows which make a big deal about still bleeping the word “fuck”, even though they’re on after midnight).

There are many things to criticize DC for, but going on and on about them adhering to content standards accepted by just about ever form of mass media in the US, well, that’s The Craziest F#?king Thing I’ve Ever Heard (to quote a graphic which appears on the screen of a basic cable show which bleeps out the word “fuck”).

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I was a bit facile with my answer, but I wasn’t sure what Sam’s point was (sorry, Sam). As I’ve mentioned over and over, I don’t care if DC calls it “WTF Month.” I’m just curious if they considered that it might put some people off. If thinking about this stuff makes me a “pearl-clutcher,” well, at least I think about things. This is, as I noted, a tempest in a teapot. I was just making a joke. Maybe I should leave that kind of thing to Chris Sims.

Sam came back with “Guess I’m not in my right mind, because I haven’t seen anything in a DC Universe book that I would object to a 13-year old reading on the basis of content.” I’ve seen plenty, but again, I’m a pearl-clutcher.

So why did all this back-and-forth inspire me? Well, the commenters seemed to suggest that there’s nothing wrong with DC doing this because 13-year-olds are exposed to all of this crap, so why should it matter? My point is that yes, I know that 13-year-olds are exposed to this crap, but why should we simply accept it? Why would DC do something like this that will probably – I have no proof, of course – make them less “kid-friendly”? Consider that kids probably aren’t buying comics anyway. I don’t know if DC has done any studies that would support this contention, and I only have anecdotal evidence, but it seems like teenagers are not interested in comics. But let’s say that DC wants kids to experience their comics. Wouldn’t they appeal to parents at least a little, many of whom are far more likely to be “hand-wringing” than I am? Wouldn’t they want parents to feel comfortable buying comics for their teenagers? I have mentioned to my daughter’s school that they should have comics in the library (granted, it’s an elementary school, but the principle is the same). I wouldn’t even consider asking my daughter’s (eventual) middle school to take a look at DC’s output, because they would reject them out of hand. Wouldn’t it be nice if kids could have access to collected editions of DC’s superhero books in their school libraries? Am I just being an idiot? Wait, don’t answer that.

Yay, comics!  (From Green Lantern #43)

Yay, comics! (From Green Lantern #43)

The problem is starker when you consider how well superhero movies do. Since 2000, we’ve seen a renaissance of superhero movies, many of them tremendous winners at the box office. These are not just nerd movies, either – everyone sees these movies. If we just look at some of the numbers (all from Box Office Mojo), here’s what we see (these are worldwide numbers, unadjusted for inflation):

The Avengers: $1.5 billion
The Dark Knight Rises: $1 billion
The Dark Knight: $1 billion
Spider-Man 3: $890 million
Spider-Man: $821 million
Spider-Man 2: $783 million
The Amazing Spider-Man: $752 million
Iron Man 2: $623 million
Iron Man: $585 million
X-Men: The Last Stand: $459 million
Thor: $449 million
X2: X-Men United: $407 million
Superman Returns: $391 million
Batman Begins: $374 million
X-Men Origins: Wolverine: $373 million
Captain America: The First Avenger: $368 million
X-Men: First Class: $353 million
Fantastic Four: $330 million
X-Men: $296 million
Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer: $289 million
The Incredible Hulk: $263 million
Ghost Rider: $228 million
Green Lantern: $219 million
Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance: $132 million

That’s a shitload of money, yo. Even movies that “failed” like Ghost Rider or Green Lantern made over $200 million. Jonah Hex failed miserably, sure, but the track record of superhero movies is still pretty strong (and no, I’m not going to figure out how much all those movies cost to make, sorry), and there doesn’t seem to be any end in sight. Marvel is making money hand over fist with this stuff, but even DC is getting into the act. Arrow is on the CW, sure, but it’s been renewed for another season and has been getting better recently, and who knows how much money DC is making off of that. People who would never consider reading a comic adore these movies (and even watch Arrow, although the audience is probably smaller for that and, in the grand tradition of recent DC comics, it’s far darker than most of the Marvel superhero movies).

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So it's not only violent, it makes the Joker have an orgasm, too?  SO CHARMING!  (From Detective #1)

So it’s not only violent, it makes the Joker have an orgasm, too? SO CHARMING! (From Detective #1)

There are, of course, a lot of reasons for this. People like going to see movies more than they like reading, for one. The serialized nature of comics, for another – there’s a commitment issue with comics. Availability is another issue. I get it. But every single one of those superhero movies is rated PG-13, which I think is another point in their favor. We can argue whether the ultra-violence of the Batman movies deserves a PG-13 rating, but when you really look at these movies, there’s really nothing in them that a parent of a teenager would object to. They’re actual PG-13 movies, unlike the rather mealy-mouthed standards for mainstream superhero comics (as I’ll note below). Again, this isn’t what the kids themselves hear at school or the kind of video games they play. It’s about what the parents think is appropriate. And I would argue that a parent would be much more comfortable with their kids seeing Heath Ledger’s Joker shoot people bloodlessly or jam a pencil in someone’s eye off-screen than let their child read whatever torture porn Scott Snyder is serving up in the comic these days. The companies that make superhero movies (Marvel and Warner Bros. included) are much more concerned with making their movies “kid-friendly” or at least “kid-neutral” than making their comics that way. There’s very little blood in those movies I noted above. I remember the kerfuffle over Wolverine actually killing bad guys in X2 when it came out, even though there wasn’t any blood. Yes, it might be unrealistic, but is it any more unrealistic than the gallons of blood that are spilled in your average DC or Marvel comic? It’s one extreme or another, and one extreme gets people who don’t read comics to take their entire families to see movies using those characters. There’s also very little cursing in these movies. I’m sure someone will correct me if I’m wrong, but I think the strongest thing anyone says in your standard superhero movie is “ass.” There’s no cursing – technically – in most superhero comics, but if you’re a parent and you happen to flip through an otherwise regular superhero comic, are you going to cringe a bit seeing “@$$” or some other grawlix? I will always argue that cursing a lot is lazy writing, but cursing when you know it’s going to be obscured by symbols is even lazier. Hand-wringing parents might decide just on that alone to skip reading that comic. Yes, it’s irrational, but a lot of human behavior is irrational.

But she's a centaur, right, so fuck her!  (From Wonder Woman #1)

But she’s a centaur, right, so fuck her! (From Wonder Woman #1)

I honestly don’t have too much of a problem with silly shit like “WTF” month or even the gore that drenches a lot of superhero comics. I just don’t buy them, and there are so many other options that I don’t care. I’m only pointing this out because it’s very weird how DC (and, to a lesser extent, Marvel) runs their business. Up in the comment I quoted, Sam claims that DC keeps its output in the “middle ground” of PG-13, which I totally disagree with. The problem is that DC and Marvel rate everything pretty much the same when the output is wildly divergent. If they had the balls to label some of their superhero books “For Mature Readers” and make others more appealing to kids and actually make sure the content reflected that, I would love it. But they don’t. Wonder Woman, which is pretty clearly a horror comic, is rated “T,” meaning, according to DC, that it’s “appropriate for readers age 12 and older” and “may contain mild violence, language and/or suggestive themes.” Does anyone think the violence in Wonder Woman is “mild”? It has the same rating as The Flash, which I haven’t read but I hear is far more appropriate for younger teenagers. It is an absolute joke that Snyder’s Batman is rated “T,” as I doubt if the Joker wearing his skinned face as a mask is something any parent wants their 13-year-old reading. Batwoman, which is far less gory than Wonder Woman or Batman, is rated “T+” – presumably because it shows women kissing each other. THINK OF THE CHILDREN!!!! I don’t know if Red Hood and the Outlaws has gotten less … icky since issue #1, but it’s rated “T.” Some of the books are rated “appropriately,” I suppose – Animal Man and Swamp Thing are both “T+,” for instance – but it seems that those books, especially, are far more “T+” than Batwoman. DC doesn’t appear to be consistent, in other words, and I know why with regard to Wonder Woman and Batman – they can’t have their flagship titles alienating some parents. That’s cool and all, but here’s an idea – don’t let Azzarello graphically slaughter people and don’t let Snyder have the Joker prancing around with a skinned face.

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This is rated 'T,' because of course it is

This is rated ‘T,’ because of course it is

Marvel uses “T+” for 12-year-olds and up, with “Parental Advisory” for 15-year-olds and up. It’s a bit more difficult to rant about their stuff, because they’ve just relaunched so much of it and I haven’t been keeping up too much, but Deadpool, Savage Wolverine, Wolverine, Thunderbolts get a “Parental Advisory,” which sounds about right. I don’t see anything of the “T” or “T+” books (and I don’t know the difference between them; I can’t find anything on-line about a Marvel “T” rating) that seems too outrageous, but again, I’ve only been keeping up with the first issues of the Marvel NOW! initiative, so I can’t speak to those as well. It is, of course, ridiculous to even ask if any DC or Marvel books are labeled “E” (for “Everyone”) in DC’s case or “A” (ages 9 and up) in Marvel’s case. Let’s not get crazy, people!

Sure, this is 'Parental Advisory,' but this is a bit extreme even for an R-rated movie!  (From Deadpool #5)

Sure, this is ‘Parental Advisory,’ but this is a bit extreme even for an R-rated movie! (From Deadpool #5)

Let’s look at John Layman’s current run on Detective Comics, mainly because I know Layman and talk with him “off the record” about a lot of his work. When he began his run, he told me he was trying to make it “age-appropriate,” meaning that parents could feel all right with their kids reading it. It’s not exactly “all-ages,” but Layman said he was deliberately making it less graphic than most of DC’s output. In issue #13, Layman’s first issue, Oswald Cobblepot hires an assassin to kill Bruce Wayne. There’s a good amount of violence, but only a small amount of blood. In the back-up story, Ogilvy conks someone on the head with a pipe, but there’s no blood. He later shoots a dude, but the actual death takes place off-panel. When we see the corpse, we only see a tiny bullet hole and a small pool of blood. The book is rated “T,” and it seems perfectly fine for a 13-year-old, even one with nervous nelly parents. Of course, parents who object to this are probably not going to let their kids read comics anyway, so there’s that. In issue #14, another dude is killed, and there’s a small amount of blood, but it’s off to the side and easy to miss. In the back-up issue, someone hangs themselves, but we see only his feet. Clayface shows up in issue #15, so there’s a bit more splatter, but it’s obviously mud, not blood, so artist Jason Fabok can get away with it. Issue #16 is another “Death of the Family” pseudo-crossover, so it’s a bit more disturbing, but not terribly so. At one point we see a dentist’s bloody instruments, but there’s not a lot of blood and we don’t see what he did with them. There are more dead people than in the earlier issues, but the art doesn’t show too much, leaving a lot of it to our imagination (imagine that!). There is one somewhat gruesome panel where a kid cuts off part of his face, but Fabok just draws muscle, and while it’s red, it’s not dripping with blood. In the back-up story, there’s a dead dude with part of his face burned off, but artist Andy Clarke doesn’t make it too gruesome, and Blond, the colorist, keeps the red muted, so it easily looks like paint. There’s another panel showing some dead people, but again, the blood is minimal and understated. And in issue #17, another “Death of the Family” chapter, there’s no blood and no death – a woman is tied in a chair and threatened with a knife, but nothing happens to her. In these five issues, Jim Gordon says “Dammit” once, and that’s it. You can argue about the quality of Layman’s run (I think it’s pretty good so far), but you can’t argue that he manages to write exciting stories with a good amount of violence that never become what most parents would think is inappropriate. Layman understands that it’s easy to write something that shows the Joker peeling his own face off. It’s harder to write a script that doesn’t show everything, which makes the reader imagine it. In his Detective Comics run so far, he and Fabok and Clarke have been doing a good job hinting at awful things without showing them. He’s also given us a Batman who doesn’t necessarily act with his fists first. Batman tries to help Ivy, and he listens to the kid who turns against the Joker-worshipers instead of simply pounding him. He’s certainly not a touchy-feely Batman, but he’s a lot nicer than most recent portrayals of Batman. My point is that it’s possible to write a DC comic that doesn’t wallow in gore and unpleasant heroes. Layman’s Detective is “dark” in terms of delving into some uncomfortable situations, but Layman and the artists don’t allow it to be something that would repel parents who are looking at what their kids read.

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There's no reason for this at all (From Fearless Defenders #1)

There’s no reason for this at all (From Fearless Defenders #1)

As I’ve noted, I have no idea if making their comics slightly more “kid-friendly” would result in more sales for DC and Marvel. I suspect that movies have so many other advantages over comics that the printed adventures of your favorite heroes will always lag far behind them. As I’ve mentioned many, many times, I would be perfectly happy if DC and Marvel went one way or the other: either truly embrace the fact that kids don’t read your comics and make them actually “adult” – meaning violence that actually has consequences, language that doesn’t need stupid symbols to represent it, and clothes that rip and expose private areas every once in a while; or try to make them more kid-friendly and get rid of the gore, the grawlix, and the ass shots. But DC and Marvel don’t want to do that. They want to straddle a middle ground, and I think it makes parents freak out when they see what their younger kids are reading and it bores adults. With a lot of superhero comics (more on the DC side, but for Marvel, too), the only impetus to buy them is because you love the character. And guess what? That’s a shitty reason to buy a comic.

This is a T+ comic because this panel is OBVIOUSLY much more damaging to kids than anything shown above (From Batwoman #5)

This is a T+ comic because this panel is OBVIOUSLY much more damaging to kids than anything shown above (From Batwoman #5)

But this is just me ranting. I think it would be pretty cool if superhero comics sold better. If DC and Marvel are happy with most of the their comics selling less than 30,000 copies, more power to them. I love buying comics for my daughter, my nephew, and some of my friends’ kids who like superheroes. My 10-year-old nephew reads Star Wars: Legacy by Ostrander and Duursema and really enjoys it. I very much doubt if I will ever buy him anything from the DCnU. Whenever you hear about how adults get into comics, it’s usually not that they started when they were 25 and thought they were awesome, it’s because they loved them when they were kids. I began reading comics when I was 17 and I think I’m on the old side for getting into them. Again, I could be completely off-base here, but I know a lot of people who love superhero movies and would never think of buying comics for their kids. I imagine that the lack of “kid-friendly” comics is way down on the list of why that is, but I believe it’s probably one factor. I may be clutching my pearls and lying on the fainting couch when I look at some of the comics that are being published now, but if you think I’m crazy, imagine parents who aren’t as involved in comics as I am. I just wonder if DC and Marvel even think about this stuff when they come up with their wacky ideas.


I can tell you had fun with the tags, Greg! :)

I’m a parent that grew up with comics; I remember my dad taking me to the shop when I was little. He’d get his stack, and I’d get a few. It was great.

I try doing that with my kids now, and you called it — I’ve rarely gotten anything DC or Marvel for my kids. (The oldest is 5, so I’ll grant that they’re even younger than what we usually think of ‘comics for kids.’) We got Tiny Titans regularly, but these days we end up picking up a lot of Marvel’s Wizard of Oz adaptions or tie-in stuff like My Little Pony. It’s gotten to the point where I don’t take the kids weekly anymore; there’s no reason to. There’s not enough kids comics my shop carries, and it makes me more than a little sad.

I actually talked with some friends about this recently. I see tons of little kids walking around wearing superhero shirts or playing with superhero action figures, or even reading books based on super heroes. But I very rarely see ANYONE in public with a comic. Sometimes I’ll see an adult on a train reading a graphic novel, but that’s it.

Thanks to societal attitudes, comics are still regarded as being guilty pleasures or dirty secrets, like you’re afraid people will assume you’re an idiot for reading “picture books”. I remember being picked on in high school for reading comics, yet when the first Spider-Man movie came out these same kids went and saw it, and the next day were decked out in Spidey gear. Yet somehow they still considered me a loser.

Sometimes, though, the other media can get people into comics. I know lots of people who watched Walking Dead and pick up a graphic novel or omnibus, and that’s great for the comics industry. But aside from bookstores, the only other place to find comics is in….Well….Comic shops, and the outside world typically shuns places like this for being filled with, you guessed it, “losers”.

By targeting adults and getting rid of newsstand/store distribution, these companies are ensuring that their product will sell poorly. It used to be so easy to find comics in a grocery store or pharmacy, which are places everyone goes to. Comic shops are so insular that no one but the general clique will check them out.

I am one for making mature and youth oriented comics. This middle of the road PG-13 horse shit just allows it all to become muddied.

I wonder if the violence in comics has the same effect that the violence in movies does. I think of Steven King’s book, It, compared to the movie. In the book, the boys and the one girl get lost in the sewers and are freaking out and unable to think straight. So, the girl has sex with all of the boys and calm them and it works and they get out of there. It was a little shocking in the book, and it did not surprise me that it did not appear in the movie, because that just would never appear in an American film. Somehow, something shown on the big screen is a lot worse than reading it in a book. I wonder if it is true with a comic book as well. I recall watching the Watchmen, and was shocked by how violent some scenes were, since I did not remember the comic being that violent. But, then I re-read the comic and saw, yeah, it was that violent.
Also, if we are going to appeal to kids, I think it would take more than just make ‘kid friendly’ books. Harry Potter dragged children’s books out of the gutter it was in because the books were thrilling and were not afraid to place the characters in real danger that physically and psychologically damaged them, and even had much loved character die. After that, children’s books had good writers telling stories that just appealed to kids. I really don’t see why comics cannot do this.

Pedro: I always have fun with tags, but now that they’re back, I’m having even more fun!

Jon: It’s weird – there are plenty of good comics for kids, including ones that DC and Marvel publish, but you’re right – they’re really hard to find if you don’t know what you’re looking for. It’s kind of sad.

Ian: As I noted, I didn’t read comics until my senior year in high school, so I was never picked on for reading them, and I guess I’ve been lucky in my adult life, because most people, even if they’re skeptical, don’t dismiss my comic reading out of hand. But it is funny how superheroes can be so ubiquitous but reading comics isn’t. Unfortunately, the newsstand ship has sailed, and that’s fine – things evolve. But you’re right – it’s difficult for people to get into the weekly habit – I have friends who would probably read one comic in trade or a series of trades, but they’re not going to the comics store every week. If DC and Marvel want to get kids to read their comics, I agree they have to do a better job getting people to buy them, but I think they have to look at content, too.

As I’ve mentioned many, many times, I would be perfectly happyif DC and Marvel went one way or the other: either truly embrace the fact that kids don’t read your comics and make them actually “adult” – meaning violence that actually has consequences, language that doesn’t need stupid symbols to represent it, and clothes that rip and expose private areas every once in a while; or try to make them more kid-friendly and get rid of the gore, the grawlix, and the ass shots.

I don’t know, when Marvel/DC label something either All Ages or Mature Content it always mean less sales. Star Wars sell a fraction of what Batman does, for example.

Lyle: I haven’t read It, but that’s an interesting point.

And that’s why I use Layman’s Detective. It’s not necessarily “kid-friendly,” but it doesn’t cross any line that would make it repellent to parents. I think he’s done a good job with that. When I was 13, I wasn’t reading “kiddie” stuff – I was reading hard science fiction. But it wasn’t obnoxiously gross, and if my parents had read some of the books I was reading, I doubt if they would have worried too much about it.

“than let their child read whatever torture porn Scott Snyder is serving up in the comic these days”

That wasn’t Scott Snyder. That pic is from Dective Comics #1. Snyder is the writer of ‘Batman’.

entzauberung: That’s a good point, but I wonder if they made their “PG-13″ comics less “mature,” would they sell even more? As usual, DC and Marvel seem to want to cling to the status quo until it all falls down instead of trying something new. More power to them.

AW: Sure, I know that. I haven’t read Batman #17 yet, but are you telling me that a major part of “Death of the Family” WASN’T the Joker wandering around his skinned face as a mask? I wasn’t linking the picture with my statement about Batman, I was just showing a fairly typical image that you find in a DC comic these days.

I was inspired to start picking up the current Flash comic when I saw Gorilla Grodd was the villain. I really enjoyed the classic Grodd stories in the silver age books, but when Grodd pulls on a character’s arm in the first part of the story and instead of pulling the character towards Grodd, the arm tears away in the bloody spray DC seems to like so much these days. It could go in the dictionary as an example for “gratuitous violence.”

I’d already pre-ordered the rest of the storyline, but that will be it for me on The Flash. I at least have the Showcase volumes to read.

Greg: Or making them more gory would. It’s not like violent, adolescent fare hasn’t been known to sell to mass audiences before. I mean, there’s a moral and a commercial aspect to your argument which do not necessarily overlap.

If you don’t teach your kid what WTF means, how will they know? This is not the first I’ve heard the objection to this WTF month, and I think it’s about NOTHING.

Were your kids reading the titles that are part of WTF month before this? Do you think the content inside the comics is for a child who is too young to understand what WTF means?

To me, by the time you’re 13, you’re entering into mature territory, and by then, if you haven’t learned some colorful words, you sure will.

Be a parent. You don’t want your kid to have a growing vocabulary of 4-letter words, ban DC from their hands. If they ask you what WTF means, maybe you could tell them “Bad words. You’re too young to learn those words.”

As for books not getting as big enough an audience as movies, did they EVER? At the height of the Big Two, did they ever have as many issues sold as filmgoers going to movies? Watching a show or a film is not as engaging as a book.

DC and Marvel are constantly scrambling for relevancy as technology improves and the audience has so much to read, watch, hear, and play.

Lessons I’ve learned from this sort-of-controversy:

* All kids are 13 years old;

* All 13-year-olds have the same tastes.

When I was 13, sure, I liked Mortal Kombat. But I easily preferred Mega Man and Final Fantasy.

Mr. Burgas: Please be as facile as you need / wabt to be. Never apologize except when you’re wrong.

More importantly, don’t EVER change! We might stop reading your blogs if you do. ;-)

This is so silly. I’m in my mid 40s, and I grew up watching Alien and The Shining and The Exorcist and reading Stephen King go on about childhood orgies in IT and I dug every single minute of it.

– My objection to WTF month is less that it will offend parents than that most kids are unlikely to think it’s anything more than granddad trying to sound hip. That is, if kids go into comics shops in the first place.

— Movies have a few other major advantages over comics. For one, they can gain public notice for the creators involved, be it the cast, director, or even studio, because all of the creatives are well-known to the public from other work, often in other genres and sometimes even other media. They have multimillion-dollar advertising budgets. They’re self-contained narratives with a clear, fixed price. They’re sold in popular venues rather than obscure ones. A 2-hour movie (even now!) costs less than the equivalent 6-issue story arc. Comic-book movies get to pick and choose from decades of material and adapt the proven material, thereby adapting from a melange of creative sources rather than being the comparatively riskier contemporary, original production of a single collaboration. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, live-action film in the United States is not ghettoized as is the comics medium. Even the most paper-thin live-action film tends to be a more respectable entertainment for most adults in a public setting than reading a comic.

— As with the WTF idea above, the problem is not the violence and sexual content of contemporary superhero comics, it’s the essentially juvenile attitude towards said violence and sex. The Starfire scene aims as “for the lads” sexism and instead achieves something more like “sweaty, inexperienced teenager’s clumsy fantasy” sexism instead. The violence, too, is badly done. When you get gore in the movies, it’s usually stylized. In the comics, it’s often just inanely exaggerated gore slapped onto the page with little thought.

Nothing in comics today is as harmful to a growing boy as the Lois Lane comics I grew up reading in the Silver Age. If you wonder why comic fanboys of a certain age have real issues with women, read some Lois Lane.

A lot of it to me is parents today are much more terrified to expose their kids to scary things than people were in previous generations, when war, poverty, and suffering were more or less the norm to society. You don’t do them any favors whining about “WTF.” WTF?

My thoughts on why superhero movie sales don’t translate to comic sales:

It has very little to do with the content of comics.

There are a few different types of people who go to see superhero movies. The first type is fans of the character who already read the comic, an almost negligible percentage. The second, and no doubt largest, consists of people who never read fiction.

The third consists of avid readers of fiction / pop-culture fans. They could potentially become regular buyers of DC and Marvel, but most of the time will view floppies as trashy and insular (without reading them to verify that yes, they are indeed those things). By and large, these people go to the films because it’s a social experience they can share with their friends who fall into the other categories I’ve listed.

The fourth type consists of occasional but serious readers. These people see reading as a substantial commitment of their time, and therefore have little interest in disposable texts, such as your average comic. A movie is a fixed, two-hour, social time-commitment and often an opportunity to turn the mind off for these people. For this group of people, reading doesn’t have any of these qualities, although they do think it important enough to participate in occasionally.

If I didn’t already fall into the first type, I would say that I’m most like the fourth. I read Marvel/DC to relax and shut off my mind (generally), and the few prose novels I read per year are almost always some kind of major, well-regarded work.

I can identify with the people who follow all the Marvel movies but don’t read the comics in the following sense. I am a big fan of the crime genre. I love Scarface, the Godfather, Ed Brubaker’s Criminal, Sin City, the Wire, all that good shit. So you would think that I would be very pleased to know that hundreds of crime novels are published each year? However, after reading Hammet’s Thin Man and Chandler’s Big Sleep, which I understand are classics in the genre, I couldn’t muster much of a reaction beyond “Hey, those were pretty good.” And they were: they were well-written, with interesting characters, and smart dialogue, the way a lot of contemporary superhero comics are. But the main feeling I was left with was that I could have just watched a movie and got most everything I got out of those books, except with no effort required on my part. And I bet a lot of people eagerly anticipating Avengers 2 feel the exact same way.

So yeah, I don’t really buy into any of the theories which treat the disparity between comic and movie sales as if it were a massive failure on the part of the publisher. In fact, I think the current strategy of catering to that audience is basically folly.

To me, the ideal strategy would be the opposite of what the comapnies have been attempting. First, the comics should be written for all ages, but not with any stupid “All Ages” banner or cutesy art work. They should be written so that a kid can read them without being scarred for life BUT at the same time have all the good subtext, implied sex, implied violence that were featured in the old comics which were the ones that hooked most of the people who now comment on this site. In short, they should be the type of comics that a parent flicks through and says “this seems alright,” but when the kid reads them, the subtext makes him (or her, but especially young boys) feel like he just pulled one over on his mom.

The second thing is to embrace the convoluted histories of the characters. It’s only old people who bitch about continuity. If the objective is to hook young readers – and it Goddamn well should be seeing how the nostalgia market for superheros lasts forever – then the more convoluted the better. Kids have loads of free time on their hands, so unlike adults, they love when their entertainment becomes a project.

In short, Greg, you’re wrong about everything ever and I’m sorry and I promise I’ll get my own blog some day instead of hijacking yours.

You want to get comics in the hands of kids but please the limited pool of adults who want violence and gore? Fine–publish both all-ages and mature-readers of books. Put the kids’ books on the mass market, in supermarkets and bookstores, so they’re next to Time and Redbook where kids will see them while waiting at the checkout. Keep the mature books in the comic shops, or in collected format on the shelves at Barnes & Noble.

Yeah, I think Cass hit the nail on the head here. But I’d add one other point:

Compression, compression, compression. Yes, every issue of a comic should be part of a decades-spanning narrative and embrace its role in a decades-spanning narrative. That said, every issue should also HAVE MERIT AS AN INDIVIDUAL UNIT.

Take almost any comic from thirty years ago, triple-digit issue number or no, and the reader will be able to wring more story out of it than they could from any New 52 #2 issue. Buying a single issue nowadays is less like watching an episode of a TV show, or even a trailer for a movie, and more like walking past the cinema in which the movie is playing on your way to go see Dark Knight Rises. You might stop walking for a second and look to see what’s happening, but it won’t mean much to you.

This reminds me of an interview from 1987 from one of the DC writers. In Amazing Heroes#119 in 1987 (two years before the Michael Keaton film), MAC (Max Allan Collins) had an interview. He said the following:

“I’m afraid what I’m running smack up into is the old Batman TV show controversy: the old business about, Gee that was a TV show that made fun of Batman and made fun of comic books, so we have to show people that Batman and comic books are serious and they’re adult and accordingly all the fun goes out of it. There was a reason why that TV show was played for laughs and that is when you put actual human beings in those costumes and act out those stories, it looks stupid. They betray their juvenile roots. It can’t be done straight. I defy them to do the movie straight”.

[The Adam West TV show did indeed adapt many tales from the original comic books. The Robin costume with pixie shoes, shaved legs, skimpy shorts, golden cape, etc. came from the source.]

Collins then said “I predict it [the then upcoming Batman film] will be an embarrassment if they try to do it without a sense of humor”.

Collins made the same prediction in the book The Best of Crime and Detective TV, which he co-wrote with John Javna.

Collins later says “I think that Miller’s Batman is the ultimate extension of the backlash against Adam West. The ultimate expression of We write comics, but we’re Serious, Thoughtful people “.

More from Amazing Heroes#119:
“But this astounds me. I do not understand why comics fans are ashamed of the fact that this branch of the art form, super-heroes, does have its basis in juvenile and adolescent fiction. There’s nothing wrong with it unless you’re trying to pretend it’s adult…..in which case you have a serious problem”.

However, little did Collins anticipate that franchises derived from children’s properties would grow more prominent.

Harry Potter (obvious)

Star Wars (inspired by Flash Gordon serials)

Batman (Jim Holmes obscures this situation, but this franchise had a boy sidekick in pixie shoes, shaved legs, and leprechaun shoes from 1940-1988 regularly)

Madagascar, Ice Age, Toy Story, Shrek (obvious)

Spider-Man (Richard Wentworth’s bastard grand-nephew, without his forerunner’s ruthlessness and firearms)

The Avengers, the X-Men

Men in Black

Pirates of the Caribbean (started as a theme park ride-yes, it started as a theme park ride)

The Lord of the Rings (started with the Hobbit, and the Hobbitt received initial reviews as a children’s book)

Transformers (started as toys)

Eclipse (obvious “tweens”)

This does point to a problem; though, regarding recognition for adult thriller properties; people say that the much feared mainstream audience despises comic books as childish, but the truth of the matter points to properties derived from juvenile and adolescent literature generally producing the more lucrative franchises. They generally produce more tie-in merchandise. How many homages to Bob Lee Swagger does one see in the media? How about Spenser? This even applies to classic adventure fiction. How much merchandise does the Last of the Mohicans (and its sequels) generate compared to the Oz, Peter Pan and Wonderland books?






The tl;dr version of what Cass and Elpie are saying:

Comics should be written the same way as the DCAU, Spectacular Spider-Man, Brave and the Bold, Green Lantern, or any other critically acclaimed adaptation that is arguably better than the thing it’s adapting.

They have a wide variety of tones, they don’t shy away from violence, and they can tell complex stories, but at the end of the day, you can show a random episode to a kid and not only will they understand it, it’ll be age-appropriate, fun, and enjoyable.

I teach upper level math (through AP Calculus) in high school. I know many people, both teens and adults, who love the movies based on comics. They love The Walking Dead show. But the minute I try to interest them in comics, they usually frown. Comics still has the stigma of being stupid, juvenile trash. They’ll talk about all the movies and shows they enjoy in one breath and sneer at the “geeks-only” low brow comics in another. The Big Bang Theory doesn’t help either.

I’ve been able to change a few minds, but only when I hand them a book to read, like Fables or Locke & Key. It’s an uphill battle.

I also hear from people about how expensive comics are. Finally, I meet way too many people who just don’t like reading anything at all.

It’s all very sad.

My mother once saw me reading an issue of Uncanny X-Men drawn by Greg Land. After seeing the inside, her exact words were, no joke, “Are you reading porn?”
I believe this was one of Marvel’s “Teen” books, but of course the Big 2 doesn’t care if passerbys can’t tell the difference between superheroes and porn.
My mother isn’t a prude. I got to see Starship Troopers when it was in theaters when I was a young teen. She wasn’t expecting the naked tits, but she didn’t make us leave the theater when we saw them.
But no, Greg Land, high profile artist on Uncanny X-Men and now Iron Man, his art is mistaken for straight up porn.

PB210, you’re connecting dots to two different points.

Adults in the mainstream do dismiss comics, and believe they are for children. They’re also Books, not comic books, so in the eye of the larger public, they have more immediate legitimacy than some “picture book” For parents, if a kid is reading a Book, then it’s more of an academic exercise. Superhero comic books don’t have a youth audience like books do.

Also, are you more likely to see a comic book or a novel within the walls of a school?

Something like Harry Potter, though, IS meant for children, and kids do read them, and children are a big audience. These kids grow up with the books, stay loyal, and come out in droves to see all the films.

Collins is right. DC desperately needs to get over the 60’s Batman. So many of their decisions come across like a teenager with an inferiority complex.

Or like American kids who insist Dragon Ball Z is *really* meant for *adults* because the Japanese version’s bloodier and raunchier, neglecting the fact that it came from a magazine aimed at elementary-to-middle-school boys. And Dragon Ball at its most violent is *still* not as lurid or graphic as the Green Lantern and Batman pictures in the article.

I honestly don’t know what DC’s current offerings are trying to be. Drifting Classroom (aimed at the same demographic as DBZ) establishes itself as straight-up horror, and goes for it full tilt. These comics look like they’re going more for the tone of a gritty cable drama like Breaking Bad. But why would there be any crossover there? It’s like some editor said, “Breaking Bad’s good. Let’s have our superheroes do that!” “Mortal Kombat’s popular, right? Let’s have our heroes do that!”

Meanwhile I, as an actual adult, would usually rather read something like Yotsuba&!.

I think that chasing younger readers is fool’s gold for DC and Marvel.

Compared to other entertainment options available to kids, comics are insanely expensive. Keeping up with (say) Batman requires a minimum of four titles per month at a minimum of $3 a pop. That is $144 per year. Those comics provide maybe 15 minutes of entertainment a piece, or maybe 12 hours over a year. Videogames cost $50 a piece, offer maybe 50 hours of play time and can be consumed at your leisure. That makes comics (at minimum) 12 times as expensive per hour. It isn’t an accident that the collapse of the direct market occurred around the same time as the second videogame boom.

Movies are a closer call, since they are $10 for a couple hours. Even there, movies are a vastly cheaper option and can now be consumed anytime, anywhere.

Trying to provide a more expensive version of the same product to the same audience is suicidal. Tweens, teens and young adults have a plethora of cheaper, more appealing (to them) options. That means comics have to skew older (25+). That is what makes the DC Comics gore-a-thon so foolish. There is a big, big difference between “mature content” and mature readers. The audience of actual adults with disposable income who find eviscerations appealing and/or sexbot Starfire anything other than misogynistic is vanishingly small.

Looking at the sales for the New 52 tend support this position. There was a huge initial audience that has rapidly dwindled after seeing the actual content DC was offering. It is a shame.

I can agree with your points Greg, but honestly… I don’t see it doing a damn thing for the industry. I do think DC and Marvel (to a lesser extent) need to tone back the GrimDark BS because it usually ust hinders the storytelling potential; but it won’t help sales a damn bit in the short run, nor expand the fan-base to keep it alive when us “old-timers” die off, because the real problem is the stigma comics have as the domain of of people like the Simpson’s Comic Book Guy, and nobody wants to be like Comic Book Guy. It’s an unfair stigma, but one the industry has yet to shake for quite a while.

Hmmm, it just occurred to me:

World Book Night is on April 23. I think the U.S. had its first one last year. What happens is that individuals who apply to be book givers get a stack of free popular books, go out into the streets, and literally hand them out to people to encourage reading. I was in Dallas last year and somebody gave me a free copy of Stephen King’s “The Stand.” I hadn’t planned to go out of my way to read it, but there was a free copy. So I read it and liked it. I don’t know how that translates into larger book sales, but I could see WBN being a sort of “gateway drug” to more books if the right book reaches the right person.

Free Comic Book Day is about two weeks after. The difference between the events is that while WBN goes out to the people, FCBD expects the people to come to them. I realize that some shops have more success than others at this, with big events and better publicity, but how well does it work for the industry as a whole? (Answer: I don’t know.) Does it really bring regular customers into the shops beyond that one day? (Again, I don’t know–I don’t think I’ve ever seen a long-term follow up to FCBD where shops report that, yes, we now have 100 regular new customers.)

Maybe the industry needs to encourage shop owners to get out into the streets to suck people into the books. Since Iron Man 3 is out the day before FCBD, I’d think Marvel would want retailers to get to the movie theaters that night with a free stack of “gateway” done-in-one Iron Man comics to hand out to the kids waiting in line. Include space for a flyer or something–“Hey kids, want more Iron Man?” with directions to the shop and a list of stock and an ad for the next day’s FCBD event.

Years ago, I remember hearing about some retailer who bought up hundreds of copies of Marvel’s 9-cent issue of FANTASTIC FOUR to put into local newspapers. How’d that ever work out for him?

I started reading comics around 1964, when I was six. War comics and Western comics were huge at that time. The body count per issue was staggering. But at that time, when a guy got shot, he just clutched his chest, said “ungh” and dropped like somebody had hit an off switch.

Today, you get splatter and jaws shot off and pools of blood.

Tell me, which is more harmful to a little kid? Sanitized killing or violence as brutal and ugly as it is in real life?

I’ve heard that proposal, but with the resources that it would take to have people handing out comic books in every theater showing superhero movies, couldn’t marvel just put that into advertising? Some ads on Youtube, the thing that hundreds of millions of people watch on a whim?

Marvel should publish a line of family friendly, “standard model” versions of their heroes to put on racks in the lobby of every movie theater showing their movies.

It seems like whenever a comic book movie comes out, the book on the stands bears no resemblance to what people just saw on the screen.

“I loved The Avengers! I wanna buy a comic! Wait, Wolverine? Spider-Man? Luke Cage? WTF?”

The problem, TheMutt, is that Marvel and DC have at times pushed the books into resembling the movies ahead of the release date. It never seems to do much for sales.

I’ve been a primary school teacher for 8 years and I have only come across one student who reads comics. Most absolutely adore Batman, and the Avengers but have no idea they feature in comics, or actually know what a comic is! I blame this on the demise of the Comic Spinner Rack in the newsagents. Kids just don’t see comics anywhere. Their only exposure will be if they have a parent who takes them to a LCS. I have two kids and only one of them has shown an interest in comics. However I have gone out of my way to teach him not to get sucked into buying them because they are a waste of money. Sure, I’m a hypocrite as I spend lots of money on comics, but I just don’t want my son to do the same thing for the next 35 years. I’d prefer him to use the money to travel or buy something substantial.

Good, good. Let the butthurt flow through you.

My son is 8. He loves the ’60s Batman show and Lego Batman 2. Someone gave me a DC encyclopedia, and he likes to flip through it. When he’s gone into the comics shop with me, he’s been drawn to different DC books based on the covers (“Ooh! This one has the Joker in it!”). I’ve had to turn him down and explain that the comics are not for kids. At least there are Scooby Doo and Penguins of Madagascar comics he can read…

Money down the drain, DC.

Long Time Lurker, second time poster in here.
(I haven’t read all the comments to see if what Im going to ask is already answered, but here it goes)

The first post I made here I said that I wanted to ask a few things, and thankfully, this post looks like a perfect segue for me. I don’t have any kids, but we are planning to, also I’m a fan of comic books and a member of the Pearl-Clutching Society, so I would love if you could write about parenting for the comic book reader from time to time.

I mean, sure, one thing is read a few comics with your kid, I assume that helps to make them fans, but how do you manage your adult themed comics(preacher, transmet, something that they can’t really understand at first)? You keep those comics in a locked cabinet or something? (This has been sugested to me, but it seems like a very bad idea, I prefer to have the comics free for all) Do you give your kid comics that you think are good for them, or do you let them choose?
(I have another problem since I live in Mexico there are not that many comics in spanish available here, but that is I suppose is not a problem that you have)

So, yeah, I agree with something that you said in here, and since you are the only writer that I have seen that openly talks about his kid and if you talk a bit more about parenting and comics that, to me, would be awesome


(Sorry in advance, my writing skills in english are way below what I would like)

STRONGLY disagree with theMutt’s problem that the comics “look nothing like” the movies. How many people are buying novelizations of movies?

When I get people interested in superhero stuff, it’s by explaining the numerous ways in which the comics are /different/–the ways in which they don’t fit the sanitized Hollywood-friendly origin-story-by-numbers you get in the movies. This, to me, is the success of Marvel Now–no matter what you think of each individual book, almost all of them has some high-concept hook that makes it sound cool to someone who doesn’t read comics. “You know, in the comics, Magneto’s working for SHIELD.” “In the comics, Peter Parker is dead and Doctor Octopus is running around in his body.” “In the comics, the Fantastic Four are on a roadtrip through spacetime with their kids, one of whom is a virtually-omnipotent mutant and the other one of whom is a supergenius.” “In the comics, SHIELD has a private superspy Avengers team who don’t know that they’re on the team because their minds get wiped between mission.” To an outsider, these are the things that are going to make you think that the comics are offering you something that the movie can’t.

And then you have AVENGERS ASSEMBLE, and, even if it’s very pretty and very funny (I haven’t been reading it, but I’m sure that it is), it’s the wrong approach. “In the comics, the Black Widow has red in her ledger! You know, like that one bit in the movie?” People don’t watch a Star Wars movie and then run off to buy the official novelization. Most people are going to prefer the visceral experience of movies to that of comics, so the answer is to tell the sorts of stories that you’re never going to be able to push through movie studios.

@ Mike Loughlin:

Speaking as another parent of young children, we have a huge advantage in living in the Golden Age of Reprints. DC may be committed to producing repulsive, emotionally arrested new content, but they have also opened their vaults and provided thousands and thousands of pages of kid-friendly re-prints. The Showcase editions alone are an utter treasure trove.

It is also the one area in which DC is consistently better than Marvel. Getting a deep collection of Marvel Essentials is a genuine challenge.

wow. wall of comments.

Adding my 2 cents, there is reason why I don’t respect DC, and why I don’t bother with reading interviews, articles or anything connected to DC, because in my opinion DC is something of the lowest common denominator.

(Before someone calls me a hypocrite, the reason why I clicked this article was because I thought that it’ll be about superheroes in general)

So you don’t think Marvel could be considered the same?

Dean Hacker:”Speaking as another parent of young children, we have a huge advantage in living in the Golden Age of Reprints. DC may be committed to producing repulsive, emotionally arrested new content, but they have also opened their vaults and provided thousands and thousands of pages of kid-friendly re-prints. The Showcase editions alone are an utter treasure trove.

It is also the one area in which DC is consistently better than Marvel. Getting a deep collection of Marvel Essentials is a genuine challenge.”

Is that true? I’ve had no problem buying copies of nearly every MARVEL ESSENTIAL, and that translates into complete Silver age runs of THOR, SPIDER-MAN, F.F., AVENGERS, CAPTAIN AMERICA, IRON MAN, X-MEN, etc.

As for their “kid-suitability,”I could not agree more. I recently gave one of my nephews a set of ESSENTIAL AMAZING SPIDER-MAN, volumes 1-8, and he was in Spidey-heaven for weeks.

I don’t think it’s age-appropriateness that holds superhero comic books back from having the same success as superhero films.

A film company will invest hundreds of millions of dollars into a single film, so they have a vested interest in making sure that their marketing follows through and earns them back their money. In the process of advertising the films and ensuring that they’re as successful as possible, superhero movies attract a lot of attention.

If you invested $100 million in a single graphic novel (or even a series of five graphic novels, let’s say), then I’m sure the comic book would probably be a runaway success because the marketing and hype and awareness of the product would be at maximum saturation.

I think it’s a matter of scale. Superhero comic books are produced on a very modest scale compared to most other media. Not to mention their extremely modest distribution. Therefore, both the financial returns and the size of the audience largely reflect the company’s investment in the product.

That’s not to say that success, awareness, and audience are mutually exclusive to the amount of money it costs to make something. But because movies are working with a massive scale and comics are working with a medium-to-small scale, the returns tend to be relative.

(Props to Omar for making a similar point.)

Spuky: That’s not a bad idea, actually. Maybe I’ll have to start a regular series about it, as my daughter gets older and reads some more. Right now she’s really digging prose, although she does get out her (few) comics every once in a while, but I like getting her certain books, so if she continues, I’ll have to write a bit more about it.

And I keep my comics in the garage, mainly because I have so many that it’s really the only place I can keep them. The nice thing about my daughter is she tends not to rummage through things that aren’t hers, so I don’t worry too much about her finding some of my more horrific comics. But it is a tough call.

Excellent points, everyone. I would respond to all of them, but I think a lot of people have made good ones. I tend to agree with a lot of them, even though I still think my argument has merit. It’s a tough nut to crack!

The problem is that it’s really hard to write something that’s “all-ages”, and no one at DC’s good enough to do it. They all write (and draw) like they’re 14.

Wait, so they did a big reboot trying to suck in new, younger readers… and they decided not to bother trying to appeal to kids under 13?

Kids who are turning 13 are not looking to start getting into comics. If you haven’t hooked them by the time they’re 10, they won’t be hooked. (Most who are hooked at 10 won’t stay hooked.)

So this whole move is doomed to failure, because they can’t write stories that will appeal to both 30 year olds and 10 year olds.

Dean Hacker,

I love this Golden Age of Reprints, and most of what I’ve been able to share with my son has been from earlier eras. He loved Tales of the Bizarro World (which might be out of print now) and several stories from the Greatest Batman, Superman, and Joker Stories Ever Told collections. I think black & white is not his thing, as he has not mustered up much enthusiasm for my Essential and Showcase volumes,* but that’s him.

i wish he didn’t have to stick to reprints, though.

* Oddly enough, he liked Uncanny X-Men 159, the issue in which the team fights Dracula, and wanted to know if there were any other comics in which super-heroes fight Dracula.

I really should ask Brian for permission to write a blog entry about why I’m giving up DC, but a lot of what Greg says resonates. My moment was watching Amethyst revived– a character I loved as a kid, who I think could be revived as a brilliant entry point for younger readers and girls– as a miserable outsider character (like we don’t have enough of those in comics) with her family now devolved from a stable family to a paranoid mother. And as if we didn’t need the stakes lowered any further, they throw in an attempted rape.

And that made me crazy. A long while back, the original Amethyst maxi-series was something I bought for my fantasy loving goddaughter when she was 13 and was looking for something similar in comics with a vibe to the Harry Potter she was reading. DC could and should reprint the existing series Manga sized. Do they think about trying to hit the same market in any way. Hell no. Kill all whimsy. Make it edgy. Throw in rape and torture and carnage in most books…

Aw, hell. I give up DC. I don’t know you anymore.

Greg, if you’re up to it, the latest Scooby.Doo DVD centers around an Adam West Blue Falcon vs. a dark edgy Michael Bay version Blue Falcon.

I agree with the letter you wrote to Didio. My concern is more for the excessive violence in comics. I’m not worried that young teenagers are going to be scarred by the content, but I’m frankly turned off by it. Considering how expensive comics are these days (they were 20 cents when I started, with 100 pages for 50 cents), I’m much more likely to have the income to drop on comics and I have zero interest in the gratuitous violence.

Yeah, it may be more realistic than when guys just clutched their chests and fell, but the lack of realism in comics never caused me to think that shooting someone wouldn’t have dire consequences. I just don’t need to see all that. If it’s well-done and integral to the plot, I don’t mind violent themes. Heck, I loved Secret Six and Thunderbolts. I love some of the more violent video games.

But I just don’t need to see all that. I don’t need those images in my head. If you can’t tell a story without working blue or using graphic violence, you aren’t a good storyteller. Just my two cents.

Hey, it’s ok, it stands for “What the 52?”


According to a Bleeding Cool headline I read.

But basically, it’s depressing how DC and Marvel have not only gone for the hyper violence and all, but have decided that heroes being heroes and inspiring people is passe. The new JL of A #1, the group is put together so that they can take down the Justice League when (not really IF) they go rogue. How depressing. Part of the reason why DC is getting less and less of my money.

And I’m no prude, I certainly dig the violence and sexytime bits, but I am 33, so I’m old enough to know better.

And still too immature to know better, too.

I’ve collected comics since I was seven years old. The first two comics I actively collected (i.e. bought month after month) were DC’s Super Powers and Infinity, Inc. Today (nearly thirty years later) my haul consisted of Uncanny X-Men, Young Avengers, Hawkeye, FF, Avengers Arena and Transformers: Robots In Disguise. Somewhere along the way DC lost me (and I’m pretty sure that somewhere was the New 52 reboot.)

Mark: That sounds pretty awesome. My daughter really likes Scooby-Doo, so I’ll have to get that so we can both watch it.

Why do movies get a bigger audience then comics? That’s a pretty easy question to answer. It takes no commitment to go to a movie and sit on your butt for 2 hours.

Graeme – Amethyst’s new titles (she was also in Justice League Dark) should have been amazing, and hard to stuff up if they’d been true to the original volume, but of course they weren’t and the planned rape was cringeworthy. The only other DC title still on my pull list other than Fables is Masters Of The Universe. It would be comical if they weren’t serious, but continuing in DC’s tradition of making things ‘adult’, the Sorceress has ridiculous plunging cleavage, She-ra is evil and kills her former rebellion comrades, and the evil big bad seems to be… Orko?


Maybe it is just me, but it seems like Marvel lets there Essentials lapse out-of-print more frequently. I’ve had a hard time tracking things that seem like they should be basics, like Dr. Strange.

@ Graeme Burk:

I am out on the New 52, so I’ll be out on DC Comics when Morrison’s Batman wraps up. The whole exercise has been so grim and cynical that I don’t want contribute my time and money to it.

Hey Drancron, next time throw a spoiler alert on that He Man stuff! Jeez ;)

Yeah, I dunno why I keep giving DC my money. Batman Inc. is one of the last ones I’ve been getting regularly. Action I’ll stick with for a little while beyond the end of the GMozz run. Threshold is on the threshold with me (ha! see what I did there?!). I’m not really sure what other DC books I get, because I’ve stopped getting a few, like Team 7, Worlds’ Finest, and Earth 2, and I don’t think I get any others. It’s sad, cuz I’ve been a DC fanboy for years.

I guess because there are still neat things like Joe Kubert Presents and some Vertigo titles. But the new 52….

The real outrage should be that Spider-Man 3 was the highest grossing Spider-Man movie. Fucking tragic.

Excuse my language.

I believe the reasons that comics have a smaller audience are:-
1) a stigma attached to comics – people are prejudiced against them and dismiss comics as being just for kids and geeks. There are many people who would happily go into a cinema and watch a movie but wouldn’t think of going near a comic shop.
2) watching a movie is less effort than reading (especially for people who are illiterate)
3) watching a movie takes up no space
It could be because of reason 1) that DC (in particular) is trying to HBOise their series in an attempt to appeal to older readers – it’s unlikely to work as such stigmas are hard to erase.
Ultimately, I do not believe that anything comic companies do will increase comics popularity to match the movies.

Personally I’m fine with the existence of some dark/violent series but believe they should be alternative and not mainstream, and should not have crossovers with mainstream series.
And we need other series with “light” to offset the darkness.
For every Kick-Ass we need a Twilight Guardian (Note: I am going by the pilot issue, I haven’t yet read the main series to see if it remains that tame)
I’ve recently taken an interest in Critter an upbeat series about a young woman trying to be a heroine written by a writer who dislikes the “grim and gritty” approach.

I will mention that my mother used to teach children aged 5-8 and once made a mistake of asking if anyone in class knew any words beginning with an “F”…

One additional detail – in the early 1990s Manga video was deliberately adding in swear words to translations of Japanese animation for the sole purpose of getting a 15 age certificate in the UK boosting sales…
There is something badly wrong with society that they should do so..

dc could have just had WT month! oh right marvel owns the right to “what the!”

Comics should be written the same way as the DCAU, Spectacular Spider-Man, Brave and the Bold, Green Lantern, or any other critically acclaimed adaptation that is arguably better than the thing it’s adapting.

They have a wide variety of tones, they don’t shy away from violence, and they can tell complex stories, but at the end of the day, you can show a random episode to a kid and not only will they understand it, it’ll be age-appropriate, fun, and enjoyable.

Actually, there were instances in those shows in which I felt like the censorship, restrictions and kid-friendliness were holding the story back. For instance, the way people NEVER died in Batman TAS really pushed suspension of disbelief too far, and made the Joker feel like less of a threat, especially in The Laughing Fish, where all of his victims survived. And I know that the makers of those shows felt the same. The DCAU makers stated that whenever a censorship-based restriction was imposed upon them, they rebelled by working around it while making the scene more shocking. And the Spectacular Spider-Man makers made a less censored version of the show for DVD.

Of course, that’s not to say that violence and gore just for the sake of being “edgy” is any better.

I agree with Raymond. I’m a huge fan of B:TAS, but the way they couldn’t have people killed really harmed the show, and made for some scenes of unintentional comedy, when people were always saved, sometimes very conveniently, in the nick of time.

The problem wasn’t as big in other DCAU shows, but in Batman stories you really need to have some death to make the villains scary.

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