Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Comics! They Aren't Just For Kids Anymore!

I am sick and tired of throwing kids into the ghetto.

I still work in a comic shop about one day a week and not a day goes by where some parent goes, "Hey, what comics are good for kids?"

In my heart, I wanna scream, "Fucking all of them! They have words and pictures. Art. Everybody wins!" But, in my actuality, I know what they're asking and with that I lead them and their kids to "our li'l kids comics ghetto," where Archie's still acting like a dick and where as an adult, I sympathize with Reggie Mantle a little more every damned day.

Every Wednesday my heart breaks a little more, knowing the question before it is asked and my knowing the answer that must be given, dreading the the adult squeal of, "Oh my God, they still make Archie!" The young look around with the sadness only a child can feel as men and women in tight spandex fly about their heads, villains shake their fists, men in camo smoke cigarettes, hurl grenades and kiss broads dead on the mouth.

"Look, honey! It's Archie! I used to read this. Here, let's get you a few."

And I see it. The look a child gets when in a candy store and his mom wants to know where the carob-covered raisins are.

Defeat.

It breaks my heart every damned time.

What the f... Give the babies what they want! The babies want teeth. The babies want something they can sink their teeth into and we can't give it to them and the comics companies know this too damned well. So what they offer are ridiculous comics with no teeth that never dare the potential comics fan to come back and have their brains blown.

The term, "Comics! They aren't just for kids anymore," has never been truer. The comics offered to kids are more for the parents than for the kids. They are boring. They are inoffensive. They are uninspiring and from a creative standpoint, DOA.

And this is what I sell to the children.

Marvel Adventures: Marvel Comics without teeth.

Sonic The Hedgehog: Safe video games re-enacted on bad paper stock.

Archie: A comic wherein Reggie Mantle, the only person who realizes something's wrong is made to look like an a-hole.

There are exceptions: I would not hesitate to give a child Tiny Titans. It's clever and has artwork that looks like it was done by a child and I mean that as a compliment and really that's about it.

And yes, there is Bone but Bone did not become a children's favorite until an actual book company colored it up and rescued it from our appointed comics ghettos.

Full disclosure: I don't have any kids.

Who the hell am I to tell you what's good for your kids but as a former kid, I know what I liked. I liked capes. I am wearing one right now. As an adult, I love shaking my fist at things to emphasize my contempt. As an adult, I have hurled M-80's and secretly dreamt of kissing Halle Berry dead on her sweet, sweet lips every time.

The comics I read have made this possible. The Teen Titans issues where Deathstroke did that thing with the bucktoothed kid helped me realize what a true villain looks like.

He wears an eyepatch. Like a pirate.

I wanted to join the military, in part, because of my love for Sgt. Rock, Captain America and G.I. Joe. When I found out, there were no laser rifles in this man's Army, my enthusiasm waned, not my patriotism.

What I'm saying is this: Comics should be clever. Comics should inspire. Comics should spark imagination. Comics have this power. Comics should leave the intended wanting more.

Toady's comics don't do this. They are safe. THEY ARE DESIGNED WITH ADULTS IN MIND.

Better yet, they aren't for kids, at all, THEY ARE FOR THE PARENTS OF CHILDREN.

Am I saying hand your kids Angry Youth Comix and hope for the best? No, what I am saying is that we should never, ever underestimate a child's capacity to figure it out for themselves, to figure out exactly what is right and what is wrong. Parental guidance is suggested but exists even when you're not there. I knew what was GOOD. Kids are remarkably brilliant in their capacity to just be kids. Did I know that thing Deathstroke was doing was that WRONG? Of course not. I was a kid. If you raise a good kid, there aren't enough Deathstrokes in the universe to undo what you've done as a parent.

My mother, even as a Christian woman, knew this. My simple hope that when my time comes, I'll be as strong and as clever and as good a parent as she.

9 comments:

Adj said...

My son (aka Graig's step-son) is seven and he reads Tiny Titans (although he did prefer Titans Go!), JLU, Shazam (the new one), the older Batman Animated/Batman Adventures, Franklin Richards, and is now all over the Boom studios Disney stuff (especially Cars). Graig has also passed all his issues of Captain Carrot to him and he seems to enjoy those. I plan, in the next year or so, to introduce him to Impulse and after that, some Young Justice. That's my road map so far :) There are plenty of comics for kids, outside of (shudder) Archie, but yeah, they still do have to be appropriate and allow the kids to work up to the more grown up comic fare.

Siskoid said...

I see what you mean. While I enjoy the heck out of Marvel Adventures Avengers, it's definitely NOT like the comics I read growing up.

And yet, the level of dismemberment, cannibalisn, T&A in a lot of superhero mags isn't like them either!

Comic book readers who have become parents (like Adj) aren't the problem, of course. They taste the merchandise before buying. Ironicaqlly, the people who won't go above Archie as "appropriate fare" are the same ones taking their kids way-too-intense action movies. Ill-informed and irresponsible.

samax said...

mainstream comics are TOO adult for kids. but the kids comics are often too weak.

i do a kid's book called champion of children, and i do everything i can to make sure it's awesome! no rape, racism or cursing... but plenty punches to the face and destruction of property! just like the comics i grew up on!

Grebok said...

But in our day they had the Comics Code which kept comics mostly "above board".

Which isn't to say I don't agree, I cut my teeth on Barry Allen killing dudes, Crisis(the real one) and Judas Contract, etc. I always knew who the badguy was. Just remember that time has marched on and the kids ghetto was a solution for a growing problem.

Still, I've got my kid hooked up to everything from Challenge of the Superfriends to JLU from Tiny Titans to McDuffie's JLA (I won't let him read any actual Titan comics. B/c they suck, not b/c they're not appropriate).

All in all, I agree as a parent of two. However, do take your perception with a grain of salt: big brother has since left the comic shop and the mice played so hard they called it the 90's.

--MCHenley

Devon Sanders said...

Don't get me wrong, I'm not condemning parenting what I'm more annoyed with is the culture that produces anything that is outright designed to be watered down.

ticknart said...

When I was a little kid, before I discovered spinner racks at the grocery stores, my favorite comics were my mom's old copies of Richie Rich. I loved reading about jewelry reservoirs and a mansion so huge people could get lost in there for years. Richie Rich is as toothless as any of the comics you mentioned, but it has a charm that I still find attractive.

Plus, my friends' 3-year old can't get enough of Super Friends. I buy the book and give it to him and he sits down and tells himself a story. When he gets older he probably won't like it as much, but for now, it's great

Jason Langlois said...

My own observation with my 4 year old son - he loved Iron Man: Armor Wars and likes most of the old Batman comics I've given him. He liked the idea of Captain Marvel from the Billy Batson and The Magic of Shazam! but finds the comic too wordy to actually read. He found the Marvel Adventures: Spider-man comics 'scarey', but seems to be enjoying the Justice League Unlimited tie in comics. Archie, since it has no super-heroes, isn't of much interest.

Oh, and he thinks I should color my Essentials collection.

What I've mostly concluded is that for a 4 year old, you want to have action and bright colors on the page, and less darkness, caption and word balloons. We'll see if that holds as he gets older, though at the rate he's aging, I'm expecting him to tell my at 6 that he's too old for comics, and that I should grow up.

Allan said...

Did you hear me shouting "Amen!"?

Awesome post Devon, I couldn't agree more.

Evan said...

(My captchka for this post was "elitist" too funny).

My gut reaction is to suggest you rebel and suggest an actual good comic to one of these parents. Some of them actually raise their kids to have taste. Many of the rest don't pay attention to how kids-section-ghetto appropriate the books are any way.

My oldest two (ages 11 and 9) have been reading outside the ghetto (Invincible, Runaways, Marvel Zombies, 80s Claremont/artist X-Men and whatever else I can push on them from MY childhood) for years. If only I could get them to read volume one of Power Pack and the Jack Knight Starman. . .