Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Comics & Kids

Over at Of Course, Yeah, Spencer Carnage has a really smart, well-written post about comics and kids. You can go read it there or I'll sum it all up for you--I do take liberties with some of his points, so maybe you should read his post because you know me, once I'm off and running, I'll end up saying things he didn't say except you'll think he did (although, you should read his blog, because in the previous post, he makes the same point about Ronin having his mask on while talking to Echo in the recent issue of New Avengers I made when I reviewed it--take THAT, Bendis!).

Basically, he says kids aren't not reading comics because of continuity or because they aren't like the movies. Stuff like that doesn't matter to kids. Kids don't think like the rest of us. They actually understand the difference between movies, TV shows and comics, so when they read a comic, they don't wonder why the same stuff isn't happening in the movie. It's downright logical, I think.

As well, kids don't care about lots of continuity and complex stories. They crave them, okay? They do. The fact that the new X-Men comic is continued in the next Spider-Man comic means one thing: they've got an excuse to run to mom and dad and DEMAND they get that Spider-Man comic. They HAVE to have it. They MUST have it. They NEED to have it!

The problem is when continuity overrides the story. Tying things together is great as long as it isn't just in the service of serving continuity. Otherwise, though, kids don't care. They soak up information like a sponge and always want more.

I can prove that myself. If I'm 24 in 2007, what year was I nine, ten, eleven? 1992-1994. What were the comics that captivated me? The death and resurrection of Superman, the Spider-Clone saga and the Age of Apocalypse storyline. Gee, do you think those stories might have been continuity-heavy? Do you think that made me enjoy them less or more? Did the prospect of MORE titles telling the same story, of making it bigger, more important, more exciting--did any of that decrease my interest in those comics or did it just make me so fucking excited that I did everything I could to get as many of those comics as possible?

And, yeah, I missed a bunch. I missed more than half of the comics involved in each story, easily.


Kids aren't idiots. They pick up on stuff and if they don't, so what? I didn't care if I didn't get every single minute plot-point as long as I understand the main thrust of the story. As long as I could follow along, I was good.

And then there's the story of the guy who sold a *GASP!* Warren Ellis issue of Iron Man to a kid. Now, I think it is a parent's right to determine what is and is not appropriate for their kid--in fact, I was impressed by how reasonable this father seemed. If more parents were like this, the world would be a million times better. Seriously.

At the same time, the idea that current comics aren't kid-friendly is, of course, subjective. You know what comics I also read as a kid? Marshal Law. Yeah. Sure, my parents didn't know, but I loved those books. I also grew up at a time where Superman was beaten to death and Batman's back was broken by a drug-fiend. I turned out fine (sure, I swear a little, but I'm a non-drinking, non-smoking, non-drug-using, non-violent, law-abiding guy currently obtaining his master's of arts, so I'm thinking I turned out pretty damn good). Stop acting like this stuff messes up kids more than it really does.

Hell, a lot of the stuff adults notice, kids don't. One of my favourite movies as a kid was Revenge of the Nerds II: Nerds in Paradise. Do you know how much sexual innuendo is in that movie? A lot. Do you know how much of it I understood as a kid? Barely any. It's the same way you can watch a cartoon with a kid and laugh at things the kid won't laugh at--different levels of understanding.

While we're on the subject, I may as well discuss it: on the concept of kid-friendly (well, related) . . . the next time I see any--and I mean ANY--comic publisher release a line of books aimed at teenagers that do not involve the two following things, I may just lose it:

1) Swearing
2) Brief nudity

Here's the thing: teens like the word "fuck" and they like tits. And they use the word "fuck" and they see tits. Stop pretending like they don't and then wonder why they don't want to buy your comics. Stop treating everyone under the age of 18 like 5-year-olds. If you aren't on the same content-level as America Pie, you're worthless. Now, I'm not saying stick that stuff in for the sake of it, but, I'm sorry, Ultimate Peter Parker not swearing? Bullshit. Okay? Bullshit. I was fucking Peter Parker and I say fuck. You're going to market for teens with teen characters, stop acting like the odd popculture reference and semi-recent fashions do the job. Start writing teenage characters that act and speak like teenagers do.


So, to sum up:

1. Kids like lots of story.
2. Kids know the difference between movies and comics.
3. Kids can handle more than we think.
4. Kids don't know as much as we think.
5. Teenagers like to say "fuck" and see tits.
6. Comic publishers need to understand these things if they want to cater to those markets the way that movies and TV do.

And if Peter Parker were really a teenager right now, he'd say "fuck." And so would everyone else his age in the book. It's the truth.