Thursday, February 7, 2013

"Mature" Comics

For some reason, the trend in comics appears to be towards presenting more "mature" content. My mature, read sex and blood. The most egregious example I've recently seen is Batman and Catwoman fucking, although Noah Berlatsky points out that the new Wonder Woman comics are cut out of the same cloth:
That blood is supposed to be the guarantor of sophistication and knowledge; it's the sign of adulthood and, not coincidentally, of masculinity. And yet, is Azzarello/Chiang [the current creative team] really more sophisticated than Marston/Peters [Wonder Woman's creators]? After all, a golden love gun isn't really any less ridiculous than a golden lasso of compulsion. And as far as that iconic measure of adulthood known as sex goes, Marston seems a lot more adventurous than his successor. The original Wonder Woman comics included page after page of bondage imagery, scads of cross-dressing villains, and really remarkably unrepressed lesbian eroticism. The best Azzarello/Chiang can do, in contrast, is to have their Amazons pose like Playboy models while Eros makes sophomoric cracks about the quest for seminal mortal vessels.
Azzarello's comics, then, are for older readers, and they fairly consciously embrace the blood-curdling masculinity that Marston decried. But that doesn't mean that blood-curdling masculinity is more adult than the alternative. It simply means that blood-curdling masculinity in this case—and not just in this case—justifies itself ideologically through appeals to maturity and realism. But making Wonder Woman more violent doesn't make her more mature or more real. It just makes her more conventional.
Good points. I'd expand this to include the loss of comics that you can read with your children without exposing them to sex, death, and bloody zombies. I'm continually looking for newer comics to show to my kids and none of the traditional series are IMO appropriate, leaving me with the option of going with back issues of older comics or series explicitly marketed to kids (Lego Star Wars, Super Hero squad, etc.). I fear that if/when the major superhero comics make this leap to "mature" content, they abandon the alluring gateway that introduced superheros to kids in the first place.

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