Did you know DC Comics relaunched its entire line of superhero comics in August
? If not, a Washington, D.C. Fox network affiliate has the scoop for you! Don't get too excited, though, because BAM! POW! These comics don't seem to be for kids anymore! In a news report titled "Relaunched Comics Using Sex and Violence To Sell," Sherri Ly
points out, "Graphic violence and sex, that's what you'll find in the pages of DC Comics these days." C-Could the innocent be getting s-seduced
It's a pretty fascinating local news piece -- not because it's timely or totally accurate -- but because it gives sequential art fans yet another look into the vague perceptions of the completely unengaged. In other words, this report is a hilarious example of how people who ordinarily can't be bothered to remember comics exist generalize the medium when it suits their needs.
To be fair, the report does its best to suggest its own irrelevance from the start by showing a fan-created cover of Superman
#1 and a pre-reboot cover of Wonder Woman
to help audiences visualize the New 52 rather than, say, the actual New 52 art. But whatever, comics are a genre and not a medium, right? What difference does it make?
Next, Ly talks to a longtime comic fan and a comic shop owner who kind of acknowledge that, yes, these DC comics aren't the same thing as Archie comics. The story demonstrates this by pointing out that the new DC books feature Batman and Catwoman having sex on a rooftop
(True!), that Bruce Wayne has gotten drunk (Untrue -- dude is faking it as usual), and that there's decapitations (True!). Wow, things sure have changed since Batman had a TV show in the '60s!
Ly also consults the wisdom of Neil Bernstein, Ph.D., a child psychologist and author of How to Keep Your Teenager Out of Trouble
, who likens the comics to a "fictionalized Playboy,
" because Playboy
is a magazine noted for its realism.
The disparity between Starfire's Teen Titans
animated series persona and her knew characterization in Red Hood and the Outlaws
is also pointed out (using what is plainly a fan-captioned clip from YouTube). Regular ComicsAlliance readers will remember that we've had plenty to say about Starfire and other characters who are worse off in the New 52,
and the negative impact this characterization and other storytelling shifts has had and could continue to have on the superhero genre. While our critiques were specific and related to the way the presentation of certain material alienates readers, the Fox report demonizes clearly labeled mature material simply for being such. To reiterate: BAM! POW! Comics have never been just for kids, but there's smarter ways of popping sex and violence into superhero stories in DC titles.
Perhaps the best part of the report is when Ly stands in front of a camera and essentially admits that the news piece is inherently ridiculous by stating, "The comic books are rated 'T' or 'Teen Plus,' meaning they're not meant for younger children" before taking the comics to a middle school
attended by children ages 11-14
at the oldest, to get their opinion on DC's new books.
Let's recap before we proceed further: A longtime comic book reader and a shop owner have told Ly that some DC comics are full of graphic sex and violence. A Ph.D. has suggested that the content is potentially harmful to children. DC's books have ratings on the cover to warn customers. The local Fox reporter shows them to kids anyway.
The two boys interviewed casually flip through the comics unfazed. One admits, "There's a lot of sexual activity," while the other admires the comics' colorful artwork. At one stage, Ly says to a child, "It looks like they're having sex, huh?" which is not creepy or weird or anything.
To be fair to Ly, comics have a long and often complicated history and we in the media must contend with tight deadlines. It's easy to miss a fact here or there and it's tempting to only use quotes that fit pre-formatted story templates that assume the worst about comics. I'm especially sympathetic because this story dropped on the day sites like Wikipedia and Google were blacked out to protest SOPA
. I tried to read about Will Smith's 2008 superhero film Hancock
for some reason and got nothing! Did you know that movie stars a superhero with a drinking problem and was only rated PG-13?! Kids might have seen it!
The report's conclusion? "Experts say the bottom line is, parents need to know what their kids are reading." That's solid advice, but we'd suggest both paying attention sooner than six months after the fact, observing clear ratings, and keeping an eye out for cretinous local news vans actually taking offensive material to schools and literally putting it in front of your kids' faces.