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Friday, April 25, 2014

Comic Books are NOT Supposed to Grow Up With You Part 4

Many comic fans believe that the characters are supposed to grow up with them. But let's take another pop culture set of characters: Sesame Street. Now they're characters Jim Henson made for small children. Imagine if the people like myself held on to Big Bird and Mr. Snuffelupagus and Oscar the Grouch, and we kept holding onto those characters going instead of letting them go.

Kids today wouldn't have Elmo, baby Bear Graciella and all the characters that they relate to. And Sesame Street would be a footnote in Children’s TV programming like The Great Space Coaster and The Electric Company.

But because people from the past generation put those characters down, other kids were able to pick them up and discover what was so great about them. And see the world from their perspective through them.

Think about it. It’d be kind of wrong for little kids to see Bert & Ernie all grown up going to Mr. Hooper’s funeral while all of Sesame Street mourns. Or seeing Big Bird carted off to a mental hospital for shooting Mr. Snufflelupagus. Kermit The Frog complaining about Ms. Piggy’s credit card bills on clothes. Or a sex addicted Cookie Monster turning into the Pussy monster because he can’t stop eating pussy.

But those are some of the stories that would transpire in a Sesame Street all grown up.

But thank God children realize that Sesame Street is for small children. And kids can still learn their ABC’s and 1-2-3s on that show instead of seeing these characters caught up in adult drama.

The way I feel about comics is sort is told beautifully in Toy Story 3. Andy was going on to college. And while he wanted to keep Woody, he realized had to let his toys go to be shared with Bonnie and the next generation of kids at the day care center. Kids who would appreciate them. Kids who would see how great Woody, Jessie, Buzz and all the other toys actually were and enjoy them as much as he did.

Now I had a personal attachment to a Mayor Fox figurine from a Richard Scarry Puzzletown set. And it made me a big fan of Richard Scarry books as a child. It was the first muse that inspired me to write. But as I got older I understood that the character was for a small child and not suited to who I was growing up to be. Eventually I let go of him.

Yeah I bought another one back in 2000, but if a kid showed an interest in the Mayor Fox I own and all my old Richard Scarry books (still under my bed), I’d gladly give them to them. Why? Because I want them to know how great those characters were and how much they meant to me.

That’s how I feel about comics. They’re not supposed to grow up with us. We’re supposed to grow out of them and move on to other forms of literature. Pass them on to the next generation of kids so they can enjoy them.

Yeah, I had an emotional attachment to Mayor Fox. But when I got older, I realized Mayor Fox was a child’s character, much like Kermit The Frog, Curious George, or Marc Brown’s Arthur. He’s suited to that medium.

Just like Superman, Batman, The Hulk and Spider-Man are suited for comics. They’re designed to tell a certain type of story. A story suited for a certain audience. Kids, tweens and teens.

Back when I was little I wrote Mayor Fox Stories in my Homemade comics. But as I got older I realized if I wanted to tell more complex stories I needed to create new characters who allowed me to convey my message to readers. In the twenty-eight years since I put Mayor Fox down I created Isis, E’steem, John Haynes, Marilyn Marie, and Nikki Desmond. Charcters who fit the stories I wanted to tell. Characters who allowed me to convey my message to readers.

Comic creators need to start creating new characters for the more adult themed stories they want to tell and leave the superheroes for the kids. You want to use profanity? Hey, create an original character. You want gory violence with mutilations and decapitations? Create an original horror character. You want sex and adult situations? Create an original story with original characters and put them in it.

Just leave the superheroes, and the teen characters like Archie to the kids, tweens and teens. Just because we grow older doesn’t mean these kinds of characters have to grow older with us.

Yeah, the comic book medium can tell a host of stories. Love & Rockets, Maus, Watchmen, The Dark Knight Returns, and The Phoenix Saga all show how powerful the medium of comic storytelling is. But superheroes in 32-page comic books aren’t supposed to grow up with us.

How are the next generation of kids supposed to enjoy superheroes if the adults won’t let them go? How can they discover what’s so great about superheroes if old people keep telling their stories with them?

Superheroes and comic books are supposed to evolve and change with the times just like Sesame Street evolved and changed with the times. Each generation adds to the mythology and tells its stories from its perspective using the medium and the characters. Unfortunately, that’s not happening in mainstream comics today. Companies like Marvel and DC are still trying to appeal to Baby Boomers and GenXers who outgrew the medium a LONG time ago. And thanks to their selfishness, they’re keeping kids from finding out how great comics are.

I want to see the Comic book industry get out of this 20-year slump it's been in. But it can't do that until the older comic fans realize that comic books are not supposed to grow up with you. 

5 comments:

  1. You're kind of right about the selfishness of adult fans towards children's media and they tend to develop entitled attitudes towards it. Not that there's anything wrong with making comics for adults or having adult fans of kids' media but I have a feeling that these people feel insulted if somebody calls superheroes a kiddie thing or something like that.

    The writer Alan Moore felt kind of disgusted to have adults cling onto kiddie timeless icons like Batman that he felt like they should be reading comics that are aimed in mind at adults.

    On another note, there's a series of reports stating that since Japan now has an ageing, declining population (median age is 47) it looks like some anime veterans like Yoshiyuki Tomino are planning to intend on creating anime shows for kids.

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  2. And the sad thing about superhero comics being nowadays largely aimed at adult readers (those who have been reading it since they were teens but the same can be said of One Piece)would be that whilst media aimed at children has become more imaginative, diverse and even groundbreaking, stuff like superheroes have been co-opted by adults and now end with repetitive storylines with added details that most people don't really care about.

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  3. ...sex addicted Cookie Monster turning into the Pussy monster because he can’t stop eating pussy.

    Lol@ the imagery. You do have a point about comics being for the kids. It looks like Marvel could be trying to change direction. I don't know what DC's doing.

    Vic78

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  4. Ad, I just want adult comic fans to notice the kids behind them.

    I can understand how Alan more feels. It's hard to write stories for kids when you have adults demanding more adult oriented themes.

    Japan seems to be going in the right direction (finally). I'm seeing glimmers of hope in strips like Yale Stewart's JL8, Bill Walko's The Hero Business and Josh Howard's work.

    Anonymous:

    That was an image in my head for a while about Cookie monster. From what I've seen, Disney is taking Marvel in the right direction from what I've seen. DC...Good Gravy.

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  5. IDK, but I sometimes like characters to be young like you said, sales do not seem to support it though. Guess I need to buy old materials to get the young guys, not almost every main superhero being middle aged. Is that part of the problem being mentioned here?

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