Support Shawn's writng with a donation

Monday, April 21, 2014

Comics are NOT Supposed To Grow Up With You Part 3

Some people out here want their favorite superheroes to grow up with them. That’s bad for the comic book  medium. And bad for the comic book industry long-term.

I know there are a lot of moms and dads that want to share superhero comics with their kids. I talk to them on Facebook and Twitter every day. I see them at comicons with their kids in costumes, and sharing pictures of themselves sharing their toys and old comics with their kids on social media. I read their comments on this blog, on comic articles and on message boards like and They’re eager to make comics a family affair and pass their favorite characters on to the next generation.

What’s stopping them? The overly violent content filled with gory violence and overly sexualized content. The skimpy barely there costumes on women. The misogynistic violence against women in comics like Batman: The killing Joke and Identity Crisis. And storylines that take hundreds of issues to finish.

Many parents fear handing a four or a six year old a comic book these days due to the content these days. No mom or dad wants to give their 8, 9 or even a 10 or 11-year old comics depicting decaptiations and mutilations. Nor should they ever have to experience comic panels featuring characters in sexual situations or gratuitous nudity.

The 32-page comic book since its inception in the late 1800’s has always primarily been a medium for children. And a child should be able to pick up a single issue of a comic and just see their favorite superhero like Batman in action taking on the bad guys, not have to deal with four or five issues filled with expository sequences of “prep time” or be told what book will be entry point to a characters’series.

As a writer, I’d love to publish the kinds of comics I grew up with featuring PG and PG-13 style content, easy access points, and short story arcs that end in two or three issues.

But people who work in comics like Dan Didio call these kinds of comics childish and say that kind of content belong in books like Scooby Doo. And sadly, some comic fans call them childish too.

Seriously, the 32-page comic book is NOT the great American novel. And characters like Superman and Batman are not supposed to be as complex as Anna Karenina. If readers want that epic stories filled with all sorts of complex literary elements they shouldn’t be reading 32-page comic books featuring superheroes.

Over the 1980’s and 1990’s Baby Boomers and Gen-X comic book creators decided that their favorite characters needed to grow up with them. And there’s been this desperate need to turn superheroes into literature that relates to the current station of their adult lives and their present-day experiences instead of crafting stories that relates to the children of the generation that are coming after them. This is why kids haven’t been able to get into comics over the last 20 years, they just don’t relate to any of the characters or their experiences.

Whenever someone crafts something that kids get into comics like Static Shock, Teen Titans, Batman: Brave and The Bold, Young Justice, or Superhero Squad, older Comic fans lose it. And the industry loses a generation of new readers.

Yeah, these versions are different. But from what I’ve seen, they stay true to the source material of the originals. They show children classic characters having their experiences in their world. And when kids watch them in action they get to see what’s great about superheroes. That’s how these legendary characters get passed on to the next generation. Kids learn the life lessons from those characters stories and then when they become adults and outgrow them, they share them with their kids so they can learn from their stories too.

Yeah, comics are a storytelling medium. And I’d like to believe there’s room for everyone to enjoy superheroes. There’s a place for the complex storytelling that was featured in comic epics like Dark Knight Returns, Watchmen, and Kingdom Come: The Graphic Novel. That kind of complex storytelling older readers want and adult content can be featured there in one volume that’s accessible for older readers.

But the pages of a 32-page comic aren’t for 45-year olds. They’re for 7, 8, 9 and 10-year olds so they can discover the gateway to reading. And the industry’s primary focus should be making comics a family affair so moms and dads can pass their favorite characters onto to the next generation of readers. There’s 20 million kids out there who want to get into comics. But until most of the baby boomers and Gen-Xers realize that comic books aren’t supposed to grow up with you, they can’t start enjoying what’s great about superheroes.


  1. And to make matters worse, some people say adding a lot of either sex or violence sometimes makes stories even more childish than those that don't.

    I kind of admit going to the blog Four Colour Media Monitor and while the writer behind that blog wants superhero comics to be taken seriously, he might have a good point about too much violence in the works but then when it comes to creators adding in more characters of different backgrounds and orientations he bashes the writers' efforts to try to appeal to a new generation (or as he presumes it to be).

    If people can't get into comics or anime or any "geeky" medium, sometimes it's not always the media themselves but rather the people who make those media should be held accountable for why many of them are not accessible to the public even with the Internet around to help make things more readily accessible than they would be in prior decades.

  2. You make a good point Ad. Sometimes simplicity is best. The comic medium worked great until the 1990's. It's like people

    But I do see glimmers of hope in the webcomic world. Artists and writers are finally growing out of those 90's excesses, and back to traditional storytelling. Now if we could only get those people into publishing and the old heads out...

  3. I don't get it. Is this whole growing up with me the reason why just about every superhero is now middle aged? Why it is going to be about Superman or Batman's kid? Why can't they have young superheroes?