So Much For That...


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We all remember the sense of awe and wonder we felt as kids when we encountered something new, imaginative and cool. That passionate feeling is like nothing else we can experience in this life. Comic books can ignite that passion in kids both young and old, if given half a chance…

Warning: This week's column may not be suitable for all-ages.

Last week, I shared a discussion with you that took place between myself, another all-ages author and a very successful all-ages comic retailer. During that discussion, we all agreed that mainstream comics needed to be all-ages friendly and appeal to as wide an audience as possible, while the mature stuff should be saved for separate segment, where parents could easily tell the comics that were okay for their families from the ones that might not be.

A few weeks prior, I mentioned DC's new 52 line and how I'd heard rumors that the line was all-ages appropriate, which is truly a wonderful thing. But, it seems those rumors only apply to a portion of the new DC books, and certainly not all of them.

For anyone not paying attention to the comicsphere over the last week, DC has apparently decided to turn at least two of their new books into what some arguably label as venues for softcore pornography. While I think that's taking it a little too far, if I were the parent of a girl under 18, I'd be very uncomfortable letting her read comics where the heroines are portrayed as nothing more than sex objects.

Now, don't get me wrong, I'm hardly crying foul at the whole line of new DC comics, but the public at large very well may. While I can easily differentiate between the new Red Hood book and, say Firestorm, the average non-comic reading parent out there only sees "comic books are dirty" in a similar manner to the uproar over the rape scene DC portrayed a few years back.

Comic books are a great storytelling medium, and as such should have full reign to tell a story however it unfolds. But, if the industry really wants to escape the stigma it seems so desperate to shed, having long standing female characters act like bimbos in mainstream books is hardly the way to do. Not to mention it sends a terrible message to readers, enforcing stereotype that most parents spend far too much time combating.

For anyone who disagrees, read this mother's blog post on what the depictions mean in her house.

It's a shame really. DC has worked long and hard on this relaunch and brought some amazing talent to bear on it. There really are some comic dream teams working on certain books and line wide there's a veritable all-star squadron of great comic creators. But, this one slip up (well, really two) taints the whole thing. Like the parable of yeast infiltrating all the dough, the portrayal of Starfire as a sex starved boy toy, and the portrayal of Batman and Catwoman having sex on a rooftop taints the entire effort.

What really boggles my mind is that DC isn't lacking in great writing talent, so why they feel the need to stoop to base shock value antics to sell books is beyond me. Let the writers write great stories and let the great artists depict them to the best of their ability and sales will follow.

Sure, most average comic readers may not care and many may very much enjoy it, but in the grand scheme it's nothing but another self inflicted black eye for the entire comic industry.

I meet a lot of people outside the comic world in my day to day life and more than once I've been asked "Aren't comics dirty now?" or "why are comics so R rated these days?" While I'm not sure those questions are on-point, they are a reflection of how the outside world views the medium. Books like this just reinforce those erroneous views and make them a little more correct today than they were yesterday. And all that adds up to less readers and less potential readers. That translates to less sales and less comic shops. Less sales and shops equals less money for the publishers and creators and eventually, it goes past the point of no return.

Thankfully, those two books are an aberration and not the norm. Hopefully, DC will see the backlash and dismay and reconsider their position on this. Maybe, they should read this column and create a mature imprint for "Gotham After Hours" and other such stuff for the audience that wants that sort of thing. And, maybe they'll decide it's better to offer their books to everyone, instead of only aiming for the decreasing target audience that didn't support them well enough pre-Nu52 to allow that status quo to carry on.

All-Ages Pick of the Week:

IDW is bringing the GhostBusters to a new series starting today. With news that the movie will return to theaters this October, now's a great time to get into the Ghost Busting. The new series debuts with writing by Eric Burnham and art by Dan Schoening. If you're looking for something to read while waiting for the ghosts to leave, this might be your book.


Mike Bullock is an international award winning all-ages comic creator and author. His all-ages work includes LIONS, TIGERS AND BEARS, TIMOTHY AND THE TRANSGALACTIC TOWEL, SECRETS OF THE SEASONS and several others. Bullock is also the most prolific PHANTOM writer in American comic book history.

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  • Richard Boom

    Richard Boom Oct 1, 2011 at 1:58am

    So we are all worried about some booby or some sex-scene (which in effect is VERY natural and healthy and will only bring about better partnerships and friendships) instead of cutting up bodies :) .....................
    BACK on this topic/column... these kind of XXXremarks and scenes is not needed. Not in all-ages books.

  • Richard Boom

    Richard Boom Oct 1, 2011 at 1:59am

    PS cutting up bodies: check the scenes in Green Lantern Corps

  • Eric Lindberg

    Eric Lindberg Oct 3, 2011 at 2:17pm

    Richard, it's not just the boobies or sex scenes that stirred up controversy. That's nothing new for comics and can be fine if handled well. It was the pandering, immature way these were handled and how the women were presented more as sex objects than characters. The Catwoman issue, while kind of tacky, is not as bad as the Red Hood one. Stripping Starfire of all personality and emotional connections and making her a soulless, posing, blow-up doll was very crass and not the best way for DC to attract new readers.

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