February 21, 2010

Marvel Snapshot: Mature Themes in Comics

Welcome back to Marvel Snapshot. I’d like to thank everybody that has made what it is currently, and the even greater heights it will assuredly achieve in the future. I for one have received a lot of great comments/ feedback from quite a few people and I want to say a special thanks to you all. Now on to this week’s topic!

This week while reading through two weeks worth of comics, I found a couple of things that made me think of the topic of mature themes in comics. I’m not talking about mature rated comics mind you, but the ones rated T+ that contain material that is close to that line of being a parental advisory book. I’d like to talk about this and really hear what everyone else thinks about it for sure. I know there will be varied opinions and hopefully we can all gain some new perspectives.

I was reading through Incredible Hercules #141 and it was a good book but one thing in it bothered me. At one point in this issue, Athena is revived from being turned to stone and although I’m not going to spoil it, she imprisons Delphyne in the bowels of Olympus until the end of times. To which Delphyne replies, “That’s ten minutes from now you bitch.” Now, I understand that in our everyday lives we hear words much worse, even probably on a daily basis, but it just felt like it was put in for either shock value or lack of creative writing. It felt like it didn’t belong anywhere in the entire book. I’m not one for radical censorship but when a book can be bought buy a young kid and has explicit content, I wish it would say so. This book was rated T+ but you and I both know if some ten year old walked up to the counter of an LCS (local comic shop), he wouldn’t be turned away. I’ve never put it to the test but I definitely do remember kids coming into the store and buying things I wouldn’t let my kids buy.

There was also a back-up story in that same Hercules issue featuring the Agents of Atlas. In it, we see Venus and Aphrodite about to get into a brawl. At first they are both fully clothed (somewhat) but when they both start to use their powers of persuasion, it shows them both naked. Not full frontal mind you but again, why? Both characters run around half naked anyway, so why must they then be shown naked? As far as I know, it’s not part of their powers to have to disrobe to use them. In a past issue we saw Aphrodite and Ares in a kind of explicit sex scene as well. It seemed to me that the art went a little farther than it had to go to get the point across. Again, not a parental advisory just a T+ rating.

In my opinion, Marvel is letting more things go than they should be in the parental advisory books too. They have the “MAX” line, why not use that for the more hardcore stuff? I read Wolverine Weapon X and it gets the PA (parental advisory), as well as the Psylocke limited series. Both border on the edge of something that should be in the MAX lineup if you ask me. Wolverine is terribly bloody at times but it seems obligatory at least. Psylocke is a bit of a stretch with all the blood and guts, but it probably gets away with the rating by the skin of its teeth. I know it doesn’t seem like much of a change but these books could be getting sold to kids that don’t need to be subjected to anymore mindless violence do they? I mean, mainstream America is getting more violent by the day on T.V. and in theaters without a doubt. I can remember a day when you didn’t need to show sex or use expletives to get the point across in a story. I understand violence is a part of an action story but heads being severed or blood spattering all over the place seems a bit excessive to me. Hey, I watched G.I. Joe when I was a kid and was thoroughly entertained and nobody ever died or even bled if I remember correctly.

In closing, don’t think of me as some prude that thinks he’s better than most or on his moral high horse. I just think Marvel could be a little bit better with its standards for ratings. That’s all.

I have kids and anybody that does knows that even the keenest eyes can’t be focused on a child 24/ 7. They will get their hands on something if they want it bad enough but I think the entertainment industry and its outlets have to bear some of the responsibility for who buys what. As usual, I want you the reader to chime in with your innermost thoughts on this subject. Until next week I bid thee farewell!

Billy Dunleavy



  1. I apply that the context in which it was used, was properly constituted. The word itself was clearly a direct result of one character impulsively trying to verbally-smite another. The psycological template for this sort of warfare certainly deems worthy of more thought, than simply labelling it, “ignorant”.

    But if the parents are really the people who want to diminish the vocabulary, and thus overall value, of Marvel heroes than I suppose the power of comic book euphemisms (%#$@ OFF!) are still a valuable asset to your “apparent” animosity for the mundane portrayal of fictional-fucking-stories.

    Besides, censoring is fun.

  2. Jeff Jackson

    Billy–you’re such a prude. LOL

  3. I don’t think you can peg the MAX titles for being too violent because they very clearly have a mature readers censor on them. If a retailer is doing their job, they would not sell a MAX title to a child, much like how a movie store wouldn’t sell an R rated film to a kid. It’s the same idea.

    If you think this stuff is bad Billy, you need to steer clear of each and every Vertigo title on the shelf.

    As for your examples: The Hercules one I agree with you only in that it didn’t fit the character really. It did feel out of place but it didn’t bother me on a censorship level in the slightest. “Bitch” is street level term, and I don’t think that many kids are reading Incredible Hercules anyway. And if they are, and are enjoying it and can wrap their head around the story and concepts, than I think that kid should be given a medal because it’s heady stuff. As for the AoA reference where they get naked, you said it: nothing is shown so what’s the problem? Do your kids own an illustrated Bible? If so, be sure to rip out the chapters on Adam and Eve. I heard there was nudity in that one!

  4. Mike

    As a kid, I watched gi joe and it always bugged
    that none of the main characters ever got hurt. Violence found in these may seem gratuitous to some people, especially parents, but it has an audience.

  5. Decapitated Dan

    While I dont read those titles I know what ya mean. However wouldn’t this fall into the same category as video games were a few years back? Some places would card while some wouldn’t. Is that what comics need to come to?

  6. andrea niceschwander

    I read a study a few years back when I was researching media violence that centered on a idea that it’s better to actually depict the outcomes of violence more graphically/realistically because when you don’t–well, it gives people/kids an unrealistic idea of what really happens. I agree with this. And while as a parent you cannot always keep an eye on what your children are buying/reading you can keep an open dialog with them.

    I don’t think cussing is a big deal. They’ve been using alternatives for years–but, even kids know that it’s just a replacement word. Any kid who attends public school is going to hear cussing. A parent can explain what is appropriate. I remember finding porno mags when I was around ten and hiding them in the shrubbery on the side of our house. Now that didn’t mess me up.

    I sort of don’t believe in sheltering. Also, if your kid’s under a certain age, you’re probably picking up most of their comics. If you’re that concerned–just read them first.

  7. Kristin

    Eh…. It’s pretty clear that comics are targeting an older audience now. Video games are doing the same thing. When your fan base ages, your product matures.

    There are still plenty of comics out there for “kids.”

    And anyway, they’re going to buy what they’re going to buy. Ratings are usually guidelines, not legal laws. I think some retailers can be fined for selling “mature” rated products to underage buyers, but if you’re just some random little store, you’ll probably sell to whoever has cash. I don’t know that I ever carded anyone while I worked at a comic book store…. Though we certainly had to at GameStop.

    And to be honest, I’d rather they just swear than put in some “@#%@(&$” bullshit, that is TOTALLY OBVIOUS. I think it’s HILARIOUS how they think that means it’s A-OK. It’s absurdly easy to know what they’re “saying.” The same goes for a quiet “bleep” on television shows, when you can still read their lips, and often hear the beginning or end of the swear. I get such a kick out of that. It’s annoying, because you sort of wonder “why do they even bother,” but it’s amusing.

    Could the system be better? Probably. But it’s going to get loser as time goes on. Just like TV censorship has. You can say words or show things that you never could even 10 years ago. In the 50s, you couldn’t even show a man and wife in the same bed together; they could be shown to sleep in the same room, but had to have separate beds. In I Dream of Jeannie, they had to change her costume because they weren’t allowed to show a belly button. You can get away with a lot more in a PG-13 movie now than you could in the 90s.

    It’s a natural, cultural progression. It may cycle back around at some point (just look at how fashion has evolved over centuries, and watch how women’s clothing would go from revealing, to fully covering, and back again), but it won’t be soon.

  8. billy

    Wow, uhm, OK here we go.
    @M Minter-I think animosity is way to strong of a word. It basically means hate and at no time did I use that word or label something “ignorant”. If you say you think the word’s use was properly constituted then I challenge you to find any Greek epic with that kind of use of that term…then we can talk further. 🙂

    @Jeff-stop fanning the flames. LOL

    @Andy-I don’t think the MAX titles are too violent, I think Wolvie Weapon X should be sold as one of those titles due to it’s blood and gore. I really was trying to convey that I think Marvel should move some of it’s T+ rated comics into the Parental Advisory category and some in the PA category (Wolv. Weapon X, Psylocke) into MAX. I’m not Tipper Gore here, make no mistake. I’m not clamoring for more censorship, just proper use of what’s currently in place. 😉 Oh, and Adam and Eve were running around naked because they didn’t know any better. 🙂

    @Mike-I agree that there is definitely room for comics that are mature themed to, just that they shouldn’t be sold/marketed to a young audience.

    @Dan-I think that an LCS should not sell a comic to a kid with a PA or higher rating without the parent’s OK. Other than that, I don’t know what really the industry can do other than stop printing comics with things like this in them. I honestly would love to hear who wouldn’t have enjoyed Hercules just as much if Delphyne hadn’t said that word.

    @Andrea-While I understand you can’t raise children in a bubble, I don’t think letting them see or read adult things at a young age is going to help matters either. Most of the kids in my neighborhood that used foul language and talked about sex and violence at a young age have pretty much grown up to be the dregs of society so that’s all the proof I need to keep my kids away from things I consider to mature for them.

    @Kris-I don’t mind companies targeting an older audience unless the said items are being sold to younger, less mature readers. That and the ratings being a little too liberal is where I have some issues. 🙂

    I think that’s all. lol

  9. Kristin

    Billy, I understand that parents want to shelter their kids, I really do. But the example you provided…that’s bad parenting in general, and while it might correlate to the issue at hand, it’s not the game changer.

    I was pretty sheltered growing up, and my parents were strict. Then I moved away to college and had a nervous break down because I couldn’t handle the “real world.” I still have problems. I’m also incredibly cynical and jaded. I know my parents felt they were doing the right thing, and I don’t think they did a bad job raising my sister and I; they were good parents. But they kept me in a little bubble, and I don’t think that did me any good.

    I think a balance is better than a total cut off.

  10. billy

    @Kris-I did say I understand you can’t raise kids in a bubble and there is only so much protecting you can do. I’ve been a parent now for over 12 years so I definitely think I’m not talking nonsense hear. I’m not trying to keep my kids from seeing or hearing everything on the planet but I definitely am trying to keep them away from things that will negatively effect them in their lives. I come from a home where my parents were split up before I can even remember but I do know that my mom did try to instill values in me from a very young age that I still carry with me today. She was what most these days would consider strict but not to the point that I went out in the world and my head spun around. I definitely saw and did my share of abhorrent things but never lost sight of right and wrong. And to that I credit her immensely. In the end, people will choose to raise kids how they see fit but when kids grow up they can and will make their own choices and by no means is it a reflection of the job the parents did in every situation. I’ve seen some good parents end up with very bad kids when they’re grown. It’s all the choices we make in life and only time will tell who has made the right ones and the wrong.

    Thanks for taking time out of your day by the way. I appreciate and enjoy reading different perspectives and opinions on these things. 🙂

  11. Eli

    Billy is right.

    If Marvel, or any publisher, is going to have ratings, then they should adhere to those ratings. Now, who gets to decide which books should have what ratings… that’s another story entirely. If however, Marvel publishes a book with a rating that allows it to be bought by kids, and the book shouldn’t really be read by kids, then the ratings are useless.

    As far as censoring kids from violence, here’s how I see things, and how it’s worked for me. There is one indisputable fact here — what we put into ourselves (reading, watching, experiencing, etc.) does have an affect (or is it effect??) on us. I challenge anyone, with any level of education, to dispute that with any sort of credible evidence. With that in mind, it’s obvious that kids have to be kept from viewing such things. Do we want our kids to witness a rape, in person? To see a woman screaming, begging, hear her moans of agony, see her violated in about the most disgusting and animal-like way humanly possible? I don’t think so. But are we saying that it’s ok for that same kid to witness that on tv, or read it in a book. No reasonable person can think that such a thing wouldn’t be damaging to a kid, heck to anyone. I don’t wanna see things like that. Now, that’s an extreme example, but the same dynamic applies to all things violent and sexually explicit, just to varying degrees. I mean, of what benefit is it for a kid to see something uber violent or sexual.

    Basically, if the censorship is going to be used, it should be used the way its intended to function. If it’s going to be too loose according to its own ratings, then it should just be done away with.

    And Billy, I agree about Greek gods using that word, it’s ridiculous to me.

    About vocabulary, hah, the use of such words and phrases is nothing but a retardant of a person’s vocabulary. An insult using a couple of words of profanity pales in comparison to a finely woven oratory destruction of someone, through the use of a variety of words and phrases from the English language. That takes creativity, and thinking, and intelligence, and shows the same level of passion and intensity, if not more so, than any profane language. The ability to use the English language in a proficient way is something that is sorely lacking in people today, not just kids.

  12. “the finely woven oratory destruction of someone” is actually one of my favorite past times Eli lol I do agree with that entire last paragraph but I do think that the writers are also mirroring society in their books and going by their own personal experiences. There are people who wield language like a precision instrument and others who use it like a billy club and some who do both.

    The problems with the rating system is that any company knows that there is more money in certain brackets and when you restrict your audience you will in fact restrict the profit thats why I think they (Marvel, DC, etc) attempt to get in as much as they can without actually having to change the rating on a book.

    On the other hand the MAX titles have that rating because they are consistently made for a more mature audience whereas the regular line of books that Marvel puts out is supposed to be for the general audience which is why I think they don’t get the same rating.

  13. […] College in Tel Aviv. … (b. 1950) studied at the Juilliard School and Mannes College of Music. …Marvel Snapshot: Mature Themes in ComicsThis week while reading through two weeks worth of comics, I found a couple of things that made me […]

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