Opinion: Comics Won’t Corrupt Your ChildrenOctober 24, 2011
The comics of my youth were violent and had sexy women wearing not a lot of clothing. And yet, somehow I came out okay.
Since DC launched The New 52, it seems like there has been a ton of controversy surrounding some of their releases. At the top of the list has been Red Hood and the Outlaws. The reasoning for the uproar isn’t because of the violence or the language, but rather the sexual content of the comic. For some reason, having a female character (in this case, Starfire) in a bikini and having casual sex is just not okay with many critics. Catwoman also received its share of ire because it depicted the titular character seducing Batman into a passionate tryst.
The point of this article isn’t to make a case for or against the content of these books. I have never had the impression that the New 52 is aimed at bringing in younger readers, but rather to win back people who fell away from collecting comic books, or other adults that may be just on the periphery of the comic book hobby. No, this is a piece to put a little bit of perspective on comic books in general.
The first superhero book that I read was the trade paperback for Batman: A Death in the Family. For those not in the know, A Death in the Family was the result of comic book fans hating the second Robin (Jason Todd, a.k.a. The Red Hood) so much that they voted by phone to have him murdered. Robin wasn’t just gunned down in an alley, either. Oh no, he was beaten mercilessly by The Joker with a crowbar, and then blown up. I was 9 when I read that.
It left a big impression on me, and I was hooked on comics after that. The first books that I collected were Iron Man and Silver Surfer, because my dad loved them as a kid. I started reading Iron Man right after he had been put in a wheel chair by his crazy ex-girlfriend, Kathleen Dare. We went to a comic store and picked up some back issues, so I read the issue where Tony was shot and left for dead. It was a very violent image.
I got into X-Men with issue #1. That would be the 1991 Jim Lee/Chris Claremont series, of course. Jim Lee’s art inspired me to want to draw comics, and I devoured anything that was drawn by him. In many ways, he created the art style of the 90s, for better or worse. His men were square-jawed with rippling muscles, and his women were all curves, confidence, and sex appeal. I remember extremely well how awkward, tweenage me reacted to seeing Psylocke in a swimsuit getting out of the water. I remember the Marvel Swimsuit Editions that came out in the mid-90s.
The point of this is that I was pretty young when I read all of this stuff. The comics of my youth were violent and had sexy women wearing not a lot of clothing. And yet, somehow I came out okay. Red Hood and the Outlaws is violent and has a sexy woman wearing not a lot of clothing. Is it intended for kids? Absolutely not. But neither were the comics that I read when I was a kid. There were plenty of comics for kids, and I read those, too. But I understood what was going on in the superhero books I read. I wasn’t oblivious to the violence and mild sexual content to be found in Iron Man, the X-Men, and other books.
But one thing I hope to never forget is that you underestimate the young mind at your peril. Kids and young teens can handle and understand more than you probably give them credit for. If I was a parent I probably wouldn’t put Red Hood and the Outlaws in my son’s hands and tell him to read it. But if he did, I wouldn’t freak out about it or decry DC for trying to corrupt him with their naughty bikini girl shenanigans. I’d remind myself of the comics that I read as a kid. I’d remind myself of the world we live in today, with all sorts of information just a click away. And I’d open a dialogue with him, to see what he thought of Starfire wearing a bikini. If he was anything like 9-12 year old me, he’d be much more interested in seeing the good guys beat up the bad guys.
If you take away anything from this article, I would just say to calm down. An orange-skinned alien woman wearing a bikini on the beach isn’t going to corrupt the minds of our youth. Detective Comics #1 ended with The Joker having his face removed with a scalpel. His whole face.
But violence is okay, isn’t it?