“I’ve kept a limited number of comic books from my youth, ranging from the 1960s to the 1980s, and occasionally take a few out and read them. I’m not really into comic books anymore, especially the current titles, and for a lot of reasons.
Originally, I started collecting them in the late 1960s when I was in Junior High, and I’d been reading them since I was old enough to read because they were so much fun. In the ’60s and ’70s, I was mainly into Marvel comics (Fantastic Four, Spider-Man, the X-Men and so on), but I rediscovered DC in the late 80s when they did the first reboot of their titles.
More recently, I used my local public library system and checked out Vertigo DC graphic novels such as V for Vendetta and The Watchmen as well as the Sandman (the Wesley Dodd costumed hero, not the other guy) because they were more edgy and I was an adult. In the case of the first two titles, I wanted to understand the basis for the films they became, and in the Sandman’s case, I just enjoy the character and the 1930s vibe.
I’ve kept in touch with how comic books have been morphing in more recent years, and generally give them a wide berth. The superheroes I once admired and who taught me about courage, innovation, and adventure, had become unrecognizable as well as unoriginal. Numerous reboots later, all of the old villains and storylines had been rehashed ad nauseam, just like what we see in both the film and television industries, and I don’t intend to pay for the privilege of being bored.
Okay, let me be fair. The comic books of my childhood were written for twelve year old boys, but by the mid-1970s, the target audience started getting older. Now, as far as I can tell, comic books are written and drawn for young adults (males for the most part if you look at how female superheroes are drawn and costumed). That demographic is probably presumed by DC and Marvel to be socially and politically liberal, so naturally, the stories and themes lean heavily in that direction as well. Also, like other areas of the entertainment industry, the people who are creating these publications also tend to be liberal.
That said, after what I’ve just learned, I think the comic book industry has lost its collective mind.
I’ll start with the less dramatic of my two examples.
Author Declan Finn at Superversive SF wrote an article yesterday called DC Comics Rebuilds Vertigo, now with more “I can’t Even” where he quotes heavily from something called Bounding Into Comics.
I won’t quote extensively from either of them since clicking on those links will give you the full details. Apparently though, Vertigo is planning a number of new titles that are so extremely liberal (sailing right over the left-hand edge of the spectrum) that anyone who is even a moderate let alone conservative, would bound to be insulted by the themes being offered.
Look, I get that Vertigo is marketed to adults and wants to create content that is supportive of people of color, feminists, and the LGBT community, but taking obvious shots at white males, portraying most or all of us as white supremacists, while promoting anti-Christian and pro-witchcraft/Satanist themes seems way over the top.
I belong to a public group on Facebook called Lifewriting which is administered by author Steven Barnes. Mr. Barnes has an amazing resume, and has co-authored books with science fiction luminaries Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle.
One of the people contributing content to Lifewriting is a young man named Dennis Upkins. One of the more recent blog posts he posted at Lifewriting (although it was originally written in January of 2016) is called Flashback Friday: Letting Freedom Ring.
I’d never head of the Marvel comic book character “Freedom Ring” before. He was a gay character who gained superpowers from a piece of the Cosmic Cube (which first appeared in the Marvel universe in 1966, so I know about it) shaped into a ring, giving the wearer “Green Lantern” like abilities.
The character was created in 2006 in “Marvel Team-Up,” which is a mainstream title (as opposed to Vertigo/DC which specifically presents themes that wouldn’t make it past the restrictions of the Comics Code Authority).
According to Mr. Upkins:
If ever there was a character with more than enough potential to carry his own series, it was Doyle. He was a fresh character who had leading star potential. Marvel could’ve attained the mainstream attention that Archie is enjoying right now with Kevin Keller. But more than that, Marvel would’ve reached an untapped marginalized audience with disposable income who would’ve been all too happy to support a title like Freedom Ring.
So what does Marvel do? They snatch the fail out of the jaws of win, not only by killing off Doyle but doing it by mutilating him and sodomizing him as well with a barrage of spike tendrils.
Comic book characters have been killed before (Superman, but he came back – Bucky, but he finally came back) but sodomized? This happened in a comic book?
Mr. Upkins has a very specific issue he’s addressing in his blog post regarding how gay superheroes are presented vs. their straight counterparts, but what’s “grinding my gears” is that comic book writers and artists are seemingly completely unconcerned with presenting a character’s death in such a brutal, violent, and humiliating manner.
How would you feel if your children were reading a comic book depicting a character being mutilated and sodomized?
When my kids were little in the early to mid 1990s, I’d pull out some of my old comic books and read to them. I also bought the then-current issues of Superman (the whole “Death of Superman” thing fascinated me) and Green Lantern (I was curious how DC would re-invent Green Lantern in the character Kyle Rayner, plus GL had always been one of my favorites), and read those adventures to them as well.
Yes, Superman died, basically in a dramatic fist fight with the character Doomsday, and there were bruises, gashes and blood, but he died heroically and honorably (and he eventually came back which kept me reading the titles for several years). I had no qualms at all exposing my elementary school age sons and daughter to those comics.
I would never read them a story where a character came to his end in such a manner. You don’t need to show little kids “death by sodomy,” I don’t care what your politics are.
Not only are comic books no longer creative or entertaining, they’re also no longer safe. If I want my grandchildren to have safe and entertaining stories, I’ll either dig out a stack of fifty year old comic books or, as I’ve been doing with my grandson for nearly two years now, I’ll write stories for them myself.