Wednesday, July 20, 2005

No More Kid-Stuff

I have been writing about the influences of Stan Lee and Marvel. One big influence was to raise the age of the reader. I saw Stan in the mid-1970s and he was thrilled that 20% of the readership was college age or older.

As the traditional outlets for comics changed from drug stores to specialty shops, this trend accelerated. Comic books used to be aimed at pre-teens. Now they are aimed at older teens and adults. This is a mixed blessing. Wired has an article about this trend.

Personally, I think that they have gone too far. I remember a Deadman aimed at the adult audience in the 1990s. Deadman is a ghost who possesses people. This issue began with Deadman as an emaciated corpse, entering a woman's body. He made her strip and spread her legs, demanding sex. Deadman's original run was one of my favorites in the 1960s but this turned me off of his comics for years.

Similarly, the Hulk spent years in a pointless plotline involving spies, twists, and people being shot in the head. Most of it centered on Bruce Banner with the Hulk himself appearing in, at most two pages. They went for several months completely without the Hulk. I have no idea how it came out. I lost interest and stopped reading it. I started again when they brought back Peter David as writer.

Stan used to insist that comics have at least a few pages of fighting to keep them interesting. This became fixed in stone in the 1970s and 1980s and some editors had a mandatory page count for the fight.

Chris Claremont used to cheat on this. He would open with a fight that wasn't really happening then move on to the read story. The fight was often in the danger room (the X-Men's training facility). Sometimes it was between villains training to fight the X-Men. A few times it turned out to be a dream or vision or alternate future, etc.

Those days are long gone. Now, it is possible to have an interesting superhero story without having a fight. Even Stan did it a few times. A recent Spider-Man had Peter and family moving into the Avengers mansion.

Still, the purpose of a superhero is to help people. At some point he has to get his hands dirty and fight someone.

Also, superheroes are archetypes. They might have problems paying the light bill but they need to have some moral clarity. These are lines that are blurred too often in the X-Men. A few characters switched sides in the old days. The Avengers second line-up was mainly reformed villains but Stan had been writing them as un-happy with their status since their introduction. Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch both complained a lot about working for Magneto and how they only did it out of a sense of obligation. Hawkeye planned to fight crime, was mistaken as a criminal, and then hooked up with the Black Widow for a while.

Compare this with Emma Frost who was bent on world domination when we first met here. I'm not sure that they ever explained what happened to the dominatrix in white or why you would trust your mutant kids to her.

Then there is Daredevil who took over the gangs in order to clean them up. The Punisher tried that earlier. Neither one makes and sense.

All of this happens because they are felt to be adult themes.

Personally, I want my comics a little simpler.

1 comment:

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