Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Parents Who Don't Like Their Kids Reading Comic Books

If you are lucky, when you were a kid you had parents or guardians who didn't completely hate the idea that you liked comic books.

My mother absolutely hated the idea that I collected comics. Not for the usual Wertham-esque reasons that comics would rot my brains or make me into a serial killer, but because they weren't feminine enough for me. She thought they would muck up my teenage socialization because they were a non-"gender appropriate" activity.

And to be terribly frank with you, she was right to an extent -- I got teased a bit in school for being a comics fan (this was the mid-80s, to give you some perspective). Now, how much of that teasing was for the simple geekery of being a fan and how much of it was for being a female collector? Who can say?

But I still would have liked support at home, regardless of my hobbies. Instead, my Mom engaged in a war against my comics, the crowning achievement of which was to tear the comics up in little postage-stamp-sized pieces and throw them in the air like party confetti.

A word to any parents out there who might be considering a similar tactic to rid their kids from habits they don't like: it doesn't work. It only imprints in their mind, at a time of their lives where they're just looking for something to rebel against anyhow, that it is heroic to "not give up the fight." You create stubborn children this way.

A friend of mine's father took things one step further. He took all of my friend's comics and burned them into ashes in an oven. My friend grew up to be a comic book hoarder.


  1. I grew up reading comics in the 80s as well, Valerie. My parents were strict, especially with that evil AC/DC and Ozzy music I was into at the time, but comics were okay. Now I have an 8yo girl and a 3yo boy and they get to look at comics screened by me (usually some Marvel Adventures,Avengers Fairy Tales, and many from my collection). They love to watch Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends, as did I back in the day. My little girl loves Firestar but none of her friends have a clue what she's talking about.

    Looking forward to Cloak & Dagger!

  2. My librarian wife could give you some numbers on the readership of comics relating to books-- kids who read comics read more books, including books without pictures. Period. By a large margin.

    My mother used to take my DnD books. I don't like her.

  3. My parents just kind of bitched about them because they couldn't see any value in reading them. Never mind the fact that they did make me think and did stretch my learning re: vocabulary and language.

    I love it when my kids read comics. Not because I'm a collector, but because they're actually reading and imagining without being forced to do so.

  4. Anonymous11:26 AM

    Well in their defense the mid 80's was a scary time. Thor's beard, Spider-man's black costume, the Thing in a unitard, Secret Wars 2, Spider-Ham. I wouldn't have let my kids read comics either!

  5. When I was about, oh, 5 or 6 my father decided to punish me for not being good in church one Sunday by burning all my comics (we used to burn paper trash outdoors in those days- we're talking 1965-66 here), most of which were classic Marvel and DC. Needless to say, this made me more angry than anything.

    However, in the years since, I was able to show my Dad the book values of some of the comics he burned, and gained a small measure of if not revenge, at least satisfaction.

  6. My mom bought some comics for me as a kid but unfortunately she picked only ones she knew about so they were things like Archie & Veronica and Little Lulu, all of which I found dreadfully boring. Nowadays it seems that imported manga isn't considered "comic books" so many girls are a) drawn to them and b) get parent support because they don't see the manga that's obscene. Plus manga is carried is "real bookstores" more abundantly than comics.

  7. I'm so sorry that happened to you, that must have been very frustrating.

    I was lucky - got started as a tyke on Richie Rich, then moved on to Star Wars when the movie came out when I was 8. My mom took me to the local card/bookstore and let me buy something every Friday when we'd pick up Chinese food at the store next door. Then in high school, Wonder Woman, Swamp Thing (the Alan Moore years), and on and on. My Dad enjoyed going with me to the comic book store well into my 20's.

    My parents have always been supportive. I'm supportive of my 9-year-old daughter's comics reading too. I just wish she'd branch out to something besides Betty and Veronica. You're killing me, kid, you're killing me.

  8. Let's see... I started collecting MAD Magazine in 1979, and my mother disapproved, but did not touch my collection. (She even bankrolled an acquisition when I found a trove of mid-1970s MADs at a garage sale, almost as rare as LEGO blocks...)

    When I began reading and collecting comics in 1984, she didn't bat an eye. I've even got her to read a few. (She's a fan of the comicstrip "Zits".)

    Oh, and since my mother is from Germany, meine Tantes und Onkels would ship the occasional Asterix volume in the yearly Christmas shipments. (Chocolate, marzipan, Asterix,... yeah, I love Christmas!)

    Oh, and the educational aspect? In that first issue of MAD, July `79, with Superman on the cover, was also a parody of Battlestar Galactica. From that article, I learned the word "gobbledegook". Unfortunately, it's been downhill since...

  9. Anonymous4:00 PM

    My parents never had any objections about the facts that I was reading comic books as a kid. In fact, my dad would sometimes pick giant-sized comics at the flea market and let me read them.

    Truth to be told I wasn't a big comics reader as a kid. I started getting into comics a lot when I was 16 and now the guys at the comic store don't need to ask my name when I have to pick my comics each month.

    Now I'm 22 and my parents still show no objections to the fact that I love reading comics. But, they don't really approve when I read things like "Johnny the Homicidal Maniac." They find it too morbid. Anyway my dad will always consider Adam as THE Batman.

  10. Wow, I really had it good. After my corner store stopped carrying comics in late '86, my mom would drive me to the bookstore at the mall every week for my comic fix. And my grandma even bought me some X-Men comics from a thrift store once.

    My dad was never down with my interest in "the rap music," but...

  11. In the 1970s, my grandmother told me that only retarded children read comic books. Years later, I guess I'll give her that one actually, but, geez, saying that about your own grandson, that's mean.

  12. My parents and grandparents (especially my grandma) strongly encouraged comic book reading. My grandparents kept a stack of about 30 comic books right under the sink in front of the toilet to encourage quality movements, and they rotated those comics on a weekly basis so that nobody got bored. :)

    Seriously, though, I'd question the savvy of any parent who discourages childhood reading of almost any sort. Granted, a parent should "spot check" the reading material to see if there are any themes that might warrant further discussion ("Do you think Spider-Man should have beaten Dr. Octopus like that? Why?"), but discouraging reading is just bizarre.

  13. My father never gave a crap, but my ma used to read comics as a kid (Richie Rich, Casper, Archie, Star Trek...those kinds) so my getting into them wasn't a big issue. Actually, I was an artist at the time I started so it was supported as reference to hone my craft as well.

    Unless it was something overly dangerous or extremely...bizarre, I wouldn't discourage my kids' hobbies. I have too many weird ones myself to ever do so.

  14. The only comic my dad ever forbade me from buying was 'New Mutants', due to the cover of issue #36, which was a bit extreme even for his liberal sensibilities. I tried to explain to him that one issue of a title being like that didn't mean the whole series was like that, but he held firm. No 'New Mutants'. I don't think I bought another issue of that series until #83.

    Other than that, my parents were cool with comics. Even got me a subscription to MAD.

  15. Anonymous1:10 AM

    Here's a link to a formative event in my young comic book life from '66 involving Batman, color TV, Detective Comics, and a very loving father.

  16. I blame my comics on my parents. Sort of.

    My dad was a minister (Presbyterian, later Methodist), and in Sunday School, we had a magazine called Pix, which included Bible stories as comics. At some point, we even had a 4 or 5 volume collection of these in paperback book size, a boxed set like my Chronicles of Narnia and Lord of the Rings cardboard box-o-books.

    My sister and I also got some of the Spire Christian comics -- I identify "God's Smuggler" as the earliest actual comic book I remember having.

    I can't say that they approved of me reading superhero comics in the very late 70s and earl;y 80s, but they didn't disapprove, either -- it was my allowance money to spend. It's obviously a hard thing to draw a line in the sand and say "Archie comics okay. Christian comics okay. Pix okay. Super Friends on TV okay. Superboy and the Legion of Super-Heroes, spawn of the devil!"

  17. My parents grew up during the Depression so they didn't have much use for comics, but they accepted our reading them. Eventually.

    I actually encourage my kids to read comics, and probably half my pull list is for them. (My daughter is 6 and my son is almost 9.) I see a lot of good coming from it.

    And we use the comics to do things, like when my son used superhero costumes to research differences in color associations for boys and girls .

    The problem is one that you can see with any pasttime or hobby: it can be done in excess. So, I'm starting to put *some* limits on the comic book reading.

  18. My parents had no problem with my brother and I reading comics. My Dad likes to brag that he got through english class in school by reading the Classic Illustrated comics.

    We've encouraged our kids to read comics as well. When they had learned to read, we let them pick out their own comics, and still do so, though it's mostly, I see it first in Previews and then ask them if they want it.

  19. Anonymous3:42 PM

    I started reading comics when I was 10, mostly New Mutants and Elfquest, but I would also read my dad's copies of Heavy Metal, which just goes to show that my parents didn't care what I read. I guess early introduction to soft-core smut is how you grow up to be a librarian who reads way too much yaoi!