Monday, September 08, 2008

The Comics Are Made For 14-Year-Olds

If this DC thread criticizing the dark n' gritty tone of their books still worked (and who knows, by the time you read this, it might -- or maybe it's been just shoved down the memory hole), you could read for yourself the cynical musings of one poster, who said something like:

"The comics are made for 14-year-olds; what do you expect?"

What does the average 14-year-old (male) want for entertainment?

I think the key to the current DC offerings is exactly that -- just shoveling what they feel the masses want. It's a simple equation. What's the difference between torture porn in the latest "Saw" movie and in Teen Titans? Not a whole hell of a lot. It doesn't matter.

How about the idea that our pop-culture helps inform the ethical and moral standards of impressionable youth? It doesn't matter. If their parents are doing a shitty job, then let them grow up with the idea that violence is acceptable. What, Superman is supposed to teach them something? That's naive, don't you think? Superman, he's like one step away from Borat and Carrot Top, right?

A company can do whatever they want, if the numbers justify it. What they can't do is hold their heads high and wrap that red Superman cape around themselves like the everloving American flag. No, now that I think about it, they could still do that, too. They can do whatever they want, create whatever version of reality they want and just project it. It doesn't matter. They are not moral arbiters. They're just peddling funny books, keeping that Superman copyright tight until which time it's pried from their cold zombified hands.


  1. Anonymous10:10 PM

    Hey now, that screenshot is out of context and unfair! That's actually a glass eye that serves as a key for a very crucial door!

  2. While I agree it was a cheap shock factor that motivated the wonder twin murders, I think it's an overstatement to compare that kind of violence to Saw V. Granted, when I was a kid and first started reading comics, I loved picking up Darkhorse Terminator books and Valiant comics like Bloodshot because I knew there was going to be some blood involved. But if you compare the kind of violence in that issue of Teen Titans to, say, Millar's current run on Wolverine, you'll see that DC is still the tamest of the bunch.

  3. Yeah. There's so much more you can do. Its been show to us by many great writers and some comics too. Who read the Starman series?

    Has anyone ever read True Story Swear To God?

    You can do so much more in a comic that just pander to the geek cool. Icons like Superman are out there so we can use them to touch on issues of the day or moral questions of power and authority.

    If David E. Kelly can do that with Denny Crane and Allen Shore in Boston Legal why can't you do it with Green Arrow and Daredevil.

    David E. Kelly writing She-Hulk now that'd be cool.

  4. Actually I recall the average comic reader is actually much closer to 25-30, which explains the shift towards more adult-themed content nicely.

  5. As a 14 year-old, I admit I liked some blood and gore on occasion... but what I really wanted was cool moments, like a zippy one-liner or just something that caught me by surprise. For example - the end of The Titans #23, which had the Kingdom Come Titans suddenly appear and my jaw is on the floor, since I had read both The Kingdom and Kingdom Come at the time (though before I had even heard of Crisis on Infinite Earths).

  6. Being far removed in years from 14, I am not sure "what 14 year old males want"...

    I can only go back to when I was 14 and I wanted to see girls "naked", beat the crap outta the school bully and get my drivers licence. Do you think todays 14 year old males are that different? Ok. Sorry "straight" males?

    I think they are definately bombarded by more choice. Take comics for example. When I was 14 Batman had 3 books (maybe 4). How many does he have now?

    The Batman I saw was the hokey Adam West version (on in tv reruns)No movie appearances (don't count the hokey A. West version)... Now we have major motion pictures animated series and tons of toys...

    As for Superman,I think he had 2 books but he didn't appeal to me back then and he still doesn't. I never got that an "alien" would be representing "truth, justice and the American way".

    I was always a fan of more of the self made heroes like Green Arrow, Batman, Wildcat, etc. Ok Batman came with the "golden spoon" but he still had to learn, train etc...

    As for company bottom line, is DC so different from any other large company that is "blind" except for the bottom line? Me thinks not...


  7. Not just to plug my own blog, but I recently did a post, mentioning your and JK Carlson's discussion of TEEN TITANS, but also pointing out the amount of splat in other comics (both DC and Marvel) from that particular week.

  8. Anonymous7:10 AM

    While i was also disgusted by the whole teen titans thing.

    I wonder if the Blogsphere could use this instance to point out comics that may actually be digestible, moral, and entertaining for 14 year olds.

    So please, everyone, just stop buying Teen Titans and try out Spider-Girl or Blue Beetle.


  9. I think the market cuts both ways. A common enough complaint from the editors and creative teams behind Groo the Wanderer and the Giffen/DeMatteis JLI was that their books sold really well - better, in fact, than a lot of the "grim gritty mature" or whatever titles were out there, but because the prevailing trend was "grim gritty mature" editors wanted to follow the perceived trend, even though the numbers weren't really backing them up.

  10. Anonymous9:21 AM

    My 13 yo son thought the Wonder Twins murder was the greatest thing ever. He marveled at the artwork and was glad because he 'hated' those two anyway.

    I know this may not gel with everyone's current criticism of DC producing titles that are too mature -- but this is what interests my son right now - I can't imagine he's alone in that.

    Maybe it's me...I was addicted to Fangoria magazine at his age, go figure.


  11. Anonymous9:45 AM

    So sad, but so, so true, Val.

  12. "Adult-themed?" This teenybopper reading level stuff? From where I sit, those must be some very undiscerning and immature 25-30 year olds.

    Now I realize these mainstream superhero comics are definitely aimed at someone other than myself, that my aesthetic concerns are not those of the average superhero comic consumer or of the companies that put out this stuff anymore than Nickelodeon's or MTV's programming is. But you know, I'm sure there are 25-30 year olds hooked on that as well.

    Strangely, horror and gore are attracting me once again, albeit in a slightly different format and with a decidedly different purpose. I've recently gotten into old Creepy reprints via the Dark Horse archive edition of the first 5 issues. That material has a sophistication the latest DC stuff can't match and it's more than 40 years old. If anyone's looking for gorgeous art with gory contents for mature audiences, that's the stuff to go for. If you can afford it, it's well worth the investment and makes this Teen Titans title look like the weak junk it is.

    Lone Wolf and Cub and Lady Snowblood feature more blood in a single story than any month's output by DC and Marvel and the stuff surrounding it is so well-written and novelistic, comparing them to this tripe is almost embarrassing. It's like a full-grown NFL pro suddenly showing up and taking down a Pop Warner football team.

    Talk about truly adult. Even Nana deals with sexual material in a more grown-up way. I could list novels that cut this junk to shreds all night long as well. So I have a hard time crediting the bulk of this company's mainstream output as "adult" in any way shape or fashion. It's more akin to the teens breaking into the liquor cabinet after Daddy and Mommy have gone out of town for the weekend and thereby feeling "so grown up." The motions without the motivations.

    I know I sound elitest and snobby but one person's snobbery is another person's discerning tastes. I tried to read this stuff and just couldn't justify even the 5 minutes it takes to finish a story. I'm glad I grew and changed and evolved. I'm glad I know the difference between material that's truly adult and stuff that's just pandering to trends. So if DC doesn't want my money for their monthlies, that's cool. I'm totally at peace with that. There's still a lot of fun out there.

  13. Anonymous10:44 AM

    I dunno if this was asked, but more to the point, do 14-Year-Olds even *read* comics?

    In the eight years I worked at a comic store, I sincerely doubt the amount of kids I saw actually interested in superheroes--much less enough to buy superhero comics--amounted to even 1% compared to the customers in their 20's-40's.

  14. Anonymous11:45 AM

    To be totally honest, I don't think the comparison to the glut of "torture porn" horror movies that saturated the market up to last year is a fair comparison at all here. Because as someone else has pointed out before I believe, if older Teen Titans was so much better and "age appropriate", then what were the crippling via shotgun of Bart Allen, or Terra having a relationship with Deadstroke?

    While I don't really like the current TT title, it has more to do with the characterization and writing (Blue Beatle and Red Devil/Kid Devil have been great though) than the violence. Yeah, the murder of the "Wonder Twins" is graphic but not particularly more so than anything else going on in mainstream comics.

    I think part of the horror that people are feeling at this is the fact that well...they're the Wonder Twins. They're from a classic dorky cartoon associated with comics, given a really interesting story and brought into book canon. It's shock that someone actually killed the Wonder Twins, not that they were violently attacked by a dog in a cape. Because to be honest, Wonder Boy impaled on a tree branch through the chest in that Titans East one-shot was arguably way more freaking violent.

  15. Anonymous12:32 PM


    Context. Context. Context.

    Lone Wolf and Cub is manga about an assassin in training. Teen Titans is an American title about teenaged super heroes.

    Despite Joel's vaunted literacy, I feel that no genre has more or less inherent value over another. This does not, however, say that this is a well-written story. I also believe that it's important that characters and stories remain true to their core themes and audiences. Otherwise, you aren't telling a story that's plotted out and follows a coherent thread. Instead, you're just inserting a bunch of shock pages and trying to string them together to get people's attention.

    This title has shown violence before, but (for the most part) it has not been as gruesome as this. It also has not been as stealthily deployed as this. This "warm-hearted" little tale was not meant to be a bloody gore-fest.

    It isn't Fangoria. It isn't an EC title. It's Teen Titans.

    As I've said, there have been moments of blood or violence in this title. It happens all the time in super hero books. But rarely has it been so gruesome, or so final.

  16. comparing the Titans to Saw is actually pretty accurate. As for darker characters, I actually have as much a problem with morally questionable Xavier.

    why does he have to enslave an AI, and did Marvel let Whedon get away that crap? I can see him bending some rules like maybe telepathically influencing people not to give Magneto the death penalty, but save the shady Xavier for the Ultimate line.

  17. Anonymous5:33 PM

    I've actually 15 years old, white, male, and about as close to the target demographic as you can get, and was so sad when I read that. It was just unnecessary and silly and bad. I don't mind violence in it's place, but I didn't buy Teen Titans so I can see violence. I bought it to see teamwork, superheroics and slightly-relatable characters. But then again I'm gay so they can ignore me and my pansy ideas.

  18. I look forward to your critique of Marvel's top-selling hero, who regular impales and shreds people with his foot-long hand-knives, and the disgusting horror movie imagery of Marvel Zombies.

  19. I'm insulted for all 14 year olds everywhere at your insinuation that they cannot distinguish torture porn from reality!