Saturday 30th May 2015,
Comic Booked

“Fictionalized Playboy For Kids” News Report Attacks Comics!

Skott Jimenez 01/21/2012 Features

In this age of sequels and remakes it doesn’t really surprise me that this is happening. Of course, much like sequels and remakes, this is also very pointless and not at all thought provoking.
I’m speaking of course of the recent ‘report’ on the MyFOX DC website entitled “Relaunched Comics Using Sex and Violence to Sell”

What is this all about? Well, the beginning of this ‘report’ pretty much spells it out: “Most people think of comic books for kids, but many of today’s comics are anything but that.” When any article about comic books begins with the ‘comics are for kids’ line you know it’s not going to go well. Mostly because it’s apparent from that line that we’re reading a piece by someone who has probably never opened a comic book up in their life.

So let’s take a look at this fine piece of… “journalism.” The article, such as it is, goes on to talk about how violent comic books are these days, taking specific aim at the post-relaunch DC line of titles. They give a whopping 3 examples of excessive sex and violence as if it’s something that has appeared in every book of DC’s since the relaunch. Of course, this doesn’t take into consideration that since the September relaunch there have been over 200 issues published. To me, if this were the problem they seem to think it is, you’d think they could come up with more than 3 examples.

New 52

There is some quote in here from a ‘comic collector’ saying “They more or less darkened the characters up. Today, they introduce a lot more reality into it like homosexuality, adultery, all that stuff. It’s in the books now” Sorry, dude, but all that stuff has been in comics for a very long time now. It was part of making the Marvel and DC Universes reflect reality more. Homosexuality? All I have to say is Alpha Flight #106 (March 1992) and in DC, well, Green Lantern Kyle Rayner had an assistant who was gay.
A few more quotes from Jared Smith, President of Big Planet Comics out of Vienna, VA. about DC “definitely trying to push the envelope, get people’s attention with it.” The Envelope that was pushed was in relaunching their entire universe and starting from scratch. Starting Action Comics, formerly the longest, non-inturrupted series in U.S. history, over with a new #1 was more impactful than anything else here.

It goes on and on about DC having fallen behind it’s rival Marvel and wanting to take the top spot blah, blah, blah…. My main issue with this part of the article is it doesn’t take many things into consideration. The reporter uses Smith’s quote about readers being turned off to DC Comics as being because of the sex and violence when most of us were turned off more because of the rebooting of continuity. It also doesn’t mention how long DC was the Number 2 publisher in the industry. This makes it seem as if DC was the top dog and suddenly lost that spot and decided to pull out all the stops to reclaim that spot.
The sales leveling off is seemingly used as an example of people not liking the content when, most likely, people were figuring out which books they wanted to continue with, not many people are going to be able to buy 52 comics a month. But why let things like reality get in the way of a good article bashing an industry the reporter here obviously knows nothing about?

Seduction of the Innocent

The gem of this article, however, is a quote from Neil Bernstein, Ph. D. who says “It’s sort of like a fictionalized Playboy for kids at its worst.” Someone has been channeling Frederick Wertham. He gives some drivel about the sex and violence in comics (of which, in DC and Marvel, there is very little when you consider the number of books they each publish a month) and then the line about kids being in harm’s way. Bottom line here is simple: There has never been a 100% conclusive study that this stuff affect’s the minds of children. Back in the 80’s it was horror movies before that it was rock music and before that it was…big shock here…comic books.  Basically, blame the bad behavior of children on everything and everyone except the parents. Parents are never to blame.

So, let’s take a moment and shoot down some more of this thing, shall we? (This is going to be fun!)

Alright, this reporter, Sherri Ly, mentions the Adam West Batman series when talking about how much comics have changed over the years. “Remember the original Batman TV series?” she asks for no other reason other than to have me to ask in return “Remember the original Batman COMIC BOOKS?” Batman wasn’t Adam West from his creation. Batman was a very dark character from his introduction in Detective Comics #27 (May 1939) and he showed little hesitation in killing criminals in those days. It wasn’t until the last round of inaccurate depictions of comics in the 1950’s that Batman became the light hearted hero Ly seems to think he always was. She also apparently never heard of The Dark Knight Returns.
As for the violence in the DC titles, well, violence has been a part of superhero comics since the introduction of the very first superhero, Superman in Action Comics #1 (June 1938). In those days Superman was more like Batman without the shadows. He would mock his adversaries while he thrashed him and even threatened women if they opposed him. So, the myth of violence being recent in comics has been destroyed.
Also, blood in comics? Chaos! Comics, the Watchmen, Dark Knight Returns, EC Comics…blood isn’t anything new in comics.

The Starfire thing, well, she existed in the comics long before she was in the Teen Titans animated series, her first appearance was in DC Comics Presents #26 (Oct. 1980). Ly fails to mention that as well as ignores the fact that Teen Titans was geared towards a younger crowd than the current, comic book, version is. Two versions of the same concept aimed at different age groups is nothing new in comics either. All I have to say is Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. For those who know, well, you get what I’m saying. Those of you that don’t, well, look it up. Also not mentioned: the scantily clad bit? The characters are at a beach and she’s wearing a swimsuit. What’s she supposed to wear? Sweatpants? Don’t be a Ly, do your research.


Now, naturally, I could go on and continue to take this ‘news article’ apart, there is very little based on fact here, but the main point here is this article is full of more fiction than any comic book being published by Marvel and DC combined. Ly’s main focus here is the amount of sex and violence and she goes to try to prove her point by, after explaining the ratings system DC uses, which is voluntary and is pretty straight forward. Books geared for everyone have an ‘E’ on the cover. The next level it ‘T’ for teen, like the video games, and are aimed at 12 and older while ‘T+’ is for 16 and older then finally ‘M’ is for 18 and older. These rating are posted on their website with full explanations.

Red hood

But here’s the real sick part: Ly shows comics geared for an older crowd to younger kids. This is something crusaders like this always try in a failed attempt to gather outrage on their behalf. It’s like showing the Texas Chains Saw Massacre to a 10 year old and saying ‘See! It’s totally inappropriate for kids this age!’  What does this prove? Well, besides proving Ly has no regard for the ratings system and little regard for the minds of America’s youth, it proves nothing. This sort of crap never does because we don’t know who the kids are. Do they actually read comics? Have they ever seen a comic? Those kids who read comics on a regular or even semi-regular basis know what the books are about. The parents of those kids have a legitimate complaint against Ly and the channel for showing inappropriate material to children.

I’ve said it a time or two already, this parody of a news article is little more than an ill-informed, poorly researched hit piece on the comics industry. Make no mistake, while DC Comics is the only publisher mentioned here, it’s the industry as a whole that this reporter is targeting.
She makes it appear as though DC is marketing sex and violence to a younger readership in their books but fails to mention a few things I like to call facts. It’s alright, though, most reporters never allow facts to get in the way of their hit pieces. Check these out, though:

*DC Comics publishes 52 books as part of their ‘proper’ universe. This means since September 2011 they have published over 200 books in that universe.
*You can’t show comics that are geared to a specific readership to people they aren’t aimed at and expect them to understand it. That would be like showing an EC Comic to a Sunday School teacher and expect a positive or even neutral response.
*The treatment of women in comics is not misogynistic. Starfire is confident in her sexuality and expresses it openly. There is also the minor issue of her not even being human. Again, arrogance and ignorance rears their ugly head and applies the wrong standards upon a being that isn’t even from earth.

And finally….(pay attention, Ly, ’cause this might blow your mind) comic book readers are normal, intelligent and well rounded people who are more in touch with their fantasy life and have a better understanding of the difference between fantasy and reality than most people who don’t read comics.
We don’t need some uptight moral crusader and her pop-psychologist telling us that our comics are nothing but sex and violence and, even worse, putting that inaccurate view on display for everyone else to see.

Book burning

Back in the 1950’s we had something like this in the industry. Some moral crusader with no solid research or facts came along and nearly destroyed the industry we love today. It got so bad that the so-called moral crusaders and defenders of the American Way held book burnings to destroy comic books. In my view only one kind of person burns books containing things they don’t want people to read and we don’t call them Americans. Heil?
I don’t think it will get that far but it’s certainly something we, as fans of the industry, need to keep an eye on because in a time when the government is trying to control the internet, comic book burnings isn’t so far fetched when you think of it.

The bottom line here is this whole article is filled with inaccuracies and non-truths. Hell, I’ll just flat out call them lies and B.S. That’s what it is. Ly has no clue what she’s talking about and needs to be held to task.

The hit piece ends with Bernstein complaining about the ads in these comics. Ads for Legos and milk, to him, mean the books should be geared towards a younger crowd? Only kids drink milk? And have you seen the prices of Lego sets these days? Clearly they aren’t geared towards kids, they are aimed more at the collector. This guy needs to research what he’s talking about some more I think.

So, that’s what I think about this whole thing…well, some of what I think. I could go on but I don’t want to make Ly and Bernstein feel totally stupid…actually it wouldn’t bother me in the least. Both are wrong and I have a feeling certain things were left out to make this piece of drive-by journalism look like it’s exposing something that really isn’t there. When things like this happen it’s up to us fans to speak up in defense of that which we love. Many of us aren’t able to speak up for one reason or another but I’ve never had that problem. Will this go anywhere? I hope not. But if Bernstein and Ly want to push this issue I’ll be more than happy to put them in their place. They are wrong. Period.

Relaunched Comics Using Sex and Violence To Sell:

Check out the special edition podcast hosted by the amiable Emmet O’Cuana and Co. as they tackle this laughably back new report!

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About The Author

I've been collecting comic books for over 20 years, over that time I've learned a lot about the history of the industry and that fascinates me so I'm always looking for new sources of information. If it's about comic books then I'm interested.

  1. Robb Orr 01/21/2012 at 2:16 pm

    Thank you for taking the time to express the outrage that we should all feel over this latest attack on comics, art, and free speech.

  2. Ed A. 01/21/2012 at 4:10 pm

    There are so many things wrong with this kind of 'outrage' journalism it's hard to know where to start.

    I wonder what level of cynicism is involved in the process that spawns this kind of crap. Does the writer and editors involved really believe what they are saying or do they just pick a topic, run with it, play to their disapproving audience, then forget about it and move on to the next target?

    "Comics/video games/tv/films/music/[insert something that someone enjoys here] = bad, for whatever reason I/we care to make up this week and only a twisted sexual deviant would disagree with me/us"

    There's no point trying to engage in a rational debate with them about it. If they're prepared to draw those conclusions without proper research then their minds are already made up on the subject. The journalistic equivalent of trolling. For shame.

    • Emmet OCuana 01/21/2012 at 4:17 pm

      Needless to say Dr Bernstein is promoting his book on poor fatherhood skills at the moment. How that relates to the discussion of an entire artistic medium I have no idea, but hey.

      They're only comics, right?

    • Skott of Fables 01/22/2012 at 1:10 am

      They might 'forget and move on' but that doesn't mean I will. I've always been the type to defend, with great passion, something I believe in. This is no different. Anyone who knows me will tell you that there is little in this world that I get passionate about but comics is certainly near the top of that very short list.

      I've already called this 'reporter' out on her twitter and posted a link to this very article for her to read. Twice.

      Granted, I'm no mainstream news reporter, I work for a comicbook website not an affiliate station that uses the name of a major media outlet but, to me, all that means is I have more integrity and a stronger desire to make sure I know what I'm talking about before posting or reporting on something.

      And Bernstein? He's just a Wertham wanna-be and just shows that no matter what letters you put after your name on a business card, if you talk about something you know zilch about…well, those letters may as well be MUD.

      I also want to know how much of what Jared Smith said was cut out. Surely he explained that DC has been the Number 2 publisher for a very long time and that readers tend to drop titles after checking them out, especially when you have 52 to choose from and when many people don't have the money to get them all these days.

      If this article had anymore holes in it we could use it to drain noodles.

      • Emmet OCuana 01/22/2012 at 2:27 am

        I respect what you're saying Skott, but for me the question becomes whenever a debacle like this lands, do we respond as fans or as journalists?

        Because surely what we should be doing is showing how proper comic journalism counters this hackery. It's not about passion, or comic continuity – it's sites like Comic Booked countering with facts and reasoned argument.

        Otherwise we just wind up being trolled.

        • Skott of Fables 01/22/2012 at 9:23 am

          For me the response is as both fan and journalist. The fan is outraged and demands that the industry be defended against such baseless attacks and the journalist in me agrees and tempers the outrage with the best use of words possible.

          Also, the journalist in me gets to take advantage of the knowledge of the industry's history and use that as proper defense along with actually knowing what's going on in comics today.

          That's combined with passion for comics. But not blind passion, no, you won't find senseless rantings from me here on things like this. That's what blogs are for, lol

          I tried to balance both here to keep this editorial on the level.

  3. Popwarmer 01/21/2012 at 5:44 pm

    Good stuff here Skott. I want to know who let her publish that crap.

  4. James Victor Von Hal 01/21/2012 at 9:40 pm

    Won't someone please think of the children?

    That Simpsons episode always comes to mind whenever talk of censorship or child corruption through art and media arises.

    Great article Skott.

  5. Will 01/22/2012 at 11:47 am

    A book on good fatherhood huh? I have 4 amazing kids, and we love comics. We read them, write our own stories, draw and color a ton… So this tool would surely say I'm a bad dad, no?

  6. Rob The Wrecker 01/23/2012 at 1:45 pm

    It amuses me that the Reporter in question didn't site the X-Force Sex and Violence mini from 09.

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