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03/21/2012

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Howard Cruse

I seem to remember that the issue of how Superman gets his hair cut was answered back in the '50s or thereabouts by a story in which Clark Kent goes to a barber shop (with suspicious Lois in tow) and fakes her off by using the apparently very hot beams of his Krypton-powered x-ray vision, reflected off of the barber shop mirrors, to zero in on his Man-of-Steel locks and do what the barber's scissors cannot. (Why those same beams of x-ray vision did not also melt the lenses on his Clark Kent glasses (or the mirror's glass, for that matter) was not explained.

By the way, Mike, I'm a big fan of your blog and read it frequently.

Brian Fies

I agree with all of that plus . . . Beginning around 1970, comics started being made by comics FANS who expected the medium to grow up as they did, and continue to entertain them as much as it did when they were kids. Earlier comics creators understood they were making juvenile fiction and did that the best they could. Even Stan Lee pitched early Marvel toward a bright kid of 14 or 15, not 35. Comics creators used to count on their readership sticking with them for maybe 5 years--say ages 9 to 14--and then moving on, leaving them free to recycle plots and disregard continuity. These days they have to please readers who'll complain that the latest story contradicts an obscure plot point from 1968.

The creators have changed. People like Lee, Kirby, Julius Schwartz, Jerry Robinson were all grown-ups who'd lived lives. They were widely read, most had been to war, they'd had other careers, and they brought lives of varied, deep experience to the job of making comics. Today's comics creators grew up . . . reading comics. (Similar in other entertainment media. My favorite example is Star Trek. Gene Roddenberry tapped his experience a cop and service aboard an aircraft carrier when he created the Enterprise. His successors brought their experience watching television.)

I'm not saying that comics can't be adult literature--I'm the last person who'd argue that. Rather, that Batman and Spider-Man aren't the right avenues for it. They just aren't and, as you say, forcing adult themes and content onto them hurts the characters and leaves no entry point for a 9-year-old future customer. More confusing is that Marvel and DC have at various times started special variations of their characters aimed specifically at kids, which is as wrong-headed as could be. They should ALL be for kids. Maybe working on multiple levels that an adult could appreciate, which was Lee's innovation, but never inaccessible or inappropriate for a kid.

Wrand

Love the shout out to MST3K.

I think part of comics problems also mirror newspapers & magazines. Fewer kids are interested in reading (especially reading material with less staying power than full books.) My kids love superheroes but have no interest in reading comic books starring their favorite heroes. They're only interested in TV shows, movies and videos.

Oddly my son tears through books with abandon (it's expensive to keep him up-to-date. We visit the library as often as we can.) And my daughter loves to buy and read Manga. Which maybe ties back into your main point.

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