From 1985 to 2000 I collected comic books. I used to buy a lot of them. And I do mean a lot. I don't buy them anymore. There are two main reasons for this. The first is price. The average comic book now costs a whopping $4. I just can't afford that, especially since comics are like potato chips-- you can't buy just one.
This is the other reason.
This is the cover to Justice League: The Rise Of Arsenal #1. That's right, the cover. It involves the Red Arrow, seen here, who was the former partner of Green Arrow. The supervillain Prometheus brutally attacked Red Arrow, ripping off his arm shortly before destroying his home town. Among the casualties: Red Arrow's young daughter. Oh, to top it off, Red Arrow's power is that he's a super archer. Or was, I guess.
Jeez, now I need to go look at a sunset or play with some puppies to try and push that paragraph out of my head.
Note that this isn't some example of obscure ultra violent Japanese manga; this occurs in the mainstream DC comic universe. In a comic that is supposedly suitable for "all ages."
This kind of content has been slowly infecting both DC and Marvel comics for the past ten years or more, and it doesn't show any signs of letting up.
I used to love reading comics. They were fun. You know, escapist adventure and all that. My all-time favorite comic was the Fantastic Four. I loved the characters (especially the Thing) and their exciting sci-fi adventures as they battled Doctor Doom and Galactus and traveled to other planets and dimensions. I liked reading Spider-Man as he'd insult Doctor Octopus while he tied him up with his webbing. I read Superman to see him save falling aircraft and knock asteroids away from Earth. That's why I used to read comics. For fun and absurd adventure.
Sadly, those days are long gone.
Batman used to fight a guy dressed like a clown. Now he beats up pimps and drug dealers. The most violent imagery you used to see in comics was a good right punch to the bad guy's jaw. Now the imagery would keep Charles Manson up at night.
A couple of years ago I was weeding out my comics collection, wondering what I was going to do with the ones I didn't want anymore. Halloween was coming up, and I got the bright idea to give out old comics instead of candy. As I was sorting through the books, I quickly realized that there were precious few I'd feel comfortable giving to a child. I don't need some panicky Soccer Mom beating on my door because I gave her kid a comic full of torture and rape, so I ditched that plan. Besides, I don't think kids even read them anymore.
Maybe it's time for a new name for comic books, because there sure isn't anything "comical" about them these days.
I'm not saying every comic should be like Casper the Friendly Ghost. There's a comic out there right now called The Walking Dead, which is the ongoing story of life after a zombie breakout. It's very brutal and violent, but also very good. That's fine-- I believe there's room on the shelves for violence and gore. I just don't think EVERY comic needs to involve torture and bloodshed.
Here are some more examples from the past few years of comic books. Again, keep in mind that these aren't obscure snuff mags kept under the counter. These are mainstream comics, that are supposedly suitable for all ages.
Here's the scene in Justice League: Cry for Justice in which Red Arrow is maimed. You can tell that the artist really enjoyed himself as he was drawing every nauseating detail here.
Here's a panel from the Identity Crisis miniseries. That's Elongated Man, a superhero with stretching powers, cradling the lifeless body of his wife Sue Dibny. In the past, they were a wacky husband and wife team that solved mysteries. Sort of a super-powered Nick and Nora Charles. That was obviously far too lame for today's sophisticated readers, so Sue was murdered by the wife of another superhero. Oh, and Sue was pregnant at the time of her death. Now that's a fun comic!
It would take several pages of convoluted backstory to get you up to speed on what's happening here, so I'll skip it. It's pretty obvious anyway. I'm also pretty sure that this is another cover image.
Here's a fun panel in which the Green Lantern, hungry for a midnight snack, discovers that the supervillain Major Force has killed his girlfriend and stuffed her lifeless body into his refrigerator. Dude, that's cold.
Are you beginning to sense a pattern here? Is it possible these comic writers have some issues with women?
Here's a page from Ultimate Wolverine vs. Hulk. Apparently the two are having a bit of a disagreement and, unable to think of a suitable rebuttal, the Hulk tears Wolverine in half and hurls his lower body into the air where it lands on top of a mountain. A bit annoyed by this slight setback, Wolverine crawls up the mountain, retrieves his legs, and uses his mutant healing ability to reattach them.
Here's a page from Spider-Man. During a battle, the supervillain Morlun, feeling a bit peckish, plucks Spider-Man's eye out of the socket and eats it. Hoo boy, my sides are aching from laughing at these comics. Oh, wait. I meant my sides are aching from all the vomiting.
After Morlun's attack, Spider-Man is left for dead, spins a cocoon around himself (um... I don't think spiders... never mind) and emerges from it proclaiming that his human half is now dead, and the animal (or I guess that would be arachnid) half remains. He also has new powers after emerging from the cocoon, to put him more in line with the movie version. Oy.
Hey, remember the Super Friends cartoon? Look at how happy everyone is. No one's maimed or dismembered. No one's eating anyone else's eyeball or pulling them in half. Everything looks bright and happy and fun! Don't worry, modern comics will put a stop to that!
See the two kids at the right? That's Wendy and Marvin, the comedy relief team for the Super Friends show. That's their pet, Wonder Dog, on the left. As characters go, they were pretty lame. In fact, they were so lame that their lameness had to be severely punished.
And so in Teen Titans #63, the comic book version of Wonderdog, which was some sort of demonic abomination, savagely kills Marvin and maims Wendy, leaving her a paraplegic. Let that be a lesson to all you lame characters out there!
Lastly, we have a page from Avengers #71. You might want to sit down for this one. Here we see Yellowjacket and the Wasp (who both have the power to shrink to the size of their namesakes) as they're having sex. We see Wasp's hand as she clutches the sheets in ecstasy, moaning her lover's name. Then suddenly we see teeny tiny little Yellowjacket emerge from under the sheets and walk out between Wasp's breasts. It's not spelled out, but it's pretty darned obvious what they're implying. Hank used his shrinking powers to um... "get to know" Wasp better. You know, down there. Yikes.
Hey comics industry, I really don't need to see how superheroes have sex, OK? Just don't.
I don't think I'm the only one who feels this way. Back in 1944 the most popular comic book was Captain Marvel, and it reportedly sold 1.3 million copies per month. Cut to today, when a book is considered a smash hit if it sells 50,000 copies per month. Most sell far less than that. I'm sure the internet and videogames are responsible for part of the downward slide, but I have to think the content is also a big factor.
So, Marvel and DC Comics, in case you're wondering why your sales figures are down, this is why. They're just no fun anymore. I used to read comics for fun, to forget about the world for a while. If I want to see murder and depravity I'll watch the evening news.