Friday, March 16, 2007

"All-Ages" And "Comics For Kids" Are NOT The Same

There's a saying that goes "You can't legislate morality."

It sure didn't work with Prohibition back in the '20s. And I have to say that while legalized gambling and legalized drug use (overseas) may be considered "freedom" to practice, really only seems to work to generate revenue for the state. Maybe that's a good thing, but it does little to help the people who become addicted to that stuff. (But I suppose people can abuse and get addicted to anything, when it comes down to it.)

I am starting to really hate the mainstreaming of perversity. But that's another post for another day.

Getting back to topic:

It seems like the average person doesn't know the difference between an "All-Ages" comic and "comics written for kids".

And why should they? That distinction is a craftsmanship distinction, something that comics editors, writers and fans should be more familiar with. The average reader-parent just wants a mainstream comic their 9-year-old can read without becoming worried or embarrassed about content. Hence the title "All Ages".

But "All-Ages" comics is NOT the same as "Comics written for Kids".

It's NOT.

Traditionally, mainstream comics have been comics that can be read and enjoyed at face value by a wide range of readers, from kids to grownups. This group called "All-Ages" is pretty huge since it encompasses nearly everyone. The All-Ages comic may have certain references that only grownups (or only kids!) may get or appreciate, but it also doesn't usually involve subject matter that could not be spoken of with a child in a general and easy way should they happen to ask. Editors and writers for mainstream comics seem to have forgotten this. I know I've mentioned this before.

Comics for All Ages can be enjoyed by everyone. However, "comics for kids" are written for children to enjoy and for children generally under the age of 10. There ARE distinct and different sensibilities between kids' comics and All Ages comics.

It's lack of understanding of this difference that's hurting the industry and making us create material that is age-inappropriate, giving readers and fans tizzies and making people very, very angry with each other unnecessarily.

As an industry we should seriously revisit the idea of a ratings system and setting one up before one gets imposed on us yet again by outsiders. And frankly it would be well-deserved if that happened. So why not take the initiative? (I know I've mentioned this before too.)

Look, ratings systems generally works for movies, video games and lyrics. This half-a**ed non-effort by the comics community is only delaying the inevitable. At least Marvel TRIED to take the initiative by replacing the blanket and now useless CCA with a rating system of their own, even if their system is actually not helpful in its current application. They just need to take it another step. (Yes, I can SEE the "T+" rating in the She-Hulk UPC box. So? What does "T+" stand for? There is no chart inside the comic for me to consult its definition if I were a new reader flipping through the comic at the store. And the average parent likely wouldn't know about Marvel Previews having a chart.)

If comics publishers no longer see using the Comics Code Authority as a helpful gauge and guideline for parents, then ya'll should set up a new Pro/Con where ya'll discuss and set up an acceptable and industry-wide ratings system to get this matter resolved. MAYBE then you will be seen as responsible business people by parents and can regain the trust of SOME of them where they can allow their kids to read some of your comics again. As comics publishers you've lost a lot of trust.

This really isn't asking for much. And I understand a ratings system is not foolproof, but it can help.

Besides, this can potentially help protect comics retailers. Just knowing who the publisher or even the imprint apparently is NOT ENOUGH anymore. Perhaps, then, if there is a clear rating on the front cover the retailers may have an additional layer of help to protect them from making that sale to the underage person.

And if that line is becoming too blurred, then we should seriously think about the material we're publishing.

We can ALL have comics we'd like to read if we can just get a collective grip and categorize the material into the right places. We seriously need an industry-wide trade rating system to protect ourselves, our industry, our readership and our businesses.

Don't mistake "All Ages" for "Comic written for kids". They are not the same.

Don't mistake a ratings system for censorship. They are not the same. (Look it up.)

Unfortunately over the years with the introduction and proliferation of the dark Anti-Hero comics, and the "Bad Girl" comics phenomena into mainstream comics, the ol' "All-Ages" moniker seems to have acquired a PC/spineless/white-washing patina of lameness. To be "All-Ages" is to be not cool or hip or savvy enough.

It's as if we all have to suffer the devastating effects of cynicism just because a few people happen to enjoy being cynical. Crap, isn't life hard enough?

Hey, I can be plenty cynical, but damn it. I do want variety in my comics storytelling but I don't want to be sucker punched by what's supposed to be All-Ages books. Mainstream comics are merchandised to kids UNDER the age of 10 when you apply that "All Ages" moniker and simply needs to be kid-friendly. Why is this just so hard to understand?

It won't hurt for comics to be appropriately labeled so we can all read and enjoy comics without fear again.

So why am I bringing this all up YET again? Because I just had an All-Ages pitch of mine turned into a Mature Readers pitch.

I seriously must have just misunderstood the publisher and their goals and am really disappointed.

So I just dropped the pitch entirely, cause it's not worth the headache. This is why I don't work in mainstream comics.

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