Saturday, November 21, 2009

Not to be Sold to Minors ... Or Anyone Else

It used to be that comic books were thought as a child's medium. These days it's fortunate if you can get anyone to remember they exist. Because some comic books used to be geared to children, the entire industry was lumped into that. If it had sequential illustrations and used word balloons to convey dialogue, it was for children.

Comic book readers know that just was not the case. And these days, comics that aren't meant for children are the norm, and a child's comic is as rare as an unbiased Fox newscast.

I have no problem with comic books geared to children. I also have have no problem with comic books meant to appeal to adults. What I do have an issue with is people who think adult comics (whether or not they are porn or just have a more complex storyline) should not exist. Having worked in a few different comic book stores, I have encountered those people (often parents, not very often comic book readers).

These unenlightened souls would come into the store and pick up a comic book that looked like it appealed to them -- an adult. As soon as they saw it was for an adult (which is why they picked it up in the first place), they would put it back and say, "They shouldn't sell these things to kids or anyone else." I would have to correct them and state that we don't sell them to kids, but it would be pointless to argue. The mature-subject matter book that appealed to them because they were an adult should not be made for adults or anyone else, and that was that.

It always pained me to see those people with children. It made me wonder what they were teaching those kids.

When I worked the stores in various capacities, I was careful as to what I sold. Comic book store owners and employees often find themselves to be targets to zealots looking to burn a cross or two on the medium's lawn. I never had any incidents where angry parents came back demanding a refund because I sold their sixteen-year-old a Preacher issue, but it was always at the back of my mind.

When a person decided to get into a more in-depth discussion with me about why those comic books should not exist, I was quick to point out that there were novels meant for adults and novels meant for children, but nobody was arguing that adult novels shouldn't exist. Somehow they never got it. Comic books, they said, are different.

No. They are not.

Comic books are an equally valuable entertainment and artistic choice. They enlighten, amuse and educate. To say that comics geared to adults should not be published is akin to saying you don't want to be challenged by any sort of artistic medium. The statement is a badge of ignorance, and far too many adults wear it with pride.

And want to know the kicker? Even if a child had somehow become exposed to a comic book meant for an adult, guess what would happen? Nothing. Absolutely nothing. Yes, there would be questions. It's a parents job to answer those things whether or not you are ready to. But I have never seen anything in any adult comic book that would either scar a child for life or flat out destroy them.

Adults are sometimes bigger children than the children they are supposed to support. It's a frightening thought, but that was just your average day in the comic book store.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Cover Review: The Elongated Man #3

What does it say about a mini-series when your title character is in the background? To me it says, "lack of confidence." The fact that the cover, like all the covers in this series, is done as a mock postcard, too, which can work every once in a while, but for all four issues? No.

The Elongated Man has always been a pointless DC character. Not much has made him stand out (though Identity Crisis made him tolerable). This cover is part of that problem. Nothing about it screams "must read" or even "fun." Yeah, it looks like it might be amusing, but also that it is instantly forgettable and not very important in the grand scheme of things. The pun, "From Bad to Wurst," is also a groaner -- again like the character.

All four issues of this series had covers that failed to catch anyone's attention. If you are one of three Elongated Man fans, you probably were overwhelmed at the possibilities of this series, and probably also really enjoyed the covers. You may also enjoy watching paint dry and old sitcoms on TV Land.

The rest of us are left wishing this character would have never been created in the first place.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

This Die Hard May be Dead

As I write this, "What's The Frequency, Kenneth?" is playing. You may remember the R.E.M. song. The more astute among you will remember it as something that was asked of Dan Rather before being attacked by a random thug. (Or was it more than one?) The phrase is cryptic at best. Pointless at the very least. It's much like the new Die Hard Year One comic book series.

I got the first two issues of this series for two reasons: the movies and the writer, Howard Chaykin. Both have had some misses in their respective careers, but overall tend to be entertaining.

The verdict is still out on whether this will be a hit or miss, but with two issues read so far I kind of think it will be the latter.

Spotty art, less than authentic dialogue, and a storyline that is going somewhere but taking its time getting there. Those are the first impressions of these two issues. Honestly, it doesn't even feel like Chaykin's behind the wheel, and the Bruce Willis-marine-turned-cop could be any cop. He doesn't have the feel of McClane. Granted, this is his first year as a cop, but McClane is a strong enough personality that some of that would appear in his first year in the uniform. Instead, we're given generic cops and stereotypical cops. Generic wives and stereotypical husbands. In fact, it all feels so generic and stereotypical.

I'll stick with it to see how it plays out. I'm not expecting big things. By this point I'm not expecting anything if truth be told. I am perplexed, however. Why did anyone green light this story? Is it the Die Hard franchise or Chaykin's name that sold it? One had to do it, so why not utilize it?

As I finish this up, Scritti Politti is playing. "Perfect Way." Does anyone remember this band? Does anyone care about this song? Exactly. The Die Hard Year One comic book is bound to end up the same way if it continues on this instantly forgettable path.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Annoying Store Owner

Michael Tierney, owner of Collector's Edition in Arkansas, is a man who has always annoyed me. His Trendwatcher write-ups in the ever-shrinking Comics Buyer's Guide and letters in the same place have made him seem like a reluctant moral crusader who is out to protect children from upsetting comic books (which is, when it gets down to it, the parent's job). Granted, since parents are lazy and since comic books have a bad history when it comes to "harmful matter" and children, some may see Tierney's advice and wisdom as a blessing. I differ.

In the December 2009 issue of Comics Buyer's Guide Tierney is once again featured in the CBG Trendwatchers section. Apparently he was profiled by his "state" newspaper. This brought him all kinds of publicity, which is great for a store owner. What really filled his heart with wholesome glee, however, was the parents.

"Most gratifying were all the parents," he wrote, "who came in to thank me for my efforts to provide them better content information. I felt like The Hulk on the cover of Incredible Hulk #279, where he's carried on the shoulders of a cheering crowd." I think that swelled head makes him more like the Leader, but I'll grant him his small victory. After all, he is in Arkansas and those people probably need someone to tell them what is safe to read.

When I managed Comic Castle I often had parents asking me what was "safe" for their children. I would give recommendations, but only after saying something like, "Well, I don't know your child, or even how mature he or she is. I can recommend some titles and tell you why I recommend them, but you need to look at what I'm recommending before you buy it because you know your child better than I do."

Parents seemed to appreciate that, and I had parents turn down Uncanny X-Men but at the same time pick up The Filth. (The mother who did that said she did so because the violence in the Marvel title seemed exploitive and there for no other reason then that's what heroes did, while the Vertigo title at least had a story with substance behind it. Interesting, as I enjoyed both titles.) I didn't feel like a crusader or hero, though. I was just doing my damn job. Tierney, it seems, likes his role as a moral barometer, and based on the recommendations he often gives, I would say he's knows what's safe if only because he is very familiar with boring.

I have never stepped foot in either of the man's stores, and probably never will. If the man runs his shops like I think he does, you will find nothing all that thought provoking or even erotic. It's his store. He doesn't have to stock those kinds of titles. They exist, however, and some comic book fans like them. Again, he may stock those types of things, but I strongly suspect that Vertigo and a few indie titles are about as thought provoking as he gets. (I doubt he ever carried Skinheads in Love, for example, but I could be wrong.)

Thanks for keeping America's children safe, Mr. Tierney. All the mouth-breathing parents sure appreciate it.