Here’s something I thought I’d never hear myself say… The amount of violence in comic books is getting out of control. And, another thing I thought I would never say, but comic books are getting close to needing a rating system that means something. OR maybe even the return of the Comic’s code.
What brings this on you ask? The latest issues of the JSA did. Well, it wasn’t actually the latest issues so much as the first five issues. Due to time constraints, I read more trades these days. And, due to personal consideration, I read more Euro and Indie books than typical superheroes. Jim was kind enough to loan me the first seven issues of the most recent JSA re-launch. As a generic superhero comic book I have to admit it was pretty good. As something I would like to share with my kids, it was awful. It was superheroes with lots of senseless slaughter and killing being touted as entertainment.
Think I’m wrong? Let’s look at the numbers:
pg 3, one blood covered crime scene, the dead are a 33 yr old mother and her two children ages 12 and 10 (that's a nice touch!)
Pg 17, text description of their deaths, “they died slow”
Pg ?? (last page), Hero falls through a window and lies dead and bloody on the good guys meeting table.
Total Body count 4.
At this point, I should have recognized I wasn’t going to like this but it was generic superheroes. This wasn’t touted as a max book. This wasn’t touted as grim and gritty. This was the JSA. The JSA have been bright and colorful superheroes since the 1940’s. If asked, I would have said the JSA is one of the more benign superhero groups out there. I assumed it was safe to continue.
On with issue 2, no body count unless you count the 6 pages of the bloody body laying around. It was kind of gratuitous but nothing to-to bad. Body count 0, which is good unless you read the part where the villain states “women and children first”. That wasn’t a real positive sign for the next issue but I read on anyway.
pg 3, Mother & daughter cut in half, one neck snapping,
pg 4-5, shows blood covered villainous speedster with, depending on interpretation, body parts falling around her,
pg 6, Mother of character being turned into steel (dying) while child watches,
pg 9, 11 bodies… one headless and one with throat slit
Body count, at least 14 as implied in a later issue. Lots of parents killed in front of children. At least this was somewhat off panel although the orphans were shown in a later issue.
So, in three issues there are at least 18 people dead in various brutal and horrific ways. At this point I would like to mention that this is not superheroes. Correction, these are not my superheroes.
My superheroes don’t show a mother and child being dismembered. DISMEMBERED! If I want to read about that kind of thing I can pick up the newspaper or just watch CNN.
But, it isn’t just limited to the JSA. Currently, we have Wolverine in X-Force where his objective is to kill people. Maybe lots of readers are too young to remember but when I was a kid, Wolverine was cool because he had to come up with new ways to beat the badguy WITHOUT killing him.
When we played X-men in the backyard, whatever lucky kid got to be Wolverine got to hack things up… like buildings and trees. Not kill people. The question we asked as young fanboys was “If Wolverine encountered an Adamantium safe could he chop the safe to bits or would he have to pick the lock?” not “How many people has he killed”
Honestly, am I the only one that thinks killing and death isn’t cool?
And this doesn’t even address issue 3’s porn star cover of the 19 year old. I mistakenly thought she was younger but that’s just because she’s drawn like a 12 yr old.
Yes, yes, DC and Marvel do Johnny DC and Marvel Adventures, but those are aimed, and written for a much younger audience. Do I need to remind everyone as recently as the 90's you could share generic superheroes with your kids and they were not “dumbed down” or overly simplified for a younger child. They were colorful and great adventures that challenged a younger reader, but kept an older reader interest. And if the JSA is the direction of typical superheroes then it’s safe to say that I won’t be reading, or sharing them, anytime soon.
This is a rant, and I’m not really upset at the JSA book. And, in truth, I’m not that upset at all. In fact, more than anything, I’m disappointed this is considered main stream superheroes. I want to be able to pass the love of comics that I have to my children and I can’t. This is material that I can’t, and won’t, show to my children. Which means the chances of them growing up to love the comic books the way I do are even smaller than they already were. And, that is really sad.