Thursday, September 04, 2008

Violence in Comics – Are There Any Limits

This is a theme that Lee and I both have strong feelings on. I find it amusing that Lee and I agree but we agree in degrees. Lee feels Johns has gotten too violent in mainstream DCU books and I feel that the audience has grown up enough that it is more accepted and more (I hate using this word in a super hero comic book discussion) realistic. My book that I feel may have crossed the line is Kick-Ass. This is admittedly a Mature Reader Labeled book and published as a creator owned book by Marvel’s Icon banner. Icon is essentially Marvel placating a few top tier talents that they wanted to keep happy and not lose them. So Millar, Bendis, Brubaker are almost the entire Icon line.

Kick-Ass #4 was part of a discussion on Cosmic Comix Conversation and then sort of continues in this article and the ensuing comments.

Rusty (local comic shop owner) said “First off as noted it is branded for mature readers and is no more violent than a Punisher Max book or some Vertigo books or a myriad of independent books that have no warning on the cover. If Geo-Force can slice his own neck in DC Universe the Last Will and Testament, and the Rogues can brutally kill off their younger counterparts in Final Crisis Rogues Revenge both off which have absolutely no warnings on the cover of any kind (and I’m not picking on DC those just happened to come out this week, almost any Wolverine title will suffice) then I have no problem with Polly Pocket taking out some gangsters.”

My Comment back was “While granting your points, does a Mature Label then mean you are allowed to do anything. There is a level that is broached that goes beyond the boundaries and I wonder if having a seven year old committing such heinous acts of violence and covered in gore is over the line. If that is not over the line what would be? Free Speech still has limitations. I have voted with my wallet and won’t buy this book, but I don’t think it is the same thing as the other comics you mentioned because I had no problem with the violence Frank Castle has done, but this is different. Calling it a parody or something else does not in fact excuse it.”

Lee added “I think the problem is more generic than a specific book. It’s gotten to the point that every book is hyper violent and there doesn’t seem to be a limit. You named 4-5 books with over the top violence and no warnings. I don’t believe this is good for the industry as a whole. At some point, Little Johnny’s Mom is going to pick one of these books up and let the law suits begin.

In the same sense, what does it say about us, the fanboys that continue to support this type of extreme storytelling?”

My Comment Back “It says a lot about us and at times it causes me to question if I want to be a member of a group that celebrates such ridiculous extremes. Two books that I tried and went over the line for me caused me to vote with my wallet. First was the Boys, which was not only over the line it was just denigrating super heroes almost for the hell of it, and now Kick Ass.
In the right context hyper violence works, the Punisher Max book is a good example. In other situations I think it can work also, but pushing a seven year old little girl to be a killing machine and splattered with blood is (in my opinion) wrong.”

I guess where I find myself coming down on the question is first and foremost I vote with my wallet. If you cross a line for me I drop your book. That is the way a market place should work. Still in a society where free speech is highly important, we have the dichotomy of political correctness gone so amok you can’t even say what you think without almost being stoned to death (no examples as I’m not offering to be stoned to death – biblical sense not drug sense).

Is there a line that should not be crossed? If a seven year old killing people covering herself in gore and using the “c” word is not over the line, what is? Is bestiality funny in the right context? Is rape okay? Is rape of a minor child okay? How about using racial epithets and slurs against people’s sexuality?

I believe strongly in free speech, but even that has limitations, no shouting fire in a crowded theatre. Child pornography is against the law, so should drawings of the same also be against the law. Is violence on this level child pornography?

Hell I’m asking the questions I don’t pretend to have the answers and again I vote by what I buy. I guess I’m more concerned what these types of examples from a mainstream book present to the outside world. We have just really become much more of a legitimate source for and a powerful place that is gaining wider acceptance, I would hate to lose it to another Frederick Wertham. Can you imagine Oprah doing a show on Kick-Ass and how would it resonate with the public at large.

Maybe the more freedom the better and no censorship should be allowed, but we have standards as a society and if something is wrong it is wrong and Kick-Ass is wrong.

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