Tom Spurgeon's Web site of comics news, reviews, interviews and commentary

May 10, 2007

Hey, Kids (With Willies)! Comics!

I'm not certain I agree with her specific implications, emphasis or even the way the argument is constructed, but Johanna Draper Carlson floats the interesting notion that maybe superheroes are targeted towards boys because superhero comics are boys comics. A modicum of flipping out follows.

imageOne of the odd things that crops up whenever you get into a characterization discussion regarding superheroes is that there's still an underlying assumption with some folks that superheroes should be subject to criticism and reforms as if they were the entirety of comics. This notion crops up in other places; it led to a long period where many comics critics conflated the growth of the art form with the reform of a genre, even demanding the application of literary standards to works that might naturally and rightfully resist such standards.

In other words, when I was 10, my idea of an artistic achievement in comics and the best Spider-Man comic ever was the same: maybe Peter Parker could go on a journalistic assignment in a foreign land and leave his costume at home. When I got older I figured out I'd rather read Joe Sacco on the journalistic assignment and that Peter Parker was better off spending two pages at the Coffee Bean and 22 pages punching Green Goblin in the head.

So I think looking at a genre to provide everything you want it to is an historical leftover from a time when superheroes felt like everything, and that maybe there's something right and natural or at least not-wrong or dismaying in superheroes appealing mostly to boys -- at least in that historical/traditional sense that you can say something appeals to a gender, which I guess is a whole new level of potential problems with this exercise. That's it, I'm going back to bed.

And sure: that doesn't mean it always will, or that you can't tweak a genre, or that there aren't several women out there whose favorite comic is Judge Dredd or whatever. All the usual, sensible caveats apply. Maybe more so.
posted 3:10 am PST | Permalink

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