Thursday, September 18, 2008

Aisle Seat's Mason Channels His Inner Howard Beale Edior-In-Chief Marc Mason posted a very raw and somewhat confusing essay for his Aisle Seat column titled "Comics Are For Kids?" Without reposting the entire thing, here's an excerpt from the last half which I think properly summarize the entire idea behind the column:

Then 2000 rolled around and it all went to shit. A stolen election. The next year, the worst terrorist act in history perpetrated against us. A phony war followed, thousands of my fellow citizens dead, hundreds of thousands of civilians in graves next to them. More election fraud loomed with Diebold. Our culture has devolved to the point of making stars out of the mediocre and talentless, while greatness flounders on the fringes, unable to find a toehold in the collective consciousness. A hurricane destroyed one of our greatest cities. A tsunami damned near wiped out an entire country. The global environment continues to rebel against our human presence as even more hurricanes have taken paths of super-destruction this very year. And now we have another election, featuring the senator from my state, who has already been relegated to second-class citizen on his own ticket because of the VP choice forced on him, and the first black man to have a chance to win the highest
office in the land.

And while I have no problem telling you that I am obviously a Democrat, I will also tell you this: I no longer contain the slightest bit of certainty that anything will ever be okay again. No matter who wins this election. I think human society, and the planet we live on, have become so fragile and broken, that we are past the point of no return on putting things back on the right path. Not without a MEGA reboot. Is that cynical? You bet your sweet ass.

So are comics for kids? No. They present such a warped picture of the world that they may just be as destructive as Wertham tried to tell the world, but for an entirely different reason. Why should we offer our children false hopes?

Now, I have worked alongside Mr. Mason back in the Movie Poop Shoot days but I do not know the man directly. After reading this missive, I discussed it with a few of the guys from KFR and here's what I wrote:
I understand things are getting rough for millions of people - especially lately. But if he took the tact that there are few quality All-ages superhero comics to allow guilt-free escapism like there were during the other rough patches in American history, I could totally get behind his cause. But to say that comics are bad for kids because they perpetuate the myth that good wins over evil (by whoever's definition) sounds not only obtuse but uninformed as well.
As you may or may not know, I am a parent of two grade-school kids and I feed them superheroic adventures in various forms by the bucketful. Right now, DVDs of Superfriends and Justice League Unlimited, TiVo'd airings of Spectacular Spider-Man and TMNT as well as action figures of JLU and animated Spidey rule their world.

Although, finding such material in print to supplement the cartoons is not the easiest. Marvel, for some strange and maddening reason, does not have a companion piece for its TV show. DC does have a good line of comics but as their TV shows die off, their print versions will do the same. But it doesn't stop there. Hobby stores (at least in my area) have little to none All-Ages capes-and-tights stuff. The only place that I can find a monthly mag is at a book superstore.

To me, all of these signs exhibit a complete deviation from what a business should do - expand and grow their customerbase. If tobacco companies had the same business sense as the Big Two that run the comic book industry, they would've been out of business years ago.

As humans find more and more ways to cover the world in a millions shades of gray, I've decided that grounding my kids in a Black and White world where superheroes do exist is the first building block in nurturing their ability to further their imagination while helping them make sound rational decisions. I know it sounds like I'm selling my kids a false bill of goods but when the alternative is to give them the world as it is now, I'll take my chances with the likes of Spidey versus Green Goblin every time.

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