Bill Willingham, Conservativism and Superhero Decadence

So I read Bill Willigham's article since there seemed to be some brouhaha going on about it. And you know what? For the most part, I agree.

I mean, not so much with the part about Robin parachuting into Afghanistan (yeah, let's send teenagers into a war-zone, 'cause it's the RIGHT thing to do), but grim and gritty has gone a bit too far, you know?

For my money, one of the best new comic series of the last several years was New Frontier by Darwyn Cooke. Of course it had to be set during the golden age of superheroes, since it wouldn't be believeable in the modern age, right? I mean we live in a time where it's ok to have a villain beat a hero's sidekick to death with a crowbar, shoot the daughter of a cop and paralyze her, rape a hero's wife and murder her or shoot a hero in the head. Or for that matter, heroes are allowed to snap a villain's neck on national television or shoot each other in the back! All this and more has actually happened in comics folks - you're damn right, biff, pow, comics AREN'T for kids anymore. I wouldn't let my preteen (if I had one) anywhere near them. In fact, in conversation with a fellow comic reader, I espoused this philosophy and the response?

"It makes me angry that I'd have to give up my superheroes, for kids!"


Think about that - THERE is the problem. What if the silver age creators had the same mandate - let's get rid of the comics code and make our superheroes more adult. What would the current generation of readers have grown up reading?

Probably not comics.

Comics are back in the spotlight for the first time in a long time. Barack Obama is on the cover of Amazing Spider-man and Dark Knight rules at the box office. But really, how many adults actually want to read about Superheroes? Comics aren't for kids anymore, but as far as Marvel and DC goes, maybe they should be. Maybe Bill is right, and superheroes have lost a bit of their heroism. Maybe it's a trend we should embrace, the idea that Robert Kirkman proposed, that mainstream superheroes - the one still very very prominently featured on underoos, lunchboxes and in toystores everywhere - should be written and drawn for kids. Or if not for kids exactly (no kid really wants to be talked down to) then for All Ages. One of the best comics of last year, in my humble opinion, was All Star Superman. The unfortunate title acronym aside, here was a comic that, in tone, reminded me why I started reading comics in the first place. Not women in refrigerators or getting shot through the chest with an arrow, but good old fashion super HEROICS. Let's try that for awhile and see if we can expand the audience. What do you say?

So, in summary, yeah, let's have brighter superheroes. We tried grim and gritty and it nearly sank the industry (what with the multiple covers and "collectability" that went with it). Let's save that for other, more adult genres and we can save superheroes (at least the mainstream ones from Marvel and DC) for the kids.

What do YOU think?

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