We’re back with yet another instalment of Respawning’s Let’s Talk series, where every Friday we get every one of our charismatic writers together to discuss a new topic!
After the massive success of Amazon’s The Boys we’ve decided to tackle adult themes in comics!
I’m all for anything comic book to be honest, but when we get treated to something that pushes it to an 18 rating there’s just something inside me that can”t get enough of it. In comic books those that kill do so violently, read any Wolverine comic and there’ll be at least 10 people getting dismembered, so it does please me when our TV screens can adapt this.
I’ve personally been a really big fan of shows such as Punisher and Titans that make things a bit more brutal and violent, in fact there were scenes in Punisher that made me cringe in excitement. Now we’ve got The Boys which pushes the boundaries of EVERYTHING and deserves the hype it’s getting. Give me more!
I am a HUGE Garth Ennis and Frank Miller fan and I genuinely believe that anything they touch can turn from shit into Gold. To the point where I genuinely believe the ONLY time Ghost Rider was any good was when Ennis had a run in it.
Preacher is hands down my favourite Graphic Novel of all time and I believe Ennis’ finest works. Everything about Preacher appealed to me at my time of reading it in my late teens it was something I thought that I wouldn’t like when I was older.
I was wrong.
I think it’s absolutely important we have adult themes in comics, and my decision is largely based around the existance of the Comics Code Authority.
Back in the early 1950’s, there were public concerns about gore and ‘questionable content’ in comics (Particularly, Horror and Crime comics). This lead to bans and even comic burnings around the United States. In order to restore the public’s faith in the industry, the Comics Magazine Association of America decided to regulate themselves: The Comics Code Authority.
The regulations set out were incredibly thorough: To name a few rules, criminals were not to be sympathetic; the law must never be portrayed poorly; good must always triumph over evil; there is to be no gore or bloodshed; supernatural entities are banned; vulgarity and smut are not to be included; and matters of sex are to be completly absent.
The Comics Code Authority (or CCA as it became to be known), was voluntary in theory, but mandatory in practice – Those unabiding by it were often unable to be stocked at retailers, effectively killing them or shoving them underground. The enforcement of these guidelines was excessive as well: Marv Wolfman was initially unable to have his name associated with his comics for a time, because the name was suggestive of a werewolf, aka the supernatural.
As time went on, writers found themselves stagnant and hampered, treating the Comics Code Authority with increasing contempt. This culminated with a situation in the early 70’s, in which Stan Lee was tasked with the creation of an anti-drug comic by the government, only for it to be denied approval by the CCA because it dealt with drugs. The publisher ran it regardless, and the work was regarded well by the public. From then on, slowly, but surely, drugs, sex, and further issues began to be explored, regardless of the Code; by the 90’s, the notion of the CCA was laughable, and larger names like Marvel abandoned it outright. When Archie Comics abandoned it in 2011, after years of essentially ignoring it, the CCA was effectively dead.
Sometimes regulation is important, but as we saw here, it can be taken to an extreme: The comics industry didn’t deserve to be treated as a lesser media. Adult themes absolutely deserve to be explored if the creator desires, and that should only be up to the creator’s decision, not a hand-wringing public from decades prior. The comic industry deserves to explore whatever it wants now it is free to – If something isn’t for someone, they are free to go find something that is, as is the case with books, TV, and film.
Comic Books are most definitely a really refined medium. It has every type of genre you can think of and yet people stick to supes as their main association to it. Comics just like any other medium are meant to tell stories they resonate with you and are supposed to make you feel things.
One comic that really stood out to me is actually a manga called My Lesbian Experience with Loneliness. I don’t want to give it away but it’s about sexuality, depression and anxiety. Following your dreams and just learning to love yourself. This shit hits you hard because of how human it all feels. I’d highly recommend everyone to check it out. It’s a quick read. Other comics and manga that tackle heavier themes that go unnoticed are Homunculus (Manga), Oyasumi PunPun (Manga) and Seconds by Bryan Lee O’Malley. Comics are great GO READ THEM
Ah, who remembers the golden age of comics? Dark, gritty, violent. Exploring all sorts of macabre and sensitive subject matter. Personally I love it, and I don’t think today’s comics, the Bronze Age as it’s known, can really hold a candle to what once was. I mean, I have a good few rather violent comics, I love them, I think it’s just what the world needs to harden some skin up. People these days are offended by a lot, maybe we need more dark themes like we see in comics. Maybe.
Although I’ve become completely and utterly despondent with the franchise the first answer that shot to my head was The Walking Dead. I got into these comics a little late, not long after season one of the TV series had aired in fact, but it wasn’t long until I was completely caught up and well ahead of the show. Although entirely in black and white, TWD was able to capture gore and violence like nothing else I had seen in a comic book at that time. The entire thing always felt tense and shocking. Gruesome deaths seemed to come out of nowhere and it always felt like nobody was safe. I’ll never forget my guttural reaction to turning the page and seeing what was left of little Carl’s face after taking a gunshot to the eye or the pure anger I felt when the governor sliced Tyreese’s head clean off.
The sad thing is that I never did carry on to the end, I’m not sure why because I genuinely loved the comics. Maybe it’s a knock-on effect from growing to hate the show or maybe just zombie fatigue. Either way, I hope I find time to catch up and finish the gruesome tale some day soon.
I’ve never been much for “adult” comics. Closest I’ve ever come to fully investing in one would be Watchmen during the height of its movie hype. Besides that I’ve got to say I don’t have much of a stomach for the gratuitous violence or sexual themes these comics are known for. It’s not that I’m squeamish or anything. I just can’t get behind heroes who use too much violence! I love me a wholesome hero! Prime example is Preacher. Luke recommended the series and comic to me so many times I finally decided to give it a go. I can see the appeal of something like that, but it’s just not for me! Same reason I struggle to get invested in heroes like Punisher and Red Hood. I think they’re really cool but the violence they deal in just doesn’t do it for me! For god’s sake I’m a Green Lantern and Flash fan boy!
For me, I’ve always been more interested in the horror of Manga as opposed to Comics – The artistry at play to create these horrid, horrid nightmares on print is something truly brilliant, and I wouldn’t ever wish for these stories to ever go away; my thoughts on adult themes in comics, wether it be horror, sex, drugs, abuse or other touchy subjects is – in my mind – an inevitability and a neccessity for every art form in the world. Junji Ito wouldn’t be the horror powerhouse he is without dipping into the deep end of the taboo; at the same time, Hideaki Ano wouldn’t have seen his rise to fame if he hadn’t themed Evangelion around the crushing weight of depression, sex, self-deprication, abuse and existentialism, yet it’s one of Japan’s most popular – and prevelant – franchises in history.
Here’s to you adult themes in comics. Here’s to you.