||01-19-2012 10:49 AM
DC v. DC Comics
Relaunched Comics Using Sex and Violence To Sell
“Do you want to have sex?” she says propositioning her boyfriend’s pal, and later says, “Love has nothing to do with it.”
FOX News DC has called out the relaunched DC Comics for the content of its books, introducing the story with the lead-in, “Graphic violence and sex: that’s what you’ll find in the pages of DC Comics today.”
WASHINGTON - Most people think of comic books for kids, but many of today's comics are anything but that. Turn the pages of DC Comics now and you will find plenty of blood, sex and violence. It is part of an edgy makeover that has caused controversy among some comic fans.
DC Comics' characters include the likes of Batman, Wonder Woman and Superman. Today, some of these superheroes would make Archie and Veronica blush.
"They more or less darkened the characters up. Today, they introduce a lot more reality into it like homosexuality, adultery, all that stuff. It's in the books now," said comic collector Joe Blackwell.
He started reading comics when he was eight years old, but they didn't look like the ones in stores now. There is Batman and Catwoman having sex on the rooftop, a drunken Bruce Wayne, and graphic images of blood-splattered battles with heads chopped off.
"It's sort of like a fictionalized Playboy for kids at its worst," said Neil Bernstein, Ph.D., a child psychologist and author of "How to Keep Your Teenager Out of Trouble."
Critics worry the once family friendly genre has gone too far. Psychologists point out the overexposure to sex and violence for young children can encourage aggression.
"I think too many kids would be put in harm's way or at risk," Bernstein said.
The female characters are more sexualized. One of the most noticeable transformations is Starfire. The character goes from a kids Cartoon Network superhero in a full-length jumpsuit to a scantily clad, voluptuous version in the comic Red Hood and the Outlaws. This Starfire is shown in a barely there bikini or the equivalent of pasties over her breasts and a thong.
"Do you want to have sex?" she says propositioning her boyfriend's pal, and later says, "Love has nothing to do with it."
It is these kind of images and suggestive language that concern Bernstein.
"It's a misrepresentation of reality. It sends the wrong message," he said.
Relationships are portrayed as one night stands with rampant promiscuity. The treatment of women is more misogynistic.
"We want our kids to think sex is an act between two consenting mature individuals who care deeply for one another. That doesn't really come across and it's too easily to misconstrue things particularly for a kid," Bernstein said.
The changes to DC comics appear to mirror the changes on the big screen. Remember the original Batman TV series? The superhero defeated the villains without a drop of blood shed. Fake punches came with a "Kapow" across the screen. Compare that to 2008’s Batman: The Dark Knight. In the comic world, that sells.
"I think they're definitely trying to push the envelope, get people's attention with it," said Jared Smith, President of Big Planet Comics.
He sells hundred of titles at his Vienna, Va. comic book store, some for adults, some for kids. The re-launch of DC Comics he says drew a lot of attention. Sales surged for the new editions. A lot was driven by the hype, but sales he says have since leveled off. Many liked what they saw, but some turned off fans stopped buying.
"It made a lot of people unhappy with it or it was something they just didn't want to read," Smith said.
These types of changes seem to be cyclical with comics to drive up sales. Smith says DC Comics had fallen behind its main rival Marvel and wanted to make a big change. In the last five years, he said DC Comics has gone from a more "lighthearted" comic that is "fun adventure for everyone" to one that is "much more violent, and in some cases, much more graphic in the violence."
DC Comics was contacted for the story, but would not discuss its reasons for the re-launch or the content of its books. In a presentation, Smith says DC Comics "described what they were trying to do was to boost their sales, but they also wanted to bring back some old readers who may not read comics anymore, but also attract new people who have never read comics."
Based on his sales, Smith says the company was successful at getting lapsed readers to come back, but not necessarily bring in new comic fans.
DC Comics uses a voluntary rating system, like others in the industry. It serves as a guideline for buyers and there is no requirement that stores enforce it. The racier more graphic comics are rated teen (T) or teen plus (T+). That means they are not meant for young kids to read.
Middle schoolers who saw the comics had mixed reaction on the age appropriateness of the images.
"There's a lot of sexual activity," Diego Meneses said immediately after looking at an edition of Catwoman.
Under the guidelines, Catwoman's rating is T+. Meneses said you should be at least 16 years old to read it.
Marguerita Garcia's jaw dropped when she took one look at the comics.
"Scary," she said.
Garcia has an 11-year-old daughter who likes to read comics. She says parents need to be aware of what their kids are watching and reading. As for these comics, she said "I think it's too much even for 15."
Another 12-year-old didn't flinch at the images in Batman Detective Comics with the Joker's bloody head pinned to the wall.
"It looks pretty awesome. It has a lot of colors … It's pretty creepy to look at, but not too much," he said.
The content of the teen and teen plus rated comics seem contradictory to the audience targeted by the advertising inside. The images of bloodied bodies and sex scenes are accompanied by ads for Legos and milk.
"Why are we advertising for little kids in a comic book that's rated for mature teens? What's wrong with this?" asked Dr. Bernstein.
At Big Planet Comics, Smith points parents who come looking to the kids section. The more mature DC Comics he tells them are not for young readers.
"There was definitely a shift on some of them towards a much more R-rated type of comic book," Smith said.
Don't expect that to change. DC comics is banking this is the future.