Comic Books—The Way They Are Today
COMIC books have come a long way from the crude line drawings and simplistic writing that filled early issues. Today, the artwork is even praised in some circles. And a more sophisticated writing style may send readers on an occasional scramble for the dictionary.
The biggest change, however, is the fact that the superheroes must battle not only their comic foes but also the pervasive influence of television. A recently published study entitled “Television and Behavior” reveals that TV’s power to captivate a young audience is formidable indeed. How, then, do the comics contend with this potent competitor?
One innovation was to serialize the stories—hooking the reader into keeping up with each installment. A recent issue of Rom, for example, tells an engrossing tale and ends when the superhero, Rom, and a companion from the lost continent of Atlantis are threatened by an awesome monster. What next? You must read the next issue to find out!
To sustain the interest of today’s TV saturated youths, comics have had all but to ignore their “codes” and give readers large doses of violence. One issue of Daredevil comics (about a blind superhero who wears a devil costume) was found to be violent in 53 percent of its panels. When Daredevil fights, a realistic, blow-by-blow depiction is drawn, punctuated with ‘sound effects.’ (“Whok,” “Klugg,” “Kangg,” “Chudd,” and “Thwakk,” to name a few.) And since skintight leotards are the standard garb for superheroes, readers can gape at rippling muscles. (Female superheroes are clad no less seductively.) It should be no surprise, then, that advertisers for muscle building and martial-arts courses often pick the comics to display their wares.
The religious and the occult are also comic-book attractions. For example, one issue of Thor begins on a pseudo-Biblical note: “In the beginning was the void. As time passed, matter grew within the void, and the matter formed stars, and the stars formed planets . . . The air above the earth crackled with power and life-energy . . . until the energy itself became aware of its own awesome potency.” From here on the reader is drawn into a tale of mythological gods and goddesses.
Writers also have a way of subtly working religious ideas such as the transmigration of the soul into their story lines. In one issue of Daredevil, a dead woman is resurrected by a mysterious man who nonchalantly says regarding the miracle, “Yeah. Tricky Stuff.” Comics with names like Ghost Rider and I . . . Vampire! show that some publishers want to cash in on the current fascination with the occult.
Even promoters of pornography have found the comic medium a handy way to display nudity and erotic behavior. Many of these obscene “comics” can find their way into the hands of children.
Naturally, not all comic books and strips are degrading. Neither are they all read merely by children. Hundreds of millions of adults follow the comics in their favorite newspapers. In the Philippines many—including adults—rent a comic book for a few cents and read it near the sales kiosk before handing it back. In Spain it is common on the Madrid or Barcelona Metro (subway) to see adults reading comic books.
One popular French series is published as a comic book in at least 18 languages. This is “Astérix,” a diminutive and fearless Celtic warrior who gets himself involved in all kinds of adventures in his travels across the ancient Roman Empire. The Encyclopædia Britannica says: “‘Astérix,’ besides being simply humorous and adventurous, indulges in sophisticated puns, witty anachronisms, and satirical flashes that have endeared the strip to millions of adult Europeans.”
However, it is undoubtedly true that many comics are designed primarily for children and are unwholesome, dealing in occultism, sadism, horror or gratuitous violence. Does that mean that concerned parents should forbid their children to read all comics?
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Some comics devote more than half their contents to violent scenes
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Many comic books portray sex and the occult