In Comic Books for Parents: Part I, I submitted a short history of comic books and described how they have, in the fullest sense of the word, matured. For those parents (like me) who might be concerned about the pernicious influence on their young children of comic books that are now written for adults, I would like to suggest possible ways to minimize that impact in “Comic Books for Parents, Part II”.
I used this method when my children were younger. My oldest daughter became interested in reading when she was four years of age, and it was about this time that Power Girl got pregnant and it wasn’t immediately obvious if it was Green Lantern or Aquaman. I considered that this might not be the best role model for a young girl. Don’t ask me who the father was because I stopped buying comic books for that reason, but I kept them in my study in case they became valuable. As the years passed and my family grew, I discovered that my oldest son was sneaking into my study, removing comic books from their location, and tucking them under his bed to avoid parental detection. (Obviously, he failed.) To remove the temptation they obviously held for him, I divested myself of my collection at a loss, and what didn’t sell I donated to the local library.
Forbidding comic books is actually easier to do now because of the change in our economics. In fact, you don’t even need to take a stand. The old neighborhood “5 and dime” stores that displayed comic books on revolving racks have all but disappeared. Your 10-year-old is unlikely to have any store within walking distance that sells comic books. If you don’t want to go to a comic book store, you’re the one who can drive and you can just say “no”.
Of course, you have no idea what the neighborhood friends might be sharing with your children, but the impact of adult comic book situations and language will be minimized.
This might sound the same as “forbid”, but it’s not. Some of the older comic books are now available in “graphic novel” form, and many of them are, to be frank, “G-rated” and have nothing more objectionable than superheroes pounding on the super-villains until the good guys win. Some stores, like 2nd and Charles sell older comic books and graphic novels at discounted prices.
While some older comic books are expensive because of age and scarcity, not all of them will break the bank, especially if you tell your children to save their pennies and they can buy what they want — as long as the comic has the Approved by the Comics Code Authority sticker on it. Some of the Marvel graphic novel comic collections may have suggested ages on the back cover, too, but these can be unreliable. If graphic novels are collections of older comics or a comic book has the Approved by the Comics Code Authority sticker, you can almost be assured that profanity and sexual situations will be nonexistent or at a bare minimum. The older the comic book is, the more assurance you can have.
As my boys got older (my girls weren’t interested in comics), this was the method I used next. They never saved their money, but I selected the comics books I thought were appropriate for their age level.
One of the problems with this method is that, as the children get older, they notice that the artwork isn’t always as breathtaking and the stories aren’t as sophisticated as modern comics. The coloring and presentation of modern comics is always superior to that of older comics because of the changes in printing technology. However, some of these older comics books are the equal of newer comics in story line and artwork. This is why collectors pay good money for them today!
As my children got older, we would talk about comic books as well as TV shows and movies. I would explain that some of the people who write them have different mores than our family. It’s amazing how parents of all stripes agree with that statement. I have spoken with both Christian conservatives and liberal secularists who would both tell me that they were concerned with the impact of our culture on their children. I remember a Democrat who called herself an “apathist” (she didn’t care if there was a God or not) who, upon learning that Stephen Bochco was creating another TV show that would “push the envelope” of what was acceptable on TV said to me, “He can push it without me.”
I explained to my children that they were, at times, reading an unconscious (or in some cases conscious) desire to undermine the morals that we’ve attempted to instill in them. It might surprise you at what age a child can understand and appreciate this, especially if you can explain why you believe that your family’s morals are better than the surrounding culture.
I haven’t yet seen the movie Batman vs. Superman, but my now 23-year-old son has and he described his disappointment with several aspects of this movie. But there is still hope. While no parent should underestimate the impact of Superman stepping into bath tub with a naked, bathing Lois Lane (who is showing enough skin to be just barely PG-13 rated to start with) and preceding to remove his clothes, neither should you underestimate your impact on the children you love. Do the script writers of Batman vs. Superman love your children? When they write a scene like that and the actors bring it to life, are they even thinking of your children? Worse, if they are considering the impact on your children, what lesson are they attempting to instill in them?
The problem we have as parents is that “forbid”, “restrict” and “educate” require a certain amount of time and energy from us when time and energy might be in short supply. And yet, we have one advantage: we love our children and want the best for them. Hollywood doesn’t know our children’s middle names, change their diapers when they are toddlers, dry their tears when bullies make fun of them in school, or help them with their homework. We do. That is love, and it gives us an advantage no one can take away from us.
So, whether you forbid, restrict, educate, or, like me, use all three methods as your children grow, you have the home court advantage. Don’t underestimate the culture, but don’t discount your impact either. It’s greater than you know.