Sunday, August 22, 2010

Comics - Not So Comical

Do you remember the days when comics were fun to read? When Superman rescued kittens from trees and Robin was just a dedicated helper for Batman?
What happened to those innocent enjoyable comics?
I love comics. If you follow my blog, you might know that I draw comics (although I'm not very good - but my heart is in it).
My daughter and I attended the 8th Annual Comics Convention in Tel Aviv,, last week.
We attended several of the lectures, including the talk on You Don't Need Superheroes. Actually, it was pretty sobering.
The superheroes of my youth were role models for young people. They stood with their heads high, because they had values that were meant to make society and the world a better place. We knew when we read a Superman, Batman, Wonderwoman, Captain America comic book that the superhero would make sure evil was destroyed and good triumphed.
But that has changed over the years.
Once upon a time, a superhero would meet with the president of the United States and say, "I am at your service, Mr. President. Please tell me how I can help." Our lecturer, Oded, explained that today's anti-superheroes walk into the president's office and say, "Listen, I'll keep things quiet for you, as long as you do this and this and this." Many superheroes aren't squeaky clean anymore.
It seems that all the innocence has been taken out of comics. You won't see Superman helping an old lady or catching some crooks in a local bank anymore. That's not big enough for him anymore. He's grown beyond that. Today Superman is battling Atomic Destruction from another cosmic plane. He's not just reverse flying around the world to go back in time and save a young woman from walking in front of a truck, he's fighting the latest mega-evil with as much devastation and blasts and ruination as possible in his wake. As they say in the newspaper business, "If it bleeds, it leads." I guess they say the same thing in the comic business.
After the convention, I spoke to my nephew, Arye, who is a talented artist, and boy does he know his comics.
We spoke about other trends in comics.
Good-bye to Comic Innocence
I told Arye that I didn't like reading modern-day comic books, because they were all dark and depressing. He explained that comics have followed along with the other trends in our modern world. The heroes and heroines wear skimpier clothing, their language is peppered with curses, and they're involved with more violence than ever.
Arye told me that, like television or film, comics are rated, but that the industry is pushing the limits so much, that there's more violence and more skin than ever.
"Comics don't have to be superb anymore," he said, as long as they've got the skin and the violence that audiences have come to crave (thanks to our perverse media).
That's very upsetting to me. It's bad enough that kids can't watch TV today because of all the adult material on the tube. They can't even pick up a comic book.
Can't we let our children remain innocent children for a little while longer? Can't we produce comics that are comical, that bring a chuckle to a kid or an adult, and do it without perversion or embarrassment.
Arye said that there are still some family comics that are drawn beautifully and that have a script worth reading. He mentioned two specifically, so I'm passing on Arye's recommendations - Lions, Tigers & Bears and the comics of Astounding Studios.

Jewish Comics
The comics I spoke about above, of course, are all comic books from America and Great Britain. I'm only now become more familiar with comic books made here in Israel. I'm happy to tell you that there are books with comics from Israel that are entertaining, well-drawn, well-scripted and both for general audiences, and even for Jewish audiences. Everyone's heard of Shai Charka and my comics teacher Shlomi Charka, and more. I'll add some names tomorrow. At least, for those of us in Israel, IY"H, I think there's hope.
Lastly, did you know that there is an Israeli Comics Museum in Holon, , I can't wait to go!!!

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