Friday, December 29, 2006


Upon reading Steve Bennett's latest "Confessions of a Comic Book Guy" column at ICv2, it's hit me that I'm a (40+ year-old) tween.

Here's how Bennett defines what we want:
Although today's kids are increasingly exposed to more adult material, they still have a need to feel safe, making them seek out material innocuous and reassuring, explaining the success of such inoffensive fare as the Suite Life of Zack and Cody and That's So Raven. They certainly seem to be hungry for stories about (relatively) ordinary kids in situations that reflect upon their hopes and fears - and doesn't that sound more than a little like what Archie Comics has been doing for decades? With a little tweaking the company is uniquely situated to provide kids with the sort of innocent romance (in, not surprisingly, close to a manga format) that tweens now crave.
In assessing whether DC or Marvel is meeting the demands of us tweens, Bennett concludes that they're just not:
DC has a sixteen year old Supergirl reconfigured by Joe Kelly (a talented writer whose work I intellectually appreciate but can't say I often actually enjoy) as a Satanic Teenage Time Bomb. And Marvel fifteen year old X-23, a teen girl Wolverine clone who up until recently was an assassin and part time prostitute who wears black leather bondage gear. I can understand why both publishers haven't tried to appeal to an audience that isn't there (yet); but can't help feeling uncomfortable seeing underage female characters being treated in such demeaning, sexualized ways. Sometimes it really does seem like both publishers are doing their best to appeal to perverts and get the lead spot on tonight's edition of the 700 Club.
Just for the record, in Supergirl #13 Kelly may have pulled the character out of her Satanic Time Bomb spiral. Whether it's enough, though, is still up in the air.

Bennett next goes on to address what he'd like to see in the future, and I found myself in perfect agreement:
So, what do I want? In the ... Wall Street piece [that discussed the Archie re-vamp] there's a quote from Archie chairman Michael I. Silberkleit about the various ways their characters are drawn that I'd like to share with you:

"Why are there seven different Chevrolets? There's one that people like this way and one that people like that way."

Meaning, this isn't an either or situation, you can have classic and post-modern versions of characters existing side by side with each other. DC is already selectively practicing this. To appeal to the mainstream super-hero reader there's the Trial of Shazam Captain Marvel and for everyone else there's Jeff Smith's upcoming rendition of the classic incarnation. It'll probably come as no surprise that I prefer the utter wish fulfillment of the original, but until a lot more kids start coming into Dark Star [his comic shop] I can't ignore the way copies of Trial of Shazam has been flying off our shelves.

If you want to do a dark Supergirl, fine, just so long as somewhere there's one who, you know, might actually appeal to girls. Say a Supergirl with a manga style story that focuses more on Linda Lee Danvers and her cat than super-heroics, or a version of X-23 where she's the strange new Goth girl at school with the terrible secret who slowly learns to reach out past her pain (anyone who says girls could never enjoy the fantasy of a character who "cuts loose" the way boys do hasn't an inkling just how mean and vindictive your average teen-age girl can be).

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