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Comic books in children’s media

I love comic books and I think they can be adapted for children, but there is a line.

captain-america-darth-vader-super-friends

I grew up on all sorts of violent media:  He-Man, Thundercats, Transformers, GI Joe… if I was watching it, someone was getting punched in the face.  Of course, I also loved comic books (and still do), but adapting this sort of thing to a story book is tricky.  The biggest stumbling block is that story books are generally the sort of thing that, for this particular age group, are a shared experience between parents and children, and it doesn’t need to be an uncomfortable experience.

GETTING IT WRONG:

Captain America, The First Avenger:  The Great Escape

This novelization of the movie of the same name only encapsulates one scene – when Cap finds out that his best friend from home, Bucky, has been captured by the Nazis.  (I know the ‘N’ word doesn’t get tossed around a lot in the movie, but that’s what they are… and, if you think about it, they’re sorta Super Nazis!)   Just look at this page:

Captain-America-The First-Avenger-The-Great-Escape

When I show this to people, they don’t even read the entire page before they look up and say, “This is ridiculous,” or “Is this real?  Did you photoshop this?”  Do you want to explain to your kid what a casualty list is?  I think not.  I love Captain America and he’s a great role model for kids (although fictional characters shouldn’t really be role models for kids), but this is going too far.

Star Wars:  The Story of Darth Vader

Because the kids have got to learn about Darth Vader somehow, right?  Better that it comes from you and they don’t pick it up on the streets.  That way, when they have to confront Darth Vader in their daily lives, it’ll be in its proper context.  Stuff like this:

darth-vader-chocking-episode-4

"Proper context THIS!"

Children’s literature needs more images like this.  Remember kids, train yourself to let go of all that you fear to lose, or you’ll end up like THIS!  THIS!!!

GETTING IT RIGHT:

DC Super Friends:  Heroes United

Ah, here we go:

aquaman-and-kids

See, this is how it’s done – get together with Aqua Man and go tubing!  Hooray!!

I’m not sensitive and I don’t have kids, but some of this stuff is too much.  Often, I find that we insulate  kids too much from experiences that would help them grow (modern playgrounds are a good example of this), but the fall of Anakin Skywalker probably doesn’t need to get added to the story book shelf.

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About Jamie Insalaco

Jamie Insalaco is the author of CreativeJamie.com and BomberBanter.com

Posted on September 9, 2011, in comic book reviews and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 6 Comments.

  1. I’ll speak from experience.

    My kid reads comics (vetted by me first of course). She has the DC Super Friends book you showed. She also has the entire X-BABIES run. She watches movies with me. (We’re watching ROCKY as I type this) She understands the concepts of good guys and bad guys. She even ‘knows about’ death. (Can’t say she fully understands it.) She’s 3 and a half.

    We’ve had this philosophy, even before we had the kid that, if you talk down to them and treat kids like morons… odds are they’ll grow up to be morons. Give them the same kind of respect you’d give an adult, make an attempt to explain things, maybe with some omissions and simplification for now… (they’ll put the rest together as they get older and understand more about it) and bingo bango!

    Parents have a way of sheltering their kids, to extremes that it becomes like hiding things in life, or even lying to them about how the world really is. Without realizing that when the truth dawns, on top of being less prepared to handle it, the kids end up losing a little respect for the parents for keeping it from them, and are more drawn to subject material that, thus far has been unheard of. (the whole forbidden fruit thing)

    Obviously I’m not gonna pop in INGLORIOUS BASTERDS for her, or even begin to explain the BLACKEST NIGHT event… but I think baby steps helps. Especially with such adult content in movies these days. I see some of these Disney/Pixar films and wonder if kids are actually getting some of the jokes, or if it goes over their heads… because it’s the kind of humour I expect from ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT or something.

    • I think you made great choices. Those DC Super Hero books look fine to me – maybe a little too sheltered. However, I don’t know if I’d give a 4 yr old a book featuring a photo of a guy choking another guy to death – y’know?

      • He’s a bully. Darth Vader is a bully. He bullies Princess Leia, who does the right thing and tells an adult: Obi Wan Kenobi. Who then confronts Vader with his son, and then Vader becomes a good boy. Simple. (We leave out the part about Kenobi using Vader to commit suicide… until the kid’s 10.)

        It’s all about simplifying it in terms they can understand.

      • I hear ya, but doesn’t that picture go a little farther than necessary?

  2. Oh of course. I was just joking. Slightly.

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