You know, For Kids!
I don’t understand why this Jeff Parker interview is getting such a free pass around the blogosphere… I had a problem with almost everything he said (despite the fact that, yeah, he seems like a nice guy)–I mean, what the hell is this?
No longer fantasizing about flying around solving crimes and meeting dinosaurs, I tried to think about what kind of fantastic escapist adventure I could get behind. I started imagining my character, Van Meach, being able to do things I wish I could; not freeze to death, learn languages and skills rapidly, travel around the globe … stuff that seems realistic in comparison to average comics fare! I enjoyed spy fiction, and that world made a good environment for Van to run around in. I could have probably done a straight spy/espionage story since the comics community is finally warming up to that. But I think this way it works as a “bridge” book: people who are still used to reading superheroes but are ready to branch out into other genres seem to be receptive to Interman.
Again we’re in “superheroes are nothing more than escapism” territory! Now, while I don’t have a problem with people reading to escape, I do have a problem with them turning around and saying that the literature itself is “escapist”. Clearly, a text is only escapist if you make it so!
Sean Collins and Steven Berg have already spoken up to affirm that no genre is “inherently escapist/childish/stupid”. My point of entry into this discussion is the idea that superhero comics, or the majority of them, ought to be “for kids”…
More importantly–what does “for kids” really mean?
Is Dickens “for kids”? (he certainly was for me, when I was a kid!)
What about Emily Bronte? or Dashiell Hammett? (yes. yes.)
The thing is–I think we get ourselves into big trouble, and we ruin our childrens’ minds, when we ghettoize them in the “young adult section” of the bookstore/culture-at-large. What do we know about what kids want? Clearly, if Bill Sherman’s assessment of the new Marvel Age line is at all accurate (& who can doubt that it is?), nothing! The silver age Amazing Spider-Mans are protean texts–they repay whatever amount of engagement that you bring to them! They were not written with anything like today’s “teen-lit” industry’s patronizing opinion of its readers in mind (I work in a bookstore remember–believe me, the “young adult section” is DEATH!) When a mother comes in looking for a book for her 12-year old girl, and I lead her to Wuthering Heights, I get an “are you kidding me? this is too difficult” grin… However, when these 12-year olds come in by themselves, they often respond very enthusiastically to my description of the book, and they buy it! Parental/”child psychology” static is the problem here–not the child’s reception! I wish I had more time today because this subject is important to me! This glass ceiling stuff does a terrible disservice to our kids! It certainly does not do anything for them…
Good day friends!