“Just because it’s bright and beautiful, doesn’t mean it isn’t suitable for an older audience!” Charlie Says: why you should give all-ages comics a try
“Gather round! Gather round! Today we’re going to look at all-age comics and why they’re beautiful and wonderful and address the fact that you’re probably not reading enough of them.” Columnist Charlie Says looks at why all ages books should be for everyone and not just for kids.
Age certificates are a long debated topic for all types of media and this does include comic books. But while parents may make use of them to make sure their young, young children aren’t exposed to themes until they’re ready, there are actually adults who won’t go near an all-ages rated comic book with a barge pole.So why is this?
Search me, I read all sorts, age certificates be damned – from Itty Bitty Hellboy at one end to Bitch Planet at the other! So could it be because it’s not “adult” enough?
But what does “adult” even mean in our current-day world? There are all-ages comic books out there that just are just as engaging and satisfying as any of these so-called ‘adult’ titles it’s just that the chances of hyper-violence and exploding body parts in an all-ages comic is going to be zilch!
Take Lumberjanes for example: it’s based in a summer camp of the same name and revolves around five friends: April, Jo, Ripley, Molly and Mal. Weird shenanigans happen, but it’s all blended together with themes of friendship and feminist undertones. Why has this brightly coloured, simplistic comic book captured so many hearts and minds? Because of the stories and character development – and having a mostly all-female cast helps too. but at it’s core it’s because it’s an all-ages comic book – read it yourself, read it to to little ones (and teach them some life lessons!) and read it to your grandmother too.
And that’s what’s really nice about an all-age comics. There’s absolutely no chance that you’re going to turn the page and be confronted by something that’s going to trigger you. How many times have we flicked through the odd comic book at the store only to come across some double-page spread of hyper-violence or sexual content that has left us with a knot in our stomach and feeling quite ill? Too many times I tell you! Sometimes we need something a bit fluffy that isn’t going to make us face our deepest darkest fears because the world is deep and dark enough on a daily basis.
That isn’t to say that every single comic book needs to be suitable for an all-ages audience. Sometimes we need to examine some graphic themes; in fact it’s healthy to acknowledge the failings of our modern society so that we can change and grow as people and maybe even gain closure about events in our own lives. Take Marvel’s Jessica Jones for example, tackling the theme of rape and consent. While it is expressed through the medium of superheroes – fantastical and escapist – it’s still examining some very real, very awful events that happen on a day-to-day basis, maybe even to people that we know. But it’s a conversation we as a society need to have and to acknowledge and sometimes the only way to do that is to be blunt and upfront about the issues we’re trying to explore – by giving these characters their own voices and letting them tell their story their way so we can start to come to terms with what’s happened, or even start to understand what other people have gone through. Because the most terrifying thing about Kilgrave is that he is a very real-life villain. There are people out there who are just as manipulative without the need for mind control. Marvel has created a villain that people may have encountered in their day-to-day lives without realising it until it’s too late.
Of course that isn’t going to sit right with children, no matter how mature they may be for their age. And let’s be totally honest here: there are some things that children should not have to deal with at all. Not that we should be blanketing them in cotton wool either. But! It’s good to have variety and choice when it comes to comic books for adults – but just because it’s bright and beautiful and aimed at a younger audience doesn’t mean it isn’t for an older one. So put away your adult comic books and find something a little bit different to read!
Purchase Lumberjanes from ComiXology