Jewish World Review Dec. 4, 2001 / 19 Kislev, 5762

Ian Shoales

Ian Shoales
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The future of comic books -- IN 1954, a Dr. Frederick Wertham published a book called THE SEDUCTION OF THE INNOCENT, which laid out the sinister influence comic books were exerting, in the author's learned opinion, upon our nation's young. Hearings ensued, the congressional kind.

In the furor that followed, the beleaguered comic book industry created the Comics Code Authority, to police itself from further alleged tastelessness and federal observation thereof. That spelled the end, alas, for gibbering demons, mindless zombies, and gory tales of revenge.

The Comics Code ushered in an age of wholesome superheroes and flamboyant villains; Superman and Batman ruled that roost in the fifties. Then in the early sixties Marvel Comics introduced the concept of moody superheroes-- the Fantastic Four, Spiderman, Iron Man, The Hulk, etc. They were still wholesome, mind you, but they also had, ah, emotional issues. They struck a certain resonance with the troubled youth of the era, mostly boys, of course, and mostly future video game programmers.

Ah, those were the days-- the days, in fact, when boys actually read comic books. Today's boys don't hang out at the comic book store. They're slouching with their homies, yakking on cell phones, playing videogames, and listening to Eminem whine about the burdens of being famous.

In response to a growing cultural indifference, in September of 2001 Marvel Comics ditched the Comics Code in favor of a system more akin to the movie ratings system. Most of the Marvel line will remain the same, but some new titles contain profanity and more explicit violence.

Archie Comics has said that it will continue to uphold the Comics Code, bless its checkered red head. Still, the recent cinematic version of JOSIE AND THE PUSSYCATS did not perform as well as expected, so my hunch is that Riverdale will more closely resemble Dawson's Creek sooner rather than later.

Mark my words. Abandonment of moral codes in the comics realm will continue. Jughead will take off his silly hat, get a tattoo, and become a vegan. Superman will becomes addicted to red kryptonite. The Fantastic Four will lurch out of retirement, although the Invisible Woman will want more recognition. Reed Richards and Plastic Man will have a breakdown, and lose the ability to stretch. Dr. Doom's dotcom will go belly up. After cosmetic surgery, the Hulk and the Thing will join the World Wrestling Federation. The X Men will change their name to the X People.

Like evil twins, alternative universes will spread like weeds, I predict. In one of these universes, perhaps, gory tales of revenge and ravening zombies will flourish once again.

In another, Bizarro Superman will once again emerge. Archie will once again drift from Betty to Veronica. Jughead will wolf down hamburgers like there's no tomorrow, and a Robin-free Batman will maintain his lonely vigil above Gotham City, guarding against "edginess," wherever it rears its hip little backward-baseball cap-wearing head.

One can only hope.

JWR contributor Ian Shoales is the author of, among others, Not Wet Yet: An Anthology of Commentary. Comment by clicking here.


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© 2001, Ian Shoales