In my part of the world, comics are often considered something for kids. The colorful, cartoony style often associated with comics is one reason, another is the subject matter and the stories themselves.
But what about graphic novels such as Persepolis, Jimmy Corrigan or Blankets? That’s not for kids. Yet I often find those books on the shelves of the bookstores next to Naruto and Dragonball, or at the kids literature section at my local library.
In my podcast interview with indie comics creator Jason Little, he talks about his experience with US readers slamming his brightly colored Bee books shut when they realize there’s sex and drug abuse in them. In France it seems they are much more open to adult subject matter being tackled in a cartoony way.
The whole explicit language thing is not something I ever gave much thought in my Danish career, but in the US there are certain words (see? I can’t even write them HERE in fear of getting in trouble!) that will instantly narrow down your reader segment. Some stores won’t even order a book with explicit language! Yet the US comics scene seems to have no trouble with explicit violence! For a foreigner it’s kind of hard to figure out. I can draw a naked breast from the side – a “side boob” (is “boob” a dirty word? I don’t even know!) – but not from the front.
I can understand the want to protect our kids from foul language, but surely foul behavior should be included in this? I can chop someone’s head off in a comic, but I can’t say “shit”.
Oops, just did.
The funny thing about the US scene is that the colorful superhero comics that many associate with kids, are mostly being bought by adults(!). In Denmark, the mantra for many years has been “you want to have a succesful comic book, you have to target kids”. I never bought into this. I always followed my heart in terms of what stories I wanted to tell, then worry about the audience. Slightly naive, I know. But in my mind, comics are NOT for kids. At least not the ones I read – and certainly not the ones I make. And I wish people wouldn’t automatically assume I make stuff for kids, when I say I make comics.
So, I have a question for you: How are comics perceived where YOU’RE from?
Related podcast: Colorful Sex with Jason Little