Thursday, March 27, 2008

Good Comics are like Homeschooling

What happened to my Saturday morning cartoons? All of my favorite superheroes are growing younger! I’m all for updating, I know I can’t look back. My favorite comic book characters needed to be modified to compete in today’s market. But why does everyone have to be the same age?

I think The Uncanny X-Men were what got me hooked on comics. They had just introduced a character named Kitty Pryde, a thirteen year old girl with an incredible power of being able to walk through walls. I identified with Kitty. I was around the same age, and I loved the fact that she got to hang out with all of these cool grown-up characters. Kitty and I grew up together. I never missed an issue, always checking the newsstand on my way home from school. The comics had good stories and the characters were three dimensional. Over the years, up until I was in college, I enjoyed many comic books, but the story lines became more depressing and dark and the prices made them a luxury. I gradually dropped all the titles I had enjoyed.

I also watched my share of cartoon superheroes. The original Justice League, Blackstar, Ulysses 31, He-Man and She-Ra, Voltron, The Amazing Spiderman and friends, Static Shock, there were so many. My favorite X-Men cameoed in some of the Marvel cartoons before appearing in their own series. The first X-Men series tried to stay true to the comic book, but they removed my favorite character, replacing her with Jubilee. Even with comic books the film adaptations seem to be less than satisfying. The last series, X-Men Evolution, began the next trend in retooling superheroes—almost everyone became teenagers. This trend continues today on Spiderman and even Chase’s favorite, Yu-Gi-Oh, was retooled with a younger cast of characters. Superheroes appear to age backwards!

I wondered about this. Are today’s teens so wrapped up in themselves that they can’t handle a mixed age group? How can you have role models if everyone is the same age? And then it occurred to me. This is what they live. I am seeing my superheroes taken over by the school model!

School groups sometimes come to play at the park where we have Nature Class. It’s interesting to see the contrast. The homeschoolers are a mixed bag of ages from toddlers to teens. They all run around together, looking out for the younger ones. In the school group, the children were all approximately the same height, similarly dressed, being directed in their games by a teacher. Put them in superhero suits and you have today’s cartoon heroes.

Somehow, these new heroes seem to know what they’re doing, even though most of them are under the age of twenty. I guess they grew up fast without adult supervision. In any event, I don’t find them as interesting as the multi-aged spectrum of my classic super teams.

Even in the comic world, I prefer the homeschooling model.


Inner Elder said...

There's another dimension to your observation. Now you know how I feel! Emphasis in all media is on youth - unless you're advertising Depends. Of course, I think of you - and most of the world - as young. Here comics, advertising, TV and movie stories, etc. are really missing out on appeal to the fastest growing segment of the population. Wonder when they'll get it. I do like your multi-age approach. Maybe that's a less ageist way to go. Love, MOm

Spinneretta said...

I agree... they ARE growing younger. I got my kids hooked on He-Man and She-Ra btw ;)
And comics! My parents next door neighbour drew for Shatner's Tek World, and has done Superman and Robocop and X-Men... (at least those were the ones he gave us to read ;)) and now he does Dr. Who!

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