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Saturday, March 14, 2015 

Scott Shaw's let down by modern extremism

Cartoonist Shaw attended the Lexington Comics and Toy Convention, and he told how disappointed he is with the extremely bleaker vision employed by today's writers and artists, including the hatchet job they did with Captain Carrot & His Amazing Zoo Crew, which he'd created in 1982 with Roy Thomas:
To Shaw's dismay, DC recently revived his furry hero as "Captain K'Rot ... a psychotic, booze-swilling rabbit" that seeks revenge on the villain who ripped off his leg and turned it into a good-luck charm.

The darker tone reflects the comics industry's modern approach — superhero stories aimed at men who grew up on violent video games, depicting rape, maiming and murder. In DC's Batman comics, for instance, several Robins have been killed, including one adolescent girl shown tortured to death with power tools.
And that last act took place in the Batman crossover called War Games, where Stephanie Brown was maimed by Black Mask in Robin #130 back in 2004, written by Bill Willingham. There were at least two Robins wiped out - Jason Todd and Damien Wayne, the former in an awkward publicity stunt with a telephone vote, and the latter by a mutated clone or something.
There's not much in a comic book shop anymore that's appropriate for children, which is ridiculous, Shaw said. He still works on kid-friendly comics, but there aren't many left, he says, and they don't pay well.

"I hate the fact that everything has to be so extreme now,"
Shaw says.

"We may think these characters are really interesting when they're facing so-called 'adult situations.' But in the comic books — maybe not so much the movies — these are still characters meant for children. When somebody picks up a Batman comic and says 'You know, my nephew will like this, he likes Batman,' except DC just did this story where the Joker's face is cut off with a razor blade and he's on a quest to get it sewn back on — that's so sick. I'm against censorship, but c'mon, there's such a thing as judgment. We're ruining it for the kids."
Absolutely correct. I'm glad to find another veteran speaking out, but he and others like him still have to take the next big step - condemning the modern hacks by name, and that means publishers, editors and writers for starters. Artists can count too if they're blatant about the visuals they concocted.

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Good grief. Now even the "funny animal" genre has to be grimdark?

What's next? A Looney Tunes comic with Daffy Duck as a Gulf War veteran who goes berserk from PTSD and becomes a serial killer? Porky Pig comes home and finds Petunia murdered and stuffed into a refrigerator? Elmer Fudd as a hit man hired by the evil military-industrial complex to assassinate President Bugs Bunny? (Well, Bugs has big ears and a snarky attitude, which seem to be considered qualifications for the job these days.)

"I hate the fact that everything has to be so extreme now."

Shaw is right. One reason (out of several) that the medium is dying is its total lack of variety. As recently as the late 1970's, there were different comics for different age groups, and for different tastes. Super-heroes, funny animals, westerns, war, romance, science fiction. Now, not only is the medium dominated by one genre (costumed super hero), but by one style: grim-and-gritty.

That doesn't seem to be the case with other entertainment media. Often, there are fads and trends (a lot of TV Westerns in the late 1950's, spy-fi movies and TV series in the mid-1960's, cops and private detectives in the 1970's), but there are still different genres represented.

And even when one genre is over-done, there is still some variety in style and tone. With TV westerns, for example, "Gunsmoke" and "Bonanza" were character-driven drama, "Wild Wild West" was action-adventure, and "Maverick" was often tongue-in-cheek. There were also Westerns specifically for kids, e.g., "The Lone Ranger" and "The Roy Rogers Show."

Similarly, with the detective shows, some were serious drama, some were action-oriented, some were funny, and so on.

With TV, if you don't like grim drama, you can watch a comedy instead of "Law & Order." If you don't like sports, you can change the channel and watch a soap opera.

With comics, if you don't like grimdark superheroes, you will have to look for your entertainment in some other medium. Or, at the very least, at some publisher other than DC and Marvel.

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