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Wednesday, October 11, 2006 

Censorship and commercialization

I recalled seeing this entry on Groovy Age of Horror last month (via Precocious Curmudgeon), a blog that writes about the horror-thriller genre, that shows that Marvel still cannot resist getting into a controversy even within an adult vein. The focus point here is the Tomb of Dracula comics, which have had the nudity in them (the Essential compilations) censored, yet the bloodletting remains undisturbed (surprise surprise).

To make some points of my own, while it's a shame that, as one commentor at the above said, Tomb of Dracula was being sold with no age restrictions back in the day, it's also a shame that Marvel still has to screw up and do with this what they didn't have to. Consider: they have the MAX line, they could surely market the collections under that label, even if they are Essentials. DC, after all, markets some of their books that were originally under the main label in Vertigo format today, such as Swamp Thing. If it works for DC, why couldn't it work for Marvel?

That aside, this made me think of writing about a problem that's come up in the past decade:

As early as 1991, possibly due to the Batman movies, comic books - at Marvel and especially at DC, began to undergo increasing commercialization, more so than in any other decade, which is ironic for a medium that's since become marginalized. And this, I fear, may have partly been to blame for the dumbing down of comic books that's become prevalent today. Green Arrow became more of a mainstream DC title again, and even if it still did deal with human interest stories, the main fact is that it didn't have the really edgy focus that it did during the first five years. Crossover-mania is also a leading factor in the over-commercialization of comics, and in order to avoid being caught up in X-overs, series like Swamp Thing, Doom Patrol and Animal Man had to be in the Vertigo line instead (since then, two out of three of those titles or characters have found their way back into the main DCU again).

This, sadly, is one of the things that led to some of the violence-yes-but-nudity-no approach as well. Put another way, nudity is still rightly or wrongly seen as non-mainstream, whereas violence still is. It's not like there isn't any nudity in comic books, of course there's some here and there, done in both good and bad taste. And yet, is it any wonder that comics, just like the movies, have ended up in a situation where they're too adult for kids yet too juvenile for grownups?

Unless publishers are able to decide where they stand and how to market a book, the dumbing-down process will continue unperturbed.

Marvel's Tomb of Dracula Essentials are decidedly not worth the bother, because what's the point of something that thinks stabbing is okay but nudity isn't? Avoid them and you'll hopefully send a message to Quesada that even this isn't acceptable.

A few years ago, Marvel was overdoing it with violence, such as in Wolverine's series, at least until DC decided to steal the spotlight. Given that even now, there could be more than enough gratuitous violence going around, that's one more reason why the steps with Tomb of Dracula are ridiculous.

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About me

  • I'm Avi Green
  • From Jerusalem, Israel
  • I was born in Pennsylvania in 1974, and moved to Israel in 1983. I also enjoyed reading a lot of comics when I was young, the first being Fantastic Four. I maintain a strong belief in the public's right to knowledge and accuracy in facts. I like to think of myself as a conservative-style version of Clark Kent. I don't expect to be perfect at the job, but I do my best.
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