The Panel gathers movers and shakers from across the industry together to answer your questions!
Don’t miss out on your chance ask the big guns a question or two, send them in now to: firstname.lastname@example.org
Most of the Panellists should be known to you but if not, don’t panic – I’ve a few details on them at the end of the column.
This week’s question comes from Bob Murray a long time panel reader. The question is:
“Are there any subjects that shouldn’t be featured in comic books? Are there any taboos left?”
Mike Collins: “Things that shouldn’t be in comics? Klu Klux Klown. Now, is that funny, offensive, knowing or ironic? If I did a comic strip about it, would there be cries for it to be banned? If I wrote a novel would it be seen as a valid exploration of a incendiary subject? It’s a problem: Grant Morrison and Steve Yeowell got attacked in the British press for their strip about Hitler as a young man- why? It wasn’t pro-Hitler, it wasn’t sympathetic to him. It was a cleverly constructed story that used a historical icon to explore ideas. If Grant had written it as a novel, it would have received plaudits and praise but it was a comic. THAT, right there, is our problem: Comics is a medium for telling stories. I don’t want to read stories about paedophiles in comic books… but then I don’t particularly want to watch movies or read novels about them either. There should be no stories that can’t be told in comic form, just because they’re comics. If you don’t want to read the story, don’t read it. Same as TV, movies, radio plays and novels. The medium shouldn’t limit itself.”
Rick Shea: “I think Garth Ennis and Warren Ellis have proven there’s NOTHING you can’t get away with in comic books. Beyond that, Angry Youth Comix or Arsenic Lullaby are pretty offensive stuff, but just more proof that you can get away with just about anything in this great medium. I think the strength of our industry is that it’s big enough for Preacher or Filth to find an audience, but not too big so that every Church group or soccer mom comes headhunting about all the evil of comics ruining their poor children’s minds, even though these books are clearly labeled for mature readers. Although some stuff in Ennis’ Dicks or Angry Youth Comix is too much for me, there’s always going to be a market for anything, it’s just a matter of finding your audience and making sure the material is properly displayed and that Cherry isn’t put on the shelf next to Archie. So I think it’s pretty tough to find something too taboo for comics.”
Vince Moore: “There are plenty of taboos left. We’ve yet to see a hero, super or otherwise, have an incestuous relationship with his mother or sister. Although, I’m sure by my very mention of that here, someone will think that’s a cool idea and set to working on it. But, be that as it may, there are taboos aplenty left in the world. Now, should they be featured in comics? That depends mostly on the intent. If it’s for the pure shock value, then I would be against it. If there was some solid story rationale for the taboo, then I’m for it. Preacher often proved this latter point; many of the books from Verotik proved the former. The real trick is seeing how selling adult comics to adult is well on its way to becoming a crime in the good ol’ US of A, I would really do my best to avoid playing with any subjects that could get a retailer or even myself into trouble. We do live in a country where Mike Diana’s very art style has been judged to be criminal.”
Lee Dawson: “My mantra has always been comics are a medium and not a genre. To that end I think any subject can and should be featured in comics just as any subject can and should be featured in book or film mediums, or any art form for that matter. I don’t really think there are any taboos left, perhaps in the mainstream titles, but certainly underground and independent comics have explored just about everything under the sun.”
Bill Rosemann: “That’s one of the cool things about comic books: On one hand, comic books can function simply to entertain readers of all ages…on the other, like any art form, comic books can comment on any subject imaginable. So as long as they’re properly labeled — so that readers know what they’re buying, and retailers can responsibly sell them — their subject matter is only limited by the minds of their creators.”
Alan Grant:: “No. There are no subjects that shouldn’t be featured in comic books…as long as they’re contextually integrated into the story. I don’t think there are any taboos left…which I find a little sad, for some reason. However, I’m sure somebody will be along soon to expose and disrupt some new taboos.”
Devin Grayson: “Comics is a medium like short stories or TV shows, and as such, should not be restrained by genre or subject-matter. There are plenty of things I might not want to read about, but nothing that, in and of itself, “shouldn’t” be featured in a comic book. As for taboos — as far as I know, we have yet to create a States-side version of anything quite like Japan’s “Rape man” (though for that matter, we don’t have a “Tin Tin” either). As with most other media in this country, sex will probably be the last thing we truly become comfortable with, preferring adolescent titillation and the hyper-violent to – gasp! – people actually touching one another. There are plenty of topics the big companies have been shy about publishing, but nothing much I can think of that they wouldn’t consider if it was part of a compelling enough story, and even less that no one has covered in the Indies.”
Terry Moore: “That answer would be totally subjective to each individual. I imagine many replies beginning with, “I don’t appreciate…” or “I think it’s wrong…” or “I’ve seen enough of…” Replies beginning with the word “I”. But, the fact remains that there is an audience for anything you can think of, good or bad. A lot of different “I”‘s out there requiring different things to stir their emotions. So, as a person who values morals, I would have to reply that yes, there are subjects I don’t think should be in comic books, but I would not try to stop anyone from doing it or reading it. Are there any taboos left? No, I think Britney Spears took care of that. Oh, you mean comics-wise? Then I have just one word for you… Batman.”
Dawn Donald: “After Preacher? Nah…not any more.”
“This question seems to have caused a strong reaction from our panellists with some strong answers. I am sure it is going to cause an interesting reaction on the boards as well.”:
This Week’s Panel are Terry Moore the creator of Strangers in Paradise ’nuff said. Devin Grayson has been writer on Gotham Knights and is currently writer on Nightwing. Alan Grant has had his hands in many pies including Batman and Judge Anderson. Bill Rosemann was for years Marvel’s “your man” but is now over on CrossGen helping bring them to the forefront of the public eye – congrats on the recent promotion, Bill. Lee Dawson does a similar job for Dark Horse – a promotion in the offing there too? Rick Shea is one of the U.S of A’s biggest and best retailers. Mike Collins has done art on everything from Harry Potter Trading Cards to Transformers to Dredd to the covers of an indie bands CD to just about … well, everything really. Vince Moore’s work for Platinum Studios can be checked out via the link on his name above.”:
Next Week’s Question: ” How can writers break into comics? What advice have you picked up for those who want to break into the comicbook industry?”
Previous Questions: Check out the message board where I’ve put up a list of every question the Panel has faced so far (neatly linked to the column it appeared in) to inspire you and let you know what to avoid.
SBC reserves the right to edit questions for reasons of consistency and inclusivity.