May 19, 2005

[addendum] 6:02 PM

Interesting to see these comments popping up here, and I'm glad they did.

I like to point out my "Fuck You" was preceded by a "big immature." I knew the act of saying that was childish, which is why my little rant didn't stop there. To leave it AT that would've been petty. At first I was worried your didn't finish reading what I've written, but I'm glad you kept on.

If you kept reading you'd realize that after my juvinile moment I ceased attacking James personally. Sure I used some points of his edited letter as a springboard for issues I think about (and can get angry about), but my diatribe wasn't about the Evil Meeley, but out some of the things he said that angered and frustrated me.

Well, there was, "Now, thankfully, Meeley's letter was printed in issue 3, and issue 4's letter column was everyone taking him to task, which was nice," which is true, it was nice to read those letters. After that, I moved on to the topic of posting board messages I found — not about James, but about the whole YA gay romance issue.

I'd really look forward to reading the original letter in its entirety, and I still REALLY contest Young Avengers is supposed to be an all-ages book just because the word "Young" is in the title (and I still think it's a pretty dumb title) and teenagers are present.

I love children. I'd like to have some someday, and I work in an industry for children (animation). I want to make great things for kids, but I also want great things for myself, and I don't think anything needs to be limited by a choice of media.

I want nothing more than good children's entertainment, it's lacking in every arena as far as I'm concerned, but I don't think that other things have to creatively suffer because supplies of good kids comics are limited. I don't think that a show like The OC (as fantasy-reality it is) should be forced to shy away from issues because the characters are in high school, nor do I think that DC should only have one Teen Titans book to be the Teen Titans. They have two: One from the cartoon, and one more grounded in the DC Universe where more serious issues can be explored. Could the quality of one or the other be argued, sure, but that's a talent issue, not an availability issue.

When I was at Small Press last year a friend of mine and I were talking about Craig Thompson's graphic novel Blankets, which people know I love. My friend wasn't really taken with it, and the big drawback for him was it's massive doses of religious discussion. As far as I'm concerned, he's missed out, and he thinks I'm overly-loving something.

It's about choices. The rise of reality tv means I get less quality scripted dramas to watch, but I don't suffer through Survivor just because it's on. There's fewer things for your nephews to read because comics have gotten more expansive, and that really sucks. Marvel at least is tackling things with a Marvel Age line, as well as trying to seperate its lines into age-appropriate groups (MAX, etc), but I think it's been a good long while since anyone could just hop into any book and expect it to be ok (or in the case of the X-books, coherent).

Seriously James, I'm glad you commented, your wife as well. I'm glad you took to the time to write up repsonses to things I said, and I agree with some things you've said (although I admit to being mystified by the menopause thing).

I'm still sitting pretty hard on my side of the line that says all Marvel and DC herobooks aren't supposed to be all-ages, which I think is our actual fundamental disagreement.

The world is big and weird and strange, and it's a shame that something I think is amazing for a book is a fault for you. And that shame can come right back at me from you. At least when we sign our names to things, we're standing up and saying our opinions, and saying "this is what I think" and "this is what makes me angry."

As for me, I'm working to create things for your nephews, and other things for myself. As for this blog, it's where I get to yell sometimes. I'm not claiming this site is anything rational or journalistic, so I have no problem being a petulant child from time to time, and I have no problem writing silly things, or funny things, or even things that might strike chords with people. I have no problem writing gigantic posts about my insecurities, or about things that piss me off, because they're mine. I'll sign my name to them, because it comes from me.

— Kyle Cummings

Comments

Alright,see what happends when they don't put all the truth out there? GOD,im hungry. ; )

Posted by: Carlos at May 19, 2005 7:36 PM

Kyle:

I appreciate you taking the time out to further address things. As with my letter, it seems there were some things "edited" out of what you were trying to say. I'm glad that you took time to fully express them.

Joe made fun of my length on the other thread, but sometimes you can't summerize. Look what doing that to my letter cause. ;)

I guess that you and I will just have to "agree to disagree" on what Marvel and DC's super-hero titles should be like. I will always feel they are best left as they were originally created as. And while I have no problem with expanding on things, the all-ages feel should always remain.

I guess with how diversified the industry's content is nowadays, it just makes no sense to me to "mature" the classic super-heroes of yore. If you want to write a more mature themed super-hero series, that's fine. Heck, I might even buy it if it's good quality work. But don't fundamentally change the "classics". That's like forcing a round peg into a square hole, IMO. You might make it go through, but neither the peg or hole remain undamged for your efforts.

I do agree it's about choices, though. I loved Identity Crisis as a story. But there's no way I'll let our nephews read it until they are older, no mattr what "rating" DC might have the book listed as. But by the same token, if those of us who feel the wrong moves are being made don't speak out, then things will never change, and younger readers will only get futher and further pushed out of the market that was originally made to include them. To use you tv analogy, imagine if your favorite drama was slowly turned INTO a reality show. Sure, the network CAN do that, but it's a real dissrevice to all the viewers who like the dramatic stuff about the show.

I guess I just want the next generation of potential readers to have the smae chance to enjoy characters like the Avengers and Spider-Man like I was, when I was younger. As my tastes have matured, I've sought out material to suit that. And with the large amount of stuff that get produced in any month, there's plenty to choose from.

Posted by: James Meeley at May 19, 2005 7:57 PM

Finally, I want to say how much I respect you for not being afraid to put your name to you feelings and opinions. That's also why I do the same, both in my letters and at my blog ( http://thecomicasylum.blogspot.com ). I feel if I expect my views to be taken seriously, even if some will disagree with them, I can do no less. So, on that, we are very much the same.

I guess with Young Avengers, if they would have simply created new characters, that weren't so heavily tied to classic "all-ages" fare, like the Avengers, I probably wouldn't even have had a problem with what Heinberg says he plans. I also think Marvel's lack of really getting word out and explaining their new rating system is also another misstep in all of this. And if my letter and all it's stirred up gets that to change, then I will feel all the crap slung at me was worth it.

I wish you well in your own endevors and hope that you do create some really great all-ages stuff. There will never really be too much of that kind of thing. Because, at our hearts, aren't all of really just "big kids"?

Best,

James Meeley

Posted by: James Meeley at May 19, 2005 8:04 PM

James, one small question.

What about Young Avegers is "classic"? Since it is, of course, in it's fourth issue.

Posted by: Fabian at May 19, 2005 8:04 PM

Fabian:

YA itself is not "classic". However, it is heavily tied in to the Avengers, which IS "classic". If YA was called "Young Freedomites" and had no connection to "classic" super-heroes of yore that are (or perhaps I should say were?) all-ages type of material, I'd probably have not had much to say about it. But by tying it to the original Avengers, it's now become a part of it, whether it's intended or not (and the story certainly suggests that it is). That makes the difference for me.

Hope this clears up any confusion. :)

Posted by: James Meeley at May 19, 2005 8:18 PM

Glad we mutually got some things cleared up.

I will say that Marvel's wonderful littly pattern of reprinting B&W editions of classics in the ESSENTIALS line is GREAT. I'm only 24, so i missed the boat on some of your younger adventures — i'm currently cutting my way through the ESSENTIAL FF's and they're pretty great. In fact just yesterday my boss and i had a long talk about Jack Kirby, where informed me Kirby never sketched — he just DREW, which blows my mind.

Personally, I'd love it if Marvel put some REAL hardcore talent on some of the Marvel Age books (I hear RUNAWAYS is actually pretty rockin). I think a lot of them are ... written down to kids, and I know kids. Kids are damn smart.

Give kids good product, if they don't get EVREYTHING the first time its ok. In a few years they'll have more to discover when looking back on things.

Posted by: kyle at May 19, 2005 8:28 PM

I guess I should chime in here as well. I'll be one of those fence sitters and say that I wholeheartedly agree with both Kyle and James -- Marvel and DC Comics for the most part aren't all ages (in fact, I think the term "all ages" is pretty much pussy footing marketing bullshit, a long essay will be coming on that soon on my blog), in fact, I don't think most Marvel and DC Comics are even remotely appealing to kids 8 to 12.

But I also agree with James that sexuality is a tricky thing to explore with kids that age. There's a proliferation of sexually-charged YA fiction (that's works for 13 & up) at the moment and some of it is very good and really should be read by kids (I wish there was more of it when I was a teenager and dealing with being gay) but a lot of it is sensational crap (google Simon & Shusters Rainbow Party, a book that booksellers are refusing to carry because of it's apparent portrayal of irresponsible sexual behavior -- I've yet to read it but it's something interesting to look into).

I guess the main issue here is really thinking about who is the intended audience for YOUNG AVENGERS. Do I think it's 12 year olds? No I don't. Why? Because while I think that 8 to 12 year olds love to read about teenagers (kids books tend to be aspirational, 12 year old would rather read about a 14- or 15-year old), your typical kid of that age doesn't have the context or the continuity of the original AVENGERS series to understand the appeal of YOUNG AVENGERS. As I've said multiple times on my blog, we need to move forward and create the new, the good and the quality work FOR kids and not with one foot in the fanboy market.

Posted by: Scott at May 20, 2005 9:49 AM

Out of curiosity (because I haven't read the issues in question. sorry) how exactly is the relationship between the two characters shown? Dialogue? Holding hands? Kissing? If that's all it is then that seems pretty "all ages" to me. That type of romantic behaviour is in almost every kind of entertainment for children (given that Marvel comics require a relatively sophisticated reading ability, "children" here is ages 6 and up). Homosexuality may not be a part of every child's world, but then neither is interracial romance, and I doubt this discussion would be able to exist under the aegis of being "tolerant" if it were about a mixed race couple. Is the argument that same-sex love MAY be a foreign idea -- and thus requiring of parental guidance -- to SOME children? Or is this a more graphic depiction of sexuality than I was aware?

Posted by: Jon Morris at May 20, 2005 11:21 AM

Jon:

No, there's been no depiction of anything grphic in YA (yet?). However, with what the writer himself promised to do in the series, coupled with the much stronger lean toward sexual matters in comics that are supposedly "all-ages" (such as Sue Dibney's on-camera rape in Identiry Crisis and the "interesting" use of Pym Particles in Avengers #71, just to name a couple examples), I felt that I had to speak up about it. I simply couldn't "take it on faith" that such things won't be happening in YA, like I might have been able to do a decade or so ago.

If Heinberg wasn't planning anything like that, then it's no harm no foul at this point and I worried for nothing (something that I certainly wouldn't be upset about). But if he WAS planning something like that, I let him (and Marvel) know that there are some of us out here who take issue with doing so and making all-ages stuff less so by doing that.

Hope that gives you what you were looking for.

Posted by: James Meeley at May 20, 2005 5:57 PM

You seem like a reasonable guy, James, but you're still operating within a framework that is fundamentally damaging, and there's enough of that around already without you adding to it.

I agree that the sexualization of child-oriented media is often grotesquely inappropriate. Far more often heterosexually than homosexually, but either way. At the same time, adults tend to have a fantasy notion of childhood as innocent and inviolate, when the truth is often quite different.

Children are physical beings, and they live in the real world, with all its complexities and inconveniences. Nothing about their existence is neat and tidy, and that includes sexuality; their own and that of everyone they encounter. Their minds and bodies are constantly experiencing things that refine and extend their map of the world. And of themselves.

Parents, of course, want to protect their kids from *everything*, including the kids' own desires. But protection is not -- or *should not be* -- the ultimate goal for a parent; *preparation* is. And that means building for them some understanding of how the world works. It means getting them in touch with reality.

Parents, quite rightly, constantly work to exclude things from their child's experience of the world: you don't *want* them to experience the agony of having their hand in the fire, the cutting edge of a knife, the swallowing of dangerous substances. If language exists for anything at all, it is so that knowledge can be passed on of what *not* to do. We learn from our mistakes, and we teach others not to make the same ones.

Parents cannot, however, hold back the tide, the complexity of life, forever. They can only do their best to introduce it gradually, helpfully, lovingly. One fraction of that complexity is sex. Another is affection.

Some boys feel affection for other boys. Some girls feel affection for other girls. Sometimes it is sexual, sometimes not. Isn't that something children should be aware of? Something they should be able to integrate into their understanding of the world?

Those, like *you* James, who argue that homosexuality -- homo*affection*ality -- is an inappropriate subject for child-oriented media, are implicitly trying to exclude that whole concept from their children's world-view; and no good can come of that.

Some of those children will turn out to be gay, and their parents' efforts will leave them scarred. Some will go to school with the children of gay parents, many will have friends who turn out to be gay, and how will they deal with that? How will they have been *prepared* for their lives by being *protected* from the notion that people of the same gender might love one another?

If Young Avengers was showing hard- or even soft-core sex, straight or gay, I'd be with you all the way, James. That stuff has its place, but not in kids' comics. (YA is probably not a kids' comic at all, but I'm trying to work on your terms here.) Children don't need that sort of thing and in my experience (and memory) just find it embarrassing. But simply suggesting a relationship that isn't man-woman? *That* isn't inappropriate at any age. Those things are part of the fabric of life, and it would be better for gay, straight and bi folks alike if more kids grew up with a recognition of that. If *all* kids did.

I note that you don't seem to be bothered that most of these comics show their heroes and villains beating the crap out of each other. Why is it that unexplicit sex is so much more offensive to you than any amount of violence? Is that really what you want your children to learn? Fighting is cool, but boys kissing, eeuuuww!

Posted by: matt at May 21, 2005 12:16 AM

Matt:

Thanks for your well stated post.

I certainly agree that kids, at some point, need to elarn about things of a sexual nature. It is something that will be a major (and perhaps driving) force within the rest of their lives. My contention is with who gets to do the educating and when it takes place.

I agree that there are some very over-protective parents. In some ways that can be a good thing and in other not. But ultimately, matters such as sexual exploration and the like, should be handled by the parents. Not schools. Not government. Certainly not comic book writers. I personally think that's why so many kids are "messed up" today. These other outlets are being used to educate them on things that parents should be doing. And that does a disservice to both the parent and the child.

And I agree that showing inter-personal relationships through romance is something that kids should know about. But I don't consider that "sexual exploration". To me there is more to it than that. Let me give you an example.

In the new issue of Superman, after having and intense discussion with Lois, Super and her share a kiss (in shadow, but you know what it is). The next scene has Supes in bed with Lois and having to rush out quickly, so Jimmy Olsen doesn't see them together. As he does this, you can see that both of them are naked (all the "good parts" remain covered, but it's obvious that's the case.

Now, why did they have to do that. Yes, a married couple sharing a bed for lovemaking is perfectly normal and healthy. But why in an all-ages comics? Couldn't they have been shown in bed, but this pjs of some kind on. All us adults would know what happened, but if a kid see that scene, they might just think that they were asleep. And if they asked a parent about it, the parent has the choice and control to decide if they want their child to know what they scene really was saying. Which is as it should be. But in the way it was done, it takes that away from the parents. And I don't think that's right. Not for all-ages types of series (of which Superman is supposed to be).

It's little things like that, which I feel is pushing things too far. It's like the old Hollywood films where the guy grabs the girl and carries her into the bedroom and shuts the door behind them. The adult audience is smart enough to know what is going on, but it will go right over the head of the kids who might see it.

Posted by: James Meeley at May 21, 2005 1:21 AM

As for the violence in comics, again I'd agree it too has continued to push the envelop. But sexual matters are certainly much more delicate and personal, IMO. Maybe it was just from how I was raised, but that's how I feel. Besides, kids usually know more about violence at a younger age, than sex. Perhaps it's just something in human nature that it works out that way, but it is true.

I understand that you and others want to prepare kids for what will await them. But that's not your job to do (unless it's YOUR child). It's not the job of others to do what is the job of parents. I guess that's the real heart of the matter in all of this. I feel parents should be responsible for discussing and "preparing" their own children for the sexual matters they might encounter some day and take issue with other media outlets trying to do that for them. How can you expect a parent to be one, if someone else does the job (and sometimes a very half-assed job, at that) for them?

The only way to effect a real change, is for parents to do their job as parents. Comics trying to discuss and educate on such matters as sexual exploration (of any kind) isn't the answer. Because whatever sexual orintation a child might believe themselves to be, it's the care and concern of those who love and support them that will help them deal with it and understand it. And that's not something you'll ever get from a comic, no matter how well written it is.

In the end, as with most topics like this, some of us will just have to agree to disagree on what way to proceed is best. And I'm perfectly fine with that. But this country was based on having the right to speak your mind and have your voice heard. Some people, heck maybe even a lot of people, might not agree with you, but that doesn't invalidate your right to speak up. That's what I did. And despite some of the knocks I've taken for it (and some of them very undeserved), I'm glad I did. I wouldn't take it back, even if I could. Because, if nothing else, I've got people talking and thinking. And that's the first step to fixing anything.

Thanks again, for your well thought-out post, Matt. :)

Posted by: James Meeley at May 21, 2005 1:33 AM

I am not a comics fan, but I am a fan of other "all-ages" media. I am also studying to be an educator -- and I disagree with a few points:

First of all, who says that homosexual issues are too "mature" for all pre-adolescents? For those who understand what it even IS, then seeing it in a comic book does no harm. For the kids who don't have a clue, the worst that can happen is that they'll ask their parents about it (though I think it is entirely presumptuous to assume parents capable of handling this without the help of outside sources). It seems to me that there's a deeper fear in denouncing the presence of this material in "all-ages" media.

We're afraid our children will turn gay.

Otherwise, what is the problem with children being exposed to something that is absolutely real and present in the "Real World," into which they will soon enough be thrown--hopefully with enough preparation to handle it. Where's the problem in their exposure and education in universal human emotion? This seems more an argument against homosexuality than its depiction in comics.

Is there some other reason we don't want these kids to read about this?

As for the conservative argument that these books should remain "the same as they were created," then that, to me, is even worse. To fall behind the times is death, for society, for art. Years ago, people thought that learning how to count and recite the alphabet with pretty pictures as in the "Pretty Little Pocket Books" was the only way for children to be educated. Then a guy calling himself Dr. Seuss came along and showed us all there was another way.

I think we need to open our minds to the possibility that perhaps kids today are more capable than children used to be. We should keep our minds open to the idea of change, or risk damaging our children (our future) far more than is already being done. Read Dr. Seuss' "And to Think That I Saw It On Mulberry Street" and you'll see what I mean.

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