This edition of the Saturday Night Showcase is going to be more of an article than the usual promo, but I want to make sure you guys at least take the time to listen to this episode of the Art & Story podcast. I’ve brought it up a number of times and both A&S shows are in my RSS feed in the footer (at least for the theme I was using when this article was written).
However, as I’m trying to catch up with all the A&S episodes I haven’t had the time to listen to lately I came up episode #134, “The Big All-Ages Debate”. This is a subject I’ve gone into in many an article on this site, and there are a few comments I would have made where I part of the debate. I can’t embed the audio here since they don’t have the option and their past server issues have involved bandwidth I will instead link you to the page. Hosts Mark Rudolph, Kevin Cross, and Jerzy Drozd are joined by famed comic writer Dan Mishkin for a debate on “all-ages” comics versus “adult” and “kid” comics (because “all-ages” and “kid” are not the same thing, which actually a point made in the podcast).
After you listen to the podcast, please return here (I will have the link in another window) and read my thoughts, but at least catch the podcast. I’ll post the link on the “frontpage” part of the article since I’ll know who clicked in my stats, and my part after the jump to see who actually read that part of the article. So click the logo below to check out Art & Story episode 134, “The Big All-Ages Debate”.
In case your curious, this is the A&S episode mentioned at the beginning. Happy belated anniversary, Kevin!
For reference, whenever Jerzy Drozd is playing “devil’s advocate”, which he did quite well and respectful of those who disagree (wish that happened in politics), I will refer to him as “The Jerz”. I think that sounds “hardcore” enough. (Hey, nobody said I had to be that respectful. Hurray for hypocrisy! Wait…) In response to The Jerz’s first comment, I’m forced to yet again post an old Jake & Leon. You know the one…
I also brought this up in my defense of 4Kids. Comics may well never be accepted as something other than “kids stuff”. In the case of anime, throw in hentai when it comes to wrong stereotypes. If you think the inclusion of boobs and gore is suddenly going to make your work appear more mature, I have a reality check. There are a number of “all-ages” comics that are more mature that some of the “adult” comics. “Adult content” does not equal “mature”.
Take for example the Gargoyles cartoon. Designed for kids, older kids granted, but very mature when it comes to character development, the way the works of William Shakespeare is worked into certain stories and arcs, and themes and gags that may go over kids heads now, but they may catch when revisiting nostalgia.
But the point I tried to make in that strip was that “all-ages” is just that: all-ages. They may lean towards one group or another, but it doesn’t necessarily mean kids comics. And if you think even kid-targeted media can’t have something for an older reader, look at Sesame Street. They do parodies of shows kids wouldn’t be watching, like CSI or Ross Perot. The “everything for meeeeeee”er up there also seems to think that if something is made that isn’t for his target demographic (I did a similar comic from the “girl gamer” perspective) then it’s wrong and will negatively affect the way people look at it.
Mark also made the point that it also depends on which version of, to use his example, the Old West you prefer to see. However, both Deadwood and let’s say Gunsmoke are both inaccurate in their depiction. As Dan said, the language and culture were translated to match the modern time so viewers can get more comfortable with it. Read a Shakespeare work sometime. NOBODY talks like that in this day and age and even then depictions were altered for fiction, focusing on one or two elements of the society and culture the story takes place in (Romeo & Juliet versus West Side Story) to tell the story the writer wanted to tell. So which was the more accurate view of the Old West? They both were, from a certain point of view.
Some of the story ideas I have would qualify as “kids work” and others as “adult work”. Yet, most of my ideas are “all-ages”, with some stories leaning a bit towards one demographic or the other (I have two separate universes in mind, one more lighthearted, the other more serious in tone), but done in a way that anyone of any age group will find something out of it. That means more readers and quite likely more money coming in. And that’s without the gimmick du jour that too many publishers seem to believe will save the industry a little longer or whatever.
I love the Chuck Jones quote Dan gives:
Making animation is equal parts love and hard work, and when your done, only the love should show.
And Dan’s own comment that you should do it to have fun. A lot of stories DO take themselves too seriously in every storytelling format, and that doesn’t interest me as a reader.
Also listen closely to the “childhood” segment. I personally don’t buy the whole comment that “happy childhood” is relatively new. We see kids games and toys (<–good examples in that link) that predate the word itself. Maybe kids had to do more work in the “old days”, but so did the adults. Even in modern-day farms kids still help with the chores, even the less than pleasant ones, but still find time to play and have a childhood. So I reject that entire argument about “doing a disservice” by trying to protect kids…at least to a point. If you prepare them for the “real world”, but do it in a way that they realize how the world “should work” compared to how it does work, they may change the world for the better.
Sturgeon’s Law, and the discussion that follows about “invalidating comics” is the best part of the podcast.
As for the next argument by “the Jerz” about characters growing old, any reader of this site who has heard me used the expressions “sliding timeline” and “backsliding timeline” tells you just how utter crap that argument actually is. (No offense, Jerzy. 😀 ) Right now DC and to a lesser extent Marvel (specifically Spider-Man) are trying to do away with the years of continuity and character growth to regress the characters to the point the current brain trust started reading them. This has been a huge point I’ve been making since “One More Day” and maybe “Blackest Night”. We have Ray Palmer returning as the Atom with Ryan Choi being killed off. We have Hal and Barry coming back from the day with Kyle and Wally being pushed off to the sides. We have the Spider-Marriage being retroactively eliminated to continue sub-plots that were passé years ago. They wanted to do that with the “Super-Marriage” (Lois and Clark) at one point, too. I really should get to the “Superman 2000” review someday. Continuity has become (pardon my language) the bitch of nostalgia.
(At least in comics. In Hollywood, “nostalgia” is just a marketing gimmick to promote something that has nothing to do with its namesake. Battlestar Galactica and Clash of the Titans being the worst crimes.)
In a proper continuity, and here’s where I disagree with Mishkin, if change had been a constant, characters would have grown, but new readers would come in during the current status quo and watch the universe expand. Older characters can be relived via flashback stories, and that history would set up a backstory for today’s characters. Take The Phantom. What bugs me is that the best concept for a legacy character, so that much like the strip universe’s history every generation would have their own Phantom, was never in the creator’s mind. Lee Falk wanted these characters forever and ever according to Ed Rhodes, Moonstone’s go-to historian of the Ghost Who Walks. I’ve already commented on that in length so I won’t go into it. The problem is you can’t have growth and timelessness, especially when your universe is always supposed to take place in the modern era, requiring the sliding timeline, which invalidated key parts of old stories.
If you haven’t listened to the full podcast, then you’ve missed the point of this post. Go now and listen to it. It’s very informative.