I have become increasingly concerned that although Marvel and DC produce a vast amount of merchandise targeted towards children (backpacks, toys, t-shirts) only their cartoons and, to a lesser extent, movies are directed to children. What about the comics? Having spent the majority of my childhood in the 90's; I grew up with Batman the Animated Series; however it was the X-Men and Spider-Man animated series that made me want to pick up comic books.
(The holy trinity of my childhood)
Unfortunately I fell into comics at a bad time. After the success of Watchmen and The Dark Knight Returns in the 80's comics took an overall turn towards dark and serious moods. I could right an entire journal about my frustrations with comics in the 90's, but for the sake of brevity I'll simply say that the kid was felt alienated from the comic world I really wanted to be a part of. The primary line of comics were violent and didn't represent any of what I saw on TV, and if I wanted comics with a similar tone to the cartoons I had to read the "Animated Series" line of comics with terrible art and pandering stories. Although I collected a handful of issues of Spider-Man and the X-Men through those years, my attentions were turned towards this guy:
(The patron saint of Deviant Art)
I jumped into Sonic right after the Endgame story arc where Dr. Robotnic was killed. I found a world that was fun and exciting, with stories I could related to, and subtle themes of responsibility. The Knuckles comic's themes; however, were completely void of subtlety, but I still loved it.
(POLITICS! HYPOCRISY! DADDY ISSUES!!!)
By the time I hit high school mainstream comics started to clean up their act and produce good stories, but if I look back at those tales I realize something rather curious. The only one that I can think of that kids could have found interesting and entertaining while having subject matter parents would approve of was Ultimate Spider-Man. I stress all three of those factors because having all three is what it truly takes for a comic to be considered good for kids. A kid can be entertained by cool action, but if its character is focused on finding a new job and restructuring his marriage (Amazing Spider-Man at the time) they won't find the story interesting. A kid can be enthralled with a story of doing right in the face social obstacles, but if the villain has the president strip naked and lick his boots, or far from subtle sexual references (Ultimate X-Men at the time) parents aren't going to want their kids reading the story. In the early 2000's comics were fun, exciting, and well written, but they were a media for teens and adults.
Modern comic-based cartoons like Spectacular Spider-Man and Young Justice have amazed me in their ability to craft tales that children and adults can both love.
(This guy needs to be in more cartoons!)
I was so excited when I saw that my sister had bought my 4 year old nephew a disc of Spectacular Spider-Man. I exclaimed that everybody should watch that cartoon because its entertainment done right. It's got something just about every demographic can find entertaining, and I feel that's how more comics should be written. I long for a day when I can read a comic, hand it to a child and then we can talk about it. I believe fiction is a powerful tool. It can spread ideas, change the world, and bring people together. For children it can teach important lessons about the world and values. X-Men taught me that all people are equal. Batman taught me that you have to take a stand for what it right. Spider-Man taught me that with great -- no I won't go there. What Spider-Man truly taught me was that doing the right thing is important even if it is inconvenient.
Excellent shows like Spectacular Spider-Man and Young Justice can fall prey to the politics of television, and frequently are canceled in their prime, but their comics have endured for decades. I feel it is important to make these tales more accessible to younger audiences.