Prior to the ghastly Aurora mass murder incident, I considered young adults' fascination with comic book characters to be just another sad indication of the failure-to-mature syndrome. Now, the whole genre and its devotees has taken on a new and tragic aura.
I read comic books, i.e., Superman and the other "super heroes," when I was about 10 or 12 years of age. Then, in the natural order of things, I grew up--and grew out of the realm of comic books.
In the current era of "eternal teenagers," supposedly grown men well into their twenties or even older are avid fans of imaginary comic book heroes. It's a baffling thing to me.
The title of the new Batman flick "The Dark Knight Rises," is a continuation of a trend in the world of fantasy "entertainment." For some years now, "super hero" films, "graphic novels," and other forms of the genre are promoted as being "darker" than they formerly were. Way back when I read comic books, the super heroes were invariably clean-living role models who could do no wrong and they always triumphed over the bad guys. In other words, the good guys were good and the bad guys were bad, and there was no confusion about this in the simple story lines.
The hot trend now (writers, particularly television writers, constantly imitate each other) is to have the "hero" be a deeply flawed, really mixed up character. He may still perform heroic deeds, but he's no longer a proper role model for youngsters. That change came about because the writers are now aiming at the failure-to-mature older group of males. Young kids are no longer their prime target.
I should mention that I rarely, if ever, actually purchased comic books. They cost a dime each and could be read in a very short time. I never thought it was a good reading bargain. I sort of kept up with comic books by standing behind the revolving magazine rack in Low's Drug Store in Westport and reading until Ruth or Willard would suggest that I either buy a comic book or quit reading them.
Even back then, I knew an actual book offered a lot more entertainment for one's time and money.
I was chagrined, but not surprised, by the appearance a few years ago of "graphic novels." These are comic books in a large format, pretending to be an actual book. Presumably they are purchased and read by young adults to whom actual reading is an unpleasant chore to be avoided and to whom whole pages of type may be incomprehensible. These folk just want to look at colorful pictures.
The deliberate "darkening" of famous comic book characters is, to me, a grievous act. While I would not go so far as to blame the Aurora killings on a Batman movie, there is no question that the perpetrator was deeply influenced by the genre.
I wish we could go back to a time when comic books were aimed at little kids and when super heroes were really super!
Norman D. Voiles
Resident of Rush County; native of Decatur County
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