Warning: explicit content
Ed Vitagliano
Ed Vitagliano
AFA Journal news editor

January 2003 – Like mushrooms in a backyard that has seen too much rain, the number of media outlets to which kids are gaining access seem to be multiplying exponentially on a daily basis. And just like mushrooms, it's sometimes difficult to decide which ones are good for kids and which ones are downright poisonous.

When it comes to monitoring the media on behalf of their children, parents already know that special attention should be paid to the content of TV, movies, music, the Internet and videos.

But how about comic books? AFA Journal has received periodic complaints that comics are becoming as bad as the rest of the media-saturated culture. Along with samples sent in from concerned parents, AFA Journal purchased six comics at a national book chain, and found those concerns justified.

Of course, comics have long alarmed some parents because of their violent nature. In illustrating the conflict between super heroes and super villains, the pages of comic books are often filled with pitched battles involving zipping bullets, flying fists, exploding rockets and the use of "super powers."

It is helpful that, on the cover of some comics, parents can find a rating similar to that on TV programs and movies. For example, a December issue of Marvel Knights: Elektra, published by industry giant Marvel Comics, was rated PG-16, with an additional label for "Mature/Violent Content." Also published by Marvel was a comic from its Black Widow character line, with a label stating, "Parental Advisory: Explicit Content."

However, unless parents are aware of the label, the warning is meaningless. A representative said the store did not restrict the purchase of comics in any way, regardless of the label on them. Any child could walk out with Black Widow, as long as he or she coughed up the $2.99 plus tax.

What would that child find in the pages of Black Widow? A storyline which focuses on sadomasochism ­ complete with the image of a nude man chained to a large wooden cross in the dungeon-like setting of a sex club, being whipped by a leather-clad dominatrix. The comic also contains profanity ­ including the F-word ­ and many graphic scenes of men and women clothed in the leather garb of the S&M crowd, participating in sexual acts of bondage.

One might think Black Widow was simply a comic for adults that got mixed in with those for kids ­ except that the advertisements within its pages tell a different story. Interspersed among the sadomasochistic images are ads for Starburst candy, Lifesavers, Dr. Pepper and lunch-box size cartons of Tang fruit juice.

In fact, from the explicitly perverse subject matter of Black Widow to the overly physically endowed female characters of the majority of comics, sexuality is typical of the comic book world. The artwork in most modern comic books, far outstripping the more primitive cartoonish work of 20 or 30 years ago, is heavily sexualized with a more provocative depiction of women.

Inside the pages of Image Comics' Laura Croft Tomb Raider, for example, are advertisements for trading cards from the popular comic book series Witchblade. The ad shows sensual, nearly naked woman posing as if for Playboy. Such sexual imagery is found throughout comic series such as The Darkness, Darkchylde, and WildStorm – the latter of which even puts out a "swimsuit issue" of bikini-clad women. Industry catalogs like Previews are filled with such images.

Along with this hedonistic view of sexuality in comics comes a promotion of homosexuality. In a two-part Green Lantern comic, published by DC Comics, "gay" teenager Terry Berg is shown kissing his boyfriend. After three thugs beat Terry, the storyline turns into a blatant promotion of hate crime laws.

A variety of comic books have promoted the "gay" agenda, including DC Comics' The Authority and Superman, and Marvel's The Incredible Hulk, Alpha Flight, The Flash, Uncanny Xmen, and Star Fleet Academy.

Beyond violence and sexuality, however, is the false religious atmosphere within the worlds created by comic books. The super powers of both heroes and villains often appear little different from powers associated with the occult, and any positive portrayal of religion is usually from a New Age perspective.

These ideas are not limited to storylines. For example, the last page of one issue of Eek! The Cat was a full-page primer on the "underlying principles of Hinduism and Buddhism." Kids could turn the page and read that the principle of "karma" holds that "a person's actions in this life account for the soul's ultimate purification and ability to transmigrate to a higher plane of existence."

Of course, the one religion to be openly disrespected is always Christianity. In a January, 2003, issue of Marvel's Uncanny XMen, the blue-skinned Nightcrawler is shown in St. Patrick's Cathedral, railing against Jesus Christ. The cover of the comic shows Nightcrawler, who has a distinctly demonic appearance, perched on a cross.

With even comic books filling the culture with sexual, violent and anti-Christian content, protecting children from adverse media influence is becoming a full-time job for parents. Knowing the potential risks of such exposure, however, makes the effort worthwhile.  undefined