The Perverted Needs of Forty-Five Year Old Men

September 12th, 2010 by | Tags:

I won’t pretend that anyone on this blog hasn’t read David’s post on Darwyn Cooke’s remarks about what it would take for him to jump back into mainstream comics.  The first sentence out of his mouth is this:

“I want them to stop catering to the perverted needs of forty-five year old men.”

He elaborates, citing the sex, violence, and general unwholesome behavior seen in mainstream comics continuity.  There are ninety-seven comments on the post, each with their take on how Mister Cooke’s words can be taken.  I think he expressed himself clearly and concisely, but I’m still not sure if I agree with him.

I don’t think I have any problem with people catering to the needs, perverted or not, of forty-five year old men.  In fact, I think some of the problem with comics is the fact that the big companies still cling to the notion that they don’t sell sex.  Through the nineties and the early two thousands we saw Wonder Woman’s costume creep up her butt cheeks until they were hanging out like Christmas ornaments with a ribbon between them, and why?  Because there was mainstream respectability to be maintained.  Evil Mary Marvel was the Woman of a Thousand Strategic Shadows for while, because DC comics doesn’t do porn.  Meanwhile Shield agents at Marvel are wandering around nude and painted blue, because if you have Victoria Hand and Maria Hill and Steve Rogers, you’re not going to waste them, but Marvel characters also don’t appear in porn.

In many ways, this seems like the worst of two worlds.  Mainstream continuity and art are hijacked by the need to make things as violent, suggestive, and sexually explicit as possible.  Meanwhile, those sexually explicit stories are constrained due to a need for the One Established Character not to push certain boundaries.  The result is a comic that seems to be walking an unpleasant line.  They put in as much as they can to serve those with, ah, less than literary needs, without alienating other fans.  Meanwhile they scale down as much of the sex and violence as they can without alienating the loyal pervs who make Rule 34 so well represented in comics.  It’s a stripper with pasties, a nude scene with a bad body double – it seems to satisfy no one.

Sometimes I wish that comics would finally take the plunge that they hint at with so many hardcore alternate universe versions of characters.  If there’s so much money in satisfying the perverted needs of forty-five year old men (and for that matter, forty-five year old women, and eighteen year old boys and teenage girls who would undoubtedly read about a teenage Batman who sparkles) then maybe it’s time to do it.  There isn’t any doubt that it would be lucrative, and taking away the constraints of the continuity and the increasingly nebulous age ratings system might give those artists who want to pursue a more violent, sexual, or obscenity-laden direction the freedom to write really good stories.  Meanwhile regular continuity can stop trying to split the difference between hardcore and all-ages stories. 

I realize that this won’t happen.  Big companies, owned by bigger companies, have images of these icons to maintain, and pornography, extreme violence, and obscenity don’t fit those images.  It may even be wrong-headed.  Movies have ratings for extreme violence, but that doesn’t mean that the violence level that’s considered appropriate for younger kids isn’t being pushed.  And it’s not like the availability of porn has meant that movies and books are more likely to showcase serious artistic endeavors.  At the same time, this system seems to be satisfying nobody.  Maybe it’s time for a change.

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12 comments to “The Perverted Needs of Forty-Five Year Old Men”

  1. I don’t really want Marvel and DC to go into being hardcore adult comix. Because I’ve read quite a few comics in that vein and 99% have the most terrible fucking writing imaginable. Search out a site that has issues of Penthouse Comix hosted on them. Often great art, god-awful writing…

    The number of people who’ve written GOOD adult comix can probably be counted on one hand. And at least two of them (Foglio and Coover) don’t do p0rn anymore…

  2. I don’t want DC to go further into the realm of TORTURE porn. That’s a great way to get rid of readers like me who prefer not to see people’s arms getting ripped off time and again. I don’t see how we’d be the better for this.

    As far as the nudity goes, Marvel’s Hellfire club women take the cake and have done so for 25 years or more.

    Like in real life, skin-tight clothinh isn’t quite nudity unless you can see the giblets. I give Shield a pass.

    I say keep the cannibal Hulks and baby-smashing Red Skulls in the alternate universe.

    I still prefer them as the exception, not the rule.

  3. Uh…MAX, anyone? Vertigo? …No?

  4. @Michael Hoskin: MAX and Vertigo both have mostly avoided having lunchbox characters being heavily featured. Captain America in a couple issues of Alias is about as far as it’s gone. The one Vertigo Superman story (Steve T. Seagle and Teddy Kristiansen’s It’s A Bird) featured very little “adult” subject matter.

  5. Having seen the horror that is 70’s porn disasterpiece Ms. Magnificent (who is Supergirl in every way, shape and form, down to the “S” being scratched out on every frame in ballpoint pen due to threat of legal action), and seen enough marginally talented (and marginally disturbed) people selling, uh, “fantasy art” starring the length and breadth of DC and Marvel’s rosters at various conventions, this subject always makes me wince. And throw up a little in my mouth. Leave the heavy-breathing stuff online where you have to go in search of it.

    As far as the violence goes…eh, people who spend their days throwing cars and national monuments at each other would logically get messed up pretty bad, I’ve always thought. I don’t need to see a Theisman-style injury every month, or mega-violence a la Kick-Ass, but given what most of these people do, I’m never surprised when it’s shown. The first several arcs of The Authority always seemed like a nice balance to me. I do agree with whoever said they can do without the emphasis on torture porn, though.

  6. Yeah, I think the main counterpoint to this argument is that most of the porn comics out there are pretty terrible. Check out Tarot: Witch of the Black Rose if you don’t believe me (though it’s sort of hilariously bad, what with the haunted vaginas and all).

    Do we really want to give the people currently writing comics the power to have Power Girl get her costume ripped off in every fight?

  7. Even while semi-agreeing with me, Lou makes me realize that I can stand a bit of uber-violence, even embrace it, in certain books. Limited Kick-Ass, Authority, Preacher, Punisher Max, etc work fine for me when I am in the mood for them.

    Apparently, I just don’t want to see certain characters or certain universes to over-indulge. Which takes me back to my original position, thus making this the most pointless post of all time. Yet somehow, I am compelled to submit.

  8. Teenage Sparkle Batman is an idea that is so horrifying that it becomes awesome.

  9. I wouldn’t read Marvel/DC porn either, guys… and I think that’s her point! The point is that people who want to read it could just have it, rather than having all these disingenuous winks and nods towards it in “mainstream” books that piss us off so often.

  10. Nat beat me to the punch — I was gonna say that if we need comics to cater to the needs of perverted 45-year-old men, there’s already Tarot! Problem solved, please let Mary Marvel stop being a dominatrix now. And if we fed fewer Teen Titans to the freakin’ Super Friends mascot, I might read more than four or five floppies a month.

  11. But if it is written, is it desired anymore?

  12. I’m not quite sure what you’re suggesting here. Do you mean that Marvel and DC should start outputting Lost Girls-style stories featuring their mainstream stable?

    I’m all right with where things stand for the moment. If anything, I wouldn’t mind a bit of a return to innocence–at least amongst big name titles and characters. Ultraviolence and explicit sexuality aren’t bad things, but I prefer to get that from the ancillary imprints like Vertigo. If I want to see somebody’s limbs getting ripped off, I’ll read The Authority, for example. I don’t want to see that in JLA.