On Double Standards and the Use of Expletives in Comic Books


If you have not heard of the controversy surrounding DCs recall of All-Star Batman & Robin the Boy Wonder #10 (ASB&R). Please go and read the post I wrote about it yesterday. I’ll wait………………………………………………….. Read it? Good. Let’s move along.

In the comment section of the post we had some discussion as to the appropriateness of Miller’s use of swear words in this scene. I also discussed this with several people on Twitter. There is no denying that Miller went too far here. The language was not appropriate for the scene, especially in a comic that does not contain any sort of warning label. I don’t want to get into issues of censorship here, because that is really another issue entirely. I know the words were supposed to be censored out, but why was Frank Miller putting those words in the dialogue in the first place? Everyone who has read this comic can agree that from it’s inception it has been going for a “mature” (perhaps not mentally) audience. However, while this doesn’t tout the much ignored “Approved by the CCA” label, neither does it have any indication that it is for mature readers.

DC should really make their minds up on the audience they are going for. In this series we have seen Batman calling Robin “some kind of retard”, drawings of half naked women that verge on porn, and regular DC characters like Wonder Woman acting completely psychotic, and using extreme violence. There is no arguing that there is an audience for this style of story, and there is some debate as to whether Frank Miller is parodying the style of writing he helped to create. It would just be nice if they distinguished this properly from other titles in their line. It is labeled as part of the “All-Star” line, but what does that mean to a kid, or parent, looking for a Batman comic to read? In fact “All-Star” even sounds like it is aimed at children. Compare this to All-Star Superman, which is a different style of comic entirely. You could happily give that to a kid, though I think it might give them a head-ache This is really irresponsible on DC’s part. There is nothing to stop a store selling this to a child, most retailers would know not to, but the new weekend employee might not. Then they will likely have to call in the Comic Book Legal Defense guys to stop them from being sued.

Take a look at The Boys by Garth Ennis and Darick Robertson. This comic uses extremely foul language, and sexual imagery, but they warn you about it on the cover. You expect it in that title. DC’s Wildstorm imprint even dropped that title last year for those very reasons, even though it had a warning on it. DC were worried that people would confuse Ennis’ DC pastiches with the proprietary characters, and they didn’t want that book to be associate with characters like Superman and Batman. Then In ASB&R you have Batman committing child abuse, Wonder Woman threatening to “Hunt down Batman, kill him like a rabid dog, cut his head off, and plant it on a spike for the authorities to see”. It’s a bit of a double standard really. Frank Miller has huge star power, so they just seem to give him carte blanche, whereas Ennis, who wasn’t even using proprietary characters, gets dumped on his ass!

Something else that struck me as odd is that no real fuss was made when Mark Millar used the exact same language in issue #3 of Kick-Ass. On the final page of the issue he has an eight year old girl say the “C word”. Again, this comic carries a warning label about its content, but it has been hinted in LITG that this comic will have ties with Millar’s current Marvel work. This includes titles like Marvel 1985, Fantastic Four, and Wolverine.

Hmm, I’ve really lost where I was going with this

I guess I am saying, we don’t have to censor comics, but let’s be sensible, and keep the potential audience in mind. Use language that is appropriate to the scene, don’t go using swear words just for the shock effect, you just come across as an immature douche bag!

***Explicit content beyond***

I’d like to mention that I have no real problem with the word ‘Cunt’. I’m also not saying that only a bad writer would use it. Even Shakespeare used to use it. In Twelfth Night the Malvolio examines a love letter written, so he’s been told, by his lady. He examines the handwriting and exclaims:

By my life, this is my lady’s hand these be her very C’s, her U’s and her T’s and thus makes she her great P’s. It is, in contempt of question, her hand.

When Performed, of course, “and her T’s” comes out “N her T’s,” thus spelling out CUNT—and it is with her cunt that Malvolio’s lady makes her great P’s.

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  4. Comic Book Review - Superman #678
  5. The A-Z of Canadian Comic Book Creators: C is for Darwyn Cooke

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