Here's a scene from DC Comics' Green Lantern #7, written by Geoff Johns, penciled by Doug Mahnke and inked by Mahnke or one of the other three guys who inked this particular issue.
For context, Green Lantern Sinestro has been imprisoned by the mysterious, purple energy-wielding band of aliens known as the Indigo Tribe. One of their members attempts to "cleanse" Sinestro of his green energy by generating some purple, glowing tentacles to grow all over Sinestro, which is the "violation" Sinestro is shouting about (not the other kind of violation that is sometimes screamed about in prison cells before, after or during acts of violence).
Sinestro responds by fighting off the tentacles, laser-beaming the Indigo Tribesman and then...
Green Lantern is rated "T/Teen," which, in DC's rating guidelines, means “Appropriate for readers age 12 and older. May contain mild violence, language and/or suggestive themes.”
That, then, is mild violence. Can you imagine regular violence, let alone extreme or hardcore violence? I'm at a bit of a loss myself, trying to think of a way that scene could have been made more violent.
I guess it could have gone on for another four to eight panels, and I suppose Mahnke could have drawn the final, head-collapsing panel in a slightly longer shot, so we could the victim's face and thus better assess the extent of the damage.
DC has two ratings higher than "T." There's "T+/Teen Plus," which is "appropriate for readers age 16 and older" and "may contain moderate violence, mild profanity, graphic imagery and/or suggestive themes, and "M/Mature," which is appropriate for readers age 18 and older," and "may containe intense violence, extensive profanity, nudity, sexual themes and other content suitable only for older readers."
I realize that the system is set up mostly for cover, and that each book is assigned a particular rating that never changes from issue to issue ("Johnny DC" books are E, Vertigo are M, and DCU books are either T or T+), and that it is highly unlikely that anyone edits the books along those guidelines and forces changes to script or art based on whether or not the amount of violence exceeds that which the rating says is acceptable (and, if they do, cheif creative officer Geoff Johns is probably exempt).
Nevertheless, it's strange to read a scene like the one above and see how it's classified as "mild violence" instead of "moderate violence" or "intense violence." Maybe moderate and/or intense violence in superhero comics is as hard to define as pornography, a sort of "I'll know it when I see it" thing that different readers judge differently, but if DC really thinks the above scene is merely mild violence, I shudder to think of what their idea of intense violence might look like.
This concludes this the 456th installment of a 9,000,000-part series about how remarkably violent Geoff Johns' DC superhero comics are.