Tuesday, April 17, 2012

The latest news from the Oh My God Geoff Johns Comics Are Crazy Violent! beat

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...

...repeatedly ramming his head against the metal bars of the prison cell until his skull caves in with a  "KRATCH" and gore showers Sinestro's face.

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.


JohnF said...

I guess "above average violence" would be Faust.

Patrick said...

It may be pretty violent, but would you honestly not be comfortable with a 12 or 13 year old reading this? I wouldn't have a problem with that.

mordicai said...

If it ain't red, it aint blood!*


KentL said...

Patrick, No. I don't let my 12 year old read GL specifically for the violence and sexuality that it has month after month. In a couple years, maybe, but he's at a very impressionable age right now and DC is really glorifying the sex and violence. Some of the DC titles are on a case by case basis (like the Batman titles), but GL is pretty much off limits for the time being. Oh, and it's not just Johns that loves his sex and violence. Tomasi is pretty bad about it, too.

Marvel sometimes has similar issues with their A rated comics. Spider-Man can be all over the place (or at least used to be--I'm way behind, so haven't read it in ages).

David Charles Bitterbaum said...

Keep mind when you're 12 you WANT the violent and mature stuff. You don't want young adult books, you want stuff that is rated R and really explicit. I did when I was young, and DC realizes the kids today want it too and their parents probably aren't going to scan the comic and go, "Maybe Teddy isn't ready for this level of stuff," because they are too busy. Plus, even if the parents do they've been so busy watching Game Of Thrones this looks like a G movie.

Caleb said...

It may be pretty violent, but would you honestly not be comfortable with a 12 or 13 year old reading this? I wouldn't have a problem with that.

Eh, I'm pretty terrible at those sorts of questions, as I'm not a parent and don't really know any 12 or 13-year-olds at the moment. As David noted, though, at that age I wouldn't have had a problem with that level of violence in a superhero comic, myself. (Parents are all over the place though; the other day I overheard a five minute discussion between a mother and some 11 or 12 year old girls over whether they were allowed to watch "27 Dresses", because it was rated PG-13 and she wanted to know WHY it was rated that before letting 'em watch it...she ultimately decided they could as long as they promised to fast-forward through anything that seemed objectionable).

Previous to DC's institution of ratings, I just thought it was weird and wrong how violent their books were, given they only had one rating "Mature Readers" for Vertigo (regardless of content) and an implied all-ages (that is, NOT "Mature Readers") for all the rapey, skull-crushing, gory stuff they published.

Now I just think it's kind of weird how they rate certain things, with the above discussed being moderate instead of intense or whatever.

By the way, this week's issue of Wonder Woman has one of the good guys crushing a foe's skull, and I thought it was handled much better and less exploitively--one panel you see Hermes' talon on a guy's head, in the next panel the POV shifts up to Hermes' face, and there's a skull-crushing sound effect coming from off-panel: Same thing happens, but it takes on panel, instead of two pages, and it's not as gory...although Wondy and Hermes were fighting a small army of dudes with no skin...