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Creating a second comics page for adults

After worrying about the effects of an Opus cartoon on his 3 year-old (and who hasn’t been worried about that!), a reader asked the editor of the Spokesman Review why papers can’t create a separate comics page for adult/older audiences.

Question: I’m writing to express my concern with a particular cartoon that captures the first spot in the Sunday comics. Our daughter at three is interested to know about what is going on with the characters. I enjoy reading them to her and will screen out cartoons that are beyond her years. What does bother me are the depictions in Opus which I am my family find offensive. A few examples that I can think of off hand include tattoos, cigarette smoking, obnoxiously portrayed clevage and protruding butt cracks. While I find the subject matter would be inappropriate for older children who can read, as we are not yet to that point, it is the more visually offensive aspects of the comic that I believe to be inappropriate for children.

What I would ask is why not section off the comics with an adult audience so that children can have a more family friendly version of the comics. — Tim Lovell

I’ll let you read the editors response on his web site, but I wanted to offer this topic up as a discussion. We’ve discussed issues of appropriateness in comics before and you know that I’m one of the prudish that thinks the comics should be safe fare for all ages, but this is a thought I’ve had before as well. While I came up with the conclusion that it would never happen, I offer up the topic to you all. Would it be well for newspapers to have a separate selection of comics that allowed for more PG or PG-13 content?

Community Comments

#1 Norm Feuti
December/12/2007
@ 6:59 am

I actually think it would be a great idea to have a secondary page in the newspaper with kids features on it. Not for censorship reasons, but rather to expand the comics section and get kids interested in reading the newspaper. I think Garfield is the only strip in my paper that is written at a level my 6-year-old can occasionally understand … and no, I don’t mean that as an insult.

It’s tempting to dismiss this reader’s delicate sensibilities, but I don’t think her overall idea is a bad one. Having a secondary “kid safe” comics page in addition to the regular comics page would be a great idea.

.. but in the age of shrinking comic pages, there’s not much hope of that happening.

Outside of that, I think the editor’s response was a good one. Unless a feature is specifically designed for kids, you can’t safely proclaim to an audience of varying sensibilities that any strip will always be “kid friendly”.

#2 Josh McDonald
December/12/2007
@ 7:44 am

Consider this: the old “Sesame Street” episodes I watched as a preschooler are now sold with parental warnings for material possibly inappropriate for modern preschoolers.

#3 Eric Burke
December/12/2007
@ 8:46 am

which I am my family find offensive.

And there you go: he was offended so he uses a 3 year old as the excuse to say that he and his family were offended. As if the 3 year old really would be offended by cleavage and a buttcrack?

Maybe newspapers can also create a kid friendly section of the newspaper that doesn’t report on war, crime and other social woes, and only reports on fuzzy bunnies, rainbows and warm hugs?

Gee, that would be peachy…

#4 Mike Witmer
December/12/2007
@ 9:25 am

The sad thing is that this one tiny e-mail from someone who is afraid to confront everyday issues with his child(tattoos are everywhere…so are buttcracks) will get more attention than the TONS of readers who got a kick out of the strip.

#5 Pab Sungenis
December/12/2007
@ 9:35 am

Eric: It’s called “The Mini Page.”

#6 r stevens
December/12/2007
@ 9:38 am

Anyone who’s offended by tattoos obviously never met anyone who served in WWII.

#7 Norm Feuti
December/12/2007
@ 10:07 am

The sad thing is that this one tiny e-mail from someone who is afraid to confront everyday issues with his child(tattoos are everywhereâ?¦so are buttcracks) will get more attention than the TONS of readers who got a kick out of the strip

This is very true. Although I appreciate that the reader isn’t demanding Opus’ removal from the paper, I have to admit his sensibilities are hard to defend. If he can’t reconcile the existence of tattoos and cleavage to a child, then he’s got a rough road ahead of him when real issues need to be explained.

I still like the idea of creating a separate page of “just for kids” strips in both daily and Sunday papers. I realize that most Sunday comic sections have a “mini page” type spread with games and puzzles, but it would be nice to give kids more strip-formatted entertainment that’s geared toward their humor level. It would be an excellent way to engage their imagination and foster an appreciation for sequential art.

Again, in addition to, not instead of.

I think it would make more sense then trying to force the strips that are meant for adult readers to be 100% kid friendly. Even if you were to take the boobs and cigarettes out, Opus isn’t meant for the humor level of a child anyway.

#8 Jeff Stanson
December/12/2007
@ 10:38 am

I agree with Norm, it would be great to see a second page related specifically to kid’s features. I have seen some papers do this on Sunday by having two sections. Some of those have been combined in just the last few years for the sake of paper savings, but there are some still out there and I think they are effective. Some are a little more subtle about it, some label the second as Kid’s Features, and some label one for kids and the other something like “Comics and Commentary”. Bold statement: Comics that have adults as their only target have hurt interest in both the newspaper comics page and the comic book industry.

#9 josh s.
December/12/2007
@ 10:38 am

I like the editor’s response. I’m also glad the tone of the letter and response refrained from extreme arguments.

No two adults are going to agree what is appropriate or inappropriate for a child. Heck, I used to watch Looney Tunes as a kid; those would be considered horrifically violent if they had featured real people. Even as a kid, I was always sad that the Coyote got so beat up just for chasing the Roadrunner.

I also remember a comic in which Calvin ran naked through his house after a bath.

Here’s an idea: we draw comics that are so boring, no child would want to look at them. That would solve the problem.

Seriously, though; I’m glad there can be a mix of comics in the paper. All the things mentioned in the letter are things the child might see in real life. I’d rather have the chance to discuss it with a child sitting at home in front of a newspaper than at a grocery store, in a park, or in a crowded elevator.

#10 Josh McDonald
December/12/2007
@ 11:05 am

I suspect I wouldn’t be alone in saying this: I grew up reading newspaper comics. And while I’d read pretty much all of them indiscriminately, I would generally skip over “Doonesbury” … because I learned fairly quickly that, at four or five years old, I just wasn’t going to get it. Now of course it’s one of my favorites, but at the time I wasn’t interested in anything that I would have to read the rest of the newspaper to understand.

I tend to think, within certain reasonable boundaries, most kids are better able to filter what they expose themselves to than some parents give them credit for.

#11 Dawn Douglass
December/12/2007
@ 11:10 am

As someone with a tattoo, I’m offended by this whole discussion.

Truth is, whether it’s a good idea or not is totally moot. It’ll never happen.

#12 josh s.
December/12/2007
@ 11:24 am

Hey Dawn, I designed a tattoo for my brother, so I guess that shows where I stand on the issue.

I’d like to see a comic in which Opus is offended by a 3-year-old.

#13 Michael Shonk
December/12/2007
@ 11:24 am

The idea does not work for two reasons. First, newspapers today are reducing the page count of everything including comics for economic reasons. Second, where would you hide the adult page so the children could not see it?

#14 John Hambrock
December/12/2007
@ 12:23 pm

“at the time I wasn’t interested in anything that I would have to read the rest of the newspaper to understand”

What a great comment! I laughed out loud!

#15 Josh McDonald
December/12/2007
@ 12:40 pm

I think this past week’s “Cul de Sac”s have been very offensive to three-year-olds.

#16 Tom Racine
December/12/2007
@ 1:44 pm

I have to come down on the “great idea, will never happen” camp. Space is already a premium, so dividing things up won’t fly. Gosh…I guess people might have to do something called “parenting” and screen what their kids do. I know it’s a lot of effort to read a six panel strip before your 3 year old gets there, but we must all make sacrifices.

The bigger question here, of course, is what kind of tatoo does Dawn have…and where? :)

#17 Dawn Douglass
December/12/2007
@ 2:04 pm

SMILE

Tom, it’s a yellow rose about the size of a quarter, and it’s on my right hand just below and to the right of my thumb.

My husband had the most beautiful tatoo I have ever seen. It didn’t even look like a tattoo, but a pastel drawing. It was a wolf’s face on his shoulder…black and grey with yellow eyes.

My husband was a biker and I was his biker babe, even though I’m old and fat. :) I still have his Road King. We had a lot of great fun on it.

#18 Norm Feuti
December/12/2007
@ 2:32 pm

Well, Alan did set the whole topic up as a hypothetical with the concession that it would never happen.

#19 Eric Burke
December/12/2007
@ 3:51 pm

Dawn, your last post made me laugh, and I had a mothful of sweet potatoe that almost got spit onto my aging iBook!

And I’m happy to see a discussion that lured my pal YupYop out of hiding. Welcome to the board, Michael!

Pab,
that lame insert for kids usually winds up in my trash.

I still don’t think kids need a special section. I read comic books as a shortie, much of which went over my head. Looney Tunes, as Josh mentioned, which was ultra violent and some gags(even the racially tinged ones from WW II) went over my head, comic strips that…well, Beetle Bailey, Hi and Lois, Garfield, Peanuts, and Heathcliff never went over my head but I was a smart enough kid to handle the mediums.

Are we raising wishy washy dumb-dumbs, or is that just how ‘rents perceive them?

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