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Billy Batson and the Magic of Shazam, or, Comics are for Kids

by  in Comic News Comment

Yes, comics are for kids.  Rather, they can be.  And certain properties tend to lend themselves more easily to a child-friendly version, or, even better, an all-ages version.  Captain Marvel and the Marvel family, long-time loves of mine, truly lend themselves to comics that anyone can enjoy from 8 to 88 (up yours, 89 year olds, you don’t get crap).  So you can imagine my excitement when DC announced a new, kid-friendly ongoing Cap book, especially if you’ve been reading this blog for some time.  A comic I can give my class, and it’s cheaper than the Jeff Smith one!

And, yes, it is, isn’t it?  Financially and artistically.  I guess it’s not fair to compare most cartoonists to Jeff Smith, nor most comics’ to his work.  But let’s be honest here, Billy Batson and the Magic of Shazam is pretty awful.  Now, before anyone says, “It’s not meant for you, it’s meant for kids,” let me remind you that I encounter and interact with more children than pretty much any of you do.  It’s part of my job to know them, know what they like, and understand them (as much as possible).  This comic isn’t meant for any child I’ve ever met.  It’s more meant for some mythical ideal child from some golden age; the child some parents want to believe they’ll have, an innocent, spritely thing filled with sweetness and wonder.

The sort of kid a real kid would avoid like the plague.  This book is corny.  The designs are obvious and corny.  The jokes are lame, over-explained, and corny.  It’s like someone sat down and decided to parody a poorly-made cartoon from 1998, and then forgot it was a parody.  And the page density!  It’s practically unreadable!  Check out this sample page:


The terrible, obvious designs are everywhere.  And look at this page . . .I can barely read it, there’s so much going on.  Do they really think 5 year olds can (as this couldn’t possibly be aimed at any higher age)?  The big red 1 displays an over-played, over-extended joke (ah, she talks a lot, funny).  Then we get base, bad gag reactions and number 2 shows the joke BEING EXPLAINED.  And then there’s number three . . .so, wait, adults never owned bikes?  Is that the “joke” there?  Number four, Robin Williams animatics would be less cheesy than that stuff.

It’s a really terrible book.  It doesn’t appeal to kids in the slightest.  It appeals to adults that wished this appeals to kids.  It’s not hard to get kids to like something; you don’t have to be Jeff Smith.  Just don’t talk down to them and don’t pretend they’ve got the mindset that you pretend you had at that age (and you didn’t . . .you wouldn’t have read this, you’d have read GI Joe or a Duck comic or mutants beating the crap out of each other).  I mean, look at the Marvel Adventures books.  Maybe they’re not exactly for me all the time, but a kid picks them up and they look like any other comic, even if the story is more kid-friendly.  It doesn’t look like the creators/company suspect the kid might be a bed-wetter.  Kids are not the same thing as infants.  By the time they can read, in this day and age, they’ve got a bit more sophistication than this.  I saw this was the work of one guy and I looked him up and then, all the sudden, it clicked for me.

This is the guy that did Herobear and the Kid.  Herobear and the Kid, one of the most unbearable, absolutely lamest comics supposedly aimed at children I’ve ever seen.  Herobear and the Kid, that bastion of utter cheese/schmaltz from a few years ago.  I checked out the trade when last at a comic shop and yes, it was as awful as I remembered.  So, in the spirit of Brian’s month of top fives, here we go!

Top Five Reasons It’s Correct to Hate Herobear and the Kid

  1. It’s a SHAMELESS, far-less-talented Calvin and Hobbes rip.
  2. The art and story are so schmaltzy I had to have all my teeth replaced yesterday like Jaws from James Bond.
  3. His grandfather is Santa Claus.
  4. The line ” . . .and, most wonderfully, he hugged me back.”  There is no child on earth that would read that without feeling sick to their stomachs.
  5. It’s an excuse for grown men to wallow in false nostalgia and try to force this crap on kids, who’d truly rather read Dragonball or Archie or Spider-man or even Tiny Titans.

So, yeah, this is a disappointment, kind of on the same level (if in the opposite direction) as Winnick’s recent take on the Marvel Family.  I can’t give this comic to my students; they’d laugh in my face (at best) or hate me for talking down to them (probably not even at worst).

Don’t talk down to the kids.  And don’t pretend you were ever this simplistic either.

Billy Batson and the Magic of Shazam, or, Comics are for Kids
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