Ilan Strasser of Fat Moose Comics in Whippany, New Jersey saw the news on Avengers #71 (see 'Avengers #71 Delayed, Returnable') and the reaction of Derek Garrison ('Derek Garrison of Talon Comics & Games on Avengers Rating Change') and Jim Crocker ('Jim Crocker of Modern Myths on Avengers Rating') and disagrees with their reactions:


I hope I can say what I want to say about the Avengers rating change and comics content in general without offending anyone, especially Derek Garrison and Jim Crocker, whose opinions I very strongly disagree with.


First of all, it is extremely disingenuous to compare comics to movies and other entertainment vehicles by proclaiming that 'comics are not for kids anymore' and that there is an informational ratings code to help comics purchasers decide which comics are best suited for their children.  It is widely accepted in the movie industry that there are different movies for different age groups, with age appropriate content and themes.  However, outside of the comic industry, NO ONE believes that comics aren't just for kids anymore.  The only people who have taken that tack are the industry's creators, publishers, distributors, retailers, etc. - the men and women already in the club.


Joe and Jane Mainstream, who have had little or no contact with comics ever in their entire lives, want to saunter into our stores and make sure that there is nothing they have to worry about as their little tikes check out our wares.  To 99.99% of them seeing Hank Pym fly out of his lover's p**** is not going to be acceptable.


While there have been several notable exceptions, and the number of these exceptions thankfully continues to rise, the comics industry has turned adult over the last 15 years NOT by producing enough alternative, literate stories to challenge all its' readers, but by pandering to the lowest common denominator.  For every Sandman, Bone, Concrete, Starman, or Strangers in Paradise put out, there are ten or more books whose only method of eliciting attention is nudity, sex, excessive violence, degradation, or silly (as opposed to funny and incisive) parody.


I am no prude by any stretch, but as comics attempt to enter the mainstream, they are doing so by focusing on the extreme.  While retailers constantly and rightfully berate all the newspaper articles on comics that predominantly focus on investment and future value, they should be even more upset that what newspapers will find to focus on in the too near future will be the graphic and salacious storylines available in what are considered mainstream books (i.e., Avengers).


Has everyone forgotten that it only took one woman, one undercover policeman, one supportive district attorney, and one small minded community to close down a shop in Oklahoma City?  And that the retailer suffered not only the loss of his business, but of his wife and home as well?  And this happened in a store where it was clearly documented that all questionable material had been routinely kept out of the sight and reach of children!!


I sell many titles that would be labeled alternative, mature, and adult.  A title like Avengers, which has always been square in the Marvel main line, now jumps into the adult content area?  Why?  What about all these new sales we are trying to generate through Free Comic Book Day and other promotional events?  What about the kid who first came into your store five years ago and has bought every issue of Avengers till now, but is now told he can't buy this one?  Oh well - end of run, end of collection, end of customer.  Hello, lost future sales.


And before anyone says 'hey jerk, set up a section of the store for kids comics' - I already have two such areas set up with comics to appeal to younger readers anywhere from ages 3-10.  Once they get past 10 (and even younger sometimes) they do tend to look at and/or want comics they see in other parts of the store.


I'm all for comics in different formats aimed at different readers among different age groups, but the categories must remain distinct and cannot crossover, as they have with Avengers #71.  I've had my store for 21 years and I don't want to lose it, or my home, or the ability to put my daughter through college starting a mere seven years from now, because comics creators need to up the ante to appear more relevant or hip or hot.


Retailing newbies won't be able to make comparisons, but those of us around a long time can agree on at least one thing: we had a lot more customers and sold a lot more comics 15-20 years ago, when publishers put out regular, on-time product, without the hordes of speculators, gimmick covers, marketing sales ploys, tits, blow jobs, endless bloodletting, etc.  When I broke $300K 15 years ago, it was mostly from the sale of new comics at substantially lower cover prices.  When I do it today, it is not only with the help of customizable card games, statues, mini-busts, and other items, but also because of the unnecessarily large rise in new comic prices.


As time goes on, we make the same or more money on less and less customers.  We will not generate enough new ones by pandering to the tastes of the least cultured among them.  Marvel made a MAX imprint for itself.  The story in Avengers #71 was more than likely possible without the adult content; if it wasn't, it should have been solicited as a one-off or miniseries in the MAX line. Let's not lose everything we have in the rush to be accepted by the mainstream.


The opinions expressed in this Talk Back article are solely those of the writer, and do not reflect the views of the editorial staff of