Buddy Saunders saw recent comments from Tim Simms ('Tim Simms from Worlds Collide on Comic Ratings') and Michael Tierney (see 'Michael Tierney of the Comic Book Store on Outsider #8') and feels that comics should be labeled in a way that indicates the appropriate age of the audience:


About Tim Simms and Michael Tierny's comments regarding labeling comics for age appropriateness (TAGing, Target Audience Guidelines):  No one views labeling as censorship except those unacquainted with the definition.  Tokyopop's system of simply labeling comics with a 7+, 13+, etc. is sensible, direct and, for a publisher, refreshingly honest.  Lone Star Comics has used a similar system in our eight stores for over ten years and we know it works (except when we're unaware of content).  When a comic with inappropriate content rings up, our sales associates know it can't be sold to a person below a given age unless a parent is present and approves the purchase.  Lone Star's purpose -- and the purpose of all content labeling -- is not to impose our own standards, but rather to insure that the parent plays a role in the buying decision.  Labeling doesn't impede an adult's ability to buy what he wants. 


The failure of publishers to inform retailers and the public of potential content problems has long been with us.  In fact, it worsens as we drift further into the realm of soft-core content and explicit violence, all within comics that publishers still want sold to the widest possible audience. 


The adoption of Tokyopop's age number system would address this problem in an important way, but it would not address that larger issue--that comics across the spectrum are growing more brutal and thereby less appropriate for kids.  Even so, I would expect something so simple as Tokyopop's number system to be avoided by most publishers.  I salute Tokyopop for having the guts to go on the line and say, 'This is a comic likely not suitable for ages 12 and under. ' Considering the content of some comics promoted as all ages, I'd like to see their publishers look retailers and parents in the eye and say, through their labeling, 'Yep, we believe our cutting edge, pushing-the-envelope comic with the graphic bondage scene is just the thing for a six-year-old.'


Too many publishers and creators are cavalier in their attitude toward retailers.  They forget that we are the interface between publisher and consumer. And they seen not to understand at all how important parents and their children are to the future of the comic book business.


Tim ended his comment with, 'Let's not shoot ourselves in the foot by presenting ourselves as an irresponsible industry.'  I agree.  In fact, it's my feeling that in recent years comic publishers have shot the industry in the foot so often that by now it looks like the work of a machine gun.   A lot of the red ink the comic industry has bled can be attributed to creative and publisher contempt for the public.


It would be good if that changed.  A step in the right direction would be reliable content ratings provided up front when the comic is solicited and following through to the same label on the comic cover.  That, combined with a consistent rating for each title, would solve a very big shortcoming.


Nothing cited above would preclude creators or publishers from doing what they are doing now--publishing any kind of comic they wish.  But with age indicated TAGing, retailers AND the public would know what they are getting, and publishers, for the first time, would have to stand behind their publishing decisions in a way they've never done before.


The opinions expressed in this Talk Back article are solely those of the writer, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the editorial staff of ICv2.com.