On Superheroes and Five Year Olds

At our son’s now former daycare there was, attached near his cubby hole, a print-out from some parenting website about how to talk to your children about superheroes.

In the past six months or so, our son has become increasingly interested in superheroes. I admit this is much to my delight. So, thanks to Netflix (we sometimes access the US version *shh*), he’s been watching 30 year old episodes of Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends as well as the more current Ultimate Spider-Man cartoon, which I admit is pretty funny.
Most of the superhero program tend to skew a few years older and he senses this. For example, there have been two iterations of the Avengers which he likes but asks to turn off when the fighting becomes intense.
“There’s too much evil!” he says. “I don’t like the villains.”
So basically, he loves the costumes, the powers, and the superheroics, but the fighting? Not so much.
So is there a superhero show without the fighting? In fact, there is.
Right now, his favourite is Teen Titans Go! Produced in Halifax, TTG! features a stripped down version of what is considered the classic Teen Titans line-up: Robin, Starfire, Raven, Beast Boy (formerly Changling, formerly Beast Boy), and Cyborg.
In the premier episode, sullen goth Raven sends her teammates on a fictional quest for a mystical sandwich so she can stay home by herself and watch “Pretty Pretty Pegasus.”
Our son loves it. And why not? It’s funny. There is little to no conflict. It’s effectively a sit-com with superheroes.

The universes presented in comics are awesome. There are swamp things, Bat-people, Legions of Superheroes, Guardians of the Galaxy, people who can shrink, people who can grow, robots, aliens, vampires, and this guy:


His name was Matter Eater Lad. He could consume matter. He lived in the 30th century. If you don’t think that is awesome, then you are made of stronger stuff than me.

 Comics are a fun place to spend a childhood.
Comics are also, unfortunately, problematic if you’re at all interested in instilling positive attitudes toward gender in your children.
Take for example, Starfire, seen above in the animated gif. That’s how she appears in Teen Titans Go!
This is how she appears in DC Comics today:

So if my son wants to read more about the characters he likes in his cartoons, that’s what he would see. There’s a bit of a schism between what DC puts out with their animation and what they publish with their comics. The animated DC has been, so far, much more kid-friendly than their publishing arm. Granted, a lot of comics are geared toward older readers these days but there is very little for younger readers. In general, DC Comics is having some major PR issues over their recent decisions, including reducing their all ages comics, along with charges of being incredibly misogynistic. A few years back, they relaunched almost their entire line of comics with a sort of grim and dark outlook, which alienated a lot of long time fans. You’d think if they wanted future teenagers to read their stuff, they’d market toward to their younger readers today.

I think if I wanted to read my kid comics I’d go find old Legion of Superheroes trades for Matter Eater Lad stories.


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