By Hunter T. Patrick
HBO, Showtime, Netflix, all of these networks use profanity and nudity in some of their shows… a lot. It is not the fact they want to (well probably some), but the fact they need to. Imagine the stories on network TV. Game of Thrones on ABC might still look magical, but it would still lack in the impact the show makes. Girls on HBO works for how shocking it is. Just the one F-word allowed on Breaking Bad each season has such a strong impact on the viewer for how sparse it is used, and yet on TV it is censored. This piece is not to promote profanity, to promote nudity, to promote that every HBO show use such adult themes. Imagine HBO’s new hit show, Sesame Street, with Elmo and Abby Cadabby having an intense, explicit rap battle. Elmo is already nude, but that is beyond the point. Some things do not need to have that level of intensity as it should fit the audience. This is not about censorship having to do with free speech in riots, or whether or not cable TV should air South Park in all its glory. This is strictly about comic books.
Watchmen was a political comic. It is so well remembered for just how profane it did not hide being. The language is tame compared to what Vertigo and Image are today. It still was such a powerful comic, one of the first of its kind. The Comic Code forever altered comics, but what fought back altered it in new ways, brought new heights. The drug addiction of Harry Osborn and Speedy had such big impacts. Imagine a world where comics always played it safe. Honestly, saying this with no evidence whatsoever, there would be no Comic Code today if comics played it safe because there would be no comics.
Reading this article, there is a good question possibly asked, like why this is being debated. Uncensored comics exist as are political comics. That is absolutely correct. Read an issue of Sex Criminals. If so, you’re welcome… unless you are easily offended then reading a site called ‘Comic Bastards’ might not be the best idea on your part. This is all about DC. DC has Vertigo, the soon to come new Jinx world titles, and the soon to be defunct Young Animal. They aren’t pool-floaties Marvel, they are DC, they are the swimmers who can go from deep end to shallow with ease. They were the company after all that had Watchmen, Dark Knight Returns, and Sandman.
DC announced Black Label, a creator-driven, more mature imprint on DC’s biggest superheroes. Batman: White Knight played a big role in this creation with the out of continuity, extremely well made, and a bit more mature tale of Joker being the savior of Gotham. It was announced that this will be the first book in Black Label with its trade being with the new imprint. With this imprint, the possibilities of seeing full works with expletives when needed and fully creatively controlled take on the characters sounded amazing. Of course, they will be edited as DC wishes.
White Knight was originally made with a scene of Joker and Harley Quinn in bed, nude. That was covered up as the comic had a Teen+ rating. That is understandable, with the creator really wanting the original to be published in print (it can be found online). It was believed this scene would be shown in full of the Black Label imprint on the trade, but that is not the case as of this publication. To give DC some credit, the word balloons would need to be moved as they covered Harley’s breasts, but that is still not what the creator wanted. I will not speak for all creators as I believe everything to be their wish, but with a promised creator-driven imprint, is it not ironic that a simple nude scene is covered, even with the imprint promising to be mature?
Imagine Watchmen without Doctor Manhattan nude. It is not the fact is a floating blue penis, but it is a floating blue penis with meaning. It resembles his separation from humanity and how he has moved more and more away from humans and all their thoughts. I do not believe there has ever been a single censored Watchmen comic with his penis covered in parts where it should be shown. Even Doomsday Clock is expected to show it, for whenever Doctor Manhattan shows up. Black Label wants to have stories like Watchmen, and yet their first published work is censored when their Vertigo titles will happily show breasts. It is not for the fact many may call it pornography, it is art. Maybe Black Label will be fine, and they just do not want the extra work of moving dialogue bubbles in one page, but it is still troublesome thinking of its future. It could easily be that they will not show it in a ‘Batman’ comic.
Take the brilliant in Mister Miracle by Tom King and Mitch Gerads. It is rated M for mature, and yet some dialogue is noticeably censored. When read does it come abruptly as this dark story is censored, despite having that M rating. If someone is mature enough to understand and grasp the dark subject matter, surely, they are old enough to read a few tiny words. It is because it is in mainstream DC. That is what all this is, the bigger the character (despite Mister Miracle being more C list before this comic), the more censored it is. This piece is in hope that Black Label will truly be creator driven and will be to the creator’s vision (except if it promotes sexism, racism, or anything obvious that should not be promoted). This is meant to be out of continuity these works. So no worry to fit into their main world. If each and every creator wants everything censored, or no explicit content that is fine if that is their wish. This is hope for the future for creators to get to see their wishes be born. Hopefully if this is read a few months from now this piece seems odd for all the #$*% being said in these books, but for now, this is all a dream for the future. Art does not have to be crude, but if done right, the explicit art is the most beautiful.