Thursday, November 17, 2011

Think of the Children

When I was walking my kids to school this morning, my 11 year-old daughter and I were having a rambling conversation about a variety of topics as we so often do and we somehow came to the subject of superheroes. After a short while, she turned to me and asked, "Why don't they make superhero movies that kids can go see in the theaters? All the ones they make are for teenagers and adults." It's a good question and one that's vexed me for a while. A few years ago, my son was a huge Spider-Man fan, but there was no way I could show him any of the live action Spider-Man movies, which were simply too violent and intense for a boy his age in my opinion. The same goes double for the latest Batman movies. I think maybe last summer's Captain America could qualify as appropriate for kids, but, if so, it's a rare exception to a longstanding trend.

It's funny, because, as I remember it, back in the 70s and early 80s, comic books and superhero movies were routinely dismissed by the teenagers I knew as "kid stuff." When I was in high school, I hung out with a lot of nerdy guys -- shocking, I know -- and I don't think any of them was still into comic books at that age. They'd all moved on to computers and wargames and jazz music, leaving their childhood superheroes far behind. I myself was never much of a comic reader anyway, though I always liked the idea of superheroes, which is why I enjoyed my fair share of superhero RPGs over the years. But, as geeky interests go, superheroes were always way, way down the list for me after I reached adolescence.

Nowadays, superheroes are everywhere. They're a staple of our movie theaters and the release of video games based on them is big news. Unlike my own youth, superheroes nowadays seem to be aimed at an older audience. Broadly speaking, I don't have a problem with making superhero comics or movies or games something teenagers and adults can enjoy unironically. How could I? I'm a guy who spends an inordinate amount of time thinking and writing about, never mind playing, games where I pretend to be an elf. Reflecting on my daughter's question, though, I have to wonder why things are so strongly skewed toward the more "mature" -- and I use that word loosely -- end of things these days. Why must every superhero movie be dark and gritty?

Mind you, I could ask the same thing about roleplaying games ...


  1. There are plenty of kid-friendly superhero shows on television: Young Justice, Batman: TBATB, Ben 10, Green Lantern, and more.

    Anyway, I wouldn't single out supers movies, Most movies are aimed at the 16-26 market; those are the people who buy tickets, and they have certain tastes. That, and I think genre films have been relegated to "kid's fare" for so long, that it's nice to see them aimed at older audiences and focusing on more mature themes.

    Not to mention, if you look at the source material (comics), they are similarly "mature".

  2. It's not so much that there's a category "superhero movies" and they're being aimed at teen and older audiences; it's that the category "blockbuster action movies" which has always been aimed at teen and older audiences now sometimes contains superhero movies. When the category is TV cartoons, which are generally aimed at younger audiences, there are plenty featuring superheroes (buzz mentions some of them).

  3. Not to mention, if you look at the source material (comics), they are similarly "mature".

    That's sort of my beef, though. Comic books largely seem to be aimed at a much older audience nowadays. Are there even any ongoing comic book series published by DC or Marvel that are aimed primarily as kids?

  4. I'm going to call it as the fault of the (recent?) trend towards "gritty" superheroes popularized predominantly by "The Dark Knight" version of Batman.

    As an adult I do enjoy a little more sex and violence and drama in my superheroes, but I under stand the frustration of the younger generation. The fact that sex and violence seems to often make more money probably feeds into things as well.

    That said, there are indeed many cartoon/comic based movies aimed squarely at our youts. I think that Hollywood just (very justly) recognizes that *old* superheroes appeal more (or the same) to older viewers, and play to that. More of the kid-friendly stuff seems to be new products.

  5. More of the kid-friendly stuff seems to be new products.

    Then perhaps my kids and I are just missing them.

  6. The Incredibles, G-Force and Bolt are the closest I can think of in the last 10 years.

    None of them are live-action superhero.

    Oh, wait - the Adventures of Shark Boy and Lava Girl. I think that isn't quite ten years old, and it is live action.

    But, taking a sampling from my own childhood, I'm not sure that it was that prevalent, either. You'd have to go to serials in the 50s, I think.

    The only vaguely superhero movies I can think of from, say, 1975 to 1985 are Superman (obvious, but the rest aren't), Popeye (if he counts), The Strongest Man in the World, Return from Witch Mountain (if the X-Men count), Flash Gordon and Tron, and those are all a big stretch.

  7. But, taking a sampling from my own childhood, I'm not sure that it was that prevalent, either.

    Oh, they weren't. I think superhero movies, with the exception of the Superman films, are a fairly recent thing. I was thinking more that, when I was a kid, comic books are mostly geared towards children rather than teens and adults and that's seemingly no longer true. The fact that comic book movies are the way they are is probably as reflective of the change in audience of comic books as anything else.

  8. I thought kids were more into Yugioh and Pokemon and Last Airbender and Clone Wars than into superheroes, anyway?

  9. The Incredibles.

    I think comic books are aimed at older audiences today because TV cartoons are so much better now than they were in the 70s and 80s.

  10. The Incredibles is indeed a great superhero movie, no question. I'd actually argue is one of -- if not the -- best one ever made.

    But it's also only one movie.

  11. You basically hit the nail on the head. Comic books, or using their more "grown up" title Graphic Novels, are no longer geared towards children, but instead for the teen to twenty-somethings.

    It pretty much is an outgrowth of so much everything else in our popular culture: the feeling that "gritty" = "serious". And no artist would ever dare think of themselves as not serious (hyperbole, but maybe only just).

    Comics themselves have suffered from this probably going back to Chris Claremont's work with "X-men", Alan Moore's "Watchmen", Cerebus the Aardvark, and the assorted works of Frank Miller (Dark Knight Returns, Daredevil, etc...).

    Superhero movies are reflecting their source, and the expectations of their target market: people who grew up with the grittier, rebooted superheroes.

    Plus, Superhero films are simply following the trend of action movies as a whole: darker, gritter, "realistic", shaky-cams, full of blues and oranges and so on. It's what Hollywood knows how to do, so it's what they churn out.

  12. I find the same issue in that my 4 year old is constantly innundated with material for action figures, Halloween costumes and the like that are based on likenesses from films that are rated PG-13 or higher. My son only wanted to be Captain America for halloween even though he is far too young to have seen the recent movie or too youg to read any materials based on the comics. The funny part is that he is even too young for the Cartoon network show Avengers which, I believe, is rated Y-7 and he is only 4. Yet, the marketing monster that is so prevalent is pushing Captain America, Iron Man, Wolverine, Thor and the Hulk as their main halloween costumes geared to the 2-7 year old range.

  13. whoops, forgot to add Spider-Man in that group as well....

  14. "When did comics start aiming at an older audience?" Before I was born, and I'm a few weeks away from turning 37.

    The famous Green Lantern/Green Arrow stuff was in 1970-71, Peter Parker was having girl troubles and struggling to pay the rent and take care of his sickly old aunt since the 60s (and addressing civil rights issues and breaking the comics code with their drug storyline in 1971), Gwen Stacy died in 1973.

    This of course isn't "adult" like a lot of what came after, but it was aimed a bit higher than the kiddie audience.

  15. I too am frustrated by the "darkening" of the entire genre of comics -- and the trend in rpgs as well.

    By this, I don't mean frustrated by "dark" comics and rpgs, just at the lack of offerings for younger readers/players in the big offerings.

    The focus on an older audience in comics is one of the reasons that about 150k people read comics today versus the millions that watch the Teen Titans cartoon. There are other reasons to be sure, but the fact is that when your primary audience is older you get people who care whether the book is on acid free paper or not and other cost driving aesthetics that younger readers don't consider.

    As for rpgs, there are some very good rpgs supplements for youngsters out there, but not many "major" games for youngsters. The Essentials line is about the only one I can think of that has the same kid appropriate feel as the Moldvay/Cook stuff.

    When we were young D&D had AD&D with its more adult art and subject matter and the Moldvay/Cook game which could be as adult as the players desired, but which also felt more Harryhausen than Hammer Films in its presentation of fantasy.

    Paizo makes great products, but they are geared at an older audience. They have modules inspired by films like "Texas Chainsaw Massacre" (a very good adventure BTW), but I wouldn't want those to be the way I introduce rpgs to my twin daughters.

    I'd probably use some of the Encounters 4e stuff I've acquired, Steve Kenson's ICONS, Faery's Tale, RPGKids, the Pokemon Jr. Adventure game, or Meddling Kids. That's a decent number of products, but some have very little support and only one is "mainstream."

  16. Okay, I'm going to go into a rant here.

    The problem is OBVIOUSLY the source material. I got into comics by way of Spider-Man when I was pretty young. They reprinted the original Steve Ditko run of the book back in the day. It was dated in some aspects but I still loved it and it was affordable at the time. My dad, who was a big Marvel fan back in the 60's, saw it as a way to connect with me. He would take me to the local convenience store every month and buy me the latest issue of the reprints and I LOVED it and looked forward to that every month. Later on, I got an allowance and would spend every bit of it comics. I started buying the Star Wars comic, Shogun Warriors, the digest and paperback versions they used to publish and all the various Spider-Man books at the time.

    Yes, they were violent but it wasn't the same type of violence that is in modern mainstream comics. It was just a lot of punching and energy blasts. The old school Ditko Spider-Man books were absolutely my favorite, just because they had an amazing charm about them and there was so much action and story packed into a single issue.

    Now if I had a kid, which I don't, there would be no way I could really introduce him/her into the world of comics in the same way my father did. The prices are WAY too freaking high and the storylines are not appropriate. As an adult, I can appreciate mature books. Heck, Secret Six was one of the best cape and cowl books that I've read in years but I certainly wouldn't want a child to read it.

    So in summary here is my problem with the current state of the industry. First is the price points. It is too high for kids to regularly buy with their allowance. That means the industry is killing off an entry point for new customers. The grim and gritty aspect is also a big point of concern. I think that the number of books targeted at younger readers are just written off by the publishers. In the 90's DC tried out a new imprint called "Impact!" which was targeted at younger readers. It didn't work because they were recycled characters that young readers weren't familiar with. If one of the big two did that again with established characters, I bet it would sell.

  17. Not every superhero film is dark and gritty, though: I took my six year old daughter to both THOR and CAPTAIN AMERICA this summer and felt they were perfectly age-appropriate. She saw IRON MAN 2 when she was five, and that's not a dark and gritty film either. (We've left out the original IRON MAN because of the torture and the pole dancers in Tony's plane--but again there's not much grit in that film.)

    I'd also opine that the Y7 rating for the new AVENGERS cartoon is excessive--we've watched all of season 1, and I think the show is appropriate for kids 4 and up. So is BATMAN: BRAVE AND THE BOLD (although it's ending).

  18. Batman: : The Brave and the Bold is one of my favorite superhero shows just because of all the Silver Age references. It is darn shame that they cancelled it. It was fun, funny, and gave me many geek-out moments.

  19. The reason studios don't make superhero movies that are kid-appropriate is because they don't need to. They market the movies to teens (who are more likely to see movies in the theatre) and the merchandise to kids. See this article on how "Avatar" was marketed to kids despite being PG-13:

  20. I think maybe last summer's Captain America could qualify as appropriate for kids<

    You did notice Cap America was using a gun on people a lot of the time, right? Spidey wasn't doing that. Hell, his villains didn't even use guns. In Cap people were eating hot lead left and right. I now its WW2 and all, but...

  21. By this, I don't mean frustrated by "dark" comics and rpgs, just at the lack of offerings for younger readers/players in the big offerings.

    That's really the issue for me. I don't at all mind having more "mature" offerings if it's one option among many. The fact that it's frequently the only option is what miffs me.

  22. Batman: : The Brave and the Bold is one of my favorite superhero shows just because of all the Silver Age references. It is darn shame that they cancelled it. It was fun, funny, and gave me many geek-out moments.

    It was a brilliant show and probably my favorite cartoon incarnation of the Caped Crusader ever.

  23. You did notice Cap America was using a gun on people a lot of the time, right? Spidey wasn't doing that. Hell, his villains didn't even use guns. In Cap people were eating hot lead left and right. I now its WW2 and all, but...

    That's why I said it might qualify. I'd need to rewatch the movie again before I made up my mind.

  24. Well, he was pretty much blasting Nazi's with his sidearm (mostly in quick "time goes by" scenes), so it's all good. In The Avengers film he won't have a gun in modern times. Good way to teach kids about what was the "Last Good War" and how blasting fools with a side iron is not something that flies in the new age.

    I agree with the Brave and Bold love. It gives you that wacky DC universe circa 1950 or so, but retains a certain amount of modern Batman grit without getting real negative. It's a Batman who has long since gotten over his parents murder and can focus on being a force of justice instead of revenge. He spouts smart quips instead mumbled bummer statements. Amazing that an old school take can seem refreshing, eh?

  25. Amazing that an old school take can seem refreshing, eh?

    I think, on this blog of all places, you'll find very few people who are at all surprised by this :)

  26. When you say you and your friends were into "jazz music", is that code for smoking weed?

  27. When you say you and your friends were into "jazz music", is that code for smoking weed?

    Well, I was never into jazz music, but several of my friends were. None of them, so far as I know, were into it for any reasons other than actually enjoying the music. So, fair or not, I tend to classify a teenage liking for jazz as a geeky pastime.

  28. I think it's worth mentioning that before the Comics Code Authority, there was no expectation that comics were supposed to be solely for kids. You could probably even make an argument, albeit weak, that the grittiness is just getting back to where may comics were before the government started meddling.

    I dunno. I think there is no dearth of children's entertainment these days; how many 24-7 cable channels do they have for kids now? I'm happy to see adult superhero fare, honestly.

  29. Have you ever read the Batman stories published in 1939-1940? Unlike the Batman of the contemporary movies, this Batman had no compunctions against killing people.

    Or how about the EC Comics from the 1940s and 1950s?

    I don't agree with the idea that comics should necessarily be "for the children". J. R. R. Tolkien said that children who couldn't handle the dark themes of fairy tales should simply wait until they are older to read fairy tales. I think the same can be said of comics with dark themes.

    Frankly, I don't think blood, violence, crime, nudity, etc. in comics bothers children (generally speaking) nearly as much as it bothers adults thinking about children reading and seeing such things.

    For that matter, there is more horrific sex and violence in the biblical book of Judges (for example) than there is in any comic I've ever seen.

    All of my comments here are not directed at anyone in particular.

  30. @Christian Lindke:

    "Paizo makes great products, but they are geared at an older audience. They have modules inspired by films like "Texas Chainsaw Massacre" (a very good adventure BTW), but I wouldn't want those to be the way I introduce rpgs to my twin daughters."

    I think that depends on the exact adventure. "Crown of the Kobold King" and "Revenge of the Kobold King" can be easily turned into tongue-in-cheek comedy adventures (especially if the titular Kobold King talks like Profion XD).
    Carnival of Tears? Not so much...

    What's really weird is the reboot of the DC universe: They claimed they wanted to attract a younger audience, yet a lot of the new comics are full of gore Oo
    And Marvel isn't better in that regard: As far as I understand it, the Ultimate Universe exist for the sole reason of slowly killing of every single Marvel character in pointless and graphic ways.

  31. The Latest two Batman Films are not 'Batman: Brave and the Bold'. I made a prediction a while back that the direction in which this series of films was going was toward a 'bad robin' scenario where 'The Riddler' would be a high intellect master manipulator who would target Bruce Wayne by putting a 16 year old Harlequin in the batman's path where she could kill Alfred (his support mechanism) and paint Bruce publicly as a 'pedophile' so Bruce and Batman are hunted criminals and push him toward an Arkham Confrontation.

  32. @Doresh

    That was probably the most succinct description of Marvel Ultimates available.

    Don't even get me started on the whole Quicksilver/Scarlet Witch relationship they had in those books.

  33. The comic companies don't really seem interested in attracting kids to the marketplace. As others have said, the prices of comics put them solidly out of the reach of most kids. $4 per issue? How many of those are you going to get per month. They know that kids don't buy comics, so why tailor titles to them?

    Even Boom Studios, which puts out Disney comics like Cars and The Muppets, charge as much per issue as the major publishers. My son likes to read Sonic comics, but I only get him back issues or digests as the singles are too costly.

    If companies are only selling to adults with discretionary incomes, the stories will be targeted at that demographic. That is no way to create a marketplace of future consumers, but so be it. If my son only knows Batman from The Brave and The Bold, I'm fine with that.

    Plus, where do kids see comics these days

  34. The comics industry also says it wants to attract girls, but then it's all busty, scantily clad chicks sleeping around. Or of course the game of killing off all the long-time female characters in humiliating ways, or turning them into psychopathic villains.

    DC's new Cartoon Network shorts are doing a thing on Amethyst of Gemworld. It looks like it will be cute. But of course, any girl who uses a search engine will find out about the whole psychopathic villain thing, and all the other storylines gone bad.

    I love comics; but comics doesn't love comics.

  35. @Bifforama:

    Don't you love comic companies? One of the whole excuses for Spider-Man's "One More Day"-fiasco was that "Kids don't like a married Peter Parker", yet I don't really think the stories got any more kid-friendly after that...


    Or in the case of the DC reboot: Turn long-time, strong-willed female characters into nymphos Oo

  36. What about Sky High? I enjoyed that movie a lot. While the main characters are teens, it seems to have been produced for pre-teens as well.

  37. Someone brought up the Marvel Ultimate line and that is the way things go wrong with the industry. The whole original intention of the first boor in the line, Ultimate Spider-Man, was to bring new and younger readers in because they could get a fresh start with a younger Peter Parker.

    Then they took the rest of the line and took it all grim and gritty then started killing off people. They don't even know how to market to kids anymore. Kids just have TV and movies these days and that makes me sad.

  38. It's all about money! Parents are not the strongest purchasers of comic books or movie tickets. If they were, you'd see more superhero things aimed at children. I would say you can either accept that most fare out there is rated PG-13, or you could be prepared to allow your younger kids to watch "scarier" or more "intense" movies.

    As a personal anecdote, when my parents took me to see 'Raiders of the Lost Ark' when I was 5 years old, my mom tried to cover my eyes when the Nazis were melting because she thought it would give me nightmares and I punched her because in my mind that was the best part of the film. To this day I can't watch that film or 'Temple of Doom' without shaking my head about the hysteria of overprotective parents.

  39. Have you tried the last version of Blue Beetle (Jamie Reyes)? I think it's one of the few comic books which could be enjoyed by kids, teens and adults alike. I personally find all the grim and gritty stuff usually marketed as adult very boring and juvenile, but then as Keith Giffen would say comics today are marketed to a very specific crowd... (To me, the same goes for a certain kind of fantasy which is the most popular today, say, Martin.)

  40. @Gavin:

    "They don't even know how to market to kids anymore."

    I think the problem is a lot more fundamental: Things like the Ultimate Universe and the DC Reboot are basically a way for the comic industry to say: "Continuity is bad! It keeps new readers away!"

    If continuity is the problem, then they won't solve it by creating a new Universe, since that one is already starting to develop a continuity.
    In an ironic twist, it's the normal Marvel universe with its decades of continuity that would be easier for new readers to get into, since THAT universe keeps a certain status quo. The Ultimate Universe hower is completely unrecognizable for new readers, with several well-known characters eiher dead or having turned into traitors.

    Is it just me, or do I sense certain parallels with D&D's history Oo ?

  41. The comics seem to have grown up with our generation for sure. The arguments that comics were just as gritty and full of sex and violence in the past is just not true. I got a subscription for each of my boys to a comic of their choice and the material was adult oriented. I think any reader here over 40 knows exactly who comics were aimed at and what the limits on violence and sex, to use two examples, were back then. A great parody of the whole change in comic books and Superhero movies, in my opinion, is the movie Kick Ass. It takes the metamorphosis of the superhero into adult entertainment completely over the top to hilarious result. I can't see how anyone who actually grew up reading superhero comics and watching superhero shows and movies could argue against your premise. I personally think its a shame because a lot of what they do in the movies seems like nothing more than gratuitous violence. The pencil in the eye scene in the last Barman movie immediately comes to mind. The added mindless violence is pervasive in all kinds of entertainment, though. And, in my opinion, just as unnecessary. Finally, Captain America WAS more kid friendly, and a great summer popcorn movie to boot.

  42. I'll just say that this got me read up on the Comics Code Authority -- and I was surprised to see that it was only this year that DC and Archie comics finally discontinued its use. Seems like that would have been 10 or 20 years ago.

  43. About the pricing of today's comic books: Printing and publishing is simply not what it was 30 years ago. I am not sure that Disney would be able to charge substancially less for their books in order to make them more "allowance-friendly".

    Why must every superhero movie be dark and gritty?
    Mind you, I could ask the same thing about roleplaying games ...

    That is also so true. It's all about PI, image, "street cred", or whatever you'd like to call the industry's (any industry's) reaction towards obsessive behaviour of fans.

    James of the Underdark Gazette laments that White Wolf dropped the ball regarding the success of Laurell K Hamilton and Jim Butcher. But even before that White Wolf didn't even try to capitalize on the urban fantasy boom started by Harry Potter and Buffy.
    Maybe they feared an uproar from the oh-so-serious-and-dark WoD fans confronted with a Storyteller-powered "Magical Boarding School" (Mage lite), "Vampire Hunters" (Hunter lite, with sprinkles of Ghostbusters), or Spiderwick-like "Fairyland behind my garden" (Changeling lite).

    But maybe the main problem is not even the (feared or imagined) fan reaction. Maybe it is that the creators of all our entertainment just don't want to write kid friendly stuff.
    Case in point:

    Years and years ago I read a quote from a children's books author. It went along the lines of: "It's easy to write for kids: you only have to write better."

  44. I know there have been at least a couple of prominent comics creators that have pitched all-ages-friendly comics to Marvel and DC and been refused on grounds that the publishers aren't interested in those audiences. I mean, it wasn't even "kiddie stuff" these guys were talking about but just classically done superhero/action comics like they used to publish from the 60s through the mid-80s. Old EC horror comics are more appropriate for kids now than the average Superman or Batman comic.

  45. I think part of the comics getting mroe mature is that it is a matter of who and how you buy them.
    We don't let 10 year olds wander down to the general store to buy a comic book these days.

    For comics to get into the hands of kids these days their parents would need to drive them to a comic shop and purchase them.

    Kids discover their entertainment via TV now, not by getting the change to see a colorful hero on a rack while mom shops.

  46. as a former comic book retailer i think the problem is not that the industry has gotten darker, or gritter, it's that the industry does nothing to promote or advertise at that market.

    all the publishers have a great all ages titles available, but still that vast majority of our clientele is an aging population. so the books majority of the books are geared to an older clientele with more sophisticated tastes. i had maybe one kid under the age of 10 for every 30 regular customers that were mid 20+. i found that i had two customers pools that were the biggest. one was college age kids who were discovering the trade paperback market and the wide diversity found in that and the other was the 40+ hardcore collector. the under 10 crowd probably a percent or less, and this is over a 20 year span.

    i can't tell you the number of times i've( or heard other retailers voice the same complaint) complained about the publishers, not throwing us a bone and doing some advertising. would it seriously kill them to make a commercial to run during the cartoon on tv, or in the trailers in front of the movies, doing at the very least informing consumers of the 1-800 comic book locator number so folks can find a local shop to read about more of the adventures they just saw. you hear the publishers complain about the dwindling marketplace, but you don't see them trying to let folks know we are out here. they have much deeper coffers for advertising than most struggling shops, and they don't even have to make a full blown commercial, most of us would be happy with a still with the 800 number on it.

  47. i'm an elementary school librarian and lifetime geek - and i've been ordering all-ages comics for my school for the last few years. a lot of my students want to read comics because they see the movies...and, well - most of the comics are labeled by the publishers as YOUNG ADULT. both major comics companies have kid-friendly imprints. marvel has MARVEL ADVENTURES and DC has DC KIDS. the books are digest sized in order to compete with all the manga that's out there. TOKYOPOP had an all ages imprint also but they shut down their US operations. SCHOLASTIC also has a kid imprint - it's called GRAPHIX - you can check that out here:

    GRAPHIX doesn't really do superhero stuff - but if you haven't checked out jeff smith's BONE or kazu kibuishi's AMULET you really should - and your kids will probably love it also!

    there is some really good independent stuff out there like RUNNERS and ATOMIC ROBO but, like the guy above me said - none of this stuff is promoted outside of the educational community - so to find it you need to dig.

  48. I have a 4 year old daughter myself, James, and have faced the same issue repeatedly. Most recently with "Green Lantern," which seemed to be omnipresent there for a while.

    I agree with many of the sentiments already expressed above. But I would add a couple of nuances. These days, comic books sell so few copies, and substantially all through comic book specialty stores catering to long-time adult fans, that the medium has effectively already died as a form of mass-market entertainment.

    As a result, we should de-couple the genre (i.e. super heroes) from the medium (comic books). From the perspective of our broader popular culture, the latter is so 'niche-y' now as to be irrelevant to the former, I believe.

    Why have there been more comic book movies over the last 10 years? Two reasons, I think. The primary reason is the same one George Lucas stated when he made the Star Wars prequels: the CGI technology evolved to the point where the necessary visuals were suddenly economically feasible.

    Why are they all PG-13? Several people above made the point that that's what the primary audience (teens and young adults) want. I'd only add that foreign markets are a huge driver, too, and the same rationale applies again.

  49. 'Captain America' was by far the best Superhero movie I've seen. Being set in a more innocent past probably helped a lot.

  50. The concerns about violence in comics are interesting; growing up in the '70s (aged around 6-8) British comics like Victor and Commando were all war stories with Nazis being gunned down in droves by heroic British Tommies. Then in the '80s (aged ca 9-15) it was 2000 AD, with man-eating dinosaurs, future cops slaughtering 'perps' by the truckload, mutant bounty hunters doing likewise to their prey.

    I think I always found the lack of killing in American superhero comics slightly baffling and exotic.

    My 4 year old son loves killing, and relishes having my plastic D&D minis kill each other off, or else his Schleich knights do likewise. I remember being the same way. I do remember finding the propeller scene from Raiders of the Lost Ark disturbing though - the blood spray from an unscene source made way more impact than the exploding heads.

  51. Is it just me, or do I sense certain parallels with D&D's history Oo ?

    Just a bit :)