Why are So Many Young Adult (YA) Comic Books So Political?

 

Here’s a Captain Comics column in the Indiana Gazette focusing on a few independent titles, and what’s said about a graphic novel titled Mayor Good Boy looks pretty fishy, depending on your view:

 

Middle-school and YA graphic novels are all the rage these days, and I have to say I’m pleased with that. Long undeserved readerships are finally getting addressed; not just younger readers but also diverse ones.

This is a very good thing. Not only is reading for fun at a young age the passport to being a well-rounded adult with a healthy internal life, but the heroes of these stories are much more diverse than in the past and reflect today’s America. Current middle-school and YA books tend to star independent, self-confident girls (who don’t need to be princesses), young superheroes with brown faces and teen detectives in wheelchairs.

 

Gee, I’m not so sure of that, if the following essay from the Huffington Post, of all places, gives an idea what they’re really like, which is far removed from a reality they pretend to represent. And the op-ed was written by a teenager, one who didn’t like YA novels because of how the writers tend to pass them off as something they just aren’t. And whether or not YA stories “reflect” today’s USA, the problem is that they normalize some of the worst ideologies of the LGBT+ politics. Why, it increasingly seems as though they go out of their way to make it look like that’s all they care about at times. Not a good way to market for anybody, and doesn’t do any favors for the psychology industry either. From what I’ve found out about this segment of marketing, it sure looks more like an excuse to market sleaze.

 

For my part, I rather enjoyed reading the odd YA book when the publishing wave began, books whose charm and optimism were a balm to the grim-n-gritty of mainstream superhero products.

I appreciated the existence of such books for their own sake, even as I began to read fewer and fewer of them.

Let’s face it, I’m decades beyond the target audience. Few of these books have much to offer my age range.

 

Maybe that could explain why he’s so ignorant of the real picture, one full of pretensions, most unfortunately. That said, it’s awfully rich to say you find alleged charm and optimism in YA literature a great alternative to superhero fare, when you make no effort to complain unambiguously about the sorry state of grim-n-gritty storytelling that’s flooded the mainstream for the worse. It should be noted YA fiction’s got its examples of darkness too, so it’s awfully naïve to make it sound like it doesn’t.

 

I still find middle-school and YA books charming, of course, but it takes a lot to get me to pick one up.

And “Mayor Good Boy” managed to do it. Random House suckered me with, of all things, terrific promotional materials. “Mayor Good Boy” arrived in a box packed with pompon material, a Mayor Good Boy pennant and a press release in the form of an elementary school-style, one-sheet newspaper (“Greenwood Daily”).

And the book was about, of course, a very good boy. How could I resist?

And I’m glad I didn’t. Mayor Good Boy can talk, but is otherwise very much a dog, a Cockapoo-looking breed partial to cheese treats and belly rubs. There’s no explanation for this talking dog, or how he ran for mayor — the story begins more or less on election day. You just have to roll with it.

Or rather, roll with our heroes, a pre-middle-school brother-and-sister duo who become aides to the new mayor.

It’s a familiar pair, with the older one super-responsible and anxious, and the younger one partial to potty humor and pranks.

And they have a lot to do, given certain parties who want to see Mayor Good Boy fail. Maybe I was looking for it, but if I squinted just right I could find subtextual hints about today’s toxic politics.

That’s all the explanation I needed for the bad guys, and younger readers — who won’t see anything but a clever story — need even less.

And don’t worry: Our heroes succeed. Because in their world, as it should be in ours, love wins out over hate.

The art is super-cartoony, which is perfectly appropriate for the story.

It shouldn’t give a reader of any age trouble following the action.

 

But what if this story really does build on a leftist vision, with right-wingers presented metaphorically as the villains? The citation of potty jokes is certainly unencouraging, pointing to another problem all too common with some recent “comedy” stories. All this pretentious column’s done is convince me why it’s best to refrain from anything marketed as a young-adult book, when all that needs to be done is just give a specific age-range it’s aimed at. This looks like just more dreadful claptrap in motion.

 

Originally published here.

Avi Green

Avi Green was born in Pennsylvania in 1974, and moved to Israel in 1983. He enjoyed reading comics when he was young, the first being Fantastic Four. He maintains a strong belief in the public's right to knowledge and accuracy of facts. He considers himself a conservative-style version of Clark Kent. Follow him on his blog at Four Color Media Monitor or on Twitter at @avigreen1

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