I’m going to start this article with a line stolen from my 7-year-old son: “Life isn’t fair.” For me; an adult whose child gets all the cool stuff. Kids these days have better toys than we had. They have way better technology and video games. It’s actually cool to be a nerd. They get ALL THE SUPERHEROES.
Rewinding to my life at 7-years-old takes us to 1988. In 1988, we had approximately three options when it came to viewing superheroes in animated action: Spider Man and His Amazing Friends, The Incredible Hulk, and Super Friends. Oh, by the way- they were reruns. The shows were on the air while I was in diapers. This didn’t make sense to me for a long time. Why was it that every toy store was filled to the brim with superhero action figures, yet we only had 3 cartoons at our disposal? I didn’t discover the answer until adulthood. Curious? I’ll give you a hint: What consistently gets in the way of progress and all things awesome? You guessed it: Government. Apparently government regulations prohibited commercialized programming that targeted children until Ronald Reagan (the actor) stepped in and saved America and liberated children. Supposedly children can’t differentiate between commercials and regular programming. As a result, the government stepped in to “protect” our parents from us nagging them for toys inspired by our favorite comic book inspired characters. I’m sure I’ve summed this up perfectly, there’s no need to go and research this on your own.
It wasn’t until the 90’s that children started enjoying the fruits of Reagan’s labors. We saw the genesis of a Super Renaissance. TV shows like Batman: The Animated Series, Superman: The Animated Series, X-Men, The Fantastic Four, The Silver Surfer, Iron Man, and Swamp Thing became staples in most children’s homes and spawned a new generation of comic book and superhero fans. We began seeing our favorite heroes cross over into live-action. Michael Keaton donned the cowl of Batman. Was this the golden age of the superhero? Could it get any better? Some would argue these were the best years. My son and I would disagree.
Fast-forward to today
Any parent who has witnessed their kids scrolling through their Netflix kids queue has witnessed the massive stockpile of superhero cartoons at their disposal. Not only do kids have all of the new Disney-produced Marvel stuff (which seems to come out to three new series every other week), but they have the full superhero catalog from all of our combined childhoods. Oh, and there’s one more thing. In case you haven’t noticed, Marvel is putting out new high-budget live-action films every 6 months or so. Avengers and all of their members have their own movies (with sequels). Spider-Man. X-Men (about 40 of those movies). The Dark Knight. Man of Steel. Justice League. Ant-Man? Yup.
But this is where my opening line becomes a lie. Kids don’t have it better. These movies are also for us grown-ups. They’re becoming increasingly targeted toward us. It’s a double-edged sword. The movies and Netflix originals are incredible productions and they’re getting better with every release. They’re also becoming less kid friendly. My son loves Wolverine. Sorry, kiddo. You can’t see Logan because they wanted Professor X to drop some F-bombs. So I go back to a PG-13 title: X-Men Apocalypse. Nope, Magneto sneaks in the singular F-bomb allowed in a PG-13 movie (I hadn’t screened it before-hand, so my bad). I understand the Old Man Logan comics are gritty and violent. I’ve read them. However, my kid doesn’t understand why the same Wolverine he saw in every other X-Men movie is suddenly off-limits. At least get a new (better) Wolverine to pander to us grown-ups. It’s like casting Barney as the Punisher. But I digress.
Comic book inspired television and movies have come a long way since we were kids. They’re much, much better now. And now Disney is backing it. That’s more money. When it comes to movies and television, money = better. Comic books and superheroes provides a common bond between my children and me. We take trips to the comic book store together. We read comics together. We go to the movie theater and watch all of the new superhero movies. When they put on one of the new animated series, not only can I bear it, but I enjoy it. My oldest son’s favorite super hero is Captain America. I can think of few other perfect role-models for my son to emulate. He’s welcome to smash a Nazi in the face with a shield any day of the week. I’ll sign off on that incident report from his school while treating him to whatever Baskin Robbins Marvel themed ice cream is in stock this month.