I'm still into comics, although not to the degree I was as a lad, rooting around the Merrion Centre market looking for the missing issues of Jon Byrne's Fantastic Four. I did the collector thing for a while, buying first editions before Marvel cottoned onto it and brought out fifty covers of the same issue. In fact Sandman number 1 is probably the only valuable comic I still have (other than an early Lee-Kirby FF with the best letters page ever).
Tastes have matured over the years. My first 'mature' comic was probably Bryan Talbot's Luther Arkwright books, possibly Watchmen (collected) or maybe even V for Vendetta or Sandman, I'm not sure. I still buy a mix now- I enjoy the regular Marvel titles like New Avengers/ Secret Avengers/ FF/ Captain America as much as the 'mature' ones like League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, The Boys, The Filth, Neonomicon etc.
Now some of that has been enhanced by son #1 getting into comics. I started him off on the Essential series (reprinting all those issues we used to get in Pocketbooks) then moved to the latest Marvel titles. Seemed good. They have a rating system now- the 'A' rating is kind of the same as PG and the 'T+' like a 12-ish. Thought, well he watches 12 at the cinema, so same applies- off you go.
Then we had a bit of a run of violent scenes in one or two comics that got me fretting. The Secret Invasion; New Avengers had a bit of skrull heads exploding off (green, but still obviously heads exploding) and then Sentry ripped Ares in half, viscera and all in Seige, and I thought... shit, this might be a bit full-on.
So I hit that parent quandary. It's the angst about what and when to let them see stuff, or do stuff, and you start to reference your own upbringing and your own dislike of censorship. Its a nightmare being a softy liberal type. As a teen I'd gravitate to records that said 'fuck' in them, now I synchronise my turning the care stereo down to them. I'd listened to all sorts of stuff as I grew up and Parent Advisory Records didn't make me go shoot up MacDonalds.
Am I fretting needlessly? The staple of lads comics when I was son#1's age were war comics (like Battle). The violence in those was in your face, mixed with a healthy dose of anti-German insults (Fritz, Adolf, Krauty etc).
But the pinnacle of violent comics of my childhood has to be 2000AD. I came into the comic when it merged with Starlord, which I read at primary school (and starred Strontium Dog and Ro-Busters). Me and my brother read it ad-hoc for most of the early progs, with faves being ABC Warriors, Flesh, Invasion, Inferno and of course Judge Dredd. It was really taking off in the early 200s and I think around then we started getting it weekly and stayed with it way past prog 400. Those were seminal years in the comic- Alan Moore and Grant Morrison both wrote stuff, as well as Mills, Wagner and Grant. I loved Slaine, Strontium Dog, Rogue Trooper, Dredd, DR & Quinch, Nemesis the Warlock, Robo-Hunter... the list is endless. The future shocks and the time twisters stick surprisingly in the mind. There was no doubt the sheer quality of the writing and pace of the material had a massive impact on me and my writing, and also in my playing Role Playing Games (the Judge Dredd RPG was superb).
And the violence? Well I got hold of some of the reprint editions that Rebellion published (The Case Files). Bloody Hell- no messing! Head shots, knives, perps minced up, incinerated, chopped- you name it. And that was without reading Flesh (which I bought my brother Dan, and he's hidden from the kids). It's unapologetically violent, ridiculously funny (especially Ro-Busters and Strontium Dog... Mek-Quake's 'Big Jobs?' anyone?) and politically incorrect (I still chuckle about the League of Fatties and their belly-wheels). Did the violence screw me up for life? Ha, not yet. I wonder now what ratings some of the 2000AD stuff form the early 80s would pull in? I suppose now its all in shiny red technicolour so it seems more visceral.
So I felt reassured and did the only responsible thing. I let son#1 read the Dredd comics. He loved them. Who wouldn't? Dredd is the ultimate security figure for a child (in the early days at least). He is the personification of boundary setting, what every child secretly seeks for reassurance. Dredd is hard but fair, and the early comics very noble and heroic (he hasn't got to the later more facistic ones, where he nukes the Sov-block with a Carlos Ezquerra 'Request denied!' shot). I think when I buy them he'll love the Strontium Dog even more (The Styx Brothers...sigh...genius...'Heart shot, I loose, but so does Alpha...' and Middenface McNulty....great stuff, lost on kids!!!).
I hold many of the US comics I read when i was younger in high esteem and with great nostalgic affection. But they pale when I think of the buzz of reading 2000AD weekly--original, funny, violent and a massive prompt for creativity in me.
"Splundig Vur Thrigg," as Tharg would say before eating a polystyrene cup and battling the thrill-suckers.