A local ABC news affiliate in Utah is reporting that mother Linda Hurst bought a repackaged two-pack of comics from a dollar store to put in her ten-year-old son’s Easter basket, and one of them was, in the the TV station’s words, “naughty comic book” The Spectre. She was mad about it, and, two weeks after Easter, this is a story!
No details about the book are given, other than that the first two pages contain large drawings of a naked woman, and that the rest of the book also contains nudity and violence. The cover shown on the station’s website is, three seconds on Comics.org reveals, that of The Spectre #9, from the 1987 “New Format” series by Doug Moench and Gray Morrow. That issue guest-starred Madame Xanadu, so maybe she was the naked lady.
I haven’t read the series (I was only ten myself at the time it came out), so I can’t be sure if there actually is nudity in it, but man, it would be awfully weird if DC comics from 23 years ago, back when they used to sell ‘em on newsstands and drugstores to kids and everything, had actual nudity in them, whereas today nudity remains a no-no, no matter how graphic the violence is or how mature the rest of the content is.
I suspect the nudity is what’s sometimes referred to as “TV nudity,” with the bits that would earn a movie an R-rating (nipples, genitals) obscured by smoke or magic sparkles or wisps of hair or whatever, but I’m just making guesses about a 23-year-old comic book. They video version of the report, which you can watch at the same link above, shows the offending pages, but they’re blurred out. (Any of you guys read that issue? How nude is the nudity? How naughty is the comic book?)
This is a pretty weird case in that the folks selling the comic book (the dollar stores) are almost certainly unaware of the content, although the crusading journalists at ABC 4 still “went to the Dollar Tree for answers.”
Likewise, the person buying the comic book wouldn’t have been able to even give it a looksee first (as it was wrapped in plastic) and, no matter how mad anyone actually was about it, it would be pretty fruitless for anyone to try and hold the people who published the comic responsible, since almost a whole generation has passed since it was published, and DC corporate and editorial structure has changed repeatedly since then (Hell, that Spectre woulda been Jim Corrigan…that was two Spectres ago!)
So who’s to blame? I guess whoever sticks two random comic books in a plastic wrapper and seals ‘em before sending them off to dollar stores, but jeez, how much oversight could you reasonably expect in that sort of situation?
It’s pretty cool that a comic book about the personification of the wrath of the Old Testament God, a ghost who fights crime by killing the guilty with elaborate ironic punishments, was given as a present to celebrate Easter though, a holiday celebrating the climax of the New Testament and its message of a kinder, gentler, mercy and forgiveness-focused God.
Also, there are a lot more skulls and scythes on that cover than one generally sees on Easter gifts.
So what’s the lesson here? Always buy your comic books from a local brick-and-mortar comic book shop, where you can look ‘em over and talk to someone who (hopefully) knows a thing or two about comics before you buy ‘em. And when looking for Easter gifts for kids, steer clear of the ones with corpses on the cover.