For those of you who haven’t visited a comic book store lately (or ever), let me give you a sage warning. Very few of them are intended for kids. Even comics like Superman and Batman are showing scenes of violence and torture (our condolences to fans of Spoiler), as well as scenes suggesting sexual situations (Superman #159: Superman + Lois + chocolate-covered cherries = not appropriate for kids). The Comics Code Authority updates its standards every once in a while, but is a ludicrously simplistic binary system: it’s approved or it’s not approved. Marvel has its own system, much more like the MPAA. Still, like the MPAA, the ongoing struggle between content and values gets boiled down to a couple of letters. A few years ago someone working at a comics shop told me that the majority of his stock was simply not for children. What was appropriate for children was limited to a small set of shelves; less than 5% of his inventory. So, I started to get to know the material there and test it out on the pup. This is my first search-result.
Spider-Man: Mary Jane, Vol. 1 – Circle of Friends
For those of you not familiar, this series started with a really interesting idea. The idea was to re-tell the Spider-Man story from Mary Jane’s point of view. That is to say, it re-tells the story of their relationship. The result is a relationship-oriented comic book centered on a female lead with the social and emotional challenges of being a teenager being the center and not supernatural violence and fantastical elements. This is not to say that I have anything against storied of supernatural violence or fantastical elements, nor do I have any problems with the geek-kit reading them. It is to say that this comic is something different.
I didn’t want to give the full breakdown of sex, violence, horror, and values. Suffice it to say, that it is very low to non-existent for the first three, and nothing to be shocked about in the fourth. The closest they get to sex is a lot of smootching (or "snogging" for our British readers). The violence and horror is low-key to non-existent. The values tend to be along the lines of, trust your friends and be honest with them. One of the only criticisms I would have of the series is that it is not particularly eye-opening or innovative in those areas. Of course it’s hardly objectionable either. The other criticism I would have is of a literary value. You could remove Spider-Man from these stories all together and it would change the story so little you wouldn’t notice. So why make it about Mary Jane and set in Mid-Town High in the first place, other than to get us to buy it? I don’t know, but my daughter hardly cares. She completely identifies with Mary Jane and is totally caught up in the story.