Just for the kiddies

This was a final thought that never got posted on the whole “Iconic Bias” kick. I started thinking about the old “Comics are for kids” misperception related to it all. On the one hand, I think we can all agree that this belief has come in part from the selection of genres and social contexts that propagated during the rise of the industry. But, on the other hand I think that a deeper issue might also be at work: the idea that pictures as a whole are somehow simple or lesser than (spoken) language.

We even see the derision of the graphic form in our speech, in idioms like, “Do you need me to draw a picture for you?” The phrase tacitly assumes that pictures are simpler than words, and hence drawing a picture will communicate the idea in a less complicated way. Now, this consideration of drawing could be considered a good thing (“Isn’t it great how simple and understandable these complex ideas are presented in drawings!”), but here the tone usually remains derogatory towards graphics.

This “simplistic” perspective could also be related to the Iconic Bias issue: “If pictures just look like what they mean, how complex is that? ‚Ķbecause we understand pictures just like we understand real life.”

In this view, again, pictures are not conceptual (no mental system). Perhaps that’s why people are always flabbergasted to hear that certain people or cultures have trouble understanding certain drawings or sequences of images (which does happen), as if it tears against the very fabric of their knowledge of drawings. The classic orientalist thing to do was blame the people, as if they were substandard or primitive, instead of (gasp!) seeing that their own system might be learned to a large degree and not as transparent as one would like to think.


  • An interesting study (if not already done) would be a break down of the kinds of comics that are consumable by different age groups. For example, why is it that Dr. Seuss can be enjoyed by kids as early as 2 but it’s not the same for the visual language used in Manga? (I have some ideas of why.) Often times our choice of what movies we let our four-year-old son watch is based on his ability to understand and stay focused, as opposed to just content. For example, he is really drawn to Nightmare Before Christmas, but can’t stay focused on Dark Crystal. Perhaps it’s because Burton’s style is more focused on facial gestures – something that kids understand almost instinctively.

  • Oh and I was gonna say, I think the reason “comics” (by which they really mean the 20 page pamphlets – not sequential art) are associate with children have to do with the delivery method that is more suitable for the short attention span. Younger kids seldom have the patience for a graphic novel.

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