Some of you have doubtless already seen this already, but having spotted it on normanrafferty‘s journal, I had to comment, even a week late.
Scary shit, right there.
I always assume that my stuff is for adults, unless specifically planned otherwise. It gave me something of a start when I hear that kids were reading some of my comics–someone wrote me once to say that it was the sort of thing they’d want their kids to read, and this surprised me, too.
It’s not that I object to having juvenile readers–far from it, I’m glad they enjoy it!–but it’s surprising to me, just because it’s not the audience I expect. (It’s like when people tell me “You should do children’s books!” and I always think “Have you SEEN my stuff? I’d get two pages in before it got freakishly weird. Then again, that wouldn’t necessarily be a disqualifier, some of the books I’ve seen…) I do find, however, that my awareness that some of my audience is younger, or anyway, not the same audience reading “Preacher,” does affect my work.
Because I know there may be kids reading this stuff, I do find myself censoring things a bit–language, primarily, as Chu and Digger say “crap” and “damn” and “crud” instead of the more colorful exclamations that I would most likely use if, for example, I was about to be eaten by a giant mutant dustbunny. In my very early experiments with comics, I never worried about it, unless I was gonna post over at Yerf, in which case I’d censor it out for the Yerf version. But the more I become aware of my audience, the more I find myself cutting back on that, for the singularly dorky reason that if I had been reading a webcomic at twelve or whatever, and enjoying the plot, I’d hate to have to stop reading out of fear that my mother would discover that the wombat occasionally swore. (Having had my mother once throw out a large number of my books for sex, anti-Christian sentiment, or bad language–including “fart”–I am perhaps hypersensitive to this issue. She still calls to apologize for that occasionally.)
Thing is, being aware that I’m censoring myself bothers me a little. I don’t think censorship is always a bad thing–cutting down on profanity is pretty mild, a sort’ve courtesy, the same thing that keeps me from using “fucking” as an adverb around an elderly maiden aunt. But at the same time, I AM censoring myself–whenever there’s an exclamation, I can feel myself shy away from the rather more robust obscenities. And I feel a little odd about that. But I think it’s about as far as I’d go in terms of self-censorship–you’ll never see me draw “Digger Does Dallas”, of course, but that’s because I wouldn’t want to. (I believe, mind you, that it Just Ain’t Right, but that’s a far cry from “Therefore, no one should be able to see it.”) But it wouldn’t occur to me to censor anything scary or gory or…I dunno, otherwise adult-themed, for lack of a better term, because I do believe very strongly that these things have to be said. It would bore me to read sanitized crap all the live-long day, and it would bore me even more to write it.
So I dunno. I think the fact that I find myself, every now and then, thinking “what if kids are reading this?” and toning my language down, paradoxically makes me much more prone to defend the rights of people to write and sell adult stuff to adults. Because I can see, very easily, that the day may come when I say “Fuck it! I’m goin’ for it!” and doing something that I’d slap a mature label on, because I felt it had to be said, and that was the way the story wanted to be told, and under no circumstances should small children be exposed to it. And I wanna be able to do that. The important thing, the reason that I don’t MIND censoring myself is that I have the option. If I didn’t have the option, I’d chafe at every turn.