Comic Books Positively Influence Psychological Development in Children

The arguments in regards to the effects of media on the psychology of children are endless. In the midst of this the stand of what effect comic books have on child development is questioned. Comic books positively influences a child’s psychological development due to their ability to communicate important social issues, stimulate creativity, and depict a truthful sense of reality.

It has been expressed by many that comic books focus primarily on violence to captivate children. The popularity of comics has been attested as to simply be derived from the aggression that appears to revolve the many titles that exist today. Commenting on the effect of the violence displayed in comic books on children Dr. Frederick Wertham stated:

The comic books concentrate on aggressions which are impossible under civilized restraints – with fists, guns, torture, killing, and blood. The internalized censorship of both artists and child makes this attack respectable by directing it against some scapegoat criminal or wild animal, or even against some natural law like gravity, rather than against the parents, teachers, and policemen who are the real sources of the child’s frustration and therefore the real objects of his aggression. At the same level that the child identifies himself with the heroic avenger, he may also identify however has been frustrating him with the corpse. (4)

Dr. Wertham believes that comic books are so saturated with violence that the child then begins substituting persons in his own life with characters featured in the comic books (4). It could then be rationalized that the child’s level of aggression is increased as he replaces “parents, teachers, and policemen” with the villains that the “heroic avenger” is violently punishing for their crimes, all making it seem that the child himself is experiencing these fantastical displays of violence in his own mind.

Yet, rather than simply glorify and focus on the element of aggression, comic books deliver present-day social issues to children who would otherwise not be interested nor aware of what was happening around them. Many times, the storylines in comic books mirror the occurrences of everyday life, emphasizing them through spectacular events.

In a 2002 issue of Uncanny X-Men, a character with an outstanding physical mutation dealt with extreme low self-esteem and even began contemplating suicide, due to the ill treatment he was receiving from schoolmates. The boy, though, was soon convinced by the series’ superheroes that though his outward appearance was very different from other people he was no less of a human being. It was also brought to his attention that he did not have to feel alienated or completely alone because of his feelings. There was help. Surely, this was a powerful message brought across through the medium of comic art. If children are as impressionable as Dr. Wertham believes and place themselves into the storylines, a child or even an adolescent with similar problems could be helped if experiencing similar circumstances.

Dr. Wertham further insists that the majority of comic books today glorify crime. Then again, can this truly be said of the most popular and more widely circulated titles? Following the September 11 attacks, the company of Marvel Comics responded to the tragedies by means of their characters. Popular titles such as Amazing Spider-man and X-Men were portrayed to experience the attacks and subsequent events. In light of the attacks Marvel presented their characters as completely powerless in the midst of the chaos. Undoubtedly, this brought to the reader the realization that even super-heroes can fail to be “super.” Hence, this allows the child to understand not only the severity and heinousness of terrorism, but it also quells the thought that they are all-powerful or possessing of a god-complex, which would instill within them the notion that they are exempt from punishment. Though the circumstances involved were indeed violent, the focus was not on the aggression (the characters were shown experiencing the aftermath of the attacks) but on the suffering many were experiencing because of violence. This association of real life to comic book universe impacts upon the child the reasoning that just as comic book characters are portrayed to undergo vulnerabilities and pain while dealing with such a real life event, people in the real world do also.

In continuing to