I promise you that I am an adult.
I promise you that I am an adult.
One of the phrases I hear most often when I talk about my nerd interests with non-nerds is "I grew out of that when I was 10."
Two things that tickle my nerd fancy are comic books and cartoons. More than my other nerd interests, these are the two that cause people to question my maturity. Part of this comes from a lack of knowledge of the media. The other part comes from societal pressure that says you can't enjoy as an adult the same things you enjoyed as a child.
The first part I can educate people about a little bit. Many cartoons and comics are not at all for children. Many non-superhero comics are rated PG-13 or even R. They tackle complex themes most children would not be able to wrap their brains around.
I could easily see most of this year's Best Picture-nominated films as miniseries at Dark Horse, IDW or Image Comics. Quentin Tarantino has taken his original script from his Oscar-winning film "Django Unchained" and created a comic miniseries, incorporating the parts of his script that didn't work on film but could thrive in print.
One of my favorite comics is "The Walking Dead" from Image. This is definitely not a comic for kids. There is swearing, violence, gore and sex. However, it's also a very complex character study that shows what happens when all of our societal and political systems have been completely dismantled. It is on the same level as highly praised literature and film. Its main concept was adapted into one of the most-watched scripted series on TV.
With cartoons, a similar argument can be made. Some cartoons are made for teenagers or older audiences, such as "Futurama," "The Simpsons" and "Family Guy." Various Japanese cartoons tackle many of the heavy social and political concepts common to non-superhero comics.
However, those aren't the issues I want to focus on.
What I want to highlight falls more into the second half of my above statement — the societal pressure to give up your childhood interests as an adult.
Many series designed for a younger audience have earned a strong adult following. Some of the standouts are "Adventure Time" and "My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic." While I am not a fan of these series, I understand the draw.
Many of the cartoons I watched while growing up, my parents watched with me. When I return to some of those series, they still hold up as viable entertainment. Much like Looney Toons, they don't lower themselves or speak down to children. They have comedy that works for kids and parents. They occasionally throw in a joke children won't understand but parents will.
We're starting to reach a point where the kids of my generation have grown up and are getting into animation, wanting to create cartoons.
The cartoons that this new wave of animators watched growing up shaped their lives in such a way that these people made a career out of that love. Cartoons are so important to them that when they turn to creating, they will make something that they would want to watch.
The Nickelodeon series "Avatar: The Last Airbender" and its follow-up series "The Legend of Korra" were the series that proved to me what I've been talking about in the last few paragraphs. These series are billed as standard Saturday morning cartoon fare, intended for the elementary school crowd, but they are based upon heavy spiritual concepts, politics and even the ramifications of the loss of an entire culture.
Perhaps I'm an oddball. I can see how you, dear reader, might think that this heady stuff in childrens entertainment is all in my mind or maybe the series I referred to are outliers. But I have another data point that proves I'm not weird.
Don't believe me? Look at "Frozen." It's a Disney animated musical princess movie with magic. It has grossed more than $1 billion worldwide, making it the 18th-highest grossing movie of all time. Movies don't get to that point by being for just one audience. I have seen it three times in theaters and pre-ordered the Blu-ray in December.
And, as I promised you at the beginning of this column, I am an adult.
Ian Hand is assistant editor for Tempo and an enormous geek. Follow him on twitter @IanHand_MT.