Debate and Discussion

What's in a rating?
El Cid at 1:40PM, June 10, 2009
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This is more of a rant than anything else, but feel free to chime in with your own thoughts on the subject:

I was looking at a comic today, won’t mention the name but the author will probably know I’m talking about him, and I observed something interesting. The readers were telling the author that they’d like to see one of the attractive female characters topless, and the author told them no way. That’s cool, I’m with him there, right decision. It would have been very much out of place to have included any kind of nudity in the story at that time and place. It would have been poor judgment. However, what perked my ears up was his explanation. He said he wasn’t going to show any nudity there or anywhere else in his comic because he wants to keep his Teen rating. Had to scratch my head on that one. I mean, here’s a guy who has no problem putting blood, death, dismemberment, and decapitation in his comics, but the notion of showing a pair of bare breasts is off limits to him, just because he wants a letter T next to his icon?

I do adult comix. That’s my niche. I do not expect or wish for everyone else to put out the kind of vile weirdo garbage I do. And I understand a few of the reasons why one might want to do a Teen or E rated comic, like, if the artist is a teen themselves. Obviously then there’s no point in making a comic you yourself can’t even legally view. And of course having an E rating, like PG-13 at movie theaters, gives you a broader audience. But I guess that’s where I start taking up issue. Why would any self-respecting adult, given the freedom and opportunity to create anything he so wishes, choose to limit his range of expression in exchange for a greater audience?

Life is X rated. Granted, there’s no need to include every banal detail of everything that goes on in a fictional character’s life, and part of being a good storyteller is knowing which elements are best left out, however at the same time there’s a point where you start glossing over reality to an extent that you’re no longer doing the subject matter justice. The bloodless, overly sanitized gunfights in a 1950s era cowboy movie turned horrific carnage into wholesome family entertainment. On the other hand, the in-your-face computer-assisted gore FX of recent blockbusters like “Wanted” (kick-ass movie btw if you haven’t seen it yet) is maybe a bit more than the story actually calls for. The challenge then in putting together any kind of story is knowing just to what degree you’re going to sanitize reality to make the pill you’re pushing easier to swallow. Whatever rating best suits the finished product, so be it. However, when it starts becoming a matter of closing off doors for the sole purpose of maintaining a letter rating, I think maybe we’re getting off track? Like, the rating should describe your comic, not dictate what you’re going to put in it. And it’s better to change the rating and stick to your vision than to change your vision just to keep a rating. Those are my thoughts. A rant, I know, but at least I was generous enough to share! :D
last edited on July 14, 2011 12:20PM
Orin J Master at 2:51PM, June 10, 2009
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i think i see the problem here. morality is both extremely complex and entirely contextual, so it depends on what one considers inapproprite for public consumption. and they keyphrase there is “public consumption”.

while the ratings aren't much use on this website, in mainstream media your rating actively decies what kind of people with be allowed to purchase it, and therefore where you should advertise, what kind of goods you can sell, and overall how profitable things are. the groups that determine the rating are often the streotypical “moral watchdogs” that want to reinforce what is approprite behaviour (tp them) in media to better teach people as they grow up, and so restrict things that might be confusing to hard to ably explain in the context of the rated material.

they're also useful for avoiding material you don't feel like dealing with at any point in time-life is X-rated, to be sure, but not all the time and you wouldn't enjoy it if it were. sometimes you want to remain inside of your current emotional comfort zone, and that's a lot harder with more explict material around more often then not. (as an example i regret having looked through your comics, no offense)

finally, and most importantly, there's the aformentioned morality. the creator may simply not wish to touch on certain materials for a number of personal reason and restrict them selves to a certian ratign for that purpose.

or maybe they want to sell their work later on, and care less about restricting ther expression then making money off of it.

or maybe i'm running my damn keyboard for no reason! take your pick!
last edited on July 14, 2011 2:22PM
Hawk at 3:45PM, June 10, 2009
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El Cid
Why would any self-respecting adult, given the freedom and opportunity to create anything he so wishes, choose to limit his range of expression in exchange for a greater audience?

That's a very interesting question and I'll tell you why I do it.

All too often I see people putting mature content into their comics for the wrong reasons:
- “It makes my comic cooler.”
- “It will give me more hits.”
- “I'm a free-thinker and I put whatever I want into my comic (whether it fits there or not).”
- “Things that children enjoy cannot be enjoyed by adults.”
- “I don't want to be associated with anything childish.”
- “Offending people gets me attention.”

Instead of the right reasons:
- “The content I put in aids the story or character development.”
- “I have a statement to make about a topic that is not appropriate for children.”
- “Realism is an important aspect of what I'm making.”
- “The content I include is justified by the message that surrounds it.”


You can see I divided the good reasons from the reasons I think are superficial. Obviously people can disagree with my reasons and that's fine, it's all opinion and quite subjective.

I keep my comic fairly clean because I want it to be viewable by a larger audience. I don't think nudity or excessive violence would enhance the story at all… I could achieve the same story without it, so why not make it so as many people can enjoy it as possible?

Also, I'd like to think readers are enjoying my comic because they like the art, characters, and story, rather than some of the cheaper, easier ways to gain readership (nudity, violence, shock value). I know some people really like those objectionable things, but I wouldn't feel like I had a good comic if I put in the mature content but didn't even have good art or a story.


El Cid
Life is X rated.

I think that statement is open to debate. Pretty much everybody will encounter “X-Rated” things in their lives, but that doesn't necessarily mean they live as such.
last edited on July 14, 2011 12:46PM
megan_rose at 5:09PM, June 10, 2009
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Just because you can do something, and want to do it, doesn't mean you have to. He has his reasons for not wanting to do it. Besides, putting the nudity is his comic wouldn't end up being because he wanted it there, but because fans asked for it.

I can imagine that he perhaps wants to do a safe-for-work comic, which really does make it more accessible. A lot of workplaces filter out Mature comics. And there's nothing wrong with wanting to expand your audience, and get your story out there to as many people as possible.


More interesting than all that is the fact that lots of people consider blood, guts, torture, murder, and sadism to be well within the realm of Teen/PG-13/safe-for-work, but naked breasts are too mature. Even in a non-sexual context, just hanging there doing nothing, they are somehow naughtier than someone getting graphically disemboweled.
last edited on July 14, 2011 1:59PM
El Cid at 7:07PM, June 10, 2009
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megan_rose
More interesting than all that is the fact that lots of people consider blood, guts, torture, murder, and sadism to be well within the realm of Teen/PG-13/safe-for-work, but naked breasts are too mature. Even in a non-sexual context, just hanging there doing nothing, they are somehow naughtier than someone getting graphically disemboweled.

You know what else bugs the heck out of me? That only applies to visual media. I've been shocked on more than one occasion by how graphic some mainstream novels go when it comes to sexuality, even seemingly innocuous stuff like George R. R. Martin's fantasy fiction (which, granted, is geared toward a more mature audience).
last edited on July 14, 2011 12:20PM
arteestx at 10:37PM, June 10, 2009
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El Cid
I mean, here’s a guy who has no problem putting blood, death, dismemberment, and decapitation in his comics, but the notion of showing a pair of bare breasts is off limits to him, just because he wants a letter T next to his icon?
We in this country do tend to be rather prudish about sex, not about violence. One of the interesting side notes about the South Park movie is their struggle with the censors. The scenes with Saddam showing his penis reeeeally had to be pared back in order to avoid an X rating. But the war scenes where people's faces were getting blown off, arms flying everywhere, blood and guts… no one had a problem with that. I still don't quite understand that.

El Cid
Life is X rated.
I don't disagree with that, except to say that life isn't just X rated. Life is good, life sucks, life is X rated, life is sweet, life isn't any one thing.

El Cid
Like, the rating should describe your comic, not dictate what you’re going to put in it. And it’s better to change the rating and stick to your vision than to change your vision just to keep a rating.
I think creating art is always a balance between your vision and the distributor's rules. Some can stay true to their vision and no one wants to publish it. Some can try to please distributors and give them whatever they want to make money. Both extremes have examples of success. But whenever art crosses into business and distribution, then there are struggles. Ratings are good to let consumers know what they're getting. But who decides the ratings? The distributors. If you want to be seen, you have to follow the rules of the distributor. DD is great in that it allows so much freedom, and I think that's a big strength. But it also means that the artist has to make choices about how their art can be seen, which is dictated by ratings. I have no idea where the “sell out” line is, that's up to each individual. But whether it's DD or movie studios or book publishers, there's always a tension between artist and distributor, and it's not a bad thing.


Xolta is not intended for anyone under 18 years old.
last edited on July 14, 2011 11:02AM
El Cid at 5:17AM, June 11, 2009
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I definitely get what you're saying about dealing with distributors and whatnot. It makes a lot of sense in the world of commercial publishing, movies, and television. But what I'd hate to see though is for indie zine artists to start thinking like the big movie studios. It makes sense for Columbia Pictures to clean up their films because PG-13 sells a lot more tickets than R or (gasp) NC-17, but in the world of Drunk Duckery it makes less sense. Out of the thousands of comics posted here, I'd guess very few of them will ever see any form of commercial success, not that they aren't deserving (I'd pay in blood to see a “Bear vs. Zombies” action trilogy onscreen!). The size of your audience shouldn't matter, because none of them are paying you anything but their ever-so-fleeting attention. So what does it matter if you get one thousand hits a day or five thousand? More worthwhile to create the things which make you happy and if people love it or hate it, that's their business.

Oh, and I should probably explain that “Life is X-rated” quote, because people seem to be misinterpreting it. I'm not at all saying that everyone's life is an ongoing orgy, or even predominantly “blue.” My point is that controversial things like graphic sex, death, and profanity are all part of real life; they're not some perverse creation of diseased artistic minds. These elements don't belong in every story, but I don't consider it a form of perversity when they are used as thematic elements, whether simply suggested or shown explicitly, or grossly exaggerated for that matter.
last edited on July 14, 2011 12:20PM
Jonko at 8:07AM, June 11, 2009
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I actually want to ask everyone here, would you agree with the statement that a “PG” or “E” rating can actually cripple you comic? I once heard that movies tried to take the “PG13” rating as opposed to a “PG” one when it's debatable because more people go into the “PG13” movie for the violence, action, blah blah blah. I also heard that the same thing happens sometimes when there's a debate between a “PG13” or an “R”?
So basically what I'm asking is, do you guys think an “E” rating will drive some people away who think that would be too childish or stupid?
last edited on July 14, 2011 1:10PM
Hawk at 9:20AM, June 11, 2009
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Jonko
So basically what I'm asking is, do you guys think an “E” rating will drive some people away who think that would be too childish or stupid?

I think it could drive off some of the more shallow readers. Maybe the ones who think a comic can't be good without objectionable content, or are searching specifically for that content.

It probably has less of an impact on webcomics because–depending on your method of finding them–you often won't even know their rating before you're looking at the comic itself.
last edited on July 14, 2011 12:46PM
El Cid at 10:41AM, June 11, 2009
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A “kiddie” rating can certainly scare people off, under the right circumstances. In movies, for example, I wouldn't bother watching a war movie or a slasher flick or probably for that matter even a shoot-em-up action film that was PG-13. I just don't believe you can adequately capture that subject matter and still get a PG-13 rating. On the other hand, if you're doing a webcomic about smurfs in the mushroom kingdom, I don't believe the audience that appeals to would mind an E rating. So it depends on the context. I don't consider that the least bit shallow; it's just being a discerning reader. You're not going to read a comic about gladiators that has no blood in it, because you know it's probably going to be patronizing garbage.
last edited on July 14, 2011 12:20PM
bravo1102 at 10:51AM, June 11, 2009
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The rating should be determined by your comic has in it and that should be determined by the story. I tend to write stories that call for nudity. I hate the double standard about nudity versus violence, so I favor nudity to thumb my nose at the double standard.

I don't pull punches. If the story calls for it I'll show it. Do stories about a culture where nudity is not the big deal that it is here in the west? OHMIGOD those native girls got no shirts! My current comic has nudity because it is supposed to reflect a cuture where nudity is no big deal.

I remember the bruhaha about Roots The producers wanted some degree of realism so they had to fight for bare breasted women in the slave ship scenes. Or more recent Holocaust films. It's because the subject matter called for that content so it was okay.

And sometimes a story is what it is. I once did a story trying really hard to be offensive but that was the point of the story. It was pure exploitation. The nudity wasn't necessary to the story and that was a major part of the story.
last edited on July 14, 2011 11:33AM
ifelldownthestairs at 2:12AM, July 3, 2009
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i think that with our chosen medium we're privileged in that the rating isn't a huge factor in whether or not someone will view your work.

if someone wants to read a comic about, say, samurai warriors, i seriously doubt a rating is going to deter them. you know what will? if the art's bad. if the dialogue is boring. if the story doesn't go anywhere. granted, an m rating is probably indicative of more violence, while an e rating probably means the comic is less battle-oriented, but ultimately it's not the first thing that makes one decide if they're going to read it.

if you want a broader audience, you'll tackle lighter, more general subject matter, which in turn results in an e or t rating; but it's not the rating that pulls in the audience, it's what your comic is about. so to me, any fear of taking a step out of your rating radius is baffling; what concerns me is deviation from what the comic is ultimately about.

perhaps i'm addressing this too broadly, but that's how i feel about it.
you know why birds don't write their memoirs? because birds don't lead epic lives, that's why. who'd want to read what a bird does? nobody. that's who.
last edited on July 14, 2011 12:56PM
SomaX at 6:01AM, July 19, 2009
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Jonko
So basically what I'm asking is, do you guys think an “E” rating will drive some people away who think that would be too childish or stupid?

Now, when I read comics, I'm very selective about my reading. For story comics, I like something a bit on the darker side…that's just my personal taste. So, when I'm in the browse section, I look for T/M comics.
Of course, when it comes to strips, I look for something lighter. Since, this is what I've noticed, the M rated ones are typically mostly sex jokes (which aren't particularly funny to me). So I look for E/T.

Actually, looking at my fav list, I have 10 Ms, 13 Es, and 24 Ts.
And that's about all I've got to say about that…
~*~
#253 in Comic Book/Story #344 Overall ~*~ #383 in Comic Book/Story #517 Overall
last edited on July 14, 2011 3:50PM
da_kasha at 5:22PM, July 28, 2009
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Maybe it's just their polite way of saying no.

last edited on July 14, 2011 12:09PM
Sticky Sheets at 1:53PM, Aug. 7, 2009
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An E rating can scare some people. An A rating can scare more – and I'm using the average American citizen for the example. Likewise, some people are built in ways that disallow them to enjoy a cute E rated comic, while others just don't understand the appeal of sex, or sexual themes as juxtaposed images, sometimes with words. “Why read about sex when you can have sex,” some say. Lawl. Well, that's certainly true now, isn't it.

Of course, some people give up on real sex and try and enjoy it through projecting themselves into comics character, or other, which I would have to say isn't very good. Those people need help, because they've lost sight of a goal, or dream, for something quicker and less fulfilling.

OR they read sexual comics that are larger then life. Most entertainment's plot – in any form – is larger then life, mind you, it's what makes it interesting, and an escape from our daily chores, our sometimes boring lives, or just more involving, or, well, etc.

Do you KNOW the availible demographics of possible readers on the WEB, though? I mean, we're WEBCOMICS creators. We're on the INTERNET. Promiscuous comics are praised here more then in print. I'm frankly amazed at how the top ten on DD isn't full of naked comics – and am quite happy about it. Yes the internet is full of societies rejects (which isn't to say they are bad people at all, they're just different, and we all know how society treats what it doesn't understand) but DD seems to be a big collective all everybodies, rejects or other, or within our rejects we realise we're still real people who love and enjoy different things, not just what we're lacking, or what we desire.

It's nice – I like all sorts of comics. I like the duck.

Truthfully, I think about demographics and hits, and what certain people want, and what kinds of stories I could tell to make those people happy, and etc, but… I make comics because I like making comics – be they sexual (A rated, or M), or cute, cuddly and sexually ignorant (With the T to the E, yo).
last edited on July 14, 2011 3:58PM
Sea_Cow at 11:37PM, Aug. 12, 2009
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As far as I have gathered, the ratings are like this.

E - A nice, easy reading comic that has no objectionable content.

T - Probably includes plenty of blood and general violence, but no explicit gore. Also, it probably includes swearing.

M - Generally chock-full of gore, blood, brains splattering, decapitations, fucks shits and bitches. Rarely much nudity though. That's a no-no.

A - lolpr0n
I am so happy to finally be back home
last edited on July 14, 2011 3:27PM

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