, ,

Heroes Never Rust #98 by Sean Ironman

Terror Inc.: The Graphic Nature of Storytelling

Terror Inc. is part of Marvel’s MAX imprint—a collection of comics geared toward an adult audience. The imprint was launched in 2001 and is known for featuring explicit content: sex, violence, profanity. Stan Lee, who co-created the Marvel universe, has spoken out against the imprint, saying, “I don’t know why they’re doing that. I don’t think that I would do those kinds of stories.” You see, some people do not want to read stories with sex, violence, and profanity. I know, shocking. Of course, I feel differently than Stan Lee, but I do understand that there are a lot of people who will not stand a story with questionable content. Check out these Amazon reviews:

  • One star review for Reservior Dogs: “All Tarantino dialogues sound like something a high school kid came up with. Just goes to show that anyone can make a lot of money with vulgarity and no talent.”
  • One star review for South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut: “This is a R-rated movie? Yea right! This sure seems like an x-rated movie! The languege is so awful! Those four foul mouthed boys should be given a bath!T hey say the F-word about 100,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,0oo,ooo,ooo,ooo,ooo,ooo, ooo,ooo,ooo,ooo,ooo,ooo times in it!It sould not be viewed by anyone! I would have voted no stars,but no!Ii had to vote 1!”
  • One star review for season one of Game of Thrones: “Way too much explicit sex for a science fiction action story.”
  • Two star review for season one of Masters of Sex: “pretty much just porn”

Terror Inc 4

Apparently, there is a common thought that only valid content should be used in storytelling. Of course, anything in a story can be too much (I’ve discussed this before). There can be too much sex in a story, too much profanity, just as there can be too many conversations, too many scenes of characters hand-holding. This seems to be the main topic when discussing popular fiction these days. How many articles about nudity in Girls have been written? How many people have announced they are boycotting Game of Thrones because of an act of silence in the newest episode? Just a few minutes ago, I saw that George R.R. Martin has once again been asked about his thoughts on the violence against women in Game of Thrones. We will never decide this matter. I can tell you how much I want my stories to reflect the real world, and in order to do so, a story must contain content that I do not enjoy. I can appreciate a graphic violent act in a story and not condone the actions in real life. I think sex and, especially, nudity creates an intimacy between me, as view or reader, and the characters. But, I am after something different when I read or watch a story.


A story is a complex creation, meaning it could be used for multiple purposes: entertainment or art. Escape or thought. Entertainment makes us feel good, while art challenges us. David Cronenberg said, “Entertainment wants to give you what you want. Art wants to give you what you don’t know you want.” Now, I believe a work could be both. It’s more of a sliding scale between entertainment and art than two disparate choices. But, that seems to be at the root of the matter: some people watch a TV show or a film, or read a novel or a comic book as entertainment. Others look for something deeper. There is no convincing a person who only wants to be entertained with a story lacking any difficult or graphic content that the story should have such content. And vice versa, a person looking for something deeper will continue to pick apart summer blockbusters.


Stories, in general, are capable of giving a reader, or a watcher, a different experience. Yet, each story is geared toward a specific purpose: entertainment or art. People will go on complaining about a story having inappropriate content, and others will complain about stories not having enough depth. The only thing storytellers can do is to make certain the audience knows what they are getting into before they start. Marvel’s MAX imprint does just that. If a reader prefers his or her stories without violently graphic content, then he or she can pass by the book on the shelf. There are enough people out there, enough possible readers. If someone doesn’t like the content, then it’s not for them.


Photo by John King

Photo by John King

Sean Ironman (Episode 102earned his MFA at the University of Central Florida. Currently, he teaches creative nonfiction and digital media at the University of Central Arkansas as a visiting professor. His work can be read in The Writer’s ChronicleRedivider, and Breakers: A Comics Anthology, among others.