Jack's Book Blog: Kids! Horrors!

A few weeks ago I went with Linda to read from Dead Love to a class at a multilingual middle school in San Francisco. To my surprise, even with all the blood and gore and frightening characters, the kids ate it up! Well, I shouldn’t be that surprised, kids have always loved horrifying, bloody and dangerous things. Back in the 40s and 50s there were lots of things directed toward children that included violence against people, or even more frequently, against animals and kids loved that too.

For example, in many of the Captain Tootsie Tootsie Roll comic book advertisements that were put out during that time, Captain Tootsie is depicted killing animals while kids cheer him on. In one such advertisement, Captain Tootsie was in the forest with a gaggle of schoolchildren(that’s strange enough) and is informed of a bear nearby. He subsequently hunted down and shot the bear (while eating Tootsie Rolls) and then he and the kids danced around the campfire with the bear’s corpse hanging from a nearby tree. Pretty sick, right?

There were also a series of comic book advertisements for Charles Atlas Bodybuilding kits that showed a young fellow getting bothered by a bigger man and then getting the kit, bulking up and beating the other guy to a pulp. Even when I was growing up, way back in the 90s, there were some pretty violent and gory cartoons, and I was crazy about them. I remember the program, Invader Zim, which had one episode where the alien protagonist stole the organs of schoolchildren to appear more human for a physical exam. That always creeps me out; oddly I recollect it fondly.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that there’s a problem with kids liking this stuff; many of us grew up with it and most didn’t turn out to be violent psychopaths. But, it is interesting to look back and be surprised at the violent and gory content that has always been directed at children. Kids suck it up like candy.

Jack Betterly-Kohn