Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Watch Your Mouth!

Since the dawn of time (or at least since they instituted the Comics Code), Man has been trying to get curse words under the wire in all-ages books. It's one of the great human endeavors. It's that pioneering spirit that eventually made the despotic Comics Code fall, gave rise to the great and bountiful Vertigo, and paved the way for the JLA becoming a T&A rag.

Sometimes it works, and sometimes it doesn't.

My favorite hidden curse word of all time is from Doom Patrol #32, which features the Pale Police, a Grant Morrison nightmare threat that only speak in anagrams. Now, tell me: What do these letters unscramble into?Granted, Doom Patrol isn't a Code-approved book, but this is still well before it got labelled as "Mature Readers Only".

In your usual Code-approved comic, a simple $%@! will do. The Code may be history, but comics are still marketed to different age groups. Marvel rates them like movies and video games, and a Rated T for Teen will give you plenty of $%@! for which to substitute your own favorite cuss word.

For aliens or people from the future, there's the substitution of some weird word (often frag or frak) in lieu of the so much more human F-word. The Green Lantern Kilowog has been calling people "poozer" for decades now, and I really didn't think of it as a dirty word, but then he started using it with this phrasing:
To my knowledge, there's only ONE word that can be substituted for "pooz" in that one. Which makes "poozer" a lot more crass than I imagined. Seeing as this is from Justice League Unlimited #46, an ALL-AGES book, I have to say it's overstepped its bounds. Tsk, tsk. Where's the soap?

What are your favorite and least favorite hidden cursing moments?

12 comments:

Sea_of_Green said...

I'll have to go with my recent discovery of Green Arrow yelling "Son of a beaver!" -- a valiant attempt to clean up "SOB" that inadvertently made it sound dirtier.

The Mutt said...

My favorite is Luke Cage shouting, "Judith H. Crist!"

SallyP said...

Although "Son of a Beaver" WAS inspired, one of my favorites was an early JLI issue, where they had a team-up with Wonder Woman fighting the Khunds. Guy tries to pick up their ruined space ship, and it breaks into pieces. Giffen simply had his word ballon have an asterisk, accompanied by a footnote, that said "Expletives. And lots of 'em."

Heehee

Teebore said...

Does the ever-classic and oh-so-juvenile "@$$" count? I've always been partial to that one...

Siskoid said...

Of course it counts. Doesn't score points for subtlety, but it counts!

Scipio said...

"The Code may be history, but comics are still marketed to different age groups."

Pardon my pedantry, please, but...

the Code isn't history. DC still submits its Johnny DC line to the Authority, as does Archie Comics.

Siskoid said...

I should have said the Comics Code's authority is history, since comics need not be submitted. Sorry Scip.

Or, perhaps, the Code's validity, since "poozin' A" apparently got a pass.

Anonymous said...

Mark Gruenwald loved to use pseudo-swearing in Captain America in the mid-late 80s. "Oh, snap!" was heard frequently, long before it was popularized as an ironic phrase in recent years. I'd look up more examples if I were at home...

I thought it was pretty dumb to use obvious pseudo-profanity, aka "minced oaths" like that. It's just not necessary.

Erich said...

In one of Steve Gerber's issues of "Daredevil," a character remarks on something old-fashioned as by saying that it "went out with D.A. haircuts."

In this case, "D.A." does not stand for "district attorney," but "duck's ass."

LiamKav said...

It's not comics, but the one that stuck in my head as a kid is "Smeg" from Red Dwarf. Especially since the writers apparently thought they were making up a completely new word and hadn't bothered to check to see if it might actually mean something in current English.

Siskoid said...

Yes, when you think about it, smeg is incredibly dirty.

LiamKav said...

Versatile, too:

"Oh, smeg! What the smegging smeg's he smegging done? He's smegging killed me!"

Transformers: Beast Wars was the first of those cartoons to adopt the word "slag", both as in "oh slah" and "slag off". It actually works quite nicely for a race of robots. Of course, the fact that it means something else entirely in the UK did cause them to have to dub the word out of the cartoons (but only sometimes).

It also retroactively means that the original 80s Dinobot, Slag, is so hard that his name is an effing swear-word.