More on the Rating System of Graphic Novels

When we began our discussion of Fun Home, we talked about the rating system of comics. I want to extend this conversation more to some points we did not really go into as much. Being introduced into to graphic novels and comics solely because of this class I had no idea of the rating system. Yes, I knew there was for movies and video games because I have younger brothers who play them. I never thought comics of graphic novels would have such thing because they are, to me, more pieces of literature and I do not expect to go into a bookstore and pick up a book off the shelf and have a rating system on it. After class I began looking up the different rating systems. The first two I looked at was Marvel and DC, two of the most popular comics. Below are some pictures and also can be found here.


Marvel starts at “All Ages” then reaches “Max:Explicit Content” while DC Comics start at “E-Everyone” and goes all the way to “M-Mature”



Appropriate for readers of all ages. May contain cartoon violence and/or some comic mischief.


Appropriate for readers age 12 and older. May contain mild violence, language and/or suggestive themes.


Appropriate for readers age 16 and older. May contain moderate violence, mild profanity, graphic imagery and/or suggestive themes.


Appropriate for readers age 18 and older. May contain intense violence, extensive profanity, nudity, sexual themes and other content suitable only for older readers.


The obvious thing here, besides the different category names, is the age of each rating. This is the one problem that I think the rating system is flawed. Even though that ages are a general range of the average maturity levels I still have a problem with this. Firstly, not ever one who is 18 and up is “mature” or can handle such heavy topics of racism, sexism, extreme violence, sexual intercourse, etc. At the same time there are readers who can handle those tropes and themes but are not at the age of the rating. Another problem I have with the rating system, specifically here with DC and Marvel, is that ambiguity between the level of ratings and between each others rating system. For example, Marvel’s “Max: Explicit Content” is described into a lot more detail than DC. Marvel’s “Max” rating in the picture above has nothing to do with the content of this level. It merely say’s it will not be sold on newstands, it will not be promoted to younger audiences and will post the rating on the front cover. DC on the other hand talks about the topics in each of their graphic novels, warning the audience it might contain violence, nudity, sexual themes etc. This ambiguity between rating levels does not give it authority or even truth. Yes, each comic producer or company has its own set of ratings and it varies between companies but this is the problem at hand. If we have a hundred different rating systems than how do we come to the agreement that certain type of topics are for a certain age group. Is this even possible to come to one overall system? Movies seem to have agreed on one system (G, PG, PG-13, R, X).

The ambiguity between rating not only flaws the system but also makes it harder for parents who monitor their readings. With a diverse range of rating systems how can a parent or guardian really monitor what their kids read? Is it possible? I think not. One comic book could say something is for teens 13 and up and show extreme violence while another comic could say mature and show the exact same violence. If parents monitor the reading by looking through the book then this wouldn’t be a problem because they can clearly see and read what is going on. On the other hand, parents who just look at the ratings on the covers are not really paying attention, and this is not their fault totally. If the comic ratings were the same overall this wouldn’t be a problem either but since it is not parents are being fooled by the ratings on the cover.

Although I arguing against the system does not mean I am totally against it. I think there are flaws to the system that need to be acknowledged, discussed, and changed. For me, a universal rating system would be better and help audiences when judging whether to read a particular comic or graphic novel. I think this would also help in the controversy on whether to band certain graphic novels. If there was one system there would be definite categories and people would not be so undecided of whether to classify novels as mature, extremely explicit, teen, etc. Furthermore, even if we did not have a universal system, people should be able to read and/or not read something if that is what they please. Literature, comics, graphic novels should not be banned simply because they might offend or be too much for someone. The adjustment to the rating system would, to me, help with this problem.