I like your book about childhood creativity so far! I hope you don't dismiss creative girls in your whole book, though. Girls like adventure and danger just as much as boys; I think there's a reason a lot of classic children's fantasy is girl-targeted with girl protagonists (Narnia, Coraline, Wizard of Oz, etc). If you're concerned you might get it wrong, just ask some girls how they feel! All the gals in my house love Axe Cop btw, from age 7 on up ^_^ Keep up the good work!

lucyisawriter

Hi Lucy,

I apologize for coming off as dismissive of girls.  I will probably attempt at least a chapter on the topic, but I do not feel like I have the first hand experience with girls nearly as much as boys.  I do have a step daughter now and that has been fascinating.  She was a bigger fan of Axe Cop than my step son at first.  As she has gotten a little older (she is now 7) she does not like it as much, but my step son loves it (he’s 4).

I also avoid focusing on girls because they are generally so much more complicated than boys.  There are exceptions to every rule, but in general (and without generalizations it’s impossible to discuss anything meaningfully) boys are much more single focused in their play.  Girls have the ability to go in and out of different genres and stories and be all things.

Also, I do not really have a problem with calling one story a girl story and another a boy story.  There are stories that can be for both, but wouldn’t it be better to tell boys that it’s OK to enjoy girl stories and to tell girls it’s OK to enjoy boy stories?  I never understood the desire to try to train kids to be in denial of their gender.  I think that is really confusing to them,  My mom tried this with me as a boy, attempting to get me to play with only the non-violent cute toys until I got to be around 8 or 9.  It didn’t work and I don’t know of a case where it did.  I took those My Little Pony figures and made them get into death battles on the edges of coffee table cliffs.

I think the distinction, when it comes to action, is that girls are much more drawn to adventure because it is romantic.  Yes, they enjoy danger in a story.  There is no such thing as romance if there is not danger.  Boys love adventure and romance too, but what really excites them is battle.  It is this obsession that I am focusing on right now.  My book may not focus on this in the end, it may be a broader look at kids and creativity.  The thing I am working through thoughts on right now is this obsession with violence that it seems like little boys have.  I have not seen it in little girls in the same way.  Girls will enjoy the battle portion of the adventure as much as the rest.  That is actually one of the most fascinating things about girls, they appreciate the entire adventure, they are not driving toward a focus and using all the moments as stepping stones to a main event.  Boys, in my experience, want a battle scene as soon as possible.

My step son, when he was 3, would ask me to tell him bed time stories.  I would make them up on the spot.  When ever I worked in a bad guy getting punched or any sort of battle, he would be completely enchanted by the story.  Then I would ask him to make up a bed time story.  It would always go something like this:

"Batman was on a roof and he saw the Joker.  Then he PUNCHED HIM!  The End."  

He wasn’t joking.  He’d tell this story over and over, only changing the characters around now and then.  For him, the best part was punching the bad guy.

It’s this I want to examine, for now.  I think it scares people.  Especially moms.  Once I feel I’ve dug into the male obsession with battle, I will probably expand out from there.  

Ethan


I will never forget the day some Australian film students brilliantly recreated Axe Cop #1 using real actors shot for shot.  Not only was it surreal that strangers on another continent were so inspired by a silly comic I made with my little brother, Malachai during a Christmas visit, but Malachai’s reaction was fascinating.  He hated it.

The effects were intentionally low budget and very far from realistic.  But they were close enough to terrify Malachai.   In one scene, Axe Cop holds a severed dinosaur head and blood is squirting out of it.  Then Flute Cop has actual, real looking blood all over his shirt, Malachai cringed and got close to me.  He was scared. Then, when Flute Cop turned into Dinosaur Soldier, Malachai was horrified.  The “real” Dinosaur Soldier looked bloody, scabby and slimy.  Malachai turned his head and buried it in my shoulder, almost shivering.  He couldn’t look and had no interest in seeing it again.  The look on his eyes was like that of a virtuous person watching a snuff film.

image

But this is the Axe Cop kid.  He made this stuff up.  He loves gore right?  He must sleep with severed heads instead of plush toys, he surely loves death.  He must be getting raised on horror films by neglectful parents who have no moral fortitude.  No doubt he’s playing those Grand Theft Auto games, gunning people down and stealing their cars, then running them over with them.  Repeatedly. Then shooting their corpses.  His parents must be some young goths who had him by accident and are strung out somewhere else in the house while he watches Quentin Tarantino movies.

Actually, our Dad was 40 when I was born.  I am now 33.  That makes my Dad 73 at the time I am writing this.  Malachai is 10.  Let’s do the math here.  That means he had a 68 year old dad when he was 5.  His mom was in her mid 40’s.  He had, and continues to have extremely old parents for a child his age.  Like many older people, they tend to be what some might call old-fashioned.  No, Malachai does not play Grand Theft Auto.  He is not allowed to watch horror movies or anything above a PG rating.  He draws his inspiration from Looney Tunes, Little Lulu, Go Diego Go, Sonic the Hedgehog, Ben 10, Spider Man, Batman, Super Mario Bros. and many of the same cartoons kids all over America and the world watch on a regular basis.  None of the entertainment he takes in depicts head and limb severing or bloody amputations.  But somehow, when he begins to tell a story, inevitably things get crazy violent in no time.  He creates entertainment that makes moms, and very feminine men, incredibly nervous.

Why doesn’t he focus on something more pure?  Good?  True?

My friend Eric told me a story about his brother who, when he was just a kid, came home from school with a drawing he was very proud of.  It was a cowboy in a bloody battle with a bunch of Indians, blasting his way to victory.  He had the scowl of a man at war and the Indians were laying all over the place, dead.  It was gory wild west mayhem.  His mom saw the drawing and kindly though nervously suggested that maybe next time he could try to draw something happier and more positive.  So his brother returned home the next day with another drawing.  There was now a cowboy in a huge battle, guns blazing in each fist, corpses scattered everywhere and bullets flying with a very big, positive smile on his face.

The question of “focusing on the good” is a question you not only get asked a lot when you are a Christian who works in entertainment, but if you are a Christian with any real conviction, it is one you struggle with on a regular basis and ask yourself often.  As you should.

The answer seems like it should be simple.  Smiles.  Hugs.  Cherubs.  Hot cocoa.  Cotton candy.  Slides.  Sing-alongs.  Bible stories.

"Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” (Philippians 4:8)

That’s in the Bible.  But, here’s the thing.  If a story with violence in it is not pure and good, then the Bible has completely broken its own rules.  The Bible, which many call true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, contains a whole lot of killing and death.

Before I go any further, I know some of you aren’t Bible readers.  This is not a Bible lesson, but I think that the argument people make about “focusing on the positive” is rooted in the perception of this verse, and I think the discussion is valid with or without the scripture.  It is a principle.

So back to it.  You may say that a kid’s story about chopping off bad guy heads is low art because the kid is simply reveling in gore.  The Bible has a greater purpose.  It is telling a story about salvation and it is necessary for it to get through some bloody moments to tell the whole story.  It is not bloody because it wants to be, it just has to be.

But really?  Jesus told a lot of parables.  He did not have to tell any stories where someone got killed, but he still did. He uses beatings, Kings planning wars, guys being cut to pieces and tortured to tell stories.  He didn’t first say “forgive me, I am going to focus on the grotesque for a second”.  He was able to talk about violence and tell a true, pure story.  

So you say that’s Ok.  HE’S JESUS.  He can do that.  But can’t the question at least be raised that, perhaps a story with violence in it can still be true, noble, pure etc.?  The Bible, I believe, is all of these things.  It is a true, pure and lovely book that is packed with violence.

I imagine you are now reading what I am saying and asking me if I am seriously daring  to compare the maniacal play-killing of a 5 year old to biblical scripture.  I am only comparing the two to ask this question:  Can a story with violence be pure?  It seems that in the case of the Bible, or at least a parable of Christ, yes it can.  The focus is not on the killing, or the violence, it is on the outcome of the story.

Let’s go in the other direction.  There are stories that revel in blood and gore.  There are plenty of examples of entertainment that are created not using violence as an ingredient, but as the entire recipe.  Gore porn, movies with loose plots that are only there to go from one kill scene to the next.  

My question is this.  When a little boy imagines himself fighting, and killing bad guys, is he engaging in something closer to the former or the latter?  Is violence part of a bigger picture?  Or is it the point?  

Is the point of the story a child creates to revel in gore?  If it is, why did Malachai shudder when he saw the barely more realistic images of his own imagination?  Why do kids almost always fight bad guys in their fantasies?

I do not have the answer to why kids imagine what they imagine.  I have observations and thoughts.  But I am not trying to tell you what kids think, I am trying to tell you, if you are one of those types of people who thinks deciphering play time is easy, to rethink your position.  I think an adult who looks at the violent play time of a child and applies the reaction they are programmed to have toward adult generated gore-porn is making a mistake.  

Here is a challenge for you.  Write an epic story about bravery.  I would say that bravery is good and true and just.  But when you write it, write it without any possible threat of violence from the hero or the antagonist at all.  Just try to make it interesting.  It has to be epic.  Kids do not do non-epic.  I’ll wait right here while you realize that it is very hard to write an epic tale of bravery with no threat of death.  

I would submit that it is much more likely that a little boy is examining the world of bravery and overcoming fears when he fantasizes about killing bad guys than engaging in morbid, violent fantasies that glorify murder.  He is escaping into a world where he is not safe, but he can win.  There is a reason many little boys are fascinated with monsters in fantasy.  They like being scared just the right amount, because it seems to become a training ground for overcoming fears and facing them head-on.  One of my many favorite G.K. Chesterton quotes talks about how kids actually like to get scared and that is why most fairy tales have evil kings, dragons and basically tons of people who want to kill you.

The child, to begin with, commonly likes horrors, and he continues to indulge in them even when he does not like them.  There is just as much difficulty in saying exactly where pure pain begins in his case, as there is in ours when we walk of our own free will into the torture-chamber of a great tragedy.  The fear does not come from fairy tales; the fear comes from the universe of the soul.”

(read the full quote here in an older post from this blog)

Chesterton compares the love of being scared for kids to the love of a good tragedy for adults.  Adults do not appreciate a tragedy because they deeply enjoy tragic occurrences.  We love a meaningful story, and we love to be able to experience tragedy without it being permanent, to heed a warning and to learn from the tale told.  

Boys (I can’t speak for girls, I’m not one) definitely love the thought of overpowering a dangerous oppressor.  We all love envisioning ourselves as brave, and the idea of facing death head on and not backing down enthralls the male mind almost to an obsessive degree.

Maybe you think that this preoccupation with facing deadly foes, in itself, is bad.  If you do, I don’t know what to tell you.  This truth, to me, is as instinctual and embedded as the need for meaning, justice and love on all hearts.  

So, in your fantasy of an epic bravery tale, you must envision an enemy who seems unstoppable and incredibly dangerous.  Yes, they will kill you and everyone you love if they get their way.  You do not enjoy thinking of your loved ones being killed.  Killing in and of itself does not thrill you.  But facing a massive foe bent on the destruction of everything you love with bravery and skill, that is worth celebrating.  You are not killing because you like to kill, but you do like victory.  You are fighting back, doing whatever must be done to defend the good.  

I believe the fantasies of a little boy swing a lot more in this direction than in the direction of gore for gore’s sake.  That comes later after much disillusionment and jadedness enters into the messed up head of a middle-schooler or teen.  To revel in killing as an act and not a means of justice requires a certain amount of nihilism.  You have to learn that there is no justice and no meaning to life before you can really embrace killing as a thing to be celebrated in and of itself.  It is not a place you go naturally, it is a place you go unnaturally.  Generally, you have to be taught that life is that dark, and you have to throw out a lot of good things before you can really embrace that view.  I think that most people on dabble in that kind of darkness, if at all.  Those who really go over to that view and ride it where it leads are truly the Charles Mansons of the world.

The kids I know who play guns would be traumatized for life if they saw a real man get shot by a real gun.  No question.  Kids have a keen understanding that fantasy is not reality.  Oddly, they seem more in tune with this reality than most adults.

That divide is another topic for another time.  My point in this post is only to wedge some doubt into the mind of a person who thinks the killing fantasies of little boys come from a bad place.  You know your kid.  You know that for him, the fantasy world of blasting aliens into bits and the real world with real guns shooting bullets into real people come from completely different universes.  And I mean that:  different universes with different natural laws, different rules, different consequences.

You know it is not simple enough to just say your kids are reveling in violence.  At least you should, and if you didn’t, I hope it comes as a relief to at least be opened to another way to see the mayhem that ensues when your little boy starts blowing the heads off of bad guys.  That kid wants to be a hero.


There is a tendency in all things to see them only from our unique position and be done with it.  A man will look at a woman and expect her to think manly thoughts and live by manly rules.  A woman will do the same, thinking that he is simply a more hairy version of herself.  Pet owners will look at a cat or dog and apply their own human emotions and reasoning to the behaviors of a beast.  One culture will look at another culture and be baffled by their choices, customs and traditions.  Most of us would admit that wisdom is born out of a healthy ability to see outside of ourselves.  We would also agree that doing so is one of life’s greatest challenges because it requires growth, and growth always hurts.  

I think that in most cases, people are at least willing to entertain the idea that they cannot apply the reasoning of a man to a woman, or a man to a cheetah, or a man to a dandelion.  Many will resist this at first because life would be easier and simpler if your world was THE world, but in that view all we do is make the world small.  So small, in fact, that our life becomes a never-ending cycle of running into walls and then cursing at them.  Most of us, to some degree, will begin to remedy the problem by simply admitting that there is a lot to learn outside ourselves (or our walls).  I would say that those who never begin to learn this are bound to live the most miserable of lives.  But as willingness to look outside ourselves goes, there is one area I feel this is not so readily accepted:  Little boys.

Having been in the unique position of creating a comic and TV series with my much younger brother, who was 5 at the time we started, I’ve experienced a lot of opinions and reactions to the way a little boy thinks.  On one hand people marvel at the freedom, creativity and wonder that pours out of that active imagination at a seemingly endless rate.  On the other hand, they are often horrified by the results.  They see a five year old talking about lopping the heads off of evil men and they shudder.  They think something must be done immediately.  This child must be corrected before he becomes the next Charles Manson. 

But just as a man means something totally different than a woman when he speaks of sexual attraction, and a human means something totally different than a horse when they say “neigh”, a 5 year old boy means something completely different from an adult when he says “kill”.  The idea of killing, thus far in his life has mostly been limited to what happens routinely in a game of Super Mario Brothers.  And in that context, if we were to be so literal and adult about things, a bloodbath has ensued and the body count is breathtaking.

What a little boy actually means when they talk of killing bad guys is another huge topic for another time. I do not claim to have it all figured out.  But when we claim to know what they mean because they are kids and we are adults, we have simplified them.  We have taken them for granted because they are small.  Understanding the world of a child is as deeply and widely complex as trying to understand the opposite sex.  That is why I will not try to dive into it too much here.  

I write this only to make this first point.  When you look into the world of a child, look into it with the same awe and wonder with which you would look into an alien world, or a mystical world inside of a Wardrobe.  Assume, from the start, that words and ideas have different meanings.  Humble yourself before that little mind and it will become vast before your very eyes.  There is a reason Christ said that “anyone who will not receive the Kingdom of God like a little child will not enter it" (Luke 18:17).  He is telling us that most of us, as we grow, lose the thing we needed to hold onto the most.  What was it?  That is the question, and the answer is in your four year old son who day dreams of battle with monsters and defeating every kind of evil.  

We grow up and we get jaded.  We learn that flight is impossible, super powers are imaginary, guns are bad and the only real ultimate good is to put your pop cans in the proper container and don’t judge anyone or anything.  We may get bigger, but our world gets smaller.  We shrink.  We carry our withered and jaded view of reality like a badge of wisdom and we try to force kids to accept it before their time, and it is in that moment that we rob them of what being a kid really ought to be.

I want to make it clear that I am not one who thinks that kids possess wisdom and should be our teachers.  All I am saying, truly all I am trying to say in this posting, is that it is a mistake to view a child through an adult filter and act like you have them all figured out.  If it were so easy, Christ never would have had to utter those words that surely shocked the monocled know-it-all’s of his time.  A child is not only a wonder because they inhabit a different world than adults.  They are an even greater mystery because they possess a world we once inhabited ourselves, but lost along the way.  Like with all wisdom, there is a paradox at the heart of the matter.

It is not enough to say we should give up our world to regain theirs.  We need to remain adults.  But to really see a child and accept their world beyond the confines of our adult perception expands our world.  Just as when we really work to let go and see the opposite sex on their terms, or to love someone for the sake of who they are and not what they can be for us… our world is inevitably made more robust, deep, meaningful and those little walls of our own world broaden.  Seeing a child’s world does not make us kids again, it makes us better adults.  

I would like to get into the specifics of my own observations on the philosophy of why little boys obsess over battling bad guys, but for now I will leave it at this.  Look at your kids, and all kids, with humility.  You do have something to offer them, but they have something to offer you too.  When we try to turn kids into little adults we make the whole world grow up too fast, and in so doing, it shrinks.

From my 4 year old step son’s book “Stories That Knock You Out”.  Available in print or digital.


Here’s the next page of Axe Cop Gets Married, where he takes the Water Queen on the best date ever.  I was going to get someone to do a true translation on this Chinese for me, but I think it is probably funnier with Axe Cop speaking Google Translate simplified Chinese.  If you can read what he is saying let me know.

I just found out that at Comic Con there will be a 57 foot Axe Cop balloon over the FOX ADHD tent!  They will also be handing out posters and figurines.  It is going to be pretty amazing.

Ethan

Here’s the next page of Axe Cop Gets Married, where he takes the Water Queen on the best date ever.  I was going to get someone to do a true translation on this Chinese for me, but I think it is probably funnier with Axe Cop speaking Google Translate simplified Chinese.  If you can read what he is saying let me know.

I just found out that at Comic Con there will be a 57 foot Axe Cop balloon over the FOX ADHD tent!  They will also be handing out posters and figurines.  It is going to be pretty amazing.

Ethan


Another post while my web sites remain out of commission.  Here is the next page of Bearmageddon.  Think of it as a montage interrupted by a yapping dog.  I’m hoping we can save Bearmageddon.  Axe Cop we are completely remaking, but it needed it.  Bearmageddon I liked just as it was.  Worst case scenario I think is we get it back but lose all the blogs and comments that were posted.  That would be a bummer.  I didn’t feel like Axe Cop’s blog had a real community around it, probably because it was so technically dysfunctional.  Bearmageddon I really enjoyed the interactions and blogs. I guess we will wait and see what happens.  Huge thans to Eric, Mike and Doug who are working like crazy to try to save Axe Cop and Bearmageddon.

Another post while my web sites remain out of commission.  Here is the next page of Bearmageddon.  Think of it as a montage interrupted by a yapping dog.  I’m hoping we can save Bearmageddon.  Axe Cop we are completely remaking, but it needed it.  Bearmageddon I liked just as it was.  Worst case scenario I think is we get it back but lose all the blogs and comments that were posted.  That would be a bummer.  I didn’t feel like Axe Cop’s blog had a real community around it, probably because it was so technically dysfunctional.  Bearmageddon I really enjoyed the interactions and blogs. I guess we will wait and see what happens.  Huge thans to Eric, Mike and Doug who are working like crazy to try to save Axe Cop and Bearmageddon.


Well, Axecop.com and Bearmageddon.com are still both down.  We are still in the process of trying to salvage Bearmageddon.  With Axe Cop I decided to do what I’ve needed to do for a while and rebuild the site.  Sadly, all those old blogs and comments and stuff will be gone, but the site will be less cluttered and have a new look.  Nice and clean and functional. In the meantime I will start posing episodes here on my Tumblr.  Hopefully Axe Cop will be back up in time for SDCC and the TV show air date!  Thanks for reading and bearing with me through this mess.

Well, Axecop.com and Bearmageddon.com are still both down.  We are still in the process of trying to salvage Bearmageddon.  With Axe Cop I decided to do what I’ve needed to do for a while and rebuild the site.  Sadly, all those old blogs and comments and stuff will be gone, but the site will be less cluttered and have a new look.  Nice and clean and functional. In the meantime I will start posing episodes here on my Tumblr.  Hopefully Axe Cop will be back up in time for SDCC and the TV show air date!  Thanks for reading and bearing with me through this mess.


oh my god it’s ethan nicolle t-thank you so much for pointing me in the right direction, it’s sort of an honor to even get an ask from you.

sh1eldknight

Sorry I didn’t realize we were out.  Tell you what, if you buy something from my www.axecopwedding.com site, remind me of this conversation in the note and I will throw in a CHOP poster for free, signed.


well, I would go get some from the store but "Oh no! Other people already bought all of this thing and we will probably not ever get any more!"

sh1eldknight

Oh i didn’t even realize that!  I have a whole box of them in my closet. I guess i should send more to Topatoco.



"If you keep bogies and goblins away from children they would make them up for themselves.  One small child in the dark can invent more hells than Swedenborg.  One small child can imagine monsters too big and black to get into any picture, and give them names too unearthly and cacophonous to have occurred in the cries of any lunatic.  The child, to begin with, commonly likes horrors, and he continues to indulge in them even when he does not like them.  There is just as much difficulty in saying exactly where pure pain begins in his case, as there is in ours when we walk of our own free will into the torture-chamber of a great tragedy.  The fear does not come from fairy tales; the fear comes from the universe of the soul."
-G.K. Chesterton, the Red Angel


The image is of a monster my little brother Malachai made up named “Shabaccus” when he was 6 (Axe Cop: Bad Guy Earth #3).  He is as big as a sky scraper, shoots lava out of his feet when he flies,  has giant horns, sharp claws, sharp teeth, is covered in spikes, has machine gun ears, his eyes light up, firey-orange hair and he carries a giant sword and machine gun.

"If you keep bogies and goblins away from children they would make them up for themselves.  One small child in the dark can invent more hells than Swedenborg.  One small child can imagine monsters too big and black to get into any picture, and give them names too unearthly and cacophonous to have occurred in the cries of any lunatic.  The child, to begin with, commonly likes horrors, and he continues to indulge in them even when he does not like them.  There is just as much difficulty in saying exactly where pure pain begins in his case, as there is in ours when we walk of our own free will into the torture-chamber of a great tragedy.  The fear does not come from fairy tales; the fear comes from the universe of the soul."

-G.K. Chesterton, the Red Angel

The image is of a monster my little brother Malachai made up named “Shabaccus” when he was 6 (Axe Cop: Bad Guy Earth #3).  He is as big as a sky scraper, shoots lava out of his feet when he flies, has giant horns, sharp claws, sharp teeth, is covered in spikes, has machine gun ears, his eyes light up, firey-orange hair and he carries a giant sword and machine gun.


"…[Syme] remembered a hornbill, which was simply a huge yellow beak with a small bird tied to it. The whole gave him a sensation, the vividness of which he could not explain, that Nature was always making mysterious jokes. Sunday had told them they would understand him when they understood the stars. He wondered whether even the archangels understood the hornbill." 
-from the Man Who Was Thursday by G.K. Chesterton

"…[Syme] remembered a hornbill, which was simply a huge yellow beak with a small bird tied to it. The whole gave him a sensation, the vividness of which he could not explain, that Nature was always making mysterious jokes. Sunday had told them they would understand him when they understood the stars. He wondered whether even the archangels understood the hornbill." 

-from the Man Who Was Thursday by G.K. Chesterton



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