Maher’s argument is fatally grounded in ignorance, but I do understand his reasoning.
After all, for most of its early days, children were the primary target audience of Marvel comics. The storytelling in Marvel’s comics has grown and matured since the debut of The Fantastic Four in the 60’s — but of course Maher wouldn’t know that, as he no doubt hasn’t picked up a comic book since he was 10 years old, over 50 years ago.
Even today, though, as they have grown and matured, superhero comics have retained the core of what got me all giddy and excited in childlike wonder at seeing the cover of a Spider-Man comic when I was 8. They still have that ability to inspire childlike wonder.
So, yes, perhaps there is some truth to the claim that Marvel’s superhero comics still retain elements of childishness.
Maher’s first mistake is in assuming that superhero comics represent the totality of all comics. Comics are as diverse in genre as are film, television, and novels— and diverse in audience as well.
His comment “Ever read a book without pictures?” is perplexing — comics is a visual storytelling medium, sure. So are film and television. Are you telling me, Bill Maher, that you don’t watch movies or TV?
Maher’s second mistake is in thinking that childishness is somehow an insult.
It is entirely possible for media to appeal to both children and adults.
Just because a book or film appeals to children does not mean it lacks the complexity to stimulate an adult. Pixar has created an empire around that concept.
So, sure, the bulk of Stan Lee’s early career was writing for children. That doesn’t mean adults can’t or shouldn’t enjoy those books, too.
I know plenty of adults who read Harry Potter, or the Chronicles of Narnia, or The Wizard of Oz, or Alice in Wonderland.
Would Bill Maher also like to shit on the legacies of L. Frank Baum, Lewis Carroll, and C.S. Lewis?