Adventure Time Issue #68: Dealing with Ageism
Adventure Time #68
August 31, 2017
Written by Delilah Dawson
Drawn by Ian McGinty
Adventure Time #68 is an interesting continuation of Delilah Dawson’s first foray into the Adventure Time comics. She started her story arc in issue #66 this past July, choosing a Princess Bubblegum driven tale for the well known cast of characters. The focus of the storyline is a mysterious balloon race reminiscent of Around the World in 80 Days, where PB asks her friends Finn, Jake, Stanley Nougat, Marceline, and Lumpy Space Princess to race around Ooo. There are two teams, each in search of a gold statue with a visage familiar to anyone who has watched the Cartoon Network TV show.
There are some different themes in this issue, though most of them are centered around the experience of getting old, and what it means to age. In the story, the comic first seems to participate heavily in a negative view of old age and could even be considered ageist. Finn encounters a magical force that swaps the ages of he and Stanley Nougat, and suddenly finds himself an older version of Finn. His dialogue and reaction are disparaging; he suggests that elderly folks have nothing better to do than argue, that they want everything to stay the same all the time, and more. Finn’s experience as an elderly version of himself is an incredibly negative one.
The visual portrayal of Finn’s old age is also questionable. The first recognition of Finn’s magical change to his elderly self is a close shot of his newly wrinkled, crooked toes and BMO’s declaration that he is “truly terrifying.” Finn grows a long white beard, wrinkles, and a couple of inches on his waistband. His eyebrows are dark, low, and irritable every time he speaks. And when he’s speaking, he’s generally yelling, his black mouth animated and angry. He walks with a cane, which is the only somewhat normal part of the artistic portrayal of Finn’s older self besides the wrinkles. But the anger, the irritation, and aggressive behavior continues throughout his experience as an aged human.
The comic does seem to realize this later on in the story, and Finn remarks to Stanley Nougat (who is quite a bit older) that “you have to be pretty tough to be old” and that even when the elderly are having a hard time, “they keep going anyway.” These attempts to redeem Finn’s view of experiencing old age are helpful, but they don’t erase the attitude that was propagated earlier in the story.
Old age was used as a magical plot device, which makes sense for Adventure Time and is fairy tale-esque, mimicking classics like Rip Van Winkle. But it didn’t have to be negative. It can still be a magical curse to get over in the story, somehow, but the way that it was presented in Adventure Time Issue #68 made the elderly seem like an obnoxious group of people who don’t want to go anywhere or do anything fun. It made it seem like our grandparents are all boring jerks who hate adventures. There are many of us out there whose grandparents taught them how to adventure, or paved the way for us to adventure in some way. Being old is not something that universally makes someone hate having a fun time with their friends on a hot air balloon chase.
Finn is usually an uplifting, funny human who is out trying to be a hero (and sometimes failing) in the land of Ooo and beyond. His response to adversity is typically one of hope and continued attempts to try. A great example of this is Episode 18 of Season 1 in the TV show, titled “Dungeon.” In the midst of failure and adversity, Finn’s continuing attitude (up until the point of being cooked and eaten) is one of hope. His character essentially embodies that. Finn is a character that would not be a negative elderly person. He would not be kept from adventuring just because he wants to “stop and argue” for a while. There are parts of this elderly experience that just don’t feel as if they fit with the character.
The rest of the messages in the story primarily involve Lumpy Space Princess not knowing her own helpful qualities but being able to use them anyway, Finn continuing to wear his Indiana Jones costume, and Stanley Nougat forgetting everything. The comic as a whole is fun and innocent enough on the surface. You can only take an old nougat candy guy so seriously, but there was a bit of the ageism in Finn’s experience that stung.
The dialogue is good and does feel true to character for the most part. It’s easy to read these comics and hear everyone’s voices from the show. BMO, for example, is always funny and has the answers when no one else does. He’s great at saving Finn and Jake’s butts in the right moment as usual. Marceline isn’t as aggressive as I like to see her, but these days she’s a lot friendlier than the Vampire Queen in the early stories. LSP is herself as usual, a wonderful conglomeration of vanity and sass that makes any story centered on her–lumpalicious. Jake, as usual, is being his magic dog self and cushioning everyone’s fall or doing the heavy lifting. There are definitely characters that feel true to their original selves, and the storyline is a fairy tale inspired one, which makes it easy to digest.
Delilah Dawson writes the current series after a long career of writing steampunk fiction, erotica, and comics under multiple pen names. She has a strong background in fantasy and sci-fi, and fairy tale based stories, such as the official Star Wars short story The Perfect Weapon. Dawson’s experience in comics is limited, so perhaps this Adventure Time story arc will mature. Her upcoming debut comic series, Lady Castle, will be out this fall and should prove interesting.