Is Liberalism Leading to Comic Books' Downfall?

January 21st, 2012 6:35 AM

Seen at Instapundit comes word of the site Bleeding Cool whose Darin Wagner asks this obvious question (no offense to Darin).

"You pick up a superhero comic book featuring a childhood favorite of yours, hoping to reignite some of that magic you felt way back when and you see that the opening sequence in the comic deals with an oil rig disaster," he wrote. "You immediately and disappointingly know what’s going to be said, either by your childhood favorite or by some other character given credibility within the story."

You turn the page, and sure enough, your childhood favorite grumbles about his/her country’s dependency on oil or how inherently dangerous oil drilling is to the environment and how it’s not worth it or simply mutters to him-or-herself briefly about the evils of corporate America. That’s when you put the comic back on the shelf and your local retailer loses a sale. (Sound familiar? Brightest Day #5 contained a similar scenario featuring Aquaman.)

Alas, I know this all too well. As a big comicbook geek from waaaaay back (I have a section of my blog, The Colossus of Rhodey, dedicated to comics), and as one who continued to purchase comics up until the mid-2000s, I find this modern "progressive" trend not only disburbing, but disgusting. It's what led me to stop purchasing contemporary comics outright, and lose some, if not friendships, associations, as a result. Much of Colossus' comics section deals with the ridiculous liberalism that has crept into comics over the last decade or so. The very first post in this category dealt mainly with a group called The Authority, whose members' actions supposedly on behalf of the "greater good" were a progressives wet dream come true. They at one point took over the United States government and proceeded to make demands that your typical environmentalist, climate Chicken Little, and socialist would begin crying in delight over.

Modern hot shot writer Mark Millar (ever see the movie Kick Ass? That's his) is an avowed leftist from way back. Many of his works are imbued with progressive drivel throughout, such as in his Superman: Red Son (which reimagines the Man of Steel as a Soviet superhero), in Marvel's The Ultimates and the cross-over event "Civil War." In the former, Millar had Londonders cheering on the Soviet Superman as he battled his American counterpart as sort of an analogy to American "interference" in European affairs during the Cold War. In The Ultimates (which, by the way, the upcoming The Avengers movie is mostly based on), Millar had a superhero team composed of characters from countries like North Korea and the Muslim Middle East invade the United States so as to "restrain the Roman Empire" because they "feared what America might do next." Another rationale was because America was "interfering with cultures they could never understand." Lastly, in "Civil War," Marvel's superheroes split along ideological lines: One side favored registering superhuman powers with the government; the other side fought against such. The former was led by Tony Stark, aka Iron Man, and the latter by Captain America. Millar's scripts were heavily tilted in favor of Captain America's team; he ridiculously had Iron Man's team utilizing some of the worst Marvel villains in its history working on its behalf, and even made use of an other-dimensional prison where dissenters were locked up without trial.

Darin mentions the recent choice by Superman to renounce his American citizenship, and how [supposedly] conservative-leaning heroes are either borderline psychos or outright mental defectives as more up-to-date examples. He also brings up a good point that many individual instances of lefty "jabs" in comics aren't all that big a deal; however, the cumulative effect begins to irritate people if they do not share the politics of the writers. Like Captain America of the future informing his counterpart of the past how awful his country has become since WW II. Like Captain America infiltrating the Tea Party. Like writer/artist Erik Larsen stating outright that George W. Bush was "worse than Nixon," and stole not one, but two elections. Like Larsen having his most popular creation, the Savage Dragon, punching G.W. Bush in the face. Like popular writer Warren Ellis creating a superhero who takes it upon himself to kill the president (Bush, of course) for, among other things, his "illegal" war in Iraq. Where popular X-Men writer Chris Claremont laments the Reagan era in his story "God Loves, Man Kills" wherein religious fundamentalists go around murdering mutants. Are you getting that cumulative effect yet? Because this is only the tip of the iceberg, my friends. And what's more, all the above and more are widely accepted without so much as a peep (the only exception being conservative blogs), whereas when the few instances of right-of-center stories are in development, they're "controversial" and contain all the progressive complaint "-isms." The writer of the novel First Blood (think: Rambo) writing Captain America? Oh, NO!! Frank Miller planning a Batman story where he battles al Qaeda? We're squeamish.

This cumulative effect eventually took its toll on me. I kept purchasing comics probably longer than I should have. Many of the stories were top notch despite my knowing the politics of the creators -- the aforementioned Superman: Red Son, The Ultimates, and original The Authority series are examples -- but at a certain point, I had had enough. (I think it may have been after collecting a few issues of the series Supreme Power, which I wrote about at the comics site Four Color Media Monitor here.) I just asked myself "Why do I continue to support these guys? I give them my money -- and they continually spit in my face." Some otherwise reasonable creators don't seem to get this concept. Last year I "unfriended" popular comics writer Kurt Busiek on Facebook shortly after the Gabrielle Giffords shooting. Kurt's best known for his Astro City original series, as well as his memorable run on Marvel's The Avengers. But Kurt is pretty outspoken on his Facebook page -- which is certainly OK, but when you're in the field he is, it just might not be a very good idea. As I wrote in the comments at Four Color Media Monitor,

I've absolutely NO hassle with anyone pontificating on matters political, whatever your field of endeavor. However, if you're in Kurt's field, it is ridiculous to expect NO criticism in response to your outspokenness. In regards to the Giffords shooting, Kurt immediately took the Reflexive Left's penchant for invoking conservative "hate" rhetoric as a "cause" for a killer's/terrorist's actions. Yes, he did say "we need to wait and see," but then again, Kurt did not exactly wait, did he? Moreover, by exclusively focusing on Palin, the Right, and moronic a-holes like that hateful comics vendor, Busiek effectively alienates approximately half of his fan base. And then people complain when those alienated point to his comments?

Busiek apparently didn't like that I made screen caps (see at above) of some of his comments and sent them to FCMM's Avi Green, who then wrote about it. (He Tweeted about it and his minions rushed over to FCMM in his defense.) That's too bad. Years before this little incident, I had had an e-mail exchange with Kurt where we discussed (mainly) economic boycotts when entertainers (or writers/artists like Kurt) make controversial statements or do something controversial. Kurt was dead-set against such boycotts, stating that he felt it best to "discuss" the issue in various forums. Of course, with that, the power resides with the entertainer since they have much more access (based on their popularity) to social media and such. The only real thing that the average joe can do to "inform" entertainers that they're dissatisfied is to utilize their pocketbook -- or, more accurately, not utilize it. (Perhaps this has changed in my regard -- now that I have this NB forum!)

It's the 'ol "Shut up and sing!" mantra. If you're in the entertainment business, you run the risk of alienating a certain portion of your fanbase if you insist upon making controversial statements or taking up controversial positions on issues. This is no way means you have to shut up; however, you need to be aware that freedom of speech does NOT mean there's freedom from criticism -- or freedom from consequences. And, thus, all this is [partly] why I blog. I why I'll continue to not shell out $3-4 for a comicbook any time soon.

Darin has since added a follow-up post to his question about liberalism and comics: "What Might A Conservative Comic Book Look Like?"