Darin Wagner writes for Bleeding Cool.
If you are a conservative like me, you’ve been reading fewer and fewer comic books over the last 12 years. For those of you who know what I’m talking about, the weekly visit to the comic book shop has become either an exercise in irritation or a monotonous drill.
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. 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.)
You pick up another comic book featuring a superhero team you used to really enjoy and there’s a member on the team who shares a lot of the same socio-political views you do, but he doesn’t articulate them very well (by design, you can tell) and gets everything wrong (again, by design) and you realize that he’s the “team jackass” precisely because he is supposed to represent you. (Another Brightest Day example of this; issue #7 where Steve Ditko creation Hawk says he wrecked a restaurant’s juke box because it was playing a Dixie Chicks song. Hawk was created to represent conservatism during the Vietnam War era, but today he’s apparently a reckless caveman who doesn’t understand the very conservative idea of private property rights.) So you put that comic book back on the shelf and if you haven’t walked out by now, you’re sure to get at least three more experiences like these before finding a superhero comic that is, at best, not very political.
We see this all the time, don’t we? Black Canary just happens to make a comment about how supposedly unsafe SUVs are while pursuing a villain in one in the pages of Birds Of Prey. Over on the Marvel side, in the pages of Alpha Flight, a Canadian man parks in front of a fire hydrant while attempting to vote and he’s given a ticket for doing so. The man accuses the cop (Snowbird’s alter ego) of voter suppression and how she’s “harassing the patriots who are trying to change things”… to which she responds “Please, sir. We’re Canadian.”
It even extends outside of comics into animation. In the Justice League animated series episode “Paradise Lost,” Superman and Wonder Woman are investigating a shopping mall. Wonder Woman looks at the interior of the mall and likens it to a temple. Superman replies “Yes, for those who worship their credit cards.” Now, what are we supposed to make of this? Superman clearly doesn’t think very highly of shopping malls, at the very least. (This is odd considering that the character once symbolized something called “the American Way” of life, which was defined by, among other things, capitalism.)
But back to comic books. Sure these little jabs and nods are individually nothing that can’t be dismissed… but they have a cumulative effect. They wear us down and eventually the excitement and magic of comic book superheroes becomes outweighed by our being annoyed. It’s happening more and more over the last dozen years: The people behind the scenes allowing their personal politics to bleed through into the stories of otherwise apolitical superheroes whose adventures are meant for everyone to enjoy. This in-and-of-itself wouldn’t be quite so bad if it weren’t always the same political views repeated over-and-over ad nauseum.
Simply put, there’s too much liberalism in comic books today.
One thing that those who disagree (most of whom are typically self-described liberals) will say is that there is conservatism in comic books because superheroes are inherently conservative. In saying this, they are implying that they are in fact balancing the scales by having these characters occasionally-to-frequently quip liberal adages. I have to disagree with that. The first comic book superhero, Superman, fought a liberal/social agenda in his first stories. The character only became a symbol of lawful authority later. Most superheroes, it can be argued, are apolitical by virtue of the reader’s ability to insert their own politics into the character when the writer has not already done so. Even Green Arrow could be a conservative character, rather than the liberal one we’ve had since Hard Traveling Heroes.
Now, you might say, “Darin, you’re obviously unaware that Green Arrow is based on Robin Hood and as EVERYBODY ELSE KNOWS, Robin Hood stole from the rich and gave to the poor. He’d be an Occupier today.” Well, yeah, that’s how those on the left view Robin Hood… but if you look more closely at Robin Hood you will find that the character more accurately stole from the state and gave back to the people… so one could just as easily say that Robin Hood would be a Tea Partier today and, therefore, Green Arrow could be too.
Folks, I know comics are created by artists. I know that Marvel and DC offices are in New York City. I realized before I started typing this that asking for authentic conservatism in comic books from the Big Two to counter constant jabs, references and snide, preachy copy they print is like asking the mob to please leave garbage alone. I get that…
…but for the good of the comic book industry, this escalation and domination of liberal sentiment has got to stop and it’s gotta stop quick.
Everybody knows that when an entertainer goes political, he/she runs the very serious risk of cutting their audience by at least half. The comic book audience has been getting smaller and smaller and I think it’s time to honestly consider that a big part of the problem is the content. It’s gotten so bad that some of the more open-minded liberal comic book readers I know are getting turned off because it’s so obvious what’s been happening. I know that some of you are going to reply with some variation of “I don’t see it” or “This guy is a troll” or “Shut up.”That’s fine, go ahead and exercise that right… but it won’t help the comic book industry or make the audience grow again.