Many, many people went to their local comic store yesterday on Free Comic Book Day, in many causes lining up, waiting, getting into big crowds and struggling to get their hands on some of the free books on offer. And it would also seem that some went through all that to get their hands on Marvel’s Secret Empire offering from Nick Spencer and Andrea Sorrentino — just so they could burn it.
Apparently, this is to speak out against the turning of Captain America into a fascist — by using an age-old fascist method. Because irony is lost on some people.
As you may be able to tell, I am fundamentally opposed to the idea of book burning. In the US, freedom of speech obviously allows you to do such a thing, sure, but perhaps one should consider the history of the conversation you are entering by doing so.
Fascist regimes use book burning to destroy history, representation or ideas that are contrary to their own that they wish to enforce on the populace. History is filled with some of the most horrendous committers of human atrocity partaking in such an act, and the loss this causes on an academic level is staggering. Entering into that conversation by mimicking their efforts feels foolish, churlish, and just as dangerous.
I get it. You’re angry at Marvel. You’re hurt by the very idea of the story (and in my opinion, with good reason). You want to show your disdain for such a thoughtless and triggering story, and make a stand at such actions. But a more effective method of making this statement in a capitalist society, and one more likely to have an effect, is a simple and less horrifying optic of one: DON’T BUY IT.
Take a break from Marvel as a whole if you want. You can always come back when it’s over, if the next rebrand is more to your taste. Use this time to support titles that you maybe hadn’t tried yet, but have stories that are the complete opposite of superheroes becoming fascists and yet still have strong, important messages. Here, let me give you some examples:
Deadendia is a horror/comedy/drama following an incredibly diverse cast of characters working in a theme park haunted house that is actually a gateway to the realms of heaven, hell, and magical entities. It includes a talking pug, a trans lead, a snarky Asian-British co-lead and just general wonderfulness. It has important messages and also just awesome adventure and mystery that anyone could enjoy.
Pantheon, Steele’s other work, has just been released in full colour in a gorgeous new trade, and tells the Egyptian creation myths — through a lens of complete humour and zaniness. It’s epic and hilarious, in the vein of Monty Python’s Life of Brian.
DC is presenting a rejuvenated take on the Man of Steel that returns the heart of the character that had been missing for a while, but also telling it with the added level of family and father/son relationships — and it is wonderful. You get awesome superhero action, great ideas of family and coming together, and yeah, still some heavy and painful moments — but they’re still tinged with hope.
This series is telling a powerful and timely story that is clearly mirroring some attitudes in our world today. It may be the most political Buffy has been in a while. But unlike Secret Empire, this story is focusing on the resistance and those affected by a totalitarian action of a United States government on its own people, as the Scoobies find themselves in an internment camp for magic-connected people.
It’s important. It delivers a strong, much needed message. And it does it with the hero still being a hero and not a fascist.
It’s a feminist sendup of the exploitation genre, tackling tough societal issues through the lens of those that are most affected by them, and taking a stand. Again, it takes the time to explore the story using those affected, rather than those who endeavor to exert their control.
Again, diverse cast, queer leads, an authorial voice rare in the medium and hugely needed right now, with a story that is full of wit and fun and contains important points to think about. A book that’s enjoyable on many levels, not least of which is that we get to see perspectives that don’t get a voice as often as they should.
That’s just a few, off the top of my head, that could be good alternatives to Secret Empire. And heck, if none of these examples appeal to you, there are literally hundreds of other options out there if Secret Empire is that unpalatable.
Instead of grabbing something to wash the taste out of your mouth, eat something else instead. It’s a simple solution that doesn’t involve you dumbing down to the level of the fascists.
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