I know you should never get involved in entrenched arguments on Twitter against a crowd of people who disagree with you. I know that in my head. But at 10 p.m. on a Monday night, when I should be offline, sometimes there is no other choice. Which is how I found myself arguing with someone who stated that Marvel wouldn’t hire conservative writers, based on the fact that he couldn’t find any one of them who voted for Trump and expressed that on their social media, and saying this:
Most Marvel writers are fairly conservative. Apart from Ales Kot and he's gone. Not a single Marxist amongst them, it's depressing.
— Rich Johnston (@richjohnston) August 2, 2017
Okay, so there was a little bit of hyperbole there. It wasn’t depressing, that was sarcasm. But it was against the statement that Marvel writers are “left wing zealots”. And the probably accepted response…
Words now have no meaning.
I'd love to see the reaction of Marvel writers when @richjohnston tells them they're conservatives.
— diogenes (@diogenes323bc) August 3, 2017
The original poster was defining conservative as a Trump supporting, pro-gun, anti-gay marriage, anti-socialised medicine, anti-abortion. And I wanted to define conservative a little wider. Certainly, there are plenty of conservatives, even as defined by America who did not vote and do not support Trump. But the church is a lot broader.
The original Conservative Party, the oldest political party in the world and the one that popularised the political term “conservative” has been in power in the UK for a decade. Both under ex-Prime Minister David Cameron and current Prime Minister Theresa May, the party pushed for same-sex marriage legislation, maintained the National Health Service (albeit in a fashion that has been criticised), has kept harsh gun control measures and maintained abortion rights, even when power sharing with a party who is against them. The policies of the Conservative Party, seen by most as a right wing party across Europe, bear far more in common with the US Democrats. Arguably, the Conservative Prime Minister is to the left of Hillary Clinton and in practice maintains tax levels closer to those favoured by Bernie Sanders. The party is in favour of free trade, and low taxation — but that taxation would still be higher than US rates. Here, have a manifesto of the original Conservative Party, still going strong.
Conservatism is, and can be, a broader church than it is sometimes defined, especially in the USA. But does it encompass Marvel writers? Well, most of them, I would argue, yes. Certainly anyone, like Nick Spencer, who supported Hillary Clinton over Bernie Sanders, is a shoo-in. Hell, he even used to be a card-carrying Republican. And even Frank Miller, a right-wing comic creator ideal for some, supported Clinton over Trump.
But then I also don’t see Dan Slott arguing for unionised labour. Or Jason Aaron pushing for workers rights. Or Cullen Bunn suggesting sick pay or holiday pay for colourists. The kind of things that were discussed a lot in the seventies and early eighties, are gone from the landscape. The absence of a worker’s party may even even explain Trump. Everyone is for individual negotiation, which can raise an individual’s potential pay but, as a whole, lowers everyone’s pay. That is a very conservative notion, and the kind of thing that can keep poorer people voting for low taxes for the rich, in the belief that one day they could be rich too and benefit. It’s the American Dream, writ as a conservative ideal. Those — like Ales Kot or Steve Gerber — who end up having a real problem with the way fellow creators are treated, leave. Or shut up. Or become Neal Adams.
Many seem to be pro-ACA or similar. But there is nothing specifically anti-conservative about universal healthcare, in that it’s an efficient way to create a healthier workforce. And you don’t see many conservative voices against Medicare either. Same-sex marriage, again, over here, has been redefined as a conservative ideal to preserve the integrity of the institution of marriage. While increased gun control is a measure of maintaining law and order, another conservative ideal.
Because that may be the biggest thing of all, is the superhero comic book in concept, embodies conservative notions inherently. Individual responsibility over relying on the state, the reliance on a sense of innate duty and standing up for what’s just, the maintenance of the status quo, law and order, with a soupcon of might-makes-right fascism. Even when expressed left wingers such as Alan Moore or Mark Millar do write superhero comic books, they tend to still come over as really right wing. And Marvel, with a few tiny exceptions, continues to swing in that direction.
One of the problems, in terms of this argument, is that superheroism is an accepted norm by those arguing, as opposed to some kind of right wing fantasy. Marshal Law by actual-left winger Pat Mills and Kevin O’Neill (and originally published by Marvel in the eighties) was the Judge Dredd-style satirical response to that becoming a norm, and it probably has even more relevance today
As for allegations that increased attempts to portraying diversity at Marvel is some kind of left wing plot, it is worth recalling that the biggest cheese at Marvel Comics, Chairman Ike Perlmutter is a devout hardline conservative, has given millions of dollars to Republican candidates, and is a member of Trump’s administration. And he personally ensured the Spider-Gwen character, created for the Spiderverse crossover, got her own comic book. Okay, it may have been to pre-empt Sony developing a similar character for a movie — but that’s the thing. They’re doing it for money. A business attempting to widen its customer base to appeal to more potential readers, by trying all manner of things, investing in research and development, to discover what works and what doesn’t. Taking risks, showing entrepreneurial spirit, sometimes failing, but along the way getting hits with The Mighty Thor, Black Panther and Ms Marvel. What, when it comes down to it, could be more conservative than that?
There is an argument that strong conservative voices, as defined by current American politics, don’t get hired at Marvel, and this is why Marvel Comics is failing. But strong left wing voices aren’t being hired either. And no, G. Willow Wilson is not a strong left wing voice. Everyone has their own perspective, and everyone sees themselves as the centre of reasonable opinion, defining others in relation to themselves. So if you start from a position as a strong conservative, most people hired are going to be to the left of you, And that’s just not fair.
And back to where this argument began, defining liberal or conservative voices as to whether they were pro or anti-Trump isn’t about being pro or anti-conservative. Most conservative voices over here are anti-Trump. It’s about being pro or anti-reality. As a left-of-centre Lib Dem voting cartoonist for a right wing libertarian website, even I can see that.
So Marvel writers? You are mostly conservatives. Mostly. Now show us your faces.
Oh alright, let’s listen to some Billy Bragg instead.