This is a subject I’ve been pondering for a while, and with the release of a certain book followed by a certain tirade from a certain creator, the time seemed ripe for comment. The question at hand is, how do you deal with the work of a creator that you have a problem with in real life? Like many questions the answer is nuanced, complex, and ultimately personal, but I can at least elucidate some of the broad strokes to help you think about things as you make your pull list for next week. In my view, this problem can be broken down by way of a spectrum, from no problem with a creator to serious issues, so let’s walk through it! And by way of disclaimer: this post acknowledges the existence of politics.
This is the simplest type of relationship. All you know is the work, and you are not actively seeking anything else. You’re not following them on twitter, you don’t read their blogs, and you don’t talk to them at conventions. Their work is pure and all you know of them as a person. This is really the default for how most of us function when starting out, and without any extra effort it’s where most of stay. Clean, safe, simple.
You know what they think, and you agree
This is the next easiest situation. You at some point gleaned a creator’s ideology, but it falls in sync with yours so no big deal. Maybe their work reflects their feelings, maybe it doesn’t, either way you don’t have a problem so there are no hard decisions to be made.
You don’t know what they think, but their work makes it clear
This is a tricky one. It’s probably the most ephemeral state because if you suspect that a work is conveying the creators ideas you’re next step is to go and find out what those beliefs are, thus removing you from this category, but I think it’s still worth mentioning. It’s really hard to describe this one but by way of example.
There was a certain creator whose book I bought after only seeing a few preview pages. The art was awesome so I was very excited to check out the rest of the story. By the end of the book, it was clear I was reading a morality tale heavily influenced by a Judeo-Christian worldview. Didn’t really bother me at the time, but the more I read of this creator’s catalog the more I realized that EVERY book was a Judeo-Christian morality tale. It doesn’t matter whether I’m Christian or not, as a reader I was just kind of bored with it.
I know all creators have beliefs and ideas about the world, they’re only people, and I know that those beliefs are going to influence the work, so that’s not my problem. My problem was that I thought having almost the same themes in every work made each story less interesting than the last until culminating in a story where the liberal atheist character is a selfish, idiotic caricature. It just tarnished the work, displayed an obvious bias, and left a bad taste in my mouth. It really didn’t matter if I agreed or not, it was clear this creator had let their beliefs supersede the work, and it was probably best for me to move on.
You know what they think, disagree, but it stays out of the work
There are some creators who are vocal about what they think, which is fine. Free speech is awesome. And fortunately we live in a society where a person doesn’t have to make a comic book to get their voice heard. A creator can write a long-winded screed against this or that and still churn out the awesome adventures of a spandex wonder-person. To continue my trend of being vague, I have a friend who is a creator of a much beloved series. This friend is very conservative politically. This means we, as people, get into some pretty spirited debates but that’s all they are: spirited debated. Now when I read his work, I don’t see that conservatism at all. There are of course characters that seem conservative, just as there are conservative people in real life, but those characters don’t feel like a mouthpiece for the author’s opinion and every other character is fully realized. So while I know I disagree with the creator, the work stands on its own, and there’s not really a problem.
You know what they think, disagree, and it pervades the work
Certain time a creator’s work will have themes that give a clear sense about how they view the world, but if you really weren’t sure you can read it yourself in plain language somewhere on the internet. To me, this makes for a very easy decision. You know what you think, you know what they think, you know if you read the book you’re going to get their opinion loud and clear, and thus you can make your decision. Maybe the art of said comic is too your liking enough that you don’t care what the book actually says. That’s a perfectly acceptable decision. So unless you can go back to older works without the in-your-face ideology, maybe it’s smarter to steer clear of books in this category.
Bonus category: you know what they think, find it abhorrent, and the work doesn’t matter
I can’t think of an example for this one in comics, which is a good thing, but there are times when you learn what a creator thinks and find it truly awful. There are certain issues for me that supersede entertainment, and if I find out a creator holds those views I can’t in good conscience continue to financially support their work. It’s thankfully rare, but I thought it fit the spectrum and thus wanted to mention it.
So there are the categories as I perceive them. Now remember, I have creators in my head while I write this, but the creator I think of when I write about disagreeing may be your ideological hero, it’s all personal. That’s why I didn’t name names, I wanted you to fill in the blanks and have some honest reflection about the point I was trying to get across. I know our motto ‘round these parts is, “Read what you like.” Which is a great starting point but can be overly simplistic when reality rears its ugly head. Most good comics are made by good people, regardless of ideology, so fortunately for us this is a discussion rarely needed. I do want to know what you think though. Does the ideology, if known, influence your buying and enjoyment? Do you go out of your way to find out your favorite creators beliefs? Do you find it hard to believe anyone even bothers worrying about this stuff? Let’s hear it in the comments!
Quick note on the comments: This post acknowledged that people have political opinions, but the post is really about how the personal opinions of a creator influence your feelings about their work. So let’s keep the comments civil and as rhetoric-free as possible. If you’re not sure what I’m talking about, refresh yourself on the iFanboy Terms of Service, but I trust you all to be nice.