Politics and Comic Books

The concept of politics being introduced into something typically thought apolitical can be jarring, and people have mixed reactions when they find that their comic book shelves have been invaded by these ideas and thoughts about how your lives should be governed. Some love to see that glimpse of the real world tangibility informing their fictional stories. Others want to escape and pretend that we haven’t been locked in presidential elections since approximately 1998. But the fact is, the idea of escapism in comics is quite shrunken, and has been for quite some time. But more often than not, Green Arrow comes charging in to tell you that, power ring or not, you can’t ignore the sufferings of the world any longer!

I suspect that the ideas on how to run the world have always existed in comics books, even if it was subconsciously on the part of the people creating them. But the second you create a world where there is leadership of some kind, the writer is going to inform that world with certain moral lessons based on how they comport themselves, and even if the writer doesn’t, there’s a good chance the reader will fill in those blanks, and make metaphors that apply to their worldview. It’s not comics necessarily, but The Lord of the Rings has been fodder for allegory since it was published, with Sauron representing Hitler, or the destructive force of industrialization, but J.R.R. Tolkien always purported that there was no such message intended, and he was no fan of allegory.

Keeping your panels clean of political thought is made all the more difficult when you take part in the online comic book community. At some point, with the ascendency of the comic book creator as rock star, we learned a lot about how the people behind the pages feel about the world. Before the web, you could sometimes tell how the creators felt. Alan Moore casts Nixon as his president in Watchmen back in the mid-80’s. Around the same time, in The Dark Knight Returns, Frank Miller stuck Ronald Reagan right in the middle of his saga, representing lots and lots of ill-used power, with Superman as his lackey. Today, we have blogs, facebook, Twitter, and countless interviews on various websites. If you follow any comic creators on Twitter, you’ll quickly learn what most of them think about the current election. Because of this, I know where Brian Bendis, Warren Ellis, Rick Remender, Brian Reed, Jamie McKelvie, Ben Templesmith, Ed Brubaker, Brian Wood, B. Clay Moore, Chris Eliopoulos and others feel about McCain and Obama. To be completely honest, I always feel a touch of regret for conservative comic book readers, because it seems like so much of the industry, as much of entertainment, is liberal. But that’s not totally the case. Do some reading, and you’ll find that there are conservative comic book creators out there; among them Bill Willingham, Scott McDaniel, Mike Allred, Chuck Dixon, Orson Scott Card, and John Byrne, who all fall somewhere along that continuum. The very fact that I know this without doing much searching means that this stuff is out there, and while you might try to escape it, resistance is truly futile.

But what does that mean for the comic books themselves? If we’re talking about mainstream superheroes, not very it seems. The characters are owned by big companies who want money from everyone, so they tend to keep their political proclivities quite bland, except for a few extreme cases, like Green Arrow. But, let me ask you this; what party does Superman belong to? Who would Hal Jordan vote for? Captain America? Hawekeye? Tony Stark? Dick Grayson? Alan Scott? Who would these characters endorse? Chances are, if you like those characters, you subconsciously ascribe your views to theirs. I bet, in your mind, Superman feels a lot like you do about the current election. Steve Rogers was a lifetime military man, but he’s gone astray from time to time. Some might even call him a maverick. Apparently, he’s not in touch with myspace. Which box is he going to tick?

However, DC has decided to answer some of those questions, with the mini-series DC Universe: Decisions, written by too easily labelled righty Willingham and lefty Judd Winick. In it, they’re going to tell us where some of the DC characters align among the political parties of the DCU. While they don’t have the actual candidates in Gotham and Metropolis, they still have a two-party systems with Republicans and Democrats. Personally, I much prefer the ambiguous method, as it seems a bit like filling in the answer no one was begging to hear, and colors what the characters do, depending on your particular point of view. Now we know that Wildcat is a Republican and Blue Beetle is a Democrat, and they either have to deal with it going forward or ignore it, because suddenly the characters aren’t as universal anymore. The big reveal in this week’s upcoming final issue is supposedly going to tell us where Superman falls on the red/blue diagram. My guess is that it’ll be a copout, and he’ll say we’re all special, or something like that. It just feels too specific to lay on these characters after the fact. So Lois Lane is a Republican, and where did that come from?

All of this leads to us, the readers. Where do you stand? I’m not asking who you’re voting for, but rather, what would you do if your favorite characters took a side that differed from your own? What if you found out that one of your favorite writers has an absolutely opposite worldview than you? Could you still get excited for their work? Would you wait in a line for them to sign the cover of your comics? I’ll tell you this, I’m still buying Fables, and I’ve read every Ender book ever to see print.

It’s sad that we’ve come to a point where these are the kinds of questions we have to ask. I’d say it was a modern problem, but I guess the Civil War proves that division among the nation has always been here. However, one of the nicer things about my time on this site, and with this community is that I’ve learned a lot about how to get along with other people who feel differently than I do. It’s starting to occur to me that the really amazing thing about comics is their ability, not to divide, but rather to give us common ground. If you’ve been around iFanboy for a while, you know we have a no politics rule. The reason for that is that here is perhaps the one place in all our lives, where we can ignore the stressful divisiveness (at least about politics, not so much Alan Moore) that invades the rest of our lives. You want to argue here, go at it, but it has to be about comics, and it has to be friendly. I know it’s hard. Hell, getting me to shut up about politics is no mean feat, but it works. It doesn’t mean we’re apathetic, or not mindful of the world, but this isn’t the world. This is just comics.

Note: This is not a forum for campaigning and political debate. If you want to talk about politics within comics, or their place in comics, go for it. Actual political debate (which is healthy and excellent, but belongs in other forums) will be deleted. We know you can do it, so play nice. Thanks!

Comments

  1. As someone who thinks both parties have some things I support, and some issues I think they are dead wrong about, and who honestly is still on the fence about who to vote for, I kind of enjoy it when the comics use real political figures in the books, and I don’t care which way they come from as long as they make it interesting.  The whole Nixon thing in Watchmen made it more interesting and real-world to me.  Don’t do it in the comics just to be a cheap plug for your candidate or party, but if it develops the character or the story I say go for it.  and I don’t care what color state you are hitting on.  Man, write well, touch my heart, make me think, and I will definitely buy your book.

    But that DC book seems stupid and simplified, and like a money grab.  Its not developing story, plot, or the universe and just putting the info out there to drain more resources from the fanboy. 

    Good article, Josh! 

  2. Two sides isn’t enough. Nowadays democrates aren’t liberal.

    Also pushing someone to one camp usually results in their ideas being misrepresented.

    As for creators, I don’t care. I would have read Hitler’s book if I got a hold of it.

    People have a right to free speech. As for comic book characters – politics ruins the curtain you have between the creators and it sort of ruins that fantasy world where Superman makes everything right.

    Once you venture to the real world using comic books it’s hard to sustain that illusion. Grapling hooks and flying vessels is part of that fantasy world.

    Maybe if politics was intended from the beginning like Watchmen. Super heroes were political but it was usually "USA all the way" and they were boy scouts kicking japenese people or german people.

    If you dare venture to the real world with a comic book character you will notice that with all his powers he can’t save everyone, and that many people died in world war two and vietnam. You’ll discover that humanity isn’t that great and that the world isn’t rightous and that not everybody wants peace.

    You’ll discover a lot of things that the caped boy scout shields you from and will that work? I doubt it. It’s a clash of simplistic  with tangled. Sometimes you can add politics to super heroes and it will work but they don’t match that well.

    If you want comics and politics it is usually better suited to intend that from the beginning.  

  3. I have no problem with there being a little bit of politics in my books and entertainment but I really don’t want them to come right out and slap me in the face with it. The creators will have their own views that will probably differ from my own and as long as it dosen’t affect them from creating great stories then I don’t care where they stand.

  4. I read a couple issues of DCU Decisions and the main impression I came away with is the wish that all political arguments could be settled by Green Lantern and Green Arrow punching each other.

  5. I just think as of right now, Republicans are being looked as the evil of the world right now. Because Bush/Cheaney have been considered the worst President and VP in the last couple of decades really says something. In the last 8 years the world has viewed us from big powerhouse of a nation to sad and pathetic little country. That’s why ultimately I’m voting Democratic because I just dont think we can handle another 4-8 years of Republicans in the White House.

    I’m not saying there arent good Republicans, there are and they all shouldnt be labeled as idiots like most of the media talks about. But when it comes to a race between Obama and McCain it’s just simple to me. One is a man who represents change and has fundementals that can change the aspect of our country. While the other side is a nice man who still represents the old ways of our government. Overall the people in this country wants change and whether you like it or not, this election will most likely change the fabric of our country.

    But I like having politics in comics sometimes. It can work surprisingly well in Watchmen but suck major in DC Decisions. (Sorry to anyone who likes the latter but I find that mini so stupid it’s unreadable) I’m sure when it comes to the political show tomorrow you guys will have a bunch of different comics I’ve never heard of, but ultimately want to get. Oh and a great comic out right now is the Obama/McCain issues by IDW. Great source of info about the canidates without the bias.

  6. I’m not sure, Josh, what’s "stressful and divisive" about Alan Moore.

     Also, I see Moore’s use of Nixon (and Henry Kissinger) in Watchmen as analogous to Miller’s use of Reagan – as a means of tapping into historically particular mixes of paranoia and realpolitik, situiating mythic characters in alternate universes that are suddenly very real and very rooted in global histories of empire, capital, andviolence…

  7. The thing is poltics have always been in comics. I tend to think they work best as a manifestation of subertufuge and behind the scenes intrigue the mainstream (See Checkmate). 

     As for DCU decisions, I am holding out hope that the series is set out to prove the folly of polticizing the Superhero celebrities views and endorsements in general. If it becmoes "Supes is a Dem/Republican/Whatever I’m going to pretend it didn’t happen. If a a comic book superhero like Supes or or spider-man is shown stomping for a canidatw- even a fictious onw, I’m expunging the book from memory

    Some characters Like Gren Arrow, Iron Man, Bruce Wayne Charles Xavier and (duh Mitchell Hundred have all been involved poltics and sort of excell at it. Luthor was President for Christ sakes.

    If it makes for the character to get his hands dirty, then alright. If its contrary to the character leave it out.

     

    Thanks for the "No Poltics Rule. It helps

  8. @biftec: ‘I’m not sure, Josh, what is stressful and divisive about Alan Moore?’

    Somebody didnt read From Hell or Supreme. 🙂

  9. Stressful and Divisive about Alan Moore? Did you see the last two articles about his comments on the Watchmen movie?  They went over 100 posts on each.

    Also, again I should stress, we’re not here to talk about politics themselves, so I don’t want to hear what you think of the republicans and democrats.  I’m talking about their place in comics.  This isn’t going to develop into a flame war, so whatever your feelings are on current politics, keep it genial please.

  10. Basically, if you start campagning for one side or the other, I’m gonna delete the posts.  Just so we’re clear.

  11. @josh: Sorry didn’t realise we shouldnt talk about actual politics. Only fake politics in comics, gotcha 😉

  12. Or their place in comics.  I didn’t specify, so you didn’t do anything wrong, but regular rules apply.  Thanks!

  13. The goalpost is always moving when it comes to politics in "art." When an artist or entertainer makes his/her views known or vocally supports a cause in private life, there are always fans saying, "Just shut up and stick to [entertaining me in your chosen field]." When those same creative types express themselves solely through their work, those same fans are enraged that "they’re sneaking their politics into their [medium]. I don’t need that jammed down my throat; they need to leave that out."

    I don’t know what to do for these people. Maybe they would be happier sticking with the circus, where shouting, "Dance, monkey!" is a perfectly viable thing to do. If you want creative people to use their creative brains to entertain you, bad news: you’re going to get the contents of their brains in your entertainment. Them’s the breaks.

    Because so many comics are concerned with heroism and ethics, politics on one level or another are inescapable, as it should be. If I found out, say, Spider-Man wasn’t voting my way this year, I’d like to think it would only bother me in the sense that it sort of pigeonholes the character. I mean, imaginary political issues have irreparably damaged some characters in my eyes. I still hate Tony Stark– and I do mean hate–for his stance on hero registration. Ms. Marvel dragged someone off in cuffs while her little girl watched a year and a half ago, and I still think about it when I read that book.

  14. How was Ex Machina not mentioned in this article?!

  15. There’s a video show on politics in comics coming out tomorrow as well…

  16. I admit that if a character subscribes to the same world view as me that I develop an affinity for that character.  If a character is completely different from me I kind of get dissappointed, but I just shrug it off and go back to enjoying the book, politics aside.   Creators revealing their leanings has no effect on me, it gives a look into their perspective and could give me insight into the themes of their stories, but it does’nt stop me from reading their work.

  17. Politics, who cares, but if a person doesn’t share my views completely on Alan Moore, I pretend they don’t exist, I trivialize their thougths and opinions,  and I attempt to marginalize them in all things.  I’m looking at you, Kilpatrick!

     

    (clearly, I’m kidding)

     

  18. It’s interesting how politics (at least to me) arent really that boring in the medium of comics. The stuff in Watchmen, Ex Machina, the recent IDW issues of the canidates; anything else with politics in comics is just fun to read. Maybe it’s because I’m actually growing up (I hope to god that isnt true) but politics is interesting to me.

    But when it’s handled poorly like DCU Decisions, it’s a boring and tiresome read. Go figure.

  19. Great article josh. 

    I think politics and comics go hand and hand. from the political cartoons of the 1800’s to superman capturing Hitler and making him stand trial in 1943. in our medium, its very easy to get your point across or to try and change someone else’s point of view. thats way you still see all those political cartoons still in the papers and online. whether you think the cartoonist is right or wrong, doesn’t change the fact that more people will read a Garry Trudeau comic than read an Andrew Sullivan article. comics is strong magic, just ask Alan Moore.

  20. I think that it is interesting and good character development to have the characters express opinions on various political and social issues, I don’t necessarily think its good to have them associated with a specific political party.  Let’s face it, very few people agree with 100% of everything on their political party’s platform.  I’m sure Bruce Wayne is very strongly in favor of gun control, but he’s probably fiscally conservative, being a multi-millionaire.  Instead of pegging him into a political party, I’d rather there just be a good discussion of the issues.

  21. Well, I like when comics address a wide range of political themes – not just electoral, although the best recent account/critique of electoral politcs in comics has to be Brubaker’s cap saga or Ex Machina, though i think Vaughn’s liberalism is a bit too facile and the politics of that book are a bit too middle of the road for me.

     But i like when comics address stuff that’s deeply political but that rarely gets talked about in U.S. political discourse in any thoughtful way, like gender politics, labor politics, racial politics, sexuality and sexual politics.  That sort of thing strikes me as way more political – and in some ways more important, and probably more conducinve to interesting storytelling, than electoral horserace melodramatics.

    @Thenextchampion I read Moore’s supreme stuff a million years ago and I remember liking it.  I confess to never having read From Hell.  I need to get on that.  I identify and sympathize with Moore’s anarchist bent, and i’ve always seen him as more provocative (in a good way) than divisive, but clearly lots of folks on this board take issue with the idea that he considers watchmen unfilmable, etc.

     

  22. I think this DC Decisions is an example of politics in art gone wrong. Putting the politics front and center means that it IS the story, whereas most of the other examples in this article are cases where a political viewpoint might inform a story but hopefully doesn’t drive it all by itself.

    To be honest, this is the first time I had heard Willingham is conservative, and it is surprising and a little disappointing to me personally. But I’m sure that when he does his work, it is about doing good work, not about influencing people to his point of view.

    One more thing. Is Superman even a U.S. citizen? Separate from his secret identity as Clark Kent? The public knows he’s a Kryptonian, right? They know he has an identity as Kal-El. So has Kal-El ever been naturalized? I don’t think so. And I certainly hope we don’t see Superman dropping in his vote and then Kent voting later too. Unless it’s in Chicago.

  23. @patio: why is it disappointing to find out that willinghans conservative? it doesn’t change that the man can write a damn fine comic. so, why does it matter?

  24. @biftec: I was just mentioning that From Hell is one of the most stressful comics anyone can try and read. I should know, I read that in one straight threw read in 8 hours….So stressful.

    I’m fine with writers/artists talking about politics or who they want to vote for. Just dont shove it down my throat or put it in your comics and I’m fine.

  25. Interesting article, Josh.

    Hmmm, OK, if I’m being honest, I *try* to ignore the views of creators, but I *do* notice that if I discover the affiliation or beliefs of a creator, and they’re wildly different than mine, it does somewhat color my opinion. Or, at least, I’ve found myself a little more cautious about their work. It’s terrible to admit, but I will look to see if someone’s preaching at me. If they preach at me and they’re of the same basic disposition as me, I don’t mind it as much unless it affects the quality of the writing. 

    Politics in super-hero comics are a tricky thing. I suspect that most creators don’t have character pick sides because it lessens their universality. Captain America should be a highly political figure, but he’s a super-hero first. And we want to believe that any hero is OUR hero. We want them to represent US. Yet, if Cap is pro-life and I’m pro-choice… he’s suddenly a little less "me." 

    And frankly, it almost always comes off as awkward. No matter how well accepted it is that Green Arrow is a liberal, I still find it hard for anyone to write natural dialogue for him, where his liberalism is revealed through his day-to-day action and speech. Everyone tends to write that "speech" for him… and it always feels like a writer’s soapbox more than a character’s soapbox. I dunno. That might be my own bias, though, that I can’t see a character’s soapbox without thinking of the author.

    Ex Machina works fairly well because it’s set IN the world of politics. Politicans talking about politics doesn’t come off as awkwardly as masked vigilantes having the same discussions. 

    I thought Millar’s use of Captain America in The Ultimates worked. There I felt like the beliefs were part of the character, and they made sense to me in that light. Maybe that’s because I knew Milar’s beliefs were not Cap’s, so I felt that it was clear that he wasn’t on a soapbox? I dunno.

    Well, good on ya, Flanagan. You made me think this morning.

  26. Paul Montgomery (@fuzzytypewriter) says:

    I feel like the existence of super heroes in the world would drastically change the political landscape so much so that trying to portray anything close to the landscape of the real world just doesn’t make any sense.  A reality where Thor and mutants and sentient robots are a constant factor…I don’t think it’s the same two party system.  

  27. Weird, I was just reading an article about "interpolitical" dating.  Liberals tend to have a more difficult time dating Republicans than vice-versa.  Then I read some of the comments on here.  Interesting…

    Anyway, there’s nothing I hate more than heavy-handed politics in my comics.  If I can guess the politics of the writer by his comic, that usually pisses me off.  As Dave said, that is why Millar’s Ultimate Captain America is so awesome.

  28. @Paul, but that’s part of the suspension of disbelief inherent in all comics. A real Thor or Spectre? What does that do to religion? The inventions of Tony Stark and Reed Richards…? Unstable Molecules? Our whole world would be a different place, certainly not just our political system.

  29. Politics in any form of entertainment is a sticky wicket, I think.  When it’s done well, you can get 1984.  When not done well, it can become DC: Decisions.  Even with some of the more skillful writers, it’s a tightrope to walk because almost automatically when you take a side on an issue and demonstrate via fiction, you’re more or less going to alienate the around 50% of your audience that feels the other way because you’re basically telling them their opinions are wrong. Case in point, there were a lot of people who voted for and agreed with Thatcher/Reagan-era conservatism, enough for them to be elected, and I’m certain a few of them were comic readers.  Thus, when Alan Moore wrote V for Vendetta and basically declared it a critique on that side of the political spectrum, you’re going to have a lot of people feeling like Alan Moore’s calling them and those they support inherently wrong and maybe even dangerous.  I know, being of a conservative bent myself, I read Alan’s foreword and then Evey’s exposition on the ride of Norsefire and thought, "So… is Alan saying I’m evil…?"

    Also, when you start arguing for a side of an issue in fiction, you’re creating a piece that’s by defintion a partisan story that’s promoting an ideaology or theory and that’s skirting very close to the textbook definition of propaganda, which makes free-thinking people very uneasy when they’re reading.  One thing I can say is people often don’t told what to think and often a political book usually means the writer is declaring "You must think this way!"  It’s tough to make a book that injects political messages into it without seeming like agitprop and nine times out of ten, the things I see with a political bent should have either done a better, more subtle job, or just shouldn’t have came out.  Going with representing both sides fairly and without trying to argue one side or the other like Geoff Johns typically does is probably the best avenue you can have.

    I think, if anything, when you inject political discourse into a piece of fiction, it should only ask the questions, it shoulsdn’t give the answers.  People are smart enough to think out things for themselves.  You don’t need to tell them what to think and usually they don’t really appreciate whe you do.  And if you’re creating a political allegory, you’d do well to ensure the allegorical Cindy Sheehan and the allegorical George Bush aren’t on the same side.  Because that’s confusing as heck.

  30. rise of Norsefire* heh.

  31. Paul Montgomery (@fuzzytypewriter) says:

    @Daveyouignorantslut

    So why add more complications to teeter the balance of believability?  I think a political analysis works on a microcosmic level where you can pay attention to detail, as in Ex Machina.  But when you pull out to the macrocosm, there are too many opportunities for inconsistency.  The full term is political science.  And when you get too engrossed in any kind of science within a science fiction environment, you open yourself up for contradiction.  If you give me the cosmic treadmill, I’ll buy into it.  But if you venture too far into the inner workings of the cosmic treadmill and try to make it a functioning device, it’s only going to invite violent scrutiny.  In truth, this is why minis are often stronger than the main events.  It’s easier to maintain a microcosm.  

  32. @WTW – It is a gut reaction, and admittedly not a well-reasoned one. But there is something about it that genuinely surprises me. I don’t know why, but Fables doesn’t seem to me the work of a conservative thinker. It’s a kind of subversive work in many ways, so to find out that its author is conservative or right wing or whatever is a little confusing to me. But I don’t know the particulars of Willingham’s views or political positions, so this is really a generalization. And as I said, i can still appreciate his work, but yes in the end I think it does color my reception of it.

  33. @Paul

    Interestingly enough, like John Byrne’s Superman run, where he tried to explain everything.  (Still good stuff though.)

  34. How much would you give me to write a presidential debate set in the Marvel Universe by next Monday?

    Actually, I don’t want to write that, but I would love to read it. Who would the candidates be? That Stamford mom from Civil War would be the veep candidate on one side. Would Tom Brokaw finally pin down her stance on the Sentinel issue? Would she pledge to smoke the Void out of his hole once and for all?

  35.  To give a somewhat more serious answer than I did above, my preference is for stories that don’t ignore politics but use it in stories that are plausible and relevant to the fictional universe as it exists.  Both allegory, on one end of the spectrum, and straight-up translation of real-world problems into fiction, on the other, are unsatisfying to me because they give message precedence above character and story.  It doesn’t usually bother me to know about writers’ political beliefs (there are exceptions; one you have mentioned in the article); I usually like to understand how a writer’s views — political, philsophical, religious, etc — have informed the work the writer is doing.  It’s only if I can tell the writer’s beliefs from the work, and they seem to be driving the work to the exclusion of character or story, that I have to take a pass.   

  36. Paul Montgomery (@fuzzytypewriter) says:

    @Jimski

     Well you have to do it now.

     Sucka! 

  37. @Patio– I haven’t read any of Fables, but what parts do you mean doesn’t seem like it could be from a conservative?

  38. I suspect that the reason anyone might be disappointed in first hearing that Bill Willingham does not share his/her views is that his work is so good that people have identified with it to the extent that they feel that they share a connection with Willingham. Of course, they don’t share a personal connection, but there is certainly an artistic connection whenever an artist produces an emotional response in an audience member.

    Now, if one analyzed his work, would that person come to the conclusion that Willingham is a conservative? Perhaps – there is certainly a strong focus on right-and-wrong, military conflict, and just deserts in Fables. On the other hand, one could read traditional liberal themes into Fables as well – the need for strong central government, support of taxes, forgiveness of prior crimes, and tolerance of inter-species love.

    Willingham is one of the comic book world’s great artists. His politics are certainly not mine. I suspect he would be a cool guy to meet, but I don’t really care. His work continues to excite me, and I will be happy to keep up with it for as long as I enjoy it.

    Let’s not fear those who have different opinions simply for those opinions.

  39. I think Coltrane68 nails it in his first paragraph.

    The thing is, I don’t know HOW conservative Willingham is.  He’s oblique about that in as much as I’ve read, and I think that’s to his credit.  It might be possible that he doesn’t let it sink into his writing that much, or he tries to write both sides when he does.

    Great post though.

  40. I still haven’t managed to read Cerebus and the primary reason is that I find Dave Sim to be extremely unlikeable.  I would feel like I was endorsing his screwball world view just by picking it up.  On the other hand, I have also read the Ender books, but because I read them before I knew about Card’s views, somehow they aren’t tarnished.

  41. You need only read the first four volumes of Cerebus anyway, and maybe Jaka’s Story.  The rest?  Cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs.

  42. I still think the first three ender’s game books hold up fairly well.  The Bean series, and particularly the last few books, though, are pretty hard to get through without having ot wade through obscene amounts of rightist geopolitical paranoia.

    @Tork: I wonder if its possible for Moore to critique ideology and its effects absent the adherents of particular political philosophies.  i doubt Alan Moore hates you, but he probably doesn’t like your politics, which doesn’t mean you shouldn’t read his books.  (Clearly, you have.)

    I think Millar’s someone who excels at addressing political themes in mainstream superhero comics – The Ultimates deal with and stand as an allegory for a number of real world political crises and contradictions in ways Civil War tried to do but was less successful, and Red Son was pretty awesome. 

  43. Like a great poet once said:

    " say, we can go where we want to
    A place where they will never find
    And we can act like we come from out of this world
    Leave the real one far behind
    "

  44. @Paul – but… you’re agreeing with me. I was saying that it all topples if you look at it too closely. You were looking too closely when you said that the political landscape would be completely alien in the Marvel Universe.

    I also want to add that coltrane68’s point is pretty interesting. That’s what I was alluding to in my previous post. I don’t know that I think of it as any kind of personal connection, but once I know something personal about the writer, it’s there in my head and it factors into my enjoyment. My relationship to the writer (if they are of an opposing viewpoint) because antagonistic. I’m actively searching for them to "slip up" and reveal to me that they’ve been preaching to me on whatever subject we disagree on. Is that fair? Absolutely not. But I sure do it. 😉

    Also: @chlop — thanks, now I’m gonna have that stuck in my head the rest of the day… S-S-S-S-A-A-A-A-F-F-F-F-E-E-E-E…

  45. Paul Montgomery (@fuzzytypewriter) says:

    @Dave – Not exactly.  I think Checkmate is the right approach whereas DCU Decisions is trying too hard to shoehorn it.  

  46. @biftec– I’m just saying when you go that route, you enter into sticky territory especially when you equate a side of the poltical spectrum with Nazis and then say in the foreword "this was written with mainstream political ideology A in mind". It gives the indication that you’re saying "these people who believe this are dangerous to society and equatable to Nazis."  I know personally, it made V for Vendetta hard to read (and hard to watch as a movie) without feeling the writer was telling me "How dare you believe X, Y, and Z?!  FASCIST!" which made me feel like the book was very ham-fisted and heavy-handed in its approach.  I think if the assertions weren’t so extreme (ie: comparing a mainstream conservative movement to out and about Nazism), I’d feel better about Moore’s thesis. I will say Moore thankfully handed me Finch as an anchor to hang on to so there’s that.

    I’ll be honest in that when I think of politics in comic books, I think of the kind of stuff from Winick and GL/GA where I feel the writer is telling someone how they should view the world.  And often, the other view is either marginalized or demonized.  Like with GL/GA, Green Lantern is made into the "conservative" viewpoint but he becomes almost naive and bufoonish who doesn’t understand how the world works and needed it explained to him which I find kind of cheap in that ham-fisted Captain Planet kind of way.

    Of the "political" books I think suceeded, I think of Gruenwald’s Squadron Supreme, Red Son and Geoff Johns’ Black Reign crossover, mostly because there was much more subtlety used than, for instance when Winick did Hate Crime in Green Lantern or when Millar did Civil War.  I think that’s because those books simply lays the cards on the table and lets you pick the right one yourself.  I think Black Reign was particularly successful in that.  I think if you write both sides of something as natural and understandable, you’ll do just fine.

  47. I don’t really care about what the creators think so I don’t care when people actually say that His Dark Materials is a preaching book. Who cares? Who cares if V for Vendetta is meant to teach us a lesson?

    I used to care about writers but once I saw Douglas Adams was just some old guy and not the hitchiking youthful man I imagined him to be my fantasy world was shattered.

    Also there are enough stalkers in this world plus I’m too lazy to fulfill that demanding role. 

  48. @Paul — but.. I agree with that. I never said don’t do it. I said that politics are no different than technology – in terms of suspension of disbelief. Cosmic treadmill = Checkmate. Stop saying things I agree with!

  49. "Just some old guy?"

    Douglas Adams was a hell of a guy, and sadly not so old.  I wish. 

  50. @Tork  "Like with GL/GA, Green Lantern is made into the "conservative" viewpoint but he becomes almost naive and bufoonish who doesn’t understand how the world works and needed it explained to him which I find kind of cheap in that ham-fisted Captain Planet kind of way."

    I couldn’t disagree with this statement more.  What (to me) makes GL/GA a great book is that Hal is the more compassionate character, better at dealing with people on an individual level, inarguably noble and heroic.  Ollie is usually on the "correct" side of the arguments (correct based on the way they’re framed in the book), but he can be an infuriating bastard about it.  There are some preachy, silly, overblown moments in the writing, but it’s far from a straight propoganda story, and the characters are what makes it stand out.

    I’d contrast the way Guy Gardner is portrayed in JLI (the first trade, anyway; that’s as far as I read).  He’s very much a stock Reaganite right-wing character, who’s there for comic relief to say dumb and obnoxious things.  Don’t get me wrong, I like JLI a lot.  But it had the weird effect of making me feel sympathetic towards Guy, because it seemed like the writers were using him as a political punching bag.  

  51. I feel like it is important to read things that we disagree with or rather think we will disagree with from time to time to keep ourselves in check with reality and allow our beliefs to grow even if they do not change.

    That being said, I couldn’t be more different than Orson Scott Card politically and Ender’s Game has been my favorite book since I was a sophomore in high school.

  52. Really?  I’ll admit I haven’t read GL/GA in a while (at least a few years) so my memory is sketchy.  So, if I’m not remembering stuff right, I apologize.  I just remember Hal being kind of naive and Ollie constantly showing him up on how his worldview is wrong.  I particularly remember reading it and then reading Geoff Johns in Wizard magazine talking about he thought that Hal was kind of naive in the run and thinking "Yeah, I caught that, too…" If I’m not remembering right or if I read it wrong, I’m sorry.

  53. @Josh – I had a vision of him as a guy that hitchhikes and travels the world and does whatever he wants and sleeps under starry skies when he wants to which I had a great fascination to – just traveling the world without anyone tying me down. I might do that sometime but the pull to do that strong nowadays. The first picture of him after I imagined him was of a british guy with white hair.

    I never met  the guy so I don’t know if he was great.

    I met him through "Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency" which is maybe not the best introduction – at first I thought the book was broken…going from some university to an electric monk.

    The second book was not that good sadly. I’m still interested in his works and I have The Salmon of Doubt  here that I need to read sometime, but when I read that he made up the towel part when he and friends were in a holiday overseas and he always couldn’t find his towel in the hotel room, that image of a hitchiking madman is subdued (friends? hotel?)

    The only other writer I felt connected to was Gerald Durrell  – after I saw the movie about his family (the latest one) and I saw that my library had several books of his I was hooked. It was sad when he left the island but great at the same time – how would he have discovered that wonderful street and chronicle it for everybody to read? how would he get a chance to play with an army man that would shortly after pass away?

    I’m interested in all his works and I intend to read them and everything by his family, but there is a  loss of fantasy when I find out those people are just human. So yeah – just some old guy…

    I never believed in the tooth fairy (maybe because of my parents and their weird methods – throw the tooth on the roof for good luck was on of those)  and other imaginery people like that and I never had an imaginery friend, but I find myself connected with fictional works – mainly books (A Series of Unfortunate Events, Harry Potter, Peter Pan but not the book – I read it much later) and I’m sad when something smashes that curtain that enables the fantasy to exist – flimsy but still a possibility. I was saddened when no one came to take me to Hogwarts and when I never caught a glimpse of Peter Pan…

  54. @Tork  No, you’re not wrong about the preachiness, and there’s definitely some extent of naivete.  But (a)  I think it’s a believable naivete, "buffoonish" at all and (b) or Ollie is frequently shown making mistakes and having huge blind spots of his own.  For instance, it’s Ollie who rants and raves at Roy Harper about how people who use drugs are worthless losers, and Hal who intuits that something is up with Roy — though they’re both too dense to actually put the pieces together until Roy throws it in their faces, Hal’s the better "dad" in that situation. 

    The politics of GL/GA are certainly a bit ham-handed, but I’d argue that the characterizations are actually quite subtle.  In just about every story there’s some balance of who’s right and who’s wrong. 

     Not to get too ranty, here. . .but GL/GA is one of my favorite things in the whole world.  I get excited :).

  55. Paul Montgomery (@fuzzytypewriter) says:

    My favorite actor is Jimmy Stewart.  We have very different political views.  

    My least favorite animal is the snake.  We probably have very similar political views.  

  56. @chlop  "I met him through "Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency" which is maybe not the best introduction – at first I thought the book was broken…going from some university to an electric monk."

    Hahahaha, man.  That describes my reaction to that book PERFECTLY.  I remember looking at the page numbers in my copy and trying to figure out if the library hadn’t given me the whole thing.

  57. @ohcaroline– Green Arrow is one of my least favorite things in the world.  I get excited to the point that I wrote a script for an Ollie/Spectre-era Hal piece where Hal got to have that "gotcha!" moment over Ollie for once.  Plus, I don’t like preachiness in fiction.  Even when I agree with the points, I tend to feel uneasy about preachiness. 

  58. mothafuckin liberal snakes in my mothafuckin air force one?

    "but the pull to do that strong nowadays" – but the pull to do that isn’t strong nowadays. sometimes when I’m in the swing I write in a weird way…

    Also I loved Terry Pratchett’s Discworld – just the night guard books  Vimes in particular but those becamse less interesting and also preachy – Thud! was preaching all the way. It was enjoyable and enlighting but still preachy.

    He’s sort of a super hero – read Guards! Guards! – I enjoy his stubborn search for justice even in the face of a dragon and certain death, and even when a king needs to be beheaded and he’s the only guy for the job – eventually he didn’t need to.

    If it makes any sense – I’m not interested in a characters political view, but more of it’s actions – Harry Potter fighting all the way, Peter Pan, Vimes in a stubborn justice seeking way and not very fond of authority himself,  etc.

    Whether Potter voted for Thatcher is of no importance to me.

    Also Septimus Heap – Magyk by Angie Sage – the first book which is again a small and magical place so I can suspend my belief enough that maybe there are places like that (minus the magic and ghosts), but the second book ruined it a bit but I have the third book here and I need to read that as well… 

  59. Paul Montgomery (@fuzzytypewriter) says:

    I love preachiness!  

    I also have two Green Arrow sketches.   

  60. @Tork   See, I would totally love that, too.  I think it would be a challenge to come up with something with Hal & Ollie in it that I did not adore.

    Also, I think we tend to see "preachiness" if we’re looking for it.   I include myself in this "we" — I think Daccampo is on the money with that in his comment above.  

  61. Paul Montgomery (@fuzzytypewriter) says:

    Everyone should be watching the Charlie Brown election special on ABC right now.  Charlie Brown is running for student body president!

  62. @ Paul– What?!  Clearly, he’s forgotten the three rules of discourse!

    1.) Do not discuss religion.

    2.) Do not discuss politics.

    3) Do not discuss the Great Pumpkin.

  63. @PaulMontgomery  I hope Alexander Payne directed it.

  64. Paul Montgomery (@fuzzytypewriter) says:

    It’s been a while since I’ve seen this one.  It’s actually Linus running for SBP.  

  65. Paul Montgomery (@fuzzytypewriter) says:

    Major gaffe.  Linus just invoked the Great Pumpkin in his speech, loosing his 99.8 point lead.  It’s now 50/50 in the race between Van Pelt and Anderson.  

  66. HA!  Told ya…

  67. @Tork:  We lcearly disagree politically, but I think we can both agree that Moore has a right to critique Thatcherism in his work. It’s been many years since i read V for Vendetta, but his critique did not strike me as particularly extreme or that far off from the critique many leftist intellectuals were making of the New Right in both the U.K. and the U.S. at the time.  Sure, V for Vendetta is trying to make a point by being heavy-handed, but if that’s pretty common for the (sub)genre of near-future allegories of the present (Orwell, Huxley, etc.)  But i also think there has to be room to analyze fascist tendencies within contemporary political movements without individual readers being interpellated as knuckledragging, Wagner-loving, fascist stormtroopers.  What if the connections ar emore astute than outrageous?  Does that mean conservatives can’t or shouldn’t read the book?  (I haven’t seen the film, both beczause i don’t like the Wachowski Brothers and because i couldn’t imagine it would ever do justice to the book.  I probably won’t see Watchmen for the same reason.)

     I’ve never been a fan of Squadron Supreme in either its Gruenwaldian or Straczynskiite incarnations.  The former feels like an Ayn Rand novel to me, and it’s extremely brutal (brutish?) in how it asks the reader to understand events and interpret the story in ways that yeild an unweildy narrative.  JMS’s Supreme Power/Squadron Supreme feels like he tried to turn SS into Watchmen, except without an ending or a coherent critique.  (Maybe i’m too inured to the ‘superheroes in the real world thing.  In any event, i think Millar did it better in Ultimates 1 & 2)  I get why so many people love those series, and Gruenwald was clearly rethinking the superhero genre in some important ways, but i can’t say they address political themes in comics in ways that I find compelling.

    I’m not a huge fan of Winick’s work, but i respect GL/GA for the same reason as i respect Kirby’s Forever People and run on Superman’s Pall Jimmy Olsen – for trying to think about and represent the profound shifts in U.S. cultural politics that "the sixties" made visible, for trying to speak to the difficulties and challenges of the Vietnam War era, and, in the case of GL/GA, for trying to address the racialization of poverty in America, something that Comics really hadn’t done before then.  Both of those comics are imperfect, but i’m fascinated whenever i read them.

  68. @Patio, @WinTheWonderboy, @coltrane68 & @josh – To go back to the Willingham thing a bit. Please don’t take this as bragging, I only mention it because it was mentioned in the artcile and subsequent posts with several people saying things like, "I don’t know what it would be like to me him, etc. etc." but I’m actually friends with Bill.

    I’ve known him for years and DCU Decisions was the first I had learned of his political views. In all the conversations we’ve had on the phone or staying up until 4 in the morning after a con, they’ve always been about 2 topics, nerdy stuff and women. The man will ramble on and on about the minutiae of the Star Trek novels or completely mock my lame pick-up lines (I claim they’re lame through lack of necessity).

    I guess what I’m trying to say is that when I heard he was writing the conservative side of a political book I had two thoughts, 1) Judd Winnick was an obvious choice, and he’s ironically my roommates favorite "righter" (pun!) and 2) Didn’t know that about Bill.  Didn’t affect my opinion of the man or of his other work. Bill’s a greater writer and a genuine class act, I’m sure if he wanted to he could write Ollie Queen just as well and Winnick and we’d all still be none the wiser.

  69. I’ll say it again, cause I think this is the right message overall when it comes to writers and politics:

    As long as you dont force us to see your views or try and make us see the other side then I’m fine with you. But if you try and force me to agree with your views against my will then we’re gonna have problems. Bottom Line: Just keep your thoughts neutral when it comes to politics unless you want people on the other side arguing with you.

  70. Ok, that last part wasn’t supposed to be in block quotes. 

     Also, I’ve been thinking about the subject of why so many creators veer left (or at least liberal), which Josh raises in the original post.  Some sociologist – pretty sure it was Pierre Bordieu – once called intellectuals the dominated fraction of the dominant class.  I think that that’s been doubly true of comic book creators, who for most of the twentieth century did not, in the U.S. at least, occupy particularly distinguished places in the art world.  They were producing a form of popular culture that the cultural elites saw as tawdry and childish, even moreso than other forms of pop culture, like music or TV.  The social organization of their labor was often exploitative – disney cartoonists staged a huge strike in the 1930s, and we’ve all heard the horror storries of how Siegel and Schuster and Bill Finger and Kirby himself were treated.  So they way comic creators thought about politics may have flowed from their position on the social hierarchy.  Maybe that’s too simple.  Also it feels a bit abstract to me.  There’s also the fact that a lot of creators came from working class backgrounds.  Many were (and are) Jewish or members of other historically persecuted groups, something which has often, but certainly not always, led folks to certain political stances…

  71. I think the big difference I see between 1984 and V For Vendetta was that Orwell was speaking of Stalinist totalitarianism which demonstrated terror, state-monopolized misinformation, and complete intolerance for political dissent in actuality.  On the other hand, Moore took those things that we equate with fascism and put them on the Thatcher adminstration who never, to my knowledge, federalized the media, killed political opponents, or developed any concentration camps for minorities.  On one hand, we’re talking about calling tyranny tyranny and on the other, in my opinion, we’re calling those we disagree with fascists out of the simple fact that we disagree with them. It’s that kind of trapping, the demonization of those of a different bent, that makes me uneasy when books try to go political. Even the best of writers often can’t help it.

  72. @biftec   Comics creators come out of art schools and independent/underground media.  I don’t think it’s a stretch to say those are more liberal segments of the population.

  73. I also don’t think conservatives shouldn’t read the book.  Obviously, I did, so it’s not a big deal in that regard.  Though, I don’t think it’s unfair for somebody who’s a conservative to read or hear what Alan Moore said  draw a conclusion out of V For Vendetta that Alan Moore is equating their beliefs to something extremely bad.  And I don’t think it’s unfair for them to feel difficulty in enjoying the book or grabbing any real discourse out of it when they feel Alan Moore just straw manned their belief system.

  74. I think if some of my favorite characters regularly espoused positions I disagreed with, I might have to stop reading them. I can handle disagreement, but I don’t want to be hit over the head with it. My tolerance has a limit.

    If I found out one of my favorite authors had a radically different worldview than mine, it wouldn’t necessarily be a big deal, unless, again, I was hit over the head with it. I intend to buy Chuck Dixon’s Storming Paradise when it comes out in trade, I bought Ultimate Iron Man, and I’ll buy Ultimate Iron Man 2.

    If I discover truly objectional views in an author I liked, I’d probably refuse to pay for their work.