Confessions of a Comic Book Guy is a weekly column by Steve Bennett of Super-Fly Comics and Games in Yellow Springs, Ohio. This week, Bennett talks about one way comics can play a role in American discourse.
Recently using Facebook I sent messages to several people in the top tier of Marvel and DC management to ask this question, "When is someone like Superman or Captain American going to comment on the recent rise of Islamophobia in this country?" I honestly didn't think I was asking either publisher to have their characters do anything particularly "controversial," just what they've done for roughly seventy years: show their support for the idea that The Four Freedoms (of speech and worship, from want and fear) apply to all Americans equally. I received exactly one response:
"We like to touch upon important issues for story reasons but try to avoid them becoming spokesmen or symbols of cause."
I'd tell you who it was but when I wrote to see if I could attribute that quote to them I got no answer. I can understand why; though it boggles my mind that apparently the kind of statement I was looking for is now considered "political." Take for example the online piece titled "DC Throws Wonder Woman To The Islamic Wolves" that attacks the entirely innocuous JLA/The 99 #1 which shipped last week. Not only does it state that "Until The 99 are unleashed against jihad, there's no reason to believe that this comic is anything other than Islamic propaganda, and DC Comics is in on it," it suggests Wonder Woman's new outfit was specifically created "to be more Islamically correct."
You'd think DC would have something to say about this kind of negative press but so far there's been nothing but silence, and sadly part of me thinks this might be the right approach to take. I can't imagine JLA/The 99 #1 was heavily ordered by retailers (it's been a week and I still haven't been able to locate a copy) and there's precious little chance a copy will be discovered in a kid's backpack by an outraged parent. Most likely a lot of this hysteria will blow over after the mid-term elections and these comics will just sit quietly on the shelves for a couple of months before quietly working their way into the back issue bins.
Like I have to tell any of you things aren't exactly easy for retailers right now, conditions being what they are -- or as I've come to call it "1935 Mach 2 (This Time With Television)." Sales are down, we're increasingly being challenged by digital downloads and I know the last thing that any of you need is a civics lesson from me. But it's getting to be like 1935 in a lot of other ways; people are legitimately afraid but we all have to resist the urge to sink to scapegoating; regardless of our politics we all have to agree on the truths in the U.S. Bill of Rights really are self evident. Whether their current caretakers like it or not superheroes, some more than others, are symbols and spokesmen and their "cause" is the fair play and justice that America is supposed to represent. That's what I think anyway, but I can't believe I'm the only one. And, by the way, I'd still like an answer to my question.
All-Star Comics #8 between cartoonist Harry G. Peter and Dr. William Moulton Marston (a.k.a. Charles Moulton, her creator) was rediscovered. It included a color illustration of her original costume and while we tend to think of it as being a hoary antique seeing it like this it seems remarkably modern, like something Katy Perry might wear on stage. It's definitely an improvement over the too tight swimsuit she's been wearing for the last twenty years and something an actual human woman could wear (a consideration give that there's a new Wonder Woman television series in development). If DC was smart they'd put this outfit back into her wardrobe rotation.
Finally as someone who's a huge Mickey Mouse fan I was quite pleased to read the news concerning Disney DigiComics (see "Disney Releases 'Epic Mickey' Comics"). Though a lot of their plans remain in the realm of To be Announced it's clear they're way ahead of other publishers when it comes to putting their classic characters online and getting their comics to an audience who'll appreciate them--kids.
The opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the writer, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the editorial staff of ICv2.com.
Column by Steve Bennett
Posted by ICv2 on November 2, 2010 @ 10:00 pm CT
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