A protest depicted in Captain America #602 has drawn the ire of Tea Party groups, resulting in an apology from Marvel editor-in-chief Joe Quesada (in “Cup of Joe” on Comic Book Resources).  Quesada’s apology was for a sign, drawn into the protest panel at the last minute by a letterer, with the slogan, “Tea Bag the Libs Before They Tea Bag YOU!”  Quesada said that the letterer filled in the sign with a slogan from an actual sign held at a protest he found on the Web.  The problem was that the protest in the story wasn’t supposed to have anything to do with the Tea Party movement, according to Quesada.  The mistake should have been caught by the editorial group but was not.  The art has been scrubbed so that any future printings of the story will not include the sign.


The story caused a reaction that Fox News described as “a chorus of critics who noticed the apparent jab at the Tea Party movement and who accused Marvel of making supervillains out of patriotic Americans.”  Fox’s article notes not only the sign, but also The Falcon’s comment on viewing the protest that he probably wouldn’t be welcomed into the crowd of “angry white folks.”  Anti-Palin and anti-“tea crowd” tweets from Cap writer Ed Brubaker were noted as possible motivation.


“It seems to me there was a clear effort on someone’s part to undermine the Tea Party movement,” was one of the comments on the story that Fox quotes in its article (this one from Herb London, president of the Hudson Institute).  


Quesada said that Marvel has an editorial policy that “Our books are no one’s soapbox,” when it comes to political issues.   “I have always made it a point never to publicly talk about my own political beliefs as I don’t feel it’s my place to do so and use Marvel as a bully pulpit,” he said in Cup of Joe.  “Our readers come in many shapes and sizes, and we need to be respectful of that. Yes, we have characters that have certain attributes built into them, like political beliefs and religious affiliations, but we try to handle those as carefully as possible, and when we present one side of a coin, I encourage my editors and creators to fairly show the other side.”


He acknowledged that at times that ideal wasn’t met.  “Do we always succeed? No, sometimes things slip through the cracks,” he said.  “It’s just something that happens in a world where you produce over 80 titles a month. But it is something that I believe very strongly about and try to get our editors and creators to be mindful of as well.”


Quesada also pushed back against some of the comments on the story, calling one “a complete and irresponsible misrepresentation.”


Maybe the best news about all of this is that comics are in the midst of a current political discussion, a sign of significant cultural relevance.