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Sunday, June 04, 2006 

Comic books today suffer from Chomskyism, bigotry, and even MSM whitewashing

I don’t usually write about comic books on this blog because I actually have a blog specially for that, which I call The Four Color Media Monitor (and I’ve also got an extra one I call The Comic Book Discrimination Dossiers), since one of the leading purposes for it is to study how the MSM writes its comics coverage, ditto the news sources specially for comics, like the horrible Wizard. This here is a special post for the day I thought of writing up in which I thought to alert everyone reading this blog to what might be slipping under the radar, since, just like movies and television, even comic books can have some very eyebrow raising problems to ponder.

Since the mid-1990s, due to how many major bookstores started refusing to carry comics because they weren’t turning a serious profit to suit their needs, comic books have been largely relegated to the sidelines of entertainment and popular culture. And that underexposure, I fear, is but one of the reasons why the companies that publish them, including – but may not be limited to – DC and Marvel, have been descending into serious contempt for their own properties since the tragedy of 9-11 struck. Some of the most notable cases of anti-Americanism, sympathy for terrorism, and other acts of apologia that have cropped up include the degradation of Captain America in 2002, one of the most blatant misuses of a classic character, in which Marvel’s editorial staff, led by one Joe Quesada (and at the time, publisher Bill Jemas) barring Steve Rogers from being what he was created to be, and putting out a book that was virtually unreadable. Michael Lackner and Michael Medved did some coverage of that and a couple other items, including from DC, for the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies (see also Medved’s own excerpt at National Review).

An important note to make regarding Medved’s own part of the argument is that he may come up short on one thing: the challenging question of if children – presumably 7-13 year olds, still read comics as much as in the years gone by. That’s something I’ve never been sure of, even though I have noticed a modicum over here, wherever comics are available (Tel Aviv has three comics stores in its area, one in their main bus station, and some standard bookstores here sell them too), who have. It’s not just because comics today suffer from a problem of writers, editors and publishers who’re more interested in servicing the adult crowd than anyone else, not to mention the problems with dishonest marketing involving Marvel’s Ultimate line, but also that they don’t seem to want to have them as an audience, not for their mainline series, nor their “spinoff” lines.

See, in the past couple of years, the comics overlords seem to have taken to using the fact that the children’s audience today may be minimal as an excuse for wallowing in the excess they are. And that’s certainly troubling, and angering, because, how exactly is anyone with sense who’d like to introduce their children to some of the best literature and American art form going to be able to do it at ease? Simply put, Marvel’s and DC’s heads have made it incredibly difficult.

As for what trash they’ve been doing as of late, besides all the “sales-via-controversy”, transparent self-commentaries and publicity stunts they’ve been pulling, this includes even Mark Millar’s early work on Ultimate X-Men, which seemed to be more of an excuse to show an alternate world version of Wolverine acting even more devoid of morality than his mainline counterpart, and in the Ultimates, the alternate world take on the Avengers, we get a regurgitation of the Hank Pym as wife-abuser storyline from the early 1980s, only this time, the implication is that Janet Van Dyne brought it upon herself by provoking this alternate world version of Yellowjacket into attacking her (I’m not going to get into details of how). So what we really had back in 2002, when Millar first wrote the Ultimates, was an excuse for sensationalism laced with blame-the-victim mentality.

One of the reasons why comics have gotten so bad is because the audience has allowed them to: although comics today have considerably less of an audience than they did years before, due in part to that many major bookstores won’t carry the pamphlets because they don’t turn a real profit (the nerve), those that are still around keep buying many of the ongoings because, I assume, they’re afraid that if they don’t, they’ll get cancelled and never come back!

It gets worse. DC Comics proved just two years ago that they could be just as bad as Marvel in terms of excess and political biases, when they published an incredibly crude miniseries called Identity Crisis, whose specific purpose they may still be hammering readers over the head with even now. The “plot”: a minor superhero’s wife is brutally murdered, and this leads to something that in the end, turns out to be totally irrelevant to the plot: she was raped by a supervillain, and what really made it offensive is that there was no female perspective to this whole matter. To get a clearer picture of what this crap was like, I provide you with the following takes, from Comics Should be Good, three entries from IGN's Comics in Context, Highway 62, Spatula Forum, Websnark, Precocious Curmudgeon, Comics Worth Reading, ComixExperience, Johnny Bacardi, Sequential Tart and one more from CSBG.

The worst part is how this is basically an anti-Americanist's dream come true: the heroes are guilty of "violating" a villain, his attack on a defenseless woman notwithstanding, and the villains themselves are just "innocent victims" of "persecution" and worthy of being exonerated. That it would so cynically ignore the villain's own violation of the woman, and then imply that another woman was guilty of murdering the first woman, is not just sexist, but also illogical to the point of obscenity.

I looked over the first three issues of the mini two years ago, and they were repugnant as is possible to write. And the worst part is that this seems to be what the comics medium has sunk to in this day and age: shock value, controversy baiting, and even company wide crossover stories, all for the sake of moneymaking. This is exactly what’s led comics to their contemporary downfall, and whether or not sales have improved of recent, if it continues this way, it won’t be for long, and it certainly won’t win many newcomers.

(For the record, Marvel also produced a story that was just as sexist, if not more so, that being Avengers: Disassembled, and that too was enraging: superheroes are seemingly being killed off, and a woman turns out to be the culprit. But because Identity Crisis was so much more blatant and crude in its approach, that’s why that story is the main focus here.)

As if the problem with comics containing bigoted storylines isn’t enough, there’s also the problem with the MSM sugarcoating and whitewashing them. And Identity Crisis is but a prime example of the sort. With the exception of one article published in The Boston Phoenix that gave some pretty good insight by making it clear that it was all just sensationalized trash, almost no other newspaper, if at all, gave a clear or honest picture of what Identity Crisis was really like. And the numero uno example of a MSM representative who went the sugary route on this whom I’m going to cite here is one Andrew Smith of the Scripps-Howard news syndicate, who does the “Captain Comics” column for the syndicate since 1993, and has his own website/board. This is someone whose columns, I want you to know, I stupidly read and corresponded to years ago, and today, I’ll see if I can give a few examples and reasons as to why today, I regret it. First, here’s the mortifyingly awful excerpt from the column he wrote about Identity Crisis on October 3, 2004:
This seven-issue miniseries kicked off with the brutal murder of the wife of a Justice League member, a beloved character that’s been around for more than 40 years -- followed by a flashback revealing that she had once been raped by a supervillain. Add to that the revelation that some Justice Leaguers have used brainwashing in the past to alter the memories and personalities of certain villains. How can I possibly be enjoying this?

Well, possibly because it’s a riveting murder mystery by novelist Brad Meltzer, who’s also the creator of Jack & Bobby on The WB. And because it’s a challenging examination of the moral issues confronting those who fancy themselves heroes. And because it’s a crackling tale wherein the horrific events service the story, instead of being offered up as shock value.

Yeah, I’m still pretty appalled by the death of Sue Dibny, wife of The Elongated Man (seen recently on Cartoon Network’s Justice League Unlimited). And I’m distressed by the near-murder of Jean Loring, ex-wife of The Atom. And I’m flummoxed by the news that some of our heroes haven’t always acted altogether heroically.

But there are only three issues to go, and I still have no idea who the murderer is, or what his ultimate plan is. Or what the ramifications of the League’s dirty tricks will be. Or, for that matter, who will survive until the end. I may shocked, but I’m also fascinated.
Now do tell me that isn’t one of the most sleazy, sensationalized, to say nothing short of superficial ways of advertising (but not reviewing) the book. And here’s where the main problem sets in – how exactly am I, or anyone else, supposed to determine that the “horrific story elements” he speaks of aren’t shock-value quality, if he doesn’t describe what exactly they are? For the uninitiated (warning: the following could be very offensive, so proceed at your own risk), the book’s story includes in its third part a most distasteful, contrived fight scene with Deathstroke in which he punches Zatanna in her tummy, causing her to vomit. It’s crude and disgusting as can be (which is why I won’t be getting into what Slade Wilson did to Black Canary), but the fatal flaw in Smith’s approach is that he doesn’t even say anything about it!

Now in fairness, if Smith had mentioned the scene with vomiting in it and said that in his opinion, he didn’t think that it was shock value, maybe it could be taken with a grain of salt as his own opinion. But because he doesn’t say a word about it, that’s what makes his whole approach peculiar. It’s like he had something to hide. What’s he trying to prove by sugarcoating the whole horrorfest?

As I said before, I used to read/correspond to him until 3 years ago. Amazingly enough, I was slowly but surely beginning to ask myself within that time if this is someone whose work I should be lauding. I studied some of the ultra-leftist slants in his writing, and was becoming more and more annoyed. When I wrote on his message board then, I tended to be very politically IN-correct with a vengeance, even slamming the MSM itself while I was at it. And while I didn’t actually describe or think of myself as a conservative at the time, Mr. Smith and his followers, which included quite a few moonbats, didn’t like it. While I won't get into details, I later ended up having an angry spat with him and few others over some of the PC lunacy he and they were espousing, after which he chased me away and wouldn’t talk to me anymore (he later got rid of another conservative as well). It didn’t really matter. Because while there were some people there with more common sense than others...I just didn’t enjoy it there, as I now realize, and didn’t feel comfortable there as a whole.

I’d come to realize by then that Smith’s writings were just those of a leftist moonbat, as we now call ‘em, and lost interest in his columns, moving on to look for other, better publications, which I found for a time in the works of Joseph Szadkowski of the Washington Times. But when I realized that Smith had gone so low as to fawn over Identity Crisis as blatantly as he did, culminating in the following atrocity on December 26, 2004:
BEST SERIES: The most controversial series of 2004 was Identity Crisis, a seven-issue miniseries by mystery novelist Brad Meltzer and artist Rags Morales starring DC’s Justice League of America. In the first issue, the pregnant wife of second-tier superhero was murdered in a brutal way. While the murder mystery (one that was truly a challenge) was the “A” plot, the investigation by the superheroes set off a domino effect, revealing that the victim had been raped by a supervillain years ago -- and in retaliation (and self-defense), a small cabal of Leaguers used their superpowers to, effectively, render the villain mentally incompetent. This also had negative repercussions, which were revealed slowly like the layers of an onion.

The whodunnit was wrapped up with Identity Crisis No. 7, but the many unresolved red herrings and the ramifications of the League’s moral lapse are just beginning to be addressed, and will spread throughout all of DC’s books in 2005. Love it or loathe it, Identity Crisis was truly an event, a slow-motion car wreck that generated more than 100 pages of comments on my message board alone.
That’s when I became really angry and decided that the gloves were off. I realized that, if the public didn’t take comics seriously, or maintained a low opinion of them overall, it could be because of the writings of moonbats of that sort. Who could possibly think highly of comic books if they read the gushing blather espoused by people of Mr. Smith’s ilk, got tricked into reading the abominations he so blatantly fawned over and ended up reeling in revulsion? With writings like his around, I can certainly understand why some people, after reading his crap, might not want to ever become a comic book devotee. If it’s through hack works like his that the mainstream public is going to be introduced to comics, then maybe it’d be better that they didn’t get introduced to them at all.

I decided that the time had come to stand up and speak out. Before I’d become a blogger, I’d built a personal website for myself, on which I wrote mostly comic book viewpoints, and I wrote myself a nice big essay in which I slammed his so-called columns, not just because he sugarcoated Identity Crisis, but also because he used his “pan” of Avengers: Disassembled as some sort of a justification for the fawning job he did for the former title. (And then, he didn’t even give any meaty details to explain why he supposedly thought that Disassembled was bad either. Weak.) I’m sure there are still plenty of shortcomings in what I wrote, but, I said what I thought, and I stand firmly by my opinion with might and main. Anyone who’s going to promote vulgarity like that, and gush over it like it were all just some delicious strawberry sundae, is not someone I would call a comics fan, and certainly not someone of Mr. Smith’s standing.

Anyway, he found out, and, in true left-wing fashion, he was pretty sore about it. Well I’m not sorry for him. What he did there wasn’t just offensive, it was an insult to rape victims and battered women as well. As of today, I don’t think he could write his way out of the proverbial wet paper bag, but while it may have been the last straw for me, it was after I’d read Fjordman’s research on the Muslim rape epidemic running rampant in Europe and other parts of the world (see also this earlier topic) that I truly regretted ever reading Smith’s stinkbombs to begin with. Fjordman’s research made me think about something very important: what would rape victims think if they knew that abominations like DC's Identity Crisis were present in this cruel world of ours? And, what would they think if they knew that people like “Captain Comics” were going around trivializing the very acts of violence and nightmares they went through, all for the sake of, scarily enough, the villains, including those who attacked them?

If people like Smith are going to gush shamelessly, trivialize and sensationalize serious subjects, then heaven forfend should I fail to speak out against it. This was also one of the reasons why I got into blogging – because I wasn’t going to sit with my hands tied while the MSM assisted the dumbing-down of my favorite comics and their characters. When I first began blogging, I began with one blog which I called Comics and Globe Watch, but then later thought to split it into two blogs, so that I could provide some more room and make things less cumbersome (I now sometimes update the original blog in Hebrew, knowing that there could be something to it). And that, you might say, is the story of how I got into blogging.

If there’s anyone I feel sorry for when it comes to Smith, it’s some of the people who hang out on his website, because, as much as I disdain his work now, there were some decent folks there whom I’m sure wouldn’t support the kind of monstrosity he fawned over. I don’t begrudge them for reading his tripe, but all the same, I wish they would wake up and smell the coffee...and maybe even get into blogging just like me! How about it, “Legionnaires”?

Smith isn’t the only one whom I take serious issue with over the sugarcoating of comics coverage in the MSM. Even Bill Radford, who writes for the Colorado Gazette, has angered me considerably with two very dishonest and superficial columns of his own, which I wrote about here and here. I just couldn’t believe the dishonesty, first beginning with that he doesn’t even say how it bears no female viewpoint, and then with how he doesn’t even mention the rape in the column he wrote a year later. Truly distasteful.

Comic books, I want everyone to know, are probably the only entertainment venue I see worthy of defending these days, maybe due in part to their being reading material. In any case, let it be known that, for anyone who’s not especially into comics but is into investigating Chomskyism and other forms of prejudice rampant in entertainment today, that even comic books are a big victim of such horrors. They’re facing destruction from both within and without, by the publishers and by the MSMers who’re fluffing up almost all the coverage of them. It makes no difference if it’s in order to maintain “good relations” with the companies, what the MSM are doing is dishonest journalism and is insulting to the audience. And that’s why it’s a good thing we have the internet on which to discuss these topics, and to try to provide the public with the info the MSM is hushing up. And, if you ask me, everyone, I think it’d be a very good idea to do your best to take a look at what today’s comic books contain. We can’t allow them to give bad examples to those children who still read comics, or to adults either. They cannot be ignored any more than movies and television.

That’s why I’m glad I got into the business of blogging, not just for the sake of Israel, France, North America, Australia and such, but also for the sake of an entertainment medium that I consider one of the few worth saving. And I’m gonna keep on with it, unabashedly, unapologetically, to see what biases I can find in the MSM, even the comics related press, to see if it’s possible to deal with it.

And if I’m smart, I’ll also think to send links to my topics on FCMM to the trackback parties as well (I’ll need to use the standalone pinger though, since I don’t have a Haloscan account for it). Because who knows, anyone could find it facinating for all the right reasons. (Ah, the beauty of the internet. Isn’t it wonderful?) And so, I will boldly keep on fighting for the sake of the one hobby I haven't given up on, and want to save more than any other.

Also available at 7 Deadly Sins, Adam's Blog, Basil's Blog, Bloggin' Out Loud, Blue Star Chronicles, bRight & Early, Cao's Blog, Church and State, Cigar Intelligence Agency, Free Constitution, Freedom Watch, Is it Just Me, Jo's Cafe, The Liberal Wrong-Wing, The Median Sib, The Mudville Gazette, NIF, Outside the Beltway, Passionate America, Pirates Cove, Point Five, Robinik.Net, Samantha Burns, Stop the ACLU, Stuck on Stupid, Third World County, TMH's Bacon Bits, The Uncooperative Blogger, Wizbang, Woman Honor Thyself.

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Incredible overview..I had no idea!

There needs to be a debate on TV and radio about the moonbattery running rampant now in comic books. If there was, that could be a way for the public to get some more insight on what's going on. The true story of what's happening to comics today needs to be known.

Outstanding summation, Avi!

Want to turn the tables? Come, let's make fun of Comic Book Characters together.

http://supersexypictures.blogspot.com/

It is interesting that I read your post not long after reading an article in the paper about a comic book making batgirl or batwoman a lesbian. I am not a comic book fan but why the need to give comic book heroes an alternative lifestyle. Soon comic books will have heroes like "Handiman" (remember In Living Color) or "Gay Duo". That is ridiculous. I thought comic book heroes were based on Jungian values, not politically correct ones.

The misuse of Batwoman is certainly bad, and reeks of pandering and exploitation, but it's just the tip of the iceberg in what kind of discrimination and abuse the comics industry is being wrecked by today. Even the new Mr. Terrific got insulted in the pages of Identity Crisis, in example, and the reason Brian Bendis, who wrote Avengers Disassembled, misused Scarlet Witch in that storyline was because he disliked the character! These are just some of the examples of how quite a few writers DC and Marvel are hiring today, have very little respect for the characters they're put in charge of. And that's why, just like with movies and TV, even comics need some in-depth focus to try and combat the misuse running rampant in the industry now.

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About me

  • I'm Avi Green
  • From Jerusalem, Israel
  • I was born in Pennsylvania in 1974, and moved to Israel in 1983. I also enjoyed reading a lot of comics when I was young, the first being Fantastic Four. I maintain a strong belief in the public's right to knowledge and accuracy in facts. I like to think of myself as a conservative-style version of Clark Kent. I don't expect to be perfect at the job, but I do my best.
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