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Friday, June 05, 2015 

Jaime Weinman indirectly attacks Lee Falk over "cultural insensitivity"

I came upon this conversation by a Macleans columnist named Jaime Weinman about magicians and sorcerers. First, let's begin with this starting comment he made, a pretty ridiculous attack on Dr. Strange:

If there's any kind of person distorting contrasts between fiction and reality who really galls me, it's newspaper reporters and comics scripters, because they're supposed to set examples, and here goes Weinman placing all the blame on an imaginary wizard who never existed, and therefore can't be faulted for alleged smugness. So, how come he's blaming imaginary Stephen Strange and not criticizing Stan Lee et al for supposedly giving Stephen a personality that's "smug"? In any of the material I ever read of the Sorcerer Supreme, I never thought he was depicted acting smugly in virtually every instance. But, if that's what Weinman thinks, gee, that could easily describe Spider-Man and the Thing too, every time Peter Parker and Ben Grimm wisecrack during a battle! Yet another lemming who obviously doesn't care about the better interests of the creations. Otherwise, he'd be asking the people in charge to give them a personality modification he thinks is better. I think he confused a confident personality with smugness.

Now, here's something where he hints he dislikes the following comic strip from the late cartoonist and playwright Lee Falk, author of Mandrake the Magician and the Phantom:

Do I sense he's ramming into Lee Falk via "projection", because he thinks the famous cartoonist was being "culturally insensitive"? Of all the cheap nerve, and I guess what we have here is somebody who's decided to put down past products because they don't adhere to his PC visions. First off, do Mandrake's magics that transform an object or being into another shape count as "torture" per se? Not really, and while turning a human into an animal might be humiliating, it doesn't count as torture unless the alleged attacker was physically assaulting the target. Second, isn't that Islamist in the cartoon a kidnapping criminal whom Mandrake's interrogating? Third, is Weinman aware of any of the Koran's themes? Because if Mandrake were grilling a violent nazi/communist, I doubt he'd complain about that, so why should he make a big deal out of Falk writing/drawing a strip where Mandrake deals with a Muslim criminal? Besides, Falk wasn't the only one from his time who featured possible Islamists as baddies. Even Siegel and Shuster did in Action Comics #30 from November 1940, and, as I've noted a couple times before, Will Eisner's last graphic novel focused on the history of Muslim anti-semitism.

This reminds me that in past years, I'd read a few history articles telling how some WW2 comics would depict Germans/Nazis as "crude stereotypes" without acknowledging why the artists and writers at the time might've done it: to voice their disgust at how the Germans were conducting totalitarian invasions of other European countries and murdering Jews, Gypsies and other Europeans who stood in their way. Those journalists who wrote those articles may not have even mentioned that some of the artists who drew the illustrations they had a problem with were Jewish (Falk, Siegel, Shuster, Lee, Simon, Kirby, etc), but the corrosive effect of their biased reporting could lead to some backwards crazies putting two and two together, and using those articles as excuses for anti-semitism, by villifying famous writers even long after they've been gone. I'd guess the journalists who wrote those articles were also people who didn't have what it takes to appreciate men and women who wanted to say what they thought of European fascist totalitarians by using punishing designs.

Here's something to think about. I don't know if or how much these past writers, Jewish or not, knew about Islam. But what if they did? Were they supposed to put up with its belief system any more than fascism/communism? Of course not. If they knew what Islam's belief system was like, they could've been offended by the anti-Jewish themes in the Hadith/Koran, ditto Islam's hostility to other non-Muslim entities and women's rights, and wanted to make clear in drawing that they did not approve, just like they made clear they abhorred nazism in various WW2 comics. And Weinman competely fails to consider any of this, while at the same time he attacks a fictional character without lamenting that the characterization wasn't what he was hoping for. Suppose Falk were of Armenian descent, and he'd drawn the strip as an expression of anger over what the Ottoman Turkish jihadists did to many Armenians during WW1? Would Weinman suggest Falk was just acting out of one-dimensional intent?

Furthermore, let me also be clear here that if Falk drew a strip where Mandrake grilled a Jewish gangster like Louis Buchalter and threatened to turn him into pork slab, and "Lepke" was terrified of that, out of alleged religious observance, I wouldn't mind one bit, because a man who ran the Murder Inc. syndicate is not deserving of "cultural sensitivity". And if the crook whom Mandrake was dealing with in Falk's comic strip was meant to be anything even remotely similar, then such a criminal character isn't deserving of religious accommodations either.

I'm very disappointed with Weinman for talking down to the audience by speaking of Dr. Strange and other fictional wizards as though they were real people, and running one-dimensional attacks on the work of famous cartoonists through a closed mindset, not willing to ponder whether they have legitimate grounds for criticizing a religion they may not agree with, and overall setting a poor example for journalists and other writers who supposedly want the comics medium to be taken seriously. Clearly, he doesn't. All he's done is instill a new special respect in me for Falk, among others who didn't toe the PC line he seems to think is required both past and present.

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  • I'm Avi Green
  • From Jerusalem, Israel
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