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Monday, December 21, 2015 

He's way behind

The would-be conservative writer Jonathan Last recently wrote about Marvel's PC diversity obsessions on Acculturated, one of the very few articles I've seen him do for a site other than his own these days, but has again slipped on certain matters. For example, I just don't see the point of sugarcoating Brian Bendis:
And the truth is, the best, most influential characters are the ones not dreamed up as PC sentiment. For example, take Jessica Jones. In 2001, Brian Michael Bendis created a new character from whole cloth who was like nothing anyone had ever seen before. A failed superhero who had become a junior-varsity alcoholic, Jones made ends meet working as a private detective (she wasn’t a very good one, either: Jones was just smart enough to realize that she wasn’t quite smart enough). The character was so great that Marvel plucked her out of the siloed world Bendis wrote her in and incorporated her into its mainstream narrative. And then made a Netflix series with her. And may even bring her to the big-screen as part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

That’s what happens when you do character first and politics second.
Sigh. He's oblivious to Bendis' involvement in projects that did reek of PC insanity, like turning Iceman - or Bobby Drake's time-displaced doppelganger - gay for the sake of it. Bendis also played a part in the crafting of Civil War, which put politics before character, so I'm not sure why that doesn't matter here. And, Last turns his back to much of the negative attitude in Bendis' superhero writing towards some of the female cast. But then, Last was the same phony who fawned over Bendis' hack job on Scarlet Witch. Sure, okay, so Jessica Jones was a new creation. But that doesn't mean Alias was any good, as it looked rather more like an attempt to be "adult" in the most obvious of ways, like with the expletive coming right out of the gate. And how does making Jones a not-very-smart protagonist help matters? Intelligence is an important element for a lead character, and if Jones is depicted otherwise, that hardly does much for the story.

And it doesn't make sense to say the character is great instead of the writing. Something which, I couldn't help notice, Last failed to explore unambiguously.

And then, here's where Last has failed to take Frank Miller's return to question mark status into account:
Coincidentally, Korean Hulk debuted the week after Frank Miller returned to comics with Dark Knight III: Master Race, which he has co-written with Brian Azzarello. Miller is one of the rare conservatives in comics. And he also happens to be the most influential comic book creator of the last forty years. You could argue that his masterwork, The Dark Knight Returns, is the single most influential comic since Action Comics #1, which gave the world Superman and created the superhero genre.

Since it first appeared, The Dark Knight Returns has influenced just about every comic book written and even today, thirty years after the fact, it retains unbelievable vitality; the energy still pops off the page.

But here’s the thing: Miller is well known, and somewhat reviled, within the industry for his conservatism. (The Guardian refers to him as a “crypto-fascist.”) He certainly has no interest in multiculturalism. But in The Dark Knight Returns he created one of the great non-powered characters in the history of comics: Ellen Yindel.
Well, there's one alleged conservative who needs a "hey, look behind you!" beckoning. Because he apparently failed to notice at least two things: one, Miller's slipping back to leftism, and two, his co-writer Azzarello is even more a leftist than he is, and there's every chance his view has influenced. Or, put another way, Last has cleverly obscured how Miller was pretty much a liberal over 3 decades ago, and didn't become a conservative overnight.

I'm also annoyed by how Last seems unconcerned with whether DKR's influence was good or bad in the long term. Because IMHO, any influence it had on books where an optimistic viewpoint works best did them no favors whatsoever. Let's also consider that by the mid-1990s, Bruce Wayne's personality was becoming messed up by writers/editors who actually thought turning the Masked Manhunter into a self-absorbed control freak was a great way to go. Which is not so. This also reminds me of something not many historians seem to talk about: during the post-Crisis on Infinite Earths retcons, it was established that Batman fired Dick Grayson as Robin because of a beating he'd suffered at the hands of Two-Face (and this became the reason Dick changed to Nightwing). As if Dick had never been assaulted by violent criminals before. Some people must think it impossible to screw up with writing that badly, yet DC's editors at the time did exactly that, and it only made things worse.

So here's another example of Last's slapdash reporting, which does nothing to form opinions on past history and how it's influenced modern writing, and is behind the times on Miller's current standings. But while Miller may have fallen back on his leftist leanings, he is still bound to be reviled by some of his fellow leftists, no matter how much he tries to appease them with this latest offering and its political metaphors. The question is, can we feel sorry for him if he takes positions now that are anathema to what conservatives stand for?

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  • From Jerusalem, Israel
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