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Monday, July 03, 2017 

NY Vulture defends making Steve Rogers a villain

It's not all that new a news source like Vulture would slap Cap fans in the face, and with this wretched article, the reporter Abraham Riesman, who's hardly new to dishing out apologia and tabloid-level trash, has continued the modern tradition of journalists vehemently taking the side of contemptuous publishers and writers with this tiresome tripe about the fan-baiting Marvel performed when they turned Captain America into a Hydra/Nazi collaborator. And to make matters worse, they're calling this tripe of an article a look at supervillains:
In an age of superhero movies and TV anti-heroes, fictional villains are more complex than ever before. This week, Vulture examines villainous entertainment in all its forms.
What about surely the worst kind? Namely, complacent, ignorant journalists who defend trashy storytelling laced with shock value no matter how revolting it happens to be? That's one type of villain this piece is missing.
Superman debuted in Action Comics No. 1 in 1938, and I’m willing to bet that before No. 2 came out, some reader had already started wondering, Yeah, but what if that good guy turned into a bad guy? That narrative question has fueled a dizzying array of stories since Supes kicked off the era of the superhero eight decades ago. Over and over again, we’ve seen our spandex-clad saviors become menaces to society due to mind control, body swapping, alternate realities, or what have you. Watch as Batman threatens to kill Robin and Superboy! Tremble as Green Lantern transforms into a mass-murdering jerk! Duck and cover, everybody — Spider-Man’s trying to take over the world!
If they think this makes a perfect defense for the premise Marvel's used for time-warping Steve Rogers' history as Captain America, they should get a new career in some other medium. Missing, as expected, is any acknowledgement of whether changing Cap's whole history is even remotely tasteless, to say nothing of disrespectful to the creators, and whether it's even something we need in a time when Islamic terrorism has become so monstrously prevalent. And no admittance that turning Hal Jordan into a mass-murdering psycho in 1994 was a disgusting idea either. IMO, it only explains in hindsight why I don't find Chris Claremont's original premise of turning Jean Grey into a mass killer appealing in retrospect either.
Of course, sooner or later, the virtuous status quo is restored. These are valuable pieces of intellectual property, after all, and you can’t sell tickets to a franchise about, like, Iron Man killing innocents in cold blood. However, that moral restoration isn’t always instantaneous, and during the period when the Manichean balance is off-kilter, comics readers have a tendency to get testy about their favorite characters being tinkered with. Surely, writer Nick Spencer and his bosses at Marvel Comics anticipated some degree of that kind of dissatisfaction last spring when they went to the good-gone-bad well and made Captain America a supervillain.
Of course they did. They didn't care. Spencer, Brevoort, Quesada, Alonso et al know there's people out there, old and new, who do have far more respect for the creations than they do. They did this with the full knowledge that their steps amounted to nothing more than outrage culture tactics and it made no difference to them that their approach is going to put Marvel and DC out of business sooner or later. What mattered to them was turning a fast buck and degrading everything Captain America and the rest of the MCU are all about.

But while it's true you couldn't possibly expect to sell tickets to a franchise about superheroes turned into cold blooded murderers, why do they think comics readers and moviegoers alike are going to be any less resistant to four color panels with the same?
That said, they couldn’t have anticipated the degree to which that story would tear apart the discourse about American superhero comics for more than a year. Indeed, the still-ongoing story line in which Cap turns into a baddie has become the single most radioactive topic for the comic-book commentariat. Hardly a week goes by without some kind of fight between Spencer and his critics, usually in the highly flammable environment of Twitter. No matter what side you take, the debate over this villainous turn has been fascinating to watch — and it has raised serious questions about how brands and creators can healthily interact with the fandoms that fund them.
They can't, and Riesman can't either. Certainly not if the latter suggests it's all a big amusement, and defends the story at all costs. He didn't help matters when he mentioned a certain "culture writer" either:
Most of the criticism was civil, if heated, but a frightening handful of people went so far as to send death threats to Spencer and those who defended his story decision. Culture writer Devin Faraci, witnessing all this, wrote a much-discussed essay, inspired by the affair and endorsed by Spencer, entitled “Fandom Is Broken.” If it wasn’t actually broken, it was certainly shaken. Within a week or so, tempers cooled a bit — but although the death threats subsided, the discourse was only beginning. Within a few months, it would become hard to remember a time when people weren’t angry at Nick Spencer.
Journalism is shaken and broken too. Umm, Mr. Riesman, are you aware Mr. Faraci was recently accused of sexual assault, and a woman spoke out against him? Let's be clear: if threats were made online, of course that was abominable, and only hurts the opposition to Marvel's fan-baiting tactics. But citing the work of a guy who turned out to be a chilling creep is no improvement either, and makes everything a lot worse. That Riesman's ignored the disturbing revelations about Faraci only compounds the perception his bias is throughly deliberate. And after describing the setup for Spencer's Cap-turned-nazi story, he says:
In other words, Spencer has created a story in which a somewhat compelling, non-mustache-twirling case is made for fascism. Not one that Spencer actually agrees with, of course — anyone who takes a look at the man’s Twitter feed can see he’s a die-hard liberal and fervent opponent of the Trump agenda. Nevertheless, it’s been deeply disconcerting for some of his readers to see such a tried-and-true paragon of American goodness suddenly spouting rhetoric that would’ve sounded natural in the mouth of a Nazi.
Oh, so he's perpetuating the leftist cliche of Trump-as-nazi, and implying liberalism automatically makes him stand out positively! I'm not impressed. Besides, if he's really disturbed by fascism, how come he calls the story "somewhat compelling"? As if the word "somewhat" somehow serves as a denial he's actually against it.
The story “feels … like overt disrespect of the character’s creators, an opportunity to change everything Captain America stands for because it would be cool to see him fight everyone in the Marvel Universe,” wrote the A.V. Club’s comics expert Oliver Sava when Secret Empire began. It’s just as upsetting for the story’s detractors to see characters from groups exterminated by the Nazis, like Magneto (a Jew) and Scarlet Witch (a Romani person), either appease or join Evil Cap’s cause. “#Marvel has no dignity. They took the one group wiped out by the Nazis and turned them into Nazis. #shameonmarvel,” wrote Twitter user @lastalas, echoing a common sentiment. “The house of #hydracap is having a field day exploiting the deaths of millions for publicity.”
I notice he's also perpetuating the claim Magneto's Jewish in the comics. He wasn't - certainly not per se - in the first 3 decades of X-Men; Chris Claremont established him as coming from as much a Roma background as Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver. It was only by the turn of the century, apparently influenced by the 2000 movie, that political correctness sought to modify this.

Interestingly, Spencer seems to have incurred the wrath of not only Cap fans, but also some professional writers:
Whether or not you agree with the merits of Spencer’s points in the ongoing feud, it’s hard to dispute the fact that he’s gone from being comics’ “It” boy to being one of its most hated firebrands in a very short period of time. Even some fellow comic-book creators have taken him to task, with writer Alex de Campi tweeting this April that “if you’re wondering why Team Comics isn’t going after him, fam, we all have him on mute.”
But there's a certain other bunch who haven't:
That said, Spencer’s employers at Marvel have been nothing but supportive of Spencer the whole way through. That’s understandable, or at least unsurprising: Secret Empire is pulling great retailer-order numbers at a time when the company is struggling in its eternal fight against DC. What’s more, Marvel editor-in-chief Axel Alonso — despite leading a push for greater diversity in the lineup of top-tier Marvel characters — has been dismissive of his company’s most progressive critics, telling an audience at New York Comic-Con last year that he is “the last thing from a social justice warrior.” There seems to be little corporate inclination to apologize to, much less side with, the detractors.
So they'll side with Spencer. But they wouldn't support say, J. Scott Campbell who came under attack by SJWs for a largely harmless illustration of a girl with a tank top, even if the path they took with Iron Man was SJW-pandering. Isn't that funny they imply this is only "progressives" who found this take on Cap offensive, when the whole mess does have its conservative detractors too? The real irony, one could argue, is that SJWs shunned it despite their assumptions otherwise. Alonso can say what he likes, but with all their changes in race/sexual orientation recently, he is one of the biggest SJWs around.

And those sales charts he linked to show that the Steve Rogers title sold little more than 35,000 copies at stores. I miss how that qualifies as a true success. Riesman is a joke. His next comments are no better:
Just 15 years ago, there was another much-discussed story in which Captain America was made an asshole, an alternate-reality tale called The Ultimates. In it, Cap was reimagined as a scowling and jingoistic hard-ass, and not only did folks barely get upset about it, they ate it up. It was one of the biggest hits of its time, and it was a huge boon for Captain America’s prominence: At that time, despite many creators’ best efforts, no one had been able to make Cap truly relevant in a long time. He was not a widely beloved character, so turning him into a jerk was not only not a big deal, it was a step up for his visibility.
Oh, is he so sure about the reaction being positive? I seem to remember some people in those earlier internet days voicing displeasure at what was really a negative metaphor for an American icon. I notice Riesman wasn't interested in bringing up another storyline Mark Millar put there, a reworking of the Hank Pym as alleged spousal abuser against Janet Van Dyne story from 1981. Because if the Ultimates plotline with Cap didn't sink it, the setup with Ant-Man and Wasp would have.

On what level does he mean Cap wasn't loved? If he's talking about the writers/artists, that is troubling, and a strong hint how Steve Rogers ended up where he is now. But to say nobody in the audience minded is strange, and even makes me think of how the second Robin, Jason Todd was originally portrayed in the mid-80s. Why is it okay to make Cap sound like a jerk, but not a character who was meant to succeed Dick Grayson as the Teen Wonder? Just because this was an alternate-reality series doesn't make it good taste.
Flash-forward to today, and you’ll find a very different set of attitudes toward the character. When #HydraCap came, people were furious that someone they cared about so much had been distorted. I saw this fervent reverence just a few years before, when I wrote an article about how Cap is only interesting in his more prick-ish portrayals and was eviscerated online by his defenders. Two little words that aren’t “hail” or “Hydra” are responsible for that massive shift over the past decade and a half: “Chris Evans.”
Now wait a sec. What about the Marvel Knights series from the early 2000s? That was so unreadable and embarrassing, and even if it didn't turn Steve evil per se, the Chomskyite premise it went by was still very horrific, and did infuriarate people once they realized what was going on. I firmly disagree that Steve's only interesting as a jerk, because that's ultra-cheap. After describing the alleged surge in popularity for Cap following the movies, and the shock of finding a story that's the polar opposite of the movie setup, he says:
That’s not to say the story isn’t interesting. It is, and it’s especially interesting to read in an era when neo-fascist ideology has somehow found a home in the highest echelons of American politics. But the fact that Marvel jumped into the story line perhaps demonstrates that they don’t totally understand who loves their characters most these days. Sure, the old soldiers who come to the store every week to pick up new issues have to be taken into account, but so do the people who are newer to the medium and came in through the MCU.

There’s precious little in the way of publicly available, comprehensive market data about comics readership, but in my anecdotal experience, the MCU generation, in addition to being passionately attached to Cap, are also relatively young. If Marvel disregards their concerns, it runs the risk of losing a wide swath of people who desperately want to be lifelong comics readers, but who are only just now gaining a foothold. They might not be a consumer force yet, but that doesn’t mean their potential to be one should be discounted. If someone says they love your product, it’s generally wise to figure out why and try to appeal to them in the future.
Sigh. So he basically praises the story, justifying it on the pretense that it supposedly reflects the Trump era, and it sounds like he's saying anybody new to the medium has no issue with warping a famous creation out of shape. Some bizarre paradox alright. His statements are downright jumbled, and he seems to think newcomers really want the opposite of what earlier generations did. And at the end, he says:
But the main people to watch here aren’t the critics, or even Spencer — it’s Marvel’s leadership. As comics commentator Kieran Shiach put it in a recent tweet, Marvel will eventually have to ask itself, “Was this worth the pain? The controversy? The offense?” If they figure out how to embrace a group of people who care enough about their properties to get furious about them, it might have been.
In other words, if Marvel put out a story where Steve Rogers became a child molestor, that would be fully justified? Absolutely not. So why would anybody think turning Steve into a nazi is any better? I'm sorry, but Riesman's just demonstrated why, as an opinionator, he's a failure, and it'd be a lot better if he'd let go of the mainstream superhero comics he's not really a fan of. He's on the company's side, not the audience's, and that's exactly the problem.

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Magneto was revealed as a Jewish concentration camp survivor in X-Men 150, a story by Chris Claremont and Dave Cockrum. It was cover-dated October 1981, at the end of the X-Men's second decade. The movies took this conception of the character from the comics, not the other way around.

Trump ran on a platform of job-creation, cracking down on dangerous outsiders and foreigners, and making America Great again. Hitler ran on a platform of job-creation, demonizing the Jews, and making Germany great again. Both used new media, radio and twitter, to get their message across directly to the people without intermediaries, both had a careful and subtle understanding of how to use imagery and media to promote their brand. The pro-Nazi bundists of the pre-War era wanted to remain neutral and avoid alliances with the doomed democracies of Europe; Trump has acted to diminish those alliances while trying to reset the relationship with America's traditional enemies. Both came to power after elections in which they did not gain a majority of votes, both had aggressive and belligerent personalities. There are differences: Hitler advocated a state-run economy while Trump is more capitalist, Hitler was more ideologically consistent than Trump, and Hitler was an excellent orator who could hold a mass audience enthralled for extended speeches, not just a sloganeer. But it is hard not to see the parallels, especially given Trump's flirtations with American neo-Nazis and the alt-white movement, and their enthusiastic and impassioned early advocacy for him.

I've checked the IP of this commenter, who appears to be from Montreal,Quebec, and let me just say that his/her attempt to lecture is very sad. Go take a trip to the Yukon, leftist, and don't bother us with your unverified propaganda.

Can you say "Godwin's Law"?

It's easy to do reductio ad Hitlerum and compare any politician to a Nazi.

Obama and Hitler both had autobiographies ghost written for them. Both surrounded themselves with sycophants and yes-men. Both had fanatical followers who saw them as messiah or gods. Both hated Jews. Nazi Germany had the Hitler Youth, Obama had his Youth Brigade.

Hillary Clinton advocates high taxes, prohibition of private gun ownership, and increased centralized government power. Militarily, she is an interventionist.

Trump is for lower taxes, more jobs, and less government regulation.

Hitler demonized Jews, who were stereotyped as being too successful. Hillary promised to raise taxes on the "most successful."

Obama demonized working-class people who "cling to their guns and religion." Hillary said that working-class people were "deplorable."

Trump did not demonize Muslims or illegal immigrants. They had already discredited themselves by committing crimes and terrorist attacks.

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