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Monday, March 19, 2007 

Anti-conservatism in the 1980s

With all the anti-conservative standings turning up in comics today, even allegorically, it's probably time to make some notes on that comics may have had some unfavorable leanings against conservatives for longer than one thinks.

Now, let's take as an example some of Marvel's 1980s output. Some works, like for example, the time when president Reagan gave the Hulk a presidential pardon in 1982, were probably the most respectable you could find about a conservative in their comics at the time. Some of the stuff on this can be found here on Superhero Universe (and also here). But that's probably the closest you could get to a favorable depiction, as Captain America, on the other hand, took a turn towards featuring an unfavorable stand on Reagan in the mid-80s, which culminated in the story where Steve Rogers was fired and introduced John Walker to replace him, the protagonist who later became USAgent. Most appalling about him at the time was that, while he may not have been racist by any stretch, he may have been nasty towards women, and invoked a southern stereotype. This ultimately was what had Steve Rogers brought back to his rightful role as the Star-Spangled Avenger.

DC Comics, while probably not as negative towards Reagan as Marvel was being with Capt. America at the time, still had some negative takes on conservatives that turned up in a few places. And while the ones I recall were pretty mild, they were there too. For example, in the New Teen Titans #18, which brought back Leonid Kovar, the original protagonist to take the name of Starfire (he later became Red Star), Kid Flash, depicted as a "midwestern conservative", bore a severe distrust towards the Russian-born superhero, and was depicted as something of a hothead over the issue of whether he's judging Kovar too hard. I don't think Wally West's political standings were ever focused on again after that, but there you have it, it seemed as though he were being depicted as a conservative stool pidgeon.

Now a big difference you had back then was that, whether or not conservatives were being attacked at the time, the writers and editors of liberal standings weren't going galaxies our of their way with their politics to the point of letting it get almost completely in the way of their creativity, as a lot of those at Marvel now seem to be doing, and lest we think that DC is any better. And everyone recognized that Communism was bad, and even Islamic terrorists, whether or not they were named as such, occasionally turned up at the time as the criminals they were too, even in Russia itself. Plus, many stories offered much more to think about too. I suppose the problem was that liberals were acting as if conservatives weren't doing a good enough job in dealing with the problems, or as if they could literally do an even better job. I don't know.

Negative leanings towards conservatives at the time may have been much milder and more restrained, but that doesn't mean it was a healthy practice to do it. For, it may have been what led to a lot of the politicization of comics today. I'm not saying that liberals should have to be flat out taken to task instead now, but attacks on conservatives are going to have to stop, and politics, simply put, will otherwise have to be moved away from.

At the same time, writers also have to avoid falling back on errors like the Clone Saga in Spider-Man from the mid-90s, a story that was not political by any stretch, but was still pretty offensive, like when the Spidey clone wounded Mary Jane while running out of a room (so painful to think about, I'm not getting into this any further). If you're going to write something de-facto nostalgic, it has to be without descending into the kind of crude litter that many entertainment venues sunk into during the past decade.

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Any anti-liberalism cracks mentioned in past comics?

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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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