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Saturday, June 14, 2014 

Letter writer to WSJ thinks these are "only" comics

Somebody wrote a letter to the Wall Street Journal in response to Dixon & Rivoche's article, using the "it's only comics" defense in his dismay anybody would dare accuse the industry of pushing modern leftist propaganda:
Chuck Dixon and Paul Rivoche long for the good ol' days of the Golden Age of comic books, when superheroes were pure good and supervillains were pure evil ("How Liberalism Became Kryptonite for Superman," op-ed, June 9). They deplore the moral relativism of today's super characters and blame liberal bias as the cause. They also claim, as conservatives, that it has damaged their careers.

"Great Caesar's ghost!" as Perry White would say. This has nothing to do with liberals or conservatives; this is about good story-telling. As comic book readers have grown older and more sophisticated, they have demanded more well-rounded, realistic—well, relatively realistic—characters. (Bullets still bounce off Superman's chest.) So Batman is a little dark, and Magneto has ample cause to distrust humanity. Wolverine kills people, and Catwoman may be redeemable.

Perhaps if Messrs. Dixon and Rivoche focused more on developing believable characters and less on vast liberal-media conspiracies, they would get more work. If it's any consolation, lone, masked vigilantes administering justice, while governments stand by helpless, remains at its core a conservative fantasy.
Someone clearly never read any of Dixon's work, or Rivoche's, or they'd know he did make an effort to write up believable characters, like his portrayals for Robin and Birds of Prey. Someone probably didn't read the Golden Age Batman stories either, or he'd know that Catwoman was depicted with a redeemable side even that early in Bat-history.

And I'm afraid this all does have what to do with leftism taking up far too much room for rightism to find space to fit in. Otherwise, it would be about good storytelling. But it's not, and disdain for patriotism is just the tip of the iceberg. Some of the company wide crossovers and "events" like Identity Crisis and Civil War are prime examples of politics leaking in, both subtly and openly. And I suspect that despite their very contrived structures, these are some of the examples the man who wrote that naive letter would consider "realistic". Must I let him know that the Marvel fan in me doesn't beg for realism at all costs, mainly because no matter how much personality a superhero and a co-star are given, superhero comics are still very inherently unrealistic? If they were even 10 percent "real", Peter Parker would've died of radiation poisoning from that spider bite at the science convention in 1962.

There were a few commentors who replied to the letter as follows:
It's more than just a comic. It's an American icon, like the cowboy. It's truth, justice and the American way. It's read by kids (not just "storybook readers that have become more sophisticated"). It's about care taking a legacy that dates back to the 40's and the Great Generation when he fought against the Axis forces. Now the American way is not good enough? Superman renounces American citizenship? Shameful. At least the latest movie credits Superman with growing up in Kansas and fighting against a global enemy. The comic book "writers" should take a cue from Hollywood. Never thought I'd be saying that.
Trouble is, even Hollywood doesn't always take a cue from Hollywood, because the same problems are lurking behind the scenes in filmdom too. Yes, it's ludicrous that some liberals today think the American Way isn't good enough, but let's not assume Tinseltown knows better. Another person said:
"Sophistication"? Phooey!

Loss of the ability to discern the essential differences between good and evil is not the essence of real "sophistication" (though many who feign sophistication seem to think they are oh-so-clever when they do).
Yep, that's another grave mistake now prevailing in modern comicdom, and you can find it in quite a few of Geoff Johns' stories now, and even Brian Bendis'. Simultaneously, there's a problem with costumed supervillains now depicted as perverts with no code of honor, as seen with Dr. Light in Identity Crisis. We don't want to sympathise with villains, but neither do we want to see established ones depicted so repellantly. Besides, it'd be no more "realistic" than if Yousemite Sam were depicted committing the same vile acts in a Looney Tunes cartoon. Another guy said:
As a boy, I grew up with the Lone Ranger and Tonto, not only within the pages comic books, but with the black and white television show. And, I also grew up with Superman in the same way.

Let's just say I find your Comment offensive, Mr. Brenner. And, I suspect the late Clayton Moore and George Reeves would too.

No doubt you would characterize Superman (George Reeves) to be guilty of bullying the 'bad guys' under your criteria, or, even worse, 'police brutality', and condemn the Lone Ranger (Clayton Moore) for his use of firearms, even though Moore refused to kill anyone because he thought children should not be exposed to that kind of violence, and he would only wound the 'bad guys'.

And, of course, Clark Kent would be working for the New York Times today, rather than the Daily Planet (or the Wall Street Journal).
Oh yes, that kind of mentality is also prevailing in modern superhero comics. Make the heroes look like the real baddies, while the villains are made to look more like victims, as the aforementioned Identity Crisis did in 2004. That's what the letter writer probably thinks is better.
The real issue is there is no money in american comic books. They are far too expensive for kids to purchase. The story lines are not appropriate for young readers. So competition from foreign comics (Japaneses) has really swept the field. Marvel is making movies because no one will buy their overpriced comic books.
Indeed, 4 dollars or more is outrageous. So too are paperbacks costing 30-plus dollars, and they probably know it, but don't care to do anything to lower the costs.

I don't think apologists for these modern botch jobs know anything about reality, and despite what they say, it's not what they're after either. Why can't they just come out and admit they're only interested in grisly, depressing, self-important storytelling that doesn't appeal to a wide audience? And why don't they just come forward and admit they don't want right-wingers getting jobs as writers in a medium they think is only "theirs"?

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The political rift between left and right has poisoned many areas of the culture over the past 15-25 years. There was still some grey area until 9/11, then the centre cleared and left us with two polarized camps in the upper echelons of western societies, fighting between themselves for control of the whole thing. Naked political agendas in any cultural sphere are just one facet of that, although leftists writing comics would never acknowledge this.

Today's comics are not "sophisticated" or mature; they are adolescent gore porn. And the characters are no more "believable" or "well rounded" than they were before; the character development consists of whining and childish bickering.

And "good story-telling"? Repetitive line-wide crossovers and phony big events (killing off characters, having heroes turn into villains and vice versa) that are all undone in the next regularly scheduled retcon or reboot.

Moral relativism seems terribly sophisticated when you are fifteen. And, at fifteen, appearing to be sophisticated is a high priority. And most comic book fanboys (and creators), no matter how old they are physically and chronologically, are emotionally about fifteen years old.

The super hero genre is not necessarily "at its core a conservative fantasy." Both the right and left have had heroes (both real and fictional) who took the law into their own hands. Liberals applauded Billy Jack (and Che Guevara), and conservatives applauded "Death Wish" (and Wyatt Earp). If the superhero genre is inherently anything, it's adolescent power fantasy.

And liberals disregarded the "it's only comics" argument when they condemned Miller's "Holy Terror," and when they threatened to boycott DC if it published a story by Orson Scott Card.

Good replies. I don't want to hear about politics in comics. That and the fact they expect you to pay 4.00 for something you can read in 5-10 minutes and watch devalue into 50-cent-boxland. What's the point?

The annoyance you experience from the stupid politics and disgusting values and the feeling of buyer's remorse are the most entertaining part of the experience.

I wish there was some outside organization that could force writers to hold to some basic standard of decency, make them shut up about their pet parties and just write comics.

They used to have that, of course, but as soon as 'they' became the new cultural norm it was gradually eaten away into nothingness from the 70s until the final kerplunk in the 90s.

"The political rift between left and right has poisoned many areas of the culture over the past 15-25 years."

Hate to tell you, dude, but it's been around a lot longer than that. Before Marvel had the Punisher threaten to assassinate Bush 43, Gruenwald turned Reagan into a snake villain. Before that, Englehart made Nixon the head of the Secret Empire.

Our culture has been poisoned by the left for a very, very long time. It's only in recent years that conservatives have re-acquired enough of a base to oppose it in some areas. Sadly, that hasn't occurred in comics yet.

Politics, yuck!

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