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Saturday, June 21, 2014 

More leftist reactions to Dixon/Rivoche op-ed

Here's some more examples of leftists who've got a problem with Dixon, Rivoche, and even Frank Miller. For example, here's another one by a writer on The Mary Sue, who said:
The essay also has a healthy dose of the “won’t somebody think of the children” argument, claiming we should eliminate politics from superhero comics because they are aimed at impressionable minds.

I can agree with Dixon on the fact that kids are ill-served by the superhero medium. Take, for example, DC offering an issue full of gore and violence for Free Comic Book Day, the most kid-oriented date on the comics publishing calendar. Superhero comics simply aren’t targeted at children any more (much to the annoyance to a number of geek parents I know, who’d really like to be able to share a Superman comic written within the last year with their tiny offspring), and they haven’t been since before Dixon started working on them.

Dixon and Rivoche acknowledge this when they talk about the rise in anti-hero comics of the nineties and the subsequent effect of that change on classic characters like Batman and Superman. Conveniently, they do this without mentioning the contributions of Frank Miller, another very outspoken right-wing comics pro, to the beginnings of that trend with his work on The Dark Knight Returns, and lay the source of all this “moral relativism” at the feet of liberal politics. [...]
First off, even if today's comics are marketed more for adults, that doesn't mean no child will read them and wind up badly influenced by the negative content, so I hope she's taking that into account. But as for Miller, he was not always right-wing. Back in the 80s, he was pretty much to the left. How did she miss that? It's not like it was ever a secret.
This description raises more questions than it answers. Millions of people live with AIDS every day. What is so political about their lives that a frank and honest depiction of their disease can not be made appropriate for children? Except, of course, that AIDS has long been associated, sometimes exclusively, with the gay community, and we all know that Superman can romance Lois Lane as much as he wants, and Bruce Wayne can date every socialite in Gotham, but homosexual relationships are inappropriate for children. Ultimately, at the end of the piece, Dixon and Rivoche’s call is not for less political subjects in comics to make them more kid friendly, but for more, different politics in comics. [...]
I'm not sure she gets it, but homosexuality, however we look upon it, has become a very politicized subject of late, and it's not something that any sane parent wants their children to practice and live by, just like we wouldn't want them being badly influenced by violence. Doesn't a good upbringing ever count?
Even if I agreed with Dixon and Revoche politically, their arguments are fundamentally unsound in a number of places. For example, the two spend some time establishing the clear good guys vs. bad guys origins of Superman stories, bringing up the 1946 radio serial in which Superman battled the Ku Klux Klan, at the time a pretty gutsy thing for a fictional hero to do. But what they don’t mention is that nearly a decade earlier when his very first comics stories were being published, at the height of the great depression, Superman was often pitted (as he is today) against corrupt fatcats, or shown fighting on the side of every day workers and laborers. They claim that “comics were a brotherhood beyond politics,” but the truth is, at their least regulated, superhero comics (not to mention the Underground Comix movement) have always often skewed towards liberal politics, being created very consistently by writers and artists who had grown up in underprivileged urban or suburban areas and were still (due to the usual work-for-hire relationships they held with publishers) living and working on low wages and in diverse urban settings.
Umm, how does low pay and corrupt business managers amount to an exclusively leftist concern? Even today, there's corruption in the market, and even conservatives worry about it everywhere. Like, for example, businesses hiring illegal immigrants because they'll work for less than what locals want. And some of that underprivileged environment was the result of leftist politics causing the Great Depression, which, I believe, is now the subject of Dixon, Rivoche and Amity Shlaes' new graphic novel based on her writings. The writer continues to say that their view is:
...the sort of limited perspective that could take a book like Persepolis and say that it cannot “be called left- or right-wing.” Of course Persepolis contains a political message, it just does so in the context of Iranian politics, in which it is an incandescently radical leftist work, the very existence of which may well prevent its creator from ever seeing her home country again.
Is it truly leftist? Not necessarily. Besides, look at how quite a few leftists turned their backs on the plight of innocent Iranians who were tortured in Ahmedinejad's prisons, among other horrors in that cesspool of a country. Whether Persepolis is "leftist", it's not in the same sense the writer sees things.
Dixon is fully free to champion the cause of his political leanings in comics, and, frankly, I’m much more interested in reading comics about conservative ideals from a conservative who has demonstrated he’s fully capable of exempting his personal views from a story where they conflict with the spirit of a longstanding character. But I think it’s worth pointing out that a number of the claims Dixon and Rivoche make in the article about the arc of politics in comics history are, frankly, bunk.
Okay, I thank her for saying she's not against reading the works of a conservative. And I also thank her for linking to one of my posts; that's how I noticed this in the first place. But I can't appreciate her predictable conclusion that nearly everything Dixon/Rivoche say about the history of politics in comics is all "bunk". And I can't help but wonder what she'd say if a liberal didn't exempt his/her personal views where they conflict with longstanding characters. Besides, she hasn't mentioned Marvel's most notorious leftist propaganda like The Truth: Red, White and Black, the Marvel Knights Capt. America, or even Civil War. Nor does she mention some of the crudest metaphors like DC's Identity Crisis. If she doesn't admit those are examples of leftism at work, there's not much point in dismissing Rivoche & Dixon's arguments as "bunk".

Next, here's one on IO9, that takes a superficial view of the length of the article and makes a similar mistake about Frank Miller:
Curiously absent, though, are the prominent works of non-liberal comics artists. Ayn Rand disciple Steve Ditko is never mentioned once, despite being the co-creator of Spider-Man and having produced a huge body of influential work. Frank Miller, who helped make comics more Hollywood-friendly and accessible to mainstream readers with Dark Knight Returns, is also completely absent. So is Larry Hama, a Japanese-American Army veteran who served in Vietnam and created most of the characters for G.I. Joe when the property was being developed at Marvel in the early '80s, and also wrote the bestselling The 'Nam. Mike Baron, an idiosyncratic conservative writer who created Nexus and the Badger, is also missing. And Peter Bagge, an outspoken libertarian cartoonist who created HATE and recently produced a critically acclaimed comics bio of birth-control advocate Margaret Sanger, is never mentioned, despite his many potshots at liberal and conservative orthodoxies.
As noted before, a mainstream newspaper will only allow so much space, even online. Does that not occur to them either? Besides, the main point is that major publishers are the ones all but denying jobs to conservatives.

And how come they haven't acknowledged Miller used to be leftist before turning right?
Even stranger is their defense of the (now-defunct) Comics Code Authority, which guaranteed "morally upstanding" stories until its power weakened in the '70s and '80s, and eventually died out a few years ago. The Code, after all, was voluntarily imposed by the comics publishers of the '50s on themselves for fear of Congressional action; it's rather odd to hear two principled, free market, "free speech" conservatives defending a pro-censorship organization designed to keep the petrifying influence of Big Government at bay. (And as comics creators, they seem rather sanguine about its catastrophically deleterious effects on the artistic and commercial growth of the medium.)
Just like the writer's sanguine about Fredric Wertham's apparent leftism. Again, it was more an opportunity to get a few publishers out of the way than a worry about Congress butting in, and this writer is missing points just like Janelle Asselin. He certainly isn't any more qualified to address these issues than she is.

And then, there's Bleeding Cool, who called Frank Miller the following:
Well... Frank Miller got work. If he wanted it. A famously conservative comic book creator, [...]
Good grief, what is happening to people's grip on history? For the thousandth time, Miller was not always conservative, and only turned more to that path post-9/11. He even ridiculed Reagan in the Dark Knight Returns, yet that escapes them too. Sometimes, I get the feeling they're doing this all for the sake of hinting their modern disdain for him, despite all the good he did for Daredevil back in the 80s. And he's gotten considerably less work as a writer, if not as an artist, in the past several years from the big two.

Even Tom Brevoort came into the picture with his usual dishonesty:
Given that all of the major companies employ creators of virtually every political stripe, I don’t think there’s much merit in what he wrote there. [...]
Dixon has not worked for Marvel in nearly 14 years, and again, there's more conservative artists than writers working for the big two now, because they're not the ones really telling the story. Nor have I seen Mike Baron working for them in a long time. Not even Carl Potts, so I don't think there's any merit in Brevoort's gibberish.

And here's a tweet by writer Rachel Edidin:

What, you mean Siegel and Shuster didn't have the Man of Steel fighting evil dictators during WW2, drawing special covers and advertising army bonds? Gee, what kind of a bubble does she live in? There was also a story in Action Comics #30 where he confronted the leader of a band of jihadists in the Sahara desert in Africa. Obviously, she doesn't do any research, yet she is comfortable claiming Supes as a "liberal property only".

I also found John Ostrander lambasting them, and his defense is:
Suicide Squad was nothing if not an exercise in moral ambiguity.
Really? The idea was grouping together a special team mostly comprised of villains on probation (and also a few superheroes) who get a chance to redeem themselves by using their powers and skills to carry out deadly missions in middle eastern and communist countries, towards the end of the cold war. The sad part is that Ostrander later disowned parts of the 1987-92 series, when he wrote a miniseries in 2008 where he tried to downplay Islamofascism.
I have some problems with their selection of facts and their interpretation of those facts. For instance, they say “Superman, as he first appeared in early comics and later on radio and TV, was not only ‘able to leap tall buildings in a single bound,’ he was also good, just and wonderfully American.” Might I suggest they go back and read those earliest tales. Superman takes on crooked politicians and even the U.S. Army. He was a renegade and an outlaw. The earliest Batman carried a gun. I suppose that makes him wonderfully American, too. The heroes changed with the advent of World War II and became part of the war effort.
I think I can figure out what he's trying to say: according to Ostrander's perception, conservatives think the military are all saints. Umm, no, we don't. If they were, the horror perpetrated by Nidal Hasan wouldn't have taken place. There've even been cases discovered of military officials who smuggled drugs and members who used them in Afghanistan. Past and present, the sad truth is that there is corruption in the military staffs of western countries, committed by personnel who do grave disservices to an outfit that deserves better. No matter how unfair we think leftists are to the military, that doesn't mean we think all their employees are honest. Similarly, conservatives don't think all politicians are innocent either, not even within their own ranks; that's one of the reasons why the Tea Parties were formed. Ostrander's not making a great case based on that.

Mindy Newell, however, is defending Dixon/Rivoche:
Well, John, to a certain extent I have to agree with Chuck and Paul. It’s one thing for us, as adults, to read comics with an adult slant – meaning moral ambiguity in both our heroes and our villains. But I do think that for younger readers, the children and pre-teens (and, I suppose, depending on their maturity, some teenagers), it’s important that the heroes do act ethically and morally. They (Superman, the X-Men, Captain Marvel, Batman, Green Arrow, Wonder Woman, Daredevil, et.al.) are, not to put too fine a point on it, cultural icons…and besides, all kids need heroes to look up to – with a sense of wonder, with awe, with a desire to “be just like him/her when I grow up.”

And when their heroes fall, children are upset; they don’t understand adult haziness, they live in a black-and-white world. I remember when Lawrence Taylor (of the New York Giants and considered the greatest linebacker in NFL history) was arrested for cocaine use. “L.T.” was one of Alixandra’s heroes, and when she heard the news – we were in the car listening to the radio – she said to me, “How could he do that, Mommy?” And in her voice there was confusion and hurt and the sound of her hero crumbling into dust.

And I was angry. At that moment I hated Lawrence Taylor. In one second he had destroyed a part of my daughter’s innocence. And I thought of all the other kids out there who had looked up to him and now, just like Alix, were asking their parents how and why and I bet those parents felt just like I did.

Now I am not one to hide the facts of life from children. I always tried to be as honest as I could be with my daughter when she asked any and all questions. And certainly, Alixandra, as a child of divorced parents, already knew that the world was not a bed of roses.

But I also believe that in a world that grows uglier by the minute – I just saw a statistic on MSNBC’s Up with Steve Koracki that there have been 74 school shootings since Newtown in 2012 – it’s more important than ever that kids have heroes.
Not just children, even adults need heroes - fictional ones, in this case - whose values they can appreciate, and feel glad that, unlike real life humans, they do not corrupt, regardless of whether they have moral flaws. I'm an adult, even I've been burned on many public figures who did bad things, and that's why it's great to read escapist fiction to get my mind off those real life turncoats.

Ron Marz also had something to say:

Umm, Joe Shuster was Canadian too, and he clearly loved America. Something wrong with Rivoche doing the same?

Surprisingly, Marz and Kurt Busiek are still respecting Dixon by promoting Winterworld:

Well that's certainly setting a good example for a change. Now if they'd lobby for the majors to rehire Dixon, we'd certainly be getting somewhere. Indeed, I'd think that would be a very good deed if they were willing to call on Marvel and DC alike to rehire Dixon - and Miller - though with the way the big two are managed now, it wouldn't do much good for them to work there, since continuity and coherency have been largely destroyed, and the current EICs and publishers are unreliable. Maybe the best option for now would be for Image's managers to offer them some jobs.

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