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Thursday, September 01, 2016 

More about Dixon's adaptation of Clinton Cash

I found some more articles about Chuck Dixon's GN adaptation of the Clinton Cash book (and documentary film). Inverse has written about it, and what's vital to point out for starters is that the GN's reportedly selling very well:
Dixon and Smith are pleased with the sales and what they say those sales represent. They claim that superhero comic book readers remain liberal and conservative in equal numbers, but that comics publishers and critics are overwhelmingly liberal. Dixon said he wants to “keep making comics for the right.” This is surely a political and aesthetic choice, but also a business decision.

Clinton Cash debuted at number one on the NY Times Bestsellers List, knocking Batman: The Killing Joke down to the second spot. Killing Joke, notably, has been on the Bestsellers List for more than four years.

Dixon and Smith believe Clinton Cash: The Graphic Novel’s commercial success is evidence of an underserved conservative readership in comics, but that’s a difficult argument to prove. Accusing Marvel of an attempt to alienate its conservative readers isn’t a novel thought, and even Marvel executives have responded to the criticism by countering that their book sales tell another story. Despite redefining some of its historically white, male heroes being lauded as a “liberal” move, Marvel says it’s simply following the capitalist bottom line, selling titles that are most in demand. However, Dixon says he still feels ostracized by the industry for identifying as a conservative. He declines to play nice.
He shouldn't regardless. However, I would like to make clear that, liberal or conservative, the sales for comics would be a lot higher if a]they were sold in mainstream bookstores where they'd be more noticeable, b] reformatted to a shape more like paperbacks if it helped make the prices more affordable, and c]if they were written better, without turning every year and every ongoing title into a company/universe wide crossover for the sake of short-term publicity stunts. And as I've said before, if all the titles don't sell in millions, then they're not a true success. The reason Clinton Cash may be doing as well as it is must surely be because it's been sold in official bookstores in graphic novel format, making it more appealing to the modern consumer.

And who says it's just conservatives who were alienated by Marvel's current obsession with ambiguous diversity? Even liberals could be, and are surely bored by the stories that are little more than preachy and aimless, reducing event the newer casts of characters to cyphers. After all, the whole goal was little more than "diversity" and not talented writing that makes them 3-D.
Both Dixon and Smith say superhero comics should strive to be an apolitical as possible, and they both only seem to have a problem with what they call “social justice warrior” changes to superhero canon. An “apolitical” publisher, they seem to agree, would keep all of its primary heroes defined as they originally were: That means a lot of white, straight, male heroes.
No it doesn't. It just means that superhero publishers should show they have what it takes to create new characters of different racial background with their own roles, something they note a bit further down. Besides, the Big Two have long had some heroes of Black, Asian and Latino descent; they just won't put a bigger emphasis on them simply because they're not as well known as they could be, and don't respect their creation or creators enough to promote them better. Otherwise, we'd be seeing a bigger emphasis on Sunfire, Power Man, Black Lightning, Misty Knight, Colleen Wing, Storm, Sunspot, Kitty Pryde, and any members of the Legion of Super-Heroes who haven't been emphasized to date.

Oh, and how silly to suggest that there haven't been many female heroines of any racial background, because there's been more than enough since the Golden Age when Wonder Woman and Hawkgirl were first introduced, and Dixon himself developed a title starring two ladies, Birds of Prey. Did I mention that under the current mentality, even white women aren't always considered worthy by the publishers?
“Publishers like DC and Marvel,” Nixon says, “want to get media coverage outside of the comics realm, so they do these cynical, political moves, changing the race or gender or sexual persuasion of an existing character.” When asked what they meant by “cynical,” both Smith and Dixon compared the creation of new female or non-white characters like Ironheart or Miles Morales or Thor: Goddess of Thunder to cheap tactics used in 80s and 90s superhero comics, like killing off Superman with no intention to keep him dead. Storylines in superhero comics have always been temporary, and even gender flipping isn’t new; DC debuted Earth 11, a reverse-gender universe, in 2005.

“They’ll switch it all back,” Dixon says. “If you want a diverse group of characters, write new ones and stop altering characters who already exist.”
Will they ever switch them back? Similarly, will Marvel ever restore the Spider-marriage? That's a good question. They probably will, but by that time, even their liberal audiences will be long gone, convinced Marvel/DC have no interest in talented writing with plausible 3-D characterization that isn't undermined by company wide crossovers. For now, it's clear that Joe Quesada's influence on Spidey and the rest of the MCU cast is going to be felt for a long time, and will only ensure few have any interest in one of Marvel's most iconic creations.

Anyway, as noted, Dixon stated what should be clear: if Marvel/DC really, truly wanted to convince people they were in favor of diversity, they'd create new characters and quit altering the old, while indirectly telling people the costume is what they should care about instead of the character wearing it.
“They like to make Thor a chick or make this person transgender, and it creates a story within the media, which is why people buy the book,” says Smith. “But those changes have nothing to do with writing a good story.”
Indeed no. At the same time, anyone who did buy the books clearly didn't care enough to stick around for the long haul, judging from how many of these books are in consistent decline after a few months.
The Marvel comics featuring a female Thor vastly outsold original, male Thor comics at the time, but Smith believes this as a temporary bump in sales, inspired by the larger media story that erupted around the publisher’s change. It’s also worth noting that none of the existing gender-swapped heroes, or superheroes of ethnicities and backgrounds other than caucasian, have replaced the original, male, white heroes on shelves. In some cases, as with Peter Parker’s Spider-Man and Miles Morales’s Spider-Man, the two work in tandem, and in others — like Ironheart — the original Iron Man acts as a Bruce Wayne or Oracle, advising from the sidelines.
I think this is where Inverse fails to provide sales figures to prove it "vastly" outsold male Thor. I mean, how much does it sell now? If it's well below 100,000 copies, then there's the telling hint.

The new diverse or gender-swapped heroes may not have replaced the the originals per se, but the absurd politics behind the moves is still pretty obvious, and some of the white heroes have still been badly treated by the editors and other staff.
But Dixon does have a point. While President Bush made several appearances in Marvel Comics, appearing silly in some, and like a straight-forward POTUS prop in others (he’s saved by the X-Men), President Obama appears in Marvel Comics as an active character, with agency. In Siege #4, Obama abolishes the Superhuman Registration Act and restores Captain America to a place of power. He’s also friends with Peter Parker’s Spider-Man.
Fascinating that Obama's presented as the one who drops one of the poorest ideas seen in Civil War, whereas Bush was otherwise depicted very badly in some of those tales Marvel published in the past (in either or both the Marvel Knights and Max Punisher series, Bush got a pretty hostile depiction from writer Garth Ennis).
Letting a non-white or non-male character (Thor’s longtime partner Jane Foster) wield Mjölnir temporarily wasn’t a completely new idea — Miles Morales, for example, first appeared in 2011 — and no profit-focused publisher could be blamed for attempting to repeat successes. Perhaps Dixon is giving Marvel too much credit by assuming the publishing company’s motivations are political at all.
But how well did the Ultimate line stories with Mile Morales sell at all? And how is taking the character and all but replacing Peter Parker with him repeating success? It's not. It's only tossing stuff at a wall to see if it sticks. But what's really apparent is that the sales don't.
The argument that Clinton Cash’s success suggests anything related to superheroes also doesn’t hold water. The book’s high sales may be proof that the comics medium, divorced from any particular subject matter, has a larger potential audience than publishers had realized, but the only thing that might prove Smith and Dixon’s point would be a popular, conservative superhero. Hillary Clinton isn’t that.
They're right that Clinton is no superheroine. But the success of the Clinton Cash GN must owe more to how it was marketed and formatted, in ways any comics publisher sticking by the monthly pamphlet format for serial fiction isn't doing. Ghetto mentality is the reason the medium as a whole is in the gutter.
Ultimately, it doesn’t seem like Dixon and Smith really resent publishers. After all, there have been popular comics up their alley. The Punisher series, starring a hero beloved by most conservative readers and occasionally written by Dixon himself, continues to kill. What Dixon and Smith seem to dislike is the cultural dialogue around comics as a means of social change. They are the antithesis of “social justice warriors.” They fight for the status quo and maybe even for a status quo that ceased to be quo a while back. Who are their enemies? The people who buy Miles Morales Spider-Man comics. It’s a readership they have come to both rely on and resent.
What has Frank Castle's MO got to do with this? If the writer of the article took a closer look, she'd notice even the Punisher fell victim to ultra-leftist insanity long ago, and that's the real problem. And the directions taken are pretty pointless, as the publishers reject any story where Frank could combat Islamic terrorism. And I think that's a bit of a stretch to suggest the people buying the Spidey comics now starring Morales are Dixon/Smith's "enemies". It's the publishers putting out much of this balderdash who are. Lest we forget Dan DiDio rejected Dixon a decade ago, and even now, I'm not sure what the reasons were, though I'm sure they weren't good ones.

Anyway, the Philadelphia Inquirer's article about Clinton Cash is actually better than Inverse's commentary, so I think that's more worth reading.

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...and I should get interested in another tell-all book about politics, why?

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  • 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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