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Monday, December 26, 2022 

SJW at Book Riot seems to think Nick Spencer's "right-wing", despite his being a leftist too

One of Book Riot's most prominent SJW contributors, Jessica Plummer, has penned a piece that, while it has some valid points to offer about horrible tropes seen in comics of the past 2 decades, also takes a most puzzling approach to leftist writer Nick Spencer. First, let's take a look at what she's saying about the tropes themselves, specifically, ones that are apparently negative metaphors for fandom:
At its best, this can make the community feel tight-knit and welcoming, bound by a shared love of these silly stories. At its worst, it can make the relationship between readers and creators incredibly toxic. And one of the ways the latter manifests is my very least favorite comic book trope. The closest TV Tropes page I could find was This Loser Is You, but I like to call it The Reader Is The Villain, or The Superboy-Prime Effect.

What am I talking about? Well, Superboy-Prime was originally a hero, an alternate version of Clark Kent from Earth-Prime, a universe meant to be similar to our own. That universe was destroyed during 1985’s Crisis on Infinite Earths, leaving Prime as the only survivor.

He then vanished for nearly 20 years, returning as a villain in the 2005–2006 Infinite Crisis crossover event. Furious that his world had perished while the main DC universe had survived, he attacked the heroes, slaughtering a number of C-listers in cartoonishly graphic ways and killing his main universe counterpart Conner Kent before finally being (temporarily) defeated.

I’m less interested in what Prime does, though, than what he says while he does it. He repeatedly accuses the heroes of acting like villains, of not behaving the way heroes should be, rather than “heroes who are polite and brave and honest,” the way they used to be. “You’re ruining everything!” he shrieks histrionically, childishly, constantly.

Let’s put this in context. Superboy-Prime became a villain during a particularly bleak, violent era in the medium’s history. In the post-9/11 years, both DC and Marvel were obsessed with stories about moral compromise, heroes faltering, and pyrrhic ends justifying abhorrent, unforgivable means. Identity Crisis and Civil War are the best-known examples of this, but by no means the only ones. In the second half of the 2000s, beloved heroes killed, maimed, tortured, and lobotomized their enemies, and deceived, manipulated, mindwiped, cloned, and sometimes even killed their friends.

A lot of fans didn’t like this
. A lot of fans said very loudly that they didn’t like it.

Superboy-Prime was the result.

Superboy-Prime is the entitled fanboy who is furious that comics aren’t the feel-good tales of heroism he remembers from his youth. It’s not a subtle metaphor, but it’s made extra clear in one story where he manages to return to Earth-Prime, where he moves into his parents’ basement and spends his days reading comics and trolling the DC message boards. Get it? Do you get it? Do you???

Look. I’ve been on Twitter. I know how obnoxious some fans can get. But “If you don’t like my work, you’re a mass-murdering hysterical child who is also a big loser” seems like a pretty immature response to negative feedback.
On this, she's got a valid argument to offer. Indeed, what was seen in the mid-to-late 2000s at the time Infinite Crisis came about was an early preview of the establishment's villification of fanbases, smearing anybody who didn't agree with their direction as a scumbag, with virtually no distinctions between who's offering a polite objection or a distasteful one. And IIRC, Geoff Johns, Judd Winick and Greg Rucka were the writers mainly in charge of serving up that extremely awful example of exploiting a character to represent what they think of DC fans who disapprove of the grisly vision they're foisting upon the products. And they've never apologized for the harm they caused. But now, here's where Plummer undermines her topic with a peculiar view of Spencer:
Superboy-Prime is far from the only example of writers depicting their critics as supervillains, and “longtime reader who is sick of grimdark” is far from the only type of critic writers have targeted. We’ve also seen this dismissive response to readers from both sides of the political spectrum:

In 2016, Marvel writer Nick Spencer wrote a controversial plotline in which Captain America (Steve Rogers) was revealed to have been a Hydra agent all along — a plot line that did not sit well with many readers, particularly those on the left. The following year, in Captain America: Sam Wilson, Spencer introduced a new group of Z-list villains called the Bombshells, a parody of leftist activists. When the new Falcon, Joaquin Torres, faces off against a racist pundit, the Bombshells — all young, none of them white men — attack the pundit with murderous intent, forcing Falcon to fight them as well. Throughout, they shout nonsensical “woke” accusations clearly meant to make them sound young and stupid (and female), like “Your very presence is problematic in the extreme! I can’t even!” At one point, a Black woman throws a grenade while yelling “Consider this your trigger warning!” Yes, really.
Let's see, she claims leftists found this terrible tale even more offensive than rightists? It's very strange Plummer would infer Spencer's "right-wing", even though he wrote some stories which were offensive metaphors for right-wingers. That said, it's possible the Hydra-Nazi retcon did rub some leftists the wrong way, because they realized how bad it made them look to have somebody like Spencer speaking for them, and for Plummer, this is her way of disowning Spencer by implying she doesn't view him as one of her own side. And, it wouldn't be shocking if Spencer, despite his liberal leanings, did have contemptible views of his own side's supporters, no matter their racial background. There's more, and sadly, here's where she undermines her arguments:
On the other end of the spectrum is this year’s Dark Crisis: Young Justice miniseries by Megan Fitzmartin, in which the three original members of the late ’90s team Young Justice — Superboy (Conner Kent), Robin (Tim Drake), and Impulse (Bart Allen) — are mysteriously zapped to an alternate dimension that turns out to be an idyllic recreation of their lives back in their YJ days. They are increasingly troubled by the misogyny and homophobia of this dream world, which turns out to have been created by Mickey Mxyzptlk, son of the Superman villain Mr. Mxyzptlk and YJ’s self-proclaimed biggest fan. He’s giving them a utopia, he says, because they’ve been “replaced” by “people who don’t have any right to be here” — and he conjures up a splash page’s worth of characters who are all queer or BIPOC or both, most (but not all) of whom debuted in the past couple of decades.

In Spencer’s comic, the villains are woke leftists, who claim to be saving the world but are actually attacking the real, reasonable, sensibly centrist heroes with disproportionate anger and empty buzzwords. In Fitzmartin’s, the villain is the entitled fanboy whose nostalgia is rooted in racism, homophobia, and sexism. From a political perspective, my sympathy is absolutely with Fitzmartin, who, it should be noted, also wrote the comic in which Tim Drake came out as bi and received a vocal and extremely gross backlash from exactly the kind of reader she based Mickey Mxyzptlk on.
Oh dear. Now, I won't say it's impossible that any fans of Marv Wolfman's creation responded irrationally and reprehensibly, but what Fitzmartin did to Tim Drake was a most unacceptable retcon for the sake of overbearing agendas that we've seen far too many of in modern mainstream, and if she's concocting cheap excuses for attacking fandom over its right to object to abuse of a creation whose solo series was once enjoyed by plenty, that's plain wrong. As is Plummer's apologia for the writer. I guess she has no gratitude for Chuck Dixon's contributions either, because he's a conservative by contrast.

And why does she believe Spencer's villains are based on woke leftists? That's pretty weird, considering Spencer once worked as a Democrat activist. I guess Plummer, who once made anti-Republican statements, can't bring herself to admit a liberal's capable of making mistakes. She ignores that there's leftists who've been capable of racism, something the Huffington Post was willing to admit a few years back. So where does she get off claiming Spencer's a "right-winger", when he's anything but?

It's decidedly also in poor form to imply fans of Tim are nothing more than racists, sexists and homophobes, and if it's not wrong to protest an injustice inflicted on Captain America, why is it suddenly wrong to protest when a DC character is subject to similarly tasteless retcons? One can only wonder what Plummer would say if Steve Rogers were retconned to bisexual, by Spencer or any other leftist like him? Would she suddenly change her mind then? The pendulum could swing either way, but chances are her reaction to such a step wouldn't be altruistic. And that's exactly what's lacking in her otherwise sloppy article. As a result, it's hard to buy that she's really dismayed by stealthed attacks on fandom by writers for Marvel/DC, if she can't retain consistent respect for all established characters.

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  • 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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