I just read today two troubling reports about a couple of well-known comic artists. Given the current zeitgeist, it worries me, and makes me wonder which side other comic book creators fall into.
This is the elephant in the room, of course. It seems one can’t talk about anything without having to address, or at least acknowledge, recent events.
But how they affect the different aspects of the American and human experiences has become a near-constant series of surprises to me and, perhaps, to all of us. This divide seems to cut down the middle of everything one would encounter.
And that includes comic books and their creators.
It’s no secret that some creators set forth an agenda that leans left or right. Frank Miller is a prime example. His left-leaning parody of American militarism in his run on Daredevil slowly transformed into an almost rabid turn to the right with Holy Terror (which was, insanely enough, first pitched as a Batman story). His politics were front and center, for all to see.
Less obvious were and are the political views of other creators. And we liked it that way. Our stories – and indeed, they are ours; when we buy that comic book, those characters and that story belong to us in a way – were and are supposed to be unambiguous tales of right versus wrong. Justice versus injustice. Triumph over evil. Comic books, the most colorful, operatic form of literature, literally draw the lines between good and bad. Superman‘s ongoing battle to promote Truth, Justice and (surely intended in the most noble of meanings) The American Way is in many ways equal to Art Spiegelman’s Maus epic. Both depict the infliction of injustice upon the weak, and how it must be forever fought against.
Comics draw that line very boldly and very deeply.
Which is why it’s painful to see that two revered comic book artists take two completely different stances with regard to recent events. We don’t want our creators’ politics standing in the way of their admittedly simple and sometimes simplistic tales of clear-cut heroes and villains.
George Perez, an artist who you, if you are a comics fan, will already be acquainted with, has declared that, after the fulfillment of current contractual obligations, will no longer attend events held in red states. While this is understandable – Perez is of Puerto Rican descent – it is a shame, for several reasons. It severely limits him in choosing which events to attend. At this stage in his career, perhaps he can afford it. But his fans can’t. And I consider myself a longtime fan. The idea that, if I wanted to see him in person, I’d have to travel to New York or California, is detrimental. Not only to fans like me, but also it creates an echo chamber effect; only those fans who are blue staters (I assume) will see him at conventions and other appearances. Also, this brings forth an assumption that everyone in the red states, like the one in which I make my residence, feels the exact same way.
And on the other end of the spectrum, it’s been reported that revered artist Jim Steranko was and is an almost rabid Trump supporter. He essentially parroted the entire Trump party line to the extent that, on his Twitter account – before the election – he wrote a multi-part rant that sounded as if it had been written by Trump himself. And with that, Steranko loses the part of his fanbase that either supported Clinton or was merely against Trump.
I’m not saying that comic creators shouldn’t have political beliefs, or that they hide them under a bushel. But what I am saying, especially in the case of two long-time comics superstars, is that maybe, in this particular industry, one should be a bit more circumspect in declaring their political beliefs. Not censorship, but consideration for their fans. Perez has (or had) fans who are conservatives, who probably even supported or voted for Trump. Steranko has (or had) fans who are liberals, who supported Clinton or Bernie Sanders. Now these fans are put in a position to try to reconcile their fandom with the reality of an artist’s political opinion wildly differing from their own.
Adopting extreme courses of actions such as limiting one’s public exposure to places one feels agrees with his political philosophy, or repeating the ravings of a madman as God’s own truth, is indeed polarizing. And, with recent rippling effect events following the election, we cannot afford to be polarized.
One cannot view both sides of the coin at the same time.