teisipäev, aprill 13, 2004


So there’s this new comic book—well, I guess there isn’t and that’s the point, but whatever—called American Power. Nice little cover shot of a masked American hero punching out bin Laden with a bunch of other towel-headed terrorists in the background. Originally, a preview of this book was going to be handed out on Free Comic Book Day this summer, with a regular series beginning soon after. Bear with me, I’m going somewhere with this. The book was written by Chuck Dixon, a man who wrote many, many Batman stories in the 90s. The art was by a guy named Greg Land. Both of these men are immensely talented. It was supposed to be released by a publisher called CrossGen, which has been having serious financial problems of late. New investors came in and decided this book was something they don’t want to be associated with.

Thus, it was cancelled.

And there are a lot of people screaming about how the book was cancelled because it presented a conservative viewpoint. What’s wrong with showing heroes beating up terrorists, etc. Much of this is built around the notion that books presenting a liberal viewpoint are acclaimed, well, as much as a comic book can be these days. Dixon himself noted that a book questioning the war in Iraq can be considered bold, while his book is dismissed by many as offensive. Also, some people trot out old 1940s Captain America comics and show how he’s beating on Hitler and the Japanese.

It seems to me there are a few issues here. First of all, art questioning authority will always be considered bolder than art that reinforces it. Subversive work is, generally and I think appropriately, labeled bold. A book that parrots the simple us vs. them dichotomy of the war on terror really isn’t bold. That said, the book will never be published, so I don’t want to assume too much about the contents.

Also, I think part of the point Dixon’s critics are making is that those Captain America comics with their gross stereotyping of America’s enemies are considered pretty offensive today. It was a different time and, for better or worse, the industry’s more PC now. A while back somebody published an independent comic called Civilian Justice that sounded similar to American Power. A kind of knee-jerk take the fight to the terrorists tirade that was generally dismissed as being in poor taste at the time.

But looking at what we can see—essentially just a cover and some solicitation copy—it’s very hard to say for sure that that is where Dixon was going with it. Still, that’s the judgment many have rushed to. It is not clear that the potentially offensive attitude of the book was the reason for its cancellation. Dixon cites only complicated internal politics at CrossGen. I really don’t see the downside in being perceived as producing a comic that’s too patriotic. If people are offended, they won’t read it and that’ll be the end of it. There’s plenty of offensive material on the racks, much more offensive than someone hitting bin Laden. The fear of anti-Muslim stereotyping, however, is a legitimate one, but not one that can be fairly expressed without actually seeing the content.

With regard to liberal comics being praised, I distinctly remember Joe Scarborough ripping apart an issue of JLA on his show because it presented a horribly simplified anti-Bush Iraq allegory. And I don’t recall seeing a single positive response to that story in the mainstream media or even in the comics media. Recent issues of Captain America have been attacked by conservatives, including in the National Review, for being anti-American. That anti-American nature consists mostly of presenting a horrible terrorist villain who tries to justify his actions by blaming the US who is beaten by Cap and told that his excuses are pathetic. The anti-American position is in no way glorified. Comic books have always built stories around government conspiracies because forcing a hero to fight his own government is an interesting conflict. There doesn’t really need to be more to it than that. Yes, there have been some stories that have questioned the government in more interesting, subtle ways, but they’re praised for being good stories, not good politics. Often, they’re criticized for bringing real-world politics into comics, including the liberal ones. If American Power was released and the story was good, it would find the same response. Most people reading comics don’t do so for political reinforcement. A lot of people complained about the post-9/11 Captain America dealing with human terrorism too much. Now, the book’s bringing back the Serpent Society and abandoning the political intrigue. American Power would have been judged on its own merits. If the story was overly simplistic and racist, it would have been panned. If it presented interesting characters in an interesting conflict with interesting terrorists, it would have been praised.

My point is, we’ll never know. And until we know the reason why, there’s not much point in talking about any of this.

So why did I? Shut up.

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