Thursday, February 02, 2012

Political Comics, less than fair and balanced

Lately, articles have been published around the interwebs criticizing how liberal comics are. These criticisms are directed at a broad attitude that pervades comics (particularly mainstream comics) but are centered particularly around Captain American #602, where a Tea Party protest is portrayed in a less than positive light, and things like Occupy Comics, work by largely indie artists in support of the Occupy movement.

This is not the first time this argument has been played out. In multiple areas of media, conservatives have long felt excluded, marginalized or mocked. And invariably the conservative response to what they perceive as left wing bias has lead to an incredibly heavy handed response. If the mainstream media IS in the tank for the left, it does so with a level of subtly and stealth that Fox News has chosen to eschew. When conservatives decided to create a conservative response to the Daily Show and Colbert Report it had all the nuance of a jack hammer to the face. And it wasn’t that funny either. In fact, we recently got a clever and cutting parody of liberals, but it had to be created by liberals.

All this said, there is the nugget of a point here. The people who make comic books in this country, are by and large, liberal. Why is this? I have no idea. I would imagine it’s the same reason that something like the Daily Show tends to be hilarious and the ½ Hour News Hour is excruciating, creative people tend to be liberal. Now of course this seeps into their work and it hardly always done with subtlety. If I had a dollar for every thinly veiled Bush analogue in comics in the 2000s, I would never have to work again. However, I often think many conservatives criticizing the liberal influence in comics, particularly on corporate own characters, miss the point.

Yes, Ed Brubaker may include a negative portrayal of the Tea Party in his comics, but the thing about that was, like most of these insidious liberal influences, it was incidental. He was not writing a story that focused on the Tea Party. The Tea Party could have been removed from the story with little difficulty. He was telling a story about Captain America fighting some super villains. Even stuff like OccupyComics, which is not to everyone’s political taste and certainly home to some excruciating comics, is at least in the tradition of indie comics and has about as much or as little artistic merit as your typical black and white zine. It feels like the people making them are trying to make art and not JUST a point.

Compare this to some notable “conservative comics”, which tend to include things like a bio mechanically enhanced Sean Hannity is a freedom fighter striving to free America from the iron boot heel of President Chelsea Clinton, who’s working with Ambassador Osama Bin Laden to blow up NYC. Lest you think I’m making that up, I’m not.

I have no problem if creators want to make comics with a conservative message, but the problem starts when someone tries to make a point first and a comic second. A recent screed on a conservative website called for more comics about the dangers of expanded government and threats to capitalism. Stop and think for a minute, can you think of any comics about the need for gay rights, abortion rights, or expanded government? I can think of several comics that incorporate these themes, but few if any where this is the defining, explicit purpose of the comic.

If conservatives focused on making good comics first, this might be a fairer fight.

1 comment:

  1. One of those "left wing" Radio Shows that I listen to on-line because on the practices of not allowing them to be as accessible across the country has a theory on your question. See, they have had the #1 Comedy Tour in the country and discuss the fact that the humor on the right seems to fall flat. Then they start looking at different creative people on each political side and have come to the conclusion that the left has all the creative and funny people.

    I say this as they do in a half jest. Your point is well made.

    I have a conservative at church that I always know when FOX (Not)News has talked about the goings on in a comic. He mentions it. I don't read many news blogs about comics and he is actually where I learned that Ultimate Spidey had died.

    Well written post, good job. You kept above the stuff that is hateful and did what many should do, state the facts and let the issue be what it is.