No orange skulls, only red.
January 12, 2020 11:44 AM   Subscribe

The divide between Marvel and DC over politics [Polygon] “In the final issue of Frank Miller and John Romita Jr.’s 2019 DC Black Label miniseries Superman: Year One, there’s a framed newspaper on the wall of the Daily Planet offices. Squint and you notice the headline: “MAN BITES DOG: MSM BLAMES TRUMP.” This didn’t come out of nowhere. Over the last 30-odd years, Miller took a public turn from the beloved Mickey Spillane of comics, with The Dark Knight Returns and Sin City, to the right-wing crank who once described Occupy Wall Street as “a pack of louts, thieves, and rapists.” (He walked the statement back in a 2018 interview).” See also 2011’s Holy Terror, initially pitched as a Batman project, and dubbed Islamophobic by critics upon publish. The past year has shown a pattern of writers giving overt voice to their political opinions through superhero comics, or for controversies where they were prevented from doing so. Marvel and DC, the most visible publishers, are at the center of the ideological debate. Based on the decision-making, the two companies appear to have distinct approaches to talking politics in their paperbacks.”

• Marvel and DC Get Political [comicbook]
“The intersection of the superhero genre and politics dates back to the dawning Golden Age of Comics. In the first issue of Action Comics #1, Superman stops a wrongful execution and stopping domestic violence, implying a strong concept of what justice meant and who was at fault for these issues. Captain America Comics #1 provided a much more explicit political message less than 3 years later when it featured Adolf Hitler as its central villain, receiving a sock in the jaw on its cover. This came prior to the United States joining the war, when Congress was still pursuing a policy of neutrality, and resulted in several Nazi sympathizers threatening Captain America co-creator Jack Kirby on the telephone. There’s simply no extricating politics from superhero comics, but that doesn’t mean this crossover hasn’t changed across 80 years. To the contrary, reading superhero comics today reveals that both the issues and creators’ styles of addressing them have evolved a great deal.”
• Of course your comics are political, Marvel [The Verge]
“American superhero comics were political from their earliest days, and Marvel’s are arguably more political than they’ve ever been. Captain America punching Hitler in 1940 is a bold, obvious statement. But exploring the specific experiences of Muslim Americans like Ms. Marvel’s Kamala Khan and queer Latinx Americans like America Chavez is no less political. Discussing how power and identity work in America is an inherently political act, even more so during an era when identity, and stories about it, have become so controversial and polarizing. [...] Whether Marvel brass wants to admit it or not, making diversity a priority over the last several years has made much of what it does political. This is the same company that made an entire event about profiling, literally called Civil War II. If sales are suffering, there are so many other things about Marvel’s approach that could use re-evaluation. Focus more on better stories and less on the next big crossover. Give writers more freedom to experiment. Stop killing beloved characters only to bring them back as zombies. (Sorry, Hulk.) But inclusion and politics are a big part of what Marvel is. We’ve come too far to even entertain the idea of turning back.”
• Art Spiegelman, creator of Maus, calls out Marvel Comics for its “apolitical” politics [Vox]
“Art Spiegelman, one of comics’ most well-regarded writers and artists, withdrew an essay from a Marvel compendium after editors resisted his comparison of President Donald Trump to a comics villain. Spiegelman is the author of the legendary graphic novel Maus, which movingly portrayed his father’s real-life experience as a Holocaust survivor. Maus is the first graphic novel to win a Pulitzer Prize and is widely considered one of the greatest books of its kind ever written. In conjunction with this year’s 80th anniversary celebration of Marvel Comics, the Folio Society, a publisher known for putting out beautifully illustrated special editions of books, is releasing a detailed series of comics volumes from Marvel’s vaunted “Golden Age” — the decade between 1939 and 1949, when comic superheroes like Captain America and Superman became famed for fighting Nazis. Spiegelman told the Guardian that Folio Society editors had invited him to write the introduction to the first book in the collection, perhaps because of the relevance of World War II to Spiegelman’s work. But he said they asked him to change one line in it, because it ran afoul of a Marvel Comics editorial policy of remaining apolitical.”
posted by Fizz (54 comments total) 21 users marked this as a favorite
 
It's been years since I followed comics and I suppose I shouldn't be surprised but I'm nonetheless disappointed to find that Frank Miller is still being given a platform by major comics publishers.
posted by Nerd of the North at 11:51 AM on January 12 [19 favorites]


So art imitates life: one side gradually gets more explicitly right wing, while the other side continues to dither about even committing to progressive goals.
posted by condour75 at 11:54 AM on January 12 [56 favorites]


The current Batman is the rightiest right-wing character anyone could dream up. He's the handsome, cultured, heir to a fortune, who is both a remarkable scholar and has strength, coordination, and fitness at least equal to any Olympic-level athlete. He didn't inherit that brilliance and physique, though: he developed it all himself, driven by his commitment to punish criminals.

In contrast, the Batman's opponents are mostly lower- or middle-class. If lower-class, they have freakish physiques that are typically warped by the filth they live in. If midddle-class, their powers are usually stolen from their employers: drugs that make them strong or which terrorise their enemies, strange devices that burn or freeze the people who stand in their way. He has only one major upper-class opponent: Oscar Cobblepot, the Penguin, who isn't really wealthy (otherwise why does he continually engage in low-level crime?) and who notoriously hangs around lower-class criminals. That's what passes for egalitarianism in Gotham: associating with crooks.
posted by Joe in Australia at 12:45 PM on January 12 [72 favorites]


The current Batman is the rightiest right-wing character anyone could dream up. He's the handsome, cultured, heir to a fortune, who is both a remarkable scholar and has strength, coordination, and fitness at least equal to any Olympic-level athlete. He didn't inherit that brilliance and physique, though: he developed it all himself, driven by his commitment to punish criminals.
Don't forget the retainer who knows his place and lives to serve..
posted by Nerd of the North at 12:53 PM on January 12 [28 favorites]


while the other side continues to dither about even committing to progressive goals.

I mean, the Marvel films are arguably pretty goddamn right-wing.
posted by Saxon Kane at 1:37 PM on January 12 [17 favorites]


All I need to know about current politics I learned from Hickman's data pages
posted by signal at 1:40 PM on January 12 [3 favorites]


I haven't read much of the New 52 but I know one of the major antagonists is a secret society made up of Gotham's wealthy elite, who all wear creepy owl masks... so that's at least one data point going in the other direction. Also Dr. Hugo Strange, a wealthy psychologist schemer. And the Joker isn't nicknamed the Clown Prince of Crime for nothing...
posted by Green Winnebago at 1:44 PM on January 12


Oh Frank Miller was a right-wing kook back in the 80's. This might be more obvious now, but his absolute infatuation with the crime and vices of the inner city and revelry is seeing those people punished for their behaviour is evident going all the way back to his work on Daredevil. He moved to New York when it was at its seediest, was terrified by it, and has spent that last 45 years fantasizing about strong white men physically beating the muggers, pimps, hustlers, and petty thieves that scared him.
posted by thecjm at 2:04 PM on January 12 [47 favorites]


I guess this should go without saying, or at least without me saying it, but: you don’t go to comics for nuanced political thought. You go for thrills and fantasy. And if DC weren’t catering to the aggrieved, entitled white make demographic, sonebody would.
posted by panglos at 2:34 PM on January 12 [2 favorites]


I mean, the Marvel films are arguably pretty goddamn right-wing.

The cinematic arms of both companies are scrabbling to secure as much funding from and collaboration with the military as they can.

I saw Shazam over the holidays (awful movie), and there's a scene where the teenage protagonist briefly starts at seeing a metal detector at school. Another child assures him, "Don't worry, they keep us safe." I cannot think of a single reason for that scene to take up real estate in the movie except to normalize metal detectors in schools. It reminded me of the plans of the writer of the Call of Duty games to use media to normalize the idea of arming school staff.
posted by painquale at 2:50 PM on January 12 [18 favorites]


@painquale: I took that scene as quite the opposite - here's a snarky aside about metal detectors at schools, not a praise of them.
posted by taterpie at 3:01 PM on January 12 [17 favorites]


I guess this should go without saying, or at least without me saying it, but: you don’t go to comics for nuanced political thought. You go for thrills and fantasy.

Just off the top of my head -- including some mentioned in the article and some outside of the Marvel/DC world -- when it comes to the combo of comics and politics you have: Watchmen, Civil War, X-Men (at its best, not when exploring the boring ass Wolverine-Cyclops-Jean thing), the Green Arrow/Green Lantern (Ollie and Hal) team-ups in the 70s, various stretches of Captain America's runs by various authors, early Superman, V for Vendetta, Superman: Red Son, Ex Machina, various arcs in Black Panther volumes, Y: The Last Man, and The Flintstones (the run DC did as part of their Hanna Barbera Universe thing). I'm sure I left out a whole bunch.

It's very possible to get both thrill/fantasy and nuanced political thought from comics, and it's very possible for it to be done exceedingly well. (That Flintstones series is well-worth checking out. It's one of the best critiques of late-stage capitalism I've ever seen -- I was quite amazed that the "suits" let something like that be done with that property.)
posted by lord_wolf at 3:07 PM on January 12 [15 favorites]


Oh Frank Miller was a right-wing kook back in the 80's.

Yeah, The Dark Knight Returns was in 1986, and that was an ode to Reagan’s odious policies. Miller has been a misogynist right wing crank pretty much since day one.

David Willis lays it out.
posted by GenjiandProust at 3:13 PM on January 12 [24 favorites]


I know you might find the "Wolverine-Cyclops-Jean thing" boring, but in the current run they are low-key portrayed as a poly thruple and that depiction (as well at Marvel editorial seeming to only allow Hickman to hint at it and not say it outright) IS political.
posted by thecjm at 4:12 PM on January 12 [10 favorites]


One of the things I want from movies, especially science fiction/super hero movies is consideration of how the change made that makes the story, ftl travel, the existence of psychic powers, etc, would affect the world. I mean, Killmonger was right about Wakanda’s isolationism, if nothing other than the fact the Rhodey needs prosthetics to walk, but Agent Bilbo/Watson (can’t remember the character’s name, sorry) gets utterly healed by Wakanda-tech. Any number of marvel heroes in the movies have powers that could change the world, permanently, for the better. I mean, has anything been done since God Loves, Man Kills in the 80s? Rather than punching people who turn to crime to escape poverty, why not use their powers to work to end the inequality that caused that in the first place? Imagine a word where telepaths were a known thing? I imagine they’d either be hunted, or hired as corporate security/negotiators or police interrogators. (Hold on, I, uh, didn’t say that out loud, need to get to work...)

But hey, at least they had the sense to spike the Marvel/Northrop Grumman propaganda comic. Something something stopped clock.
posted by Ghidorah at 4:24 PM on January 12 [4 favorites]


I know you might find the "Wolverine-Cyclops-Jean thing" boring, but in the current run they are low-key portrayed as a poly thruple and that depiction (as well at Marvel editorial seeming to only allow Hickman to hint at it and not say it outright) IS political.

Whoa, I did not know that! I might need to start reading it again! Thanks for the tip.
posted by lord_wolf at 4:28 PM on January 12 [2 favorites]


Imagine a word where telepaths were a known thing? I imagine they’d either be hunted, or hired as corporate security/negotiators or police interrogators.
The Corps is Mother, The Corps is Father
posted by stevis23 at 5:33 PM on January 12 [13 favorites]


I imagine they’d either be hunted, or hired as corporate security/negotiators or police interrogators.

Amazon's "The Boys" and the comic it's based on parody Marvel in its aspect of merging as a franchise with the military industrial complex itself
posted by knoyers at 5:42 PM on January 12 [6 favorites]


thecjm: ""Wolverine-Cyclops-Jean thing" boring, but in the current run they are low-key portrayed as a poly thruple"

Also, Illyana Nikolievna Rasputina, a.k.a. Magik, was recently confirmed as bi, or pan, at least. And we're all waiting on Kate Pryde.
posted by signal at 5:44 PM on January 12 [1 favorite]


you don’t go to comics for nuanced political thought

Different strokes for different folks? I mean that is something that draws me to a comic story. Examining complex hypotheticals, debating philosophy, exploring politics.
I always prefer the stories that show the hero showing empathy for his enemy, where they are both portrayed as ultimately human and fallible.
posted by MrBobaFett at 5:52 PM on January 12 [2 favorites]


Given that the “superior man” is a very fascist conceit, it’s not really surprising that superhero stories have to consciously fight a gravitational pull to the right. One of the things the Wachowskis did with V for Vendetta was to change V’s plot so that it was less “superhero takes down fascism,” which is going to fail.
posted by GenjiandProust at 6:12 PM on January 12 [1 favorite]


So art imitates life: one side gradually gets more explicitly right wing, while the other side continues to dither about even committing to progressive goals.

Centrists: i LiTeraLlY CaNNoT TelL theM apARt
posted by Your Childhood Pet Rock at 6:21 PM on January 12 [11 favorites]


Oh Frank Miller was a right-wing kook back in the 80's.

Miller has been a misogynist right wing crank pretty much since day one.
David Willis lays it out.

Alan Moore got a few shots in as well.
posted by MrBadExample at 6:36 PM on January 12 [9 favorites]


On a second viewing, there's some language and such that's very much a product of its time in that Alan Moore link.
posted by MrBadExample at 6:39 PM on January 12 [2 favorites]


Amazon's "The Boys" and the comic it's based on parody Marvel in its aspect of merging as a franchise with the military industrial complex itself

I don't disagree, but I wanted to mention that I could barely get through the first 10 pages of The Boys (it's Garth Ennis) because it was so sexist and horrible. I understand the show is much, much better, though. Just a warning in case anyone was thinking about checking it out!
posted by BlackLeotardFront at 6:49 PM on January 12 [2 favorites]


Oh Frank Miller was a right-wing kook back in the 80's.

And he didn't hide it.
posted by MrJM at 7:01 PM on January 12 [1 favorite]


One of the things the Wachowskis did with V for Vendetta was to change V’s plot so that it was less “superhero takes down fascism,” which is going to fail.

You've got that exactly backwards: in the original comic, there's a clear implication that V's methods and goals are unhinged and dangerous, or at least that we're not supposed to read him as the Correct Protagonist. The movie changed that much more into "superhero takes down the Bush administration".
posted by the legendary esquilax at 7:05 PM on January 12 [10 favorites]


I don't disagree, but I wanted to mention that I could barely get through the first 10 pages of The Boys (it's Garth Ennis) because it was so sexist and horrible.

I was astonished when I heard they were adapting The Boys into a TV show, even with the relative freedom of a streaming service. It's Ennis at his most absolute Ennis with all the gleefully extreme rape, torture, mutilation, etc. that that entails. I haven't seen the show, it has to be completely different.

Ennis even seems to be aware of the criticisms of his work. There's an issue of The Boys where Hughie calls out Butcher for constantly using anti-gay slurs, but by the end it turns out that actually Hughie is the one who is uncomfortable around gay people and Butcher is just a right magnificent bastard with an open mind so him using slurs is fine. It was weird.
posted by the legendary esquilax at 7:12 PM on January 12 [6 favorites]


stevis23 and knoyer, I know it’s not the most original, I mean, you can go back to The Demolished Man for telepaths as cops (or as recently as Minority Report for the idea of unwilling psychics used by the state).

It’s just that there is sadly, not a lot of fiction that walks all the way down to the end of the premise. Maybe that’s why everything seems so off about the future we’re currently living in. We’ve got all sorts of amazing technology and computing power, and what we never expected is that it would be used the way it is, mining made up fantasy money, enabling companies to use analytics to reduce staff and layoff millions, and whatever other horror show out there we just haven’t seen yet.

I mean, we did have cyberpunk for a while, but either not enough people paid attention, or the wrong people got the wrong ideas (neuromancer wasn’t supposed to be a how to, damn it)
posted by Ghidorah at 7:33 PM on January 12 [3 favorites]


The current Batman is the rightiest right-wing character anyone could dream up.

Distilled right down, the entire modern Batman exercise is the story of a billionaire who thinks beating up the escaped patients of a failing public mental-health institution is an act of justice.
posted by mhoye at 7:35 PM on January 12 [38 favorites]


On that note, I've long loved "The Batman Complex", a trailer for a movie that can never exist, making it plain (and how could it be otherwise?) that of all the people in Gotham who belong in Arkham, he's at the top of the list.
posted by mhoye at 7:52 PM on January 12 [7 favorites]


I'm usually not a DC fan, but the new 2019 Lois Lane series is fan-damn-tastic.
posted by xedrik at 8:19 PM on January 12 [6 favorites]


There's some good stuff out there. I enjoyed and am looking forward to more of Superman Smashes the Klan. Immortal Hulk has recently pivoted from doing cosmic horror to smashing transparent stand-ins for Facebook and Fox News, which are run by some sort of demonic bull man. Of course, as previously mentioned, the "all the mutants are friends now and aren't taking any more shit from humans and all live together on Fuck Island" stuff happening in the X-Men books is also loads of fun.
posted by jordemort at 8:32 PM on January 12 [7 favorites]


I don't think two Jewish guys (that would be Bob Kane and Bill Finger) intentionally set out to make Batman a right-wing hero. He punched Nazis along with most superheroes, and got downright goofy in the 1960s, and not just on the TV show.

The current rot of grimdark I blame on Frank Miller, with a solid assist from Alan Moore's horrible "Killing Joke."

Oh, one comic has confronted the "superhero science should be improving everyone's lives" thing: Warren Ellis's Planetary (from Wildstorm, part of DC), where in fact that's the driver of the overall story.
posted by zompist at 8:38 PM on January 12 [17 favorites]


DC did have Lex Luthor win the presidency as a way to harness the entries government to further his own criminal aims. Unfortunately we got the reality where Bizarro Lex Luthor won: "Me am super stable genius!"
posted by benzenedream at 9:26 PM on January 12 [4 favorites]


the "superhero science should be improving everyone's lives" thing

Sauron had a pretty good response for that.
posted by the legendary esquilax at 9:30 PM on January 12 [11 favorites]


The thing with Frank Miller is that you can think of his work as being in effect the work of two different people: an artist who has significantly advanced the graphic aspect of comics--even as late as Holy Terror, his work was still impressive visually. The other person is a writer who not only had reprehensible tendencies early in his work (The Dark Knight Returns seems to get cruder and dumber every time I re-read it, which isn't often any more), but also seems to think that his continued success not only vindicates his attitudes but justifies doubling down on them.

Although Alan Moore does have to take responsibility for The Killing Joke (and in fact he expressed regret for it, some time ago), his major contribution to grimdark was really Watchmen, which, instead of Miller's refried Death Wish/Dirty Harry urban white male power fantasies which insist that we need someone like Batman, very carefully and convincingly laid out the case that superheroes would just fuck up the world much worse than it is now. Even Marvelman (aka Miracleman), while showing the superhumans eventually producing a utopia, still has their enemy (i.e. Marvelman's former teen sidekick) destroying half of London before he's stopped. (V for Vendetta is kind of a mixed bag; V was originally superhuman--he got some kind of supercognition, and possibly physical powers as well, from the experiments he was subjected to in a concentration camp, but at the end the completely-human Evey takes over for him.)

Going back to Watchmen, the fact that Rorschach, maybe one of the scuzziest superheroes ever and certainly no one that anyone should want to emulate, got adopted as a hero by some comics fans, says more about those fans than the character; the TV show's use of Rorschach's mask for the neofascist 7th Kavalry may be a bit heavy-handed, but is unfortunately necessary.
posted by Halloween Jack at 9:56 PM on January 12 [11 favorites]


the legendary esquilax, the thing is, I’ve seen that panel, and laughed about it, yet somehow, my brain was trying to figure out about how Tolkien addressed the social impact of magic rings on the political and economic landscape of middle earth. (The dwarf rings would have a negative impact on the value of gold, causing inflation, and the abnormal lifespans of the wielders of the nine would certainly muck up any sort of progressive reforms, I mean, if you think it’s scary how people tend to become more conservative as they age, imagine a 300 year old king watching the Mordor Report every morning on Fox News).
posted by Ghidorah at 12:43 AM on January 13 [9 favorites]


Halloween Jack, Watchmen is honestly one of the books doing it right, with the hydrogen refueling tanks on every street corner, a nice touch I’ve always liked). As far as Rorschach coming out as the fanboy favorite, just add being lousy readers to their lists of shittiness. It’s impressive that as loathesome as he appears throughout the book, with the art and text both going out of their way to show how awful he is, *that’s* the guy people keyed in on. I’ve always felt that poor reading of Watchmen is at least partly responsible for the crappy 90s sooper violence anti-heroes we had to deal with. You know, Rob Liefields entire career.
posted by Ghidorah at 12:51 AM on January 13 [9 favorites]


There are a number of issues with superhero comics that set limits on what the politics involved because of the needs of the medium and genre. While there have been short run comics that try to look at the idea of superheroes in at least a somewhat more "realistic" model that sorta tries to map to real world issues, the very nature of superheroes virtually demands a level of incoherence that makes any attempt to analogize to the real world extremely tenuous at best. Politics in superhero comics can't match politics in the real world because the existence of superheroes would completely disrupt our systems of government and ideas of a social compact of any sort.

Closed run graphic novel type superhero stories can still get some mileage from the ideas because they are primarily positing their worlds against those of Marvel and DC and the like. They don't work so much as analogies to the real world as they do a reality check on the on-going superhero stories and bring in some values or concepts from the real world that the on-going comics have to ignore. The problem with on-going comics is that the nature of the form always favors some idea of maintenance of a status quo, to mildly varying degrees. The need to maintain various titles and characters demands constant return to norms to keep the comics themselves viable. Superman solving the issues of the world ends Superman comics essentially.

This informs why the same villains keep returning and heroes change so little, or change than revert to their primary form. The comics need the Joker to wreak havoc, Batman to catch him, then have it all happen again. Each element needs to remain somewhat stable for the comics to continue. The elements can be rearranged slightly, Doc Ock can be Spider-Man for a while, or Hal Jordan can become Parallax, but Peter Parker doesn't disappear and reclaims his identity and the Green Lantern title is carried on by others and Hal Jordan eventually returns. The need to sell comics determines the status quo must more or less return. The changes to the characters sometimes stick and new characters are added that might usurp the popularity of the old, but the way the comic universe functions stays roughly constant. Good can't best evil and evil can't defeat good, the decisions and acts of the main heroes must remain within the bounds of certain values to keep them viable, thus eliminating or minimizing the nature of the debate around values as the answer is tied to the position of the character because of a more or less Manichean necessity which does not map to reality and tends to carry a innately conservative value set with it.

As with the movies, the politics of the comic companies end up dictating how and what can be shown. Artists can suggest certain values or actions, but they are limited to what can be shown by the needs of an on-going series and corporate values around maintaining the largest possible readership. Some comics will be made for smaller dedicated fan groups, but they can't wholly upset the larger corporate needs. The "low key" poly-thruple is low key because it can't be too explicit even though there's no real reason why that it can't be so other than corporate demand. A more familiar version is the movie Captain Marvel, where they can hint that Carol is a lesbian but don't want to be too forthright about it because it makes the movie harder to sell to the toxic fanboys and to some overseas markets.

Superhero comics can't be fit to real world politics well in the best of circumstances because the worlds are built around the existence of superheroes, but the big two are even further from any useful analogies for being on-going soap operas fit to corporate interests. Ultimately he only politics they can really sell are that of capitalism and varying shades of neoliberalism that occasionally leans slightly left or can tilt more heavily libertarian right. It's the fandom that creates the rest by trying to build elaborate, unsupportable edifices from the slightest of hints of anything they might want to see.
posted by gusottertrout at 12:59 AM on January 13 [8 favorites]




Self link, so forgive me for this, but a while ago I wrote this take on the Batman mythos. I really like the idea that the entire Grimdark Batman thing is entirely in Wayne's imagination, that Gotham has a team of people whose only job is to create this nightly Bat-Pageant and keep a decaying late-stage-Howard-Hughes-style billionaire crank alive through the night so the city can continue to enjoy his daytime largesse.

(I like it even more in light of this thread, to be honest. Grimdark Justice Batman is already the product of a hard-right crank's imagination, why shouldn't that be fact central to the identity of Grimdark Justice Batman himself?)
posted by mhoye at 7:42 AM on January 13 [10 favorites]


One possible source of Rorschach's popularity is that, while he is indeed awful, he is also the only one of the "superheroes" who refuses to the very end to go along with Ozymandius' "kill a city to make fake aliens to unite the world" nonsense. While Night Owl and Silk Spectre probably have the most realistic take on it ("What could we possibly do to change anything now? Maybe he can make it work, and we can't harm him or get him punished even if we try to expose it."), Rorschach ends his life as he lived it: spittle-flecked ranting while beating his head against an imaginary wall. There's a certain admirable quality to that level of dedication, even when misguided.

I think a lot of people finished Watchmen feeling very angry at Ozymandius and helpless to stop what he represented to them, so it's natural that the one character who staunchly opposed Ozy up to and including his own death gets a boost in the fondness category.
posted by Scattercat at 10:34 AM on January 13 [4 favorites]


mhoye, that's a pretty cool idea. Reminds me of the idea that Ben Edlund put in the very first issue of the original Tick comic: that everyone humored Superman's insistence on cosplaying as a reporter named "Clark Kent" because, well, he's a demigod and it's mostly harmless.
posted by Halloween Jack at 10:48 AM on January 13 [3 favorites]


One possible source of Rorschach's popularity is that, while he is indeed awful, he is also the only one of the "superheroes" who refuses to the very end to go along with Ozymandius' "kill a city to make fake aliens to unite the world" nonsense.

Yeah, I think the extent of the anti-Rorschaching does kinda miss something of the conception of the story, where Rorschach's adamant refusal to back down on his values and telling the truth of events even in the face of death is, traditionally, a heroic trait. As the closing book end to the story it's matched against the opening of Comedian's death, a character all to willing to abandon principles for the sake of expediency and personal success. And the other characters are little better, Nite Owl's ineffectualness, Dr. Manhattan aloofness, and Ozymandius' ends justify the means aren't really any more admirable. The story sets up Rorschach's actions to read as "heroic" along a certain archetypal value set, so it's no surprise that's how its understood in fulfilling that set-up. That there is no heroic response possible is built into the design of the storyworld, whether or how that satisfies only draws out the depth of wrongness involved in it all.

That's my memory of it anyway, haven't reread it in a long time.
posted by gusottertrout at 11:17 AM on January 13 [2 favorites]


Iron Man & Batman both are right-wing male fantasy figures, with one crucial difference (usually) being the character's sexual behaviors. They are both uber-rich yet self-made polymath geniuses and CEOs, but Iron Man/Tony Stark has the added wish fulfillment aspect of being a player and a "ladies man" -- especially the Robert Downey Jr. version.* Batman/Bruce Wayne does have some romantic relationships in his stories, but there's usually a lot of drama involved, and a certain intensity/seriousness in the relationship. Tony Stark, on the other hand, is a proud playboy who, outside of Pepper Pots, doesn't take his sexual relationships very seriously. If Batman is sort of an incel-fantasy, Iron Man is the PUA-counterpart.


*And of course, they take it to the grossest place ever: in one of the Avengers films, Tony Stark makes a joke to Thor about how if he were a medieval king, his favorite privilege would be "prima nocta." Haha, how funny, you'd like to rape other men's wives on their wedding night.
posted by Saxon Kane at 1:29 PM on January 13 [3 favorites]


Rorschach the character is a Rorschach test himself: what the reader sees in him (hero, villain, far-right crank, damaged sociopath, etc. etc.) is to a large extent a projection of the reader's interior.
posted by Saxon Kane at 1:31 PM on January 13 [6 favorites]


I also think Alan "Child Rape is a Larf" Moore was being more than a little disingenuous in saying he didn't regard Rorschach as a hero. One can look at him as being a deconstruction of the Batman style grim vigilante, but in the use of heroic notation for Rorschach you can see the grudging admiration Moore has for him. And it's not as though Moore hasn't thrown in with violent authoritarians as the solution to society's problems.

And above all Rorschach is the character with the most agency in the story. Which is far more that you can say about Silk Spectre.
posted by happyroach at 1:35 PM on January 13 [1 favorite]


Michael Avon Oeming's Parliament of Justice is a pretty good deconstruction of the Batman archetype, with wonderful art as well.
posted by Saxon Kane at 1:39 PM on January 13 [1 favorite]


And it's not as though Moore hasn't thrown in with violent authoritarians as the solution to society's problems.

What are you referring to here?
posted by atoxyl at 4:16 PM on January 13



I don't disagree, but I wanted to mention that I could barely get through the first 10 pages of The Boys (it's Garth Ennis) because it was so sexist and horrible. I understand the show is much, much better, though. Just a warning in case anyone was thinking about checking it out!

I have only seen the show (which I liked). It doesn't surprise me if it's a very toned-down version of the comic it's based on
posted by knoyers at 7:12 PM on January 13


I read the first few issues of The Boys last year and hated its edgelordiness (though who knows, if I read it at the time it came out my younger self might have considered it a tonic for trying something new). I watched the show The Boys and loved it—they definitely knew how to update it for current times, in the sense that the “heroes” are still horrible and the anti-heroes still flawed, but at least the anti-heroes aren’t having a larf over dog-rape. (Don’t ask.) HOWEVER, it does still have some issues, like how a character who commits sexual assault through coercion winds up being comedy relief in a way intended to elicit pity. But to get back to the topic of the thread, it does a good job of showing how supers would be co-opted by massive corporations that insinuate themselves into every aspect of the citizenry’s lives, and even the country’s foreign policy. Too bad you can only watch it thanks to a massive corporation that has insinuated itself into every aspect of the citizenry’s lives, and even the country’s foreign policy.
posted by ejs at 9:16 PM on January 13 [2 favorites]


the Marvel films are arguably pretty goddamn right-wing

My SO convincingly argues that most modern super-hero movies are essentially fascistic, in a Triumph of the Will sort of way.

I'd argue it's both true that V for Vendetta and Watchmen the movies explicitly miss some of the more interesting ambiguous nuance of the books, and that Alan Moore's politically more of a stopped clock than anything.
posted by aspersioncast at 8:53 AM on January 14


I love it when right-wingers use the term "MSM" or variations. It's an implicit acknowledgement that they realize their ideas are outside the mainstream, i.e. fringe. They use the term proudly, but it's the original self-own of the pointlessly aggrieved jerk.
posted by jwest at 7:55 PM on January 14


« Older The Most Important Scientist You’ve Never Heard Of   |   "An extraordinary moment" Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments