Marvel Comics Teams With Komen. Do They Have a Progressive Problem?

English: pink ribbon

(via Wikipedia)

Marvel has announced they are teaming up with Susan G. Komen For the Cure in October for a little pink-washing to raise awareness during National Breast Cancer Awareness Month.  They’ll be sporting pink covers on some of their comics (you can see examples below) as well as including educational material  in the form of a one page advertisement as well as material on their social networks to raise “awareness” about breast cancer.

Dan Buckley, Publisher & President of the Print, Animations & Digital Divisions of Marvel had this to say:

Marvel is proud to partner with Susan G. Komen For the Cure to support their unparalleled efforts to raise awareness about the risk of breast cancer to both women and men. We’re in a unique position to educate all our fans and increase awareness of the ways to fight—and reduce– this risk of this disease by utilizing our comics and online presence.

Normally, I’d praise a company for teaming up for this type of education program, but Marvel’s teaming up with Susan G. Komen For the Cure is the latest example of their working with less than progressive organizations and companies.

In February, Susan G. Komen for the Cure Foundation changed their grant regulations and those changes seemed to only affect their contributions and working with Planned Parenthood, an organization that’s seems to have come under greater attack from the right in recent years.  That decision came shortly after Komen unveiled a new partnership that strengthens its ties to the George W. Bush Institute.  The reality was some of the (Republican) higher ups at Komen weren’t happy with Planned Parenthood focusing 3% of their time on abortion services (contraceptive offerings make up more than 33% of its work) and decided to ignore the 97% of their other work helping women, including education about breast cancer.

As you can imagine shit hit the fan, Komen took a dive in donations and support and they backpedaled and refunded Planned Parenthood with a rather poorly thought out statement.  The decision makers left the organization as well as some board members, but the damage was done in the public’s eye, especially for me, a progressive who has raised money for Komen and donated to Planned Parenthood. Their actions showed I couldn’t trust them.

Komen has also been accused of “Pinkwashing.”  That’s when a company or organization claims to care about breast cancer by promoting a pink ribbon product, but at the same time produces, manufactures and/or sells products that are linked to the disease. Many products that Komen puts pink ribbons on actually have pthalates that are hormone disrupters and may cause cancer. I don’t know first hand if Marvel falls into that category (I’d have to imagine pthalates are in some products they sell or have licensed though).

How about Marvel donates some portion from the sale of those comics to some worthy breast cancer prevention causes as well?

But, this post isn’t about Komen, it’s about Marvel and their teaming up with questionable organizations and companies.

To promote The Avengers, Marvel teamed up with Walmart.  That was smart in that the store is a leader in toy sales, but, they have an abysmal record in so many ways.  We could do entire posts (and there’s entire organizations) dedicated to Walmart’s record, but here’s some of the hits as provided by Walmart Watch:

  • 196,000 is the estimated number of U.S. jobs lost from 2001-2006 as a result of Walmart’s imports from China
  • The company has written hundreds of press releases and thousands of blog posts, but made little actual progress in reducing the environmental impact of their products.
  • Walmart’s health care plans fail to cover hundreds of thousands of associates. In 2009, Walmart claimed that 52% of associates were covered under their healthcare plan. The company has refused to disclose coverage rates for its 1.4 million U.S. employees since then.
  • Walmart stopped offering health insurance to part-time employees (working less than 24 hours per week) in 2012
  • Taxpayers are forced to provide healthcare for Walmart’s Associates. Hundreds of thousands of Associates and their family members qualify for publicly funded health insurance. Indeed, according to data compiled by Good Jobs First, in 21 of 23 states which have disclosed information, Walmart has the largest number of employees on the public rolls of any employer.
  • Walmart has reportedly been covering up widespread bribery in Mexico.
  • The Walmart PAC and the Walton family give big money to politicians who oppose LGBT rights
  • The value of Walmart to the economy will likely be less than the value of the jobs and businesses it replaces.
  • Walmart costs taxpayers an estimated $1 billion per year subsidizing low wages and benefits.
  • Although the company will often cite higher numbers, the average Walmart Associate makes just $8.81 per hour according to a study published by Bloomberg News. An employee who works Walmart’s definition of full-time (34 hours per week) makes just $15,500 per year. That means hundreds of thousands of people who work full-time at Walmart still live below the poverty line.
  • Walmart was the defendant in the largest class action gender discrimination lawsuit in history, Dukes v. Walmart. The plaintiffs alleged Walmart discriminated against women in promotions, pay, and job assignments. The U.S. Supreme Court dismissed the lawsuit in 2011 for technical reasons and many of the plaintiffs are in the process of filing smaller suits.

And that’s just a few highlights of why Walmart sucks.  I wonder if Marvel took any of this into account?  But then, Marvel isn’t all that great when it comes to creators that have worked for them.  You have their ongoing battle with the Kirby family, then their counter suing of Gary Friedrich (the creator of Ghost Rider) who is destitute and whose health is failing and then they scored their movie overseas avoiding U.S. unions… you wonder how “progressive” they really are?  Maybe we can ask their buddy, Republican Mayor Michael Bloomberg who they’ve worked with a lot over the years on various initiatives?

I think Marvel needs to look around and think that with their great power comes some responsibility.  Their words are great, it’s their deeds that need to reflect those more.

The “Komen covers” will appear on Avengers #31, Captain America #18, Captain Marvel #5, Fantastic Four #611, Invincible Iron Man #526, Mighty Thor #21, Uncanny X-Men #20, Wolverine #315.