Category Archives: Commentary

Search for Hu banner ad

Guest Post: The Choice That Defined Kitty Pryde

The below is a guest post courtesy of Priya Saxena exploring the choice by Kitty Pryde to become an X-Man. Priya enjoys reading comics and writing about comics. She hopes to one day own every single issue of the original New Mutants series (except #98, because screw Deadpool) Follow Priya on Twitter.

In the world of the X-Men, one becomes a mutant through birth – arbitrarily – but one must make the conscious choice to become an X-Man. This is the choice that 13-year-old Kitty Pryde is forced to wrestle with soon after she learns that she is a mutant. In Uncanny X-Men #129-131, Kitty becomes entangled in the Hellfire Club’s plot to capture and eliminate several members of the X-Men. This series of issues is well known for kicking off the Dark Phoenix Saga, the storyline in which Jean Grey, known as Phoenix, taps into the dark, destructive side of her recently acquired cosmic powers after discovering she has been manipulated by Mastermind of the Hellfire Club. For this reason, critical examinations of these issues tend to focus on Jean, her descent into Dark Phoenix, and the effects this has on the characters surrounding her. However, these issues also serve as the heroic origin of Kitty Pryde. Although Kitty doesn’t formally join the X-Men until Uncanny X-Men #138, it is in issue #129 that she first truly chooses to be one of the X-Men – a choice she will continue to make again and again throughout her history.

Kitty Pryde

When we’re first introduced to Kitty in #129, she’s got a lot on her plate. She’s 13, her parents are splitting up, they’re looking to send her to boarding school, and she has been experiencing awful headaches. These headaches, we soon discover, have been brought on by Kitty’s emerging mutant power, something that has caught the attention of both the X-Men and the Hellfire Club. From the moment we meet her, it’s clear that Kitty is in a stage of her life that is full of change and upheaval. Equally clear is the fact that she is not happy about it. All she wants is for her life to go back to the way it was, before her parents began talking about divorce and before she starting getting these headaches.

It is no coincidence that we are introduced to Kitty as a teenager here. Many of her woes are related to the adolescent state she’s in, as someone who is not quite a child anymore but not yet an adult. Her parents’ impending divorce and their attempts to send her to boarding school signal the fracturing of her family and the end of her childhood. The emergence of her mutant power occurs at puberty, which previous X-Men comics have established is common for mutants. But the aches and fatigue which accompany the onset of her power are new to X-Men lore, and are rather reminiscent of menstruation symptoms – something else that arises at puberty. Initially, Kitty  is frightened by these changes and resistant to them. But like it or not, she must accept the way that her life is changing. Her story across these three issues of Uncanny X-Men is the story of an adolescent who is forced to choose who she is going to grow up to be.

In #129, Kitty comes home from dance lessons to find her parents talking with Ms. Emma Frost, representative of a school in Massachusetts and, unbeknownst to Kitty or her parents, the White Queen of the Hellfire Club. Even though Kitty doesn’t know about Frost’s villainous background, she immediately dislikes the woman. Right after Frost departs, the Pryde household is visited by Charles Xavier and several of his X-Men. Like Frost, Xavier seeks to convince Kitty’s parents to allow her to attend his school. But unlike Frost, Xavier’s intentions are good; while Frost intends to recruit Kitty into the Hellfire Club for nefarious purposes, Xavier wants her to join the X-Men so she can learn to control her powers and defend herself. While Xavier talks with Kitty’s parents, Kitty goes to the malt shoppe with the other X-Men. She decides she likes Ororo Munroe, known as Storm, as instantly as she had decided she disliked Frost. 

Kitty Pryde

Emma Frost and Storm are very clear parallels here. For Kitty, they represent the two possible paths she could take, although she doesn’t yet know just how drastically they are opposed to each other. She could go with Frost and become initiated into the Hellfire Club, deceiving and manipulating others for personal gain. Or she could go with Ororo and join the X-Men, protecting humanity from mutant threats and working to achieve Xavier’s dream of a world where humans and mutants are equal. Looking at Kitty’s amazed expression as Ororo tells her that she and the others are X-Men while they chat and have milkshakes together, it seems obvious that Kitty will choose Ororo and the X-Men over Emma and the Hellfire Club. However, the attack and abduction of the X-Men by the Hellfire club soon complicates things.

In the mayhem of the attack in the malt shoppe, Kitty accidentally uses her mutant power to escape, phasing outside the building. The X-Men fend off some of their attackers, but a telepathic attack from Frost, now in her White Queen attire, takes them down. Frost and some Hellfire goons load the unconscious X-Men onto their hovercraft. The final page of the issue shows Kitty sneaking onto the hovercraft using her phasing power and observing Frost and her lackeys rendering the X-Men defenseless. Kitty is horrified by this sight. She feels obligated to help the X-Men, but also recognizes that she is way out of her depth.

Kitty Pryde

Uncanny X-Men in this era is very interested in choices and their repurcussions. At the end of the Dark Phoenix Saga, Jean Grey makes the choice to sacrifice her life in order to stop Dark Phoenix from causing more death and destruction. A few issues later comes the Days of Future Past storyline, which imagines a grim, dystopian future for the X-Men that came about as the result of anti-mutant legislation in response to mutant terrorism. In both of these situations, it is the actions of one person or a small group of people at a particular point in time that have drastic effects on the rest of the world – the rest of the universe, even.

At the end of #129, Kitty is faced with a choice: whether or not to help the X-Men. The outcome may not be world-shattering, but it is nevertheless crucial for Kitty as a character. One option would be for her to simply turn around and leave the way she came, phasing through the back of the hovercraft and abandoning the X-Men. Neither the White Queen nor the X-Men would even know she had been there. She could allow the X-Men to meet whatever horrific fate the Hellfire Club has in mind for them, and wait at home for Ms. Frost to contact her family about boarding school again.

The other option is the more life-threatening one. Kitty could stay and try to help the X-Men escape. In doing so, she would be making an enemy of Emma Frost and the Hellfire Club. Given the Hellfire goon’s weapons and the White Queen’s psychic powers, Kitty could be caught, injured, or even killed. But at least she wouldn’t be turning her back on her newfound friends. Also, if she helps the X-Men, then they might be able to help her avoid the clutches of the Hellfire Club.

In #130, Kitty makes her choice. Hiding in the industrial complex where the White Queen has imprisoned the X-Men in cages, Kitty thinks, “I oughtta have my head examined, thinking I can free the X-Men all by myself. But I’ve got to do something. Storm is my friend. I can’t desert her—or the others.” In the next panel, as she sneaks toward the cage holding Storm, she thinks, “’Sides, from what I’ve heard, once these creeps are done with the X-Men, they’ll be coming after me!”

Kitty Pryde

In this moment, Kitty choses Storm over the White Queen. She chooses the X-Men over the Hellfire Club. In sneaking over to help Storm, she shows her allegiance to Storm and the rest of the X-Men. Although Kitty is well aware of the danger, she tries to help Storm anyway because of the friendship she feels toward her. This friendship causes her to feel a responsibility to help Storm and the other X-Men. Her desire for the X-Men to protect her from the Hellfire Club factors into her decision to help them, but it is secondary to her need to stand by her friends.

In a larger sense, this is Kitty taking her first step into her new life. Now that she has shown her allegiance to the X-Men, her life will be forever changed. In #130-131, she helps the X-Men by calling Xavier’s mansion for backup and, as Cyclops instructs, sneaking back into the compound and freeing Wolverine from his cage. It is frightening for her, this teenage girl who discovered her powers and met the X-Men only a few hours earlier. But Kitty and all the X-Men make it out safely, and it’s all thanks to Kitty’s help.

At the end of #131, Kitty returns home to her worried parents. But she won’t be staying there for too much longer. Kitty’s parents decide to send her to Xavier’s school (albeit in part due to Phoenix’s mental manipulation), and she shows up on the steps of the mansion in #138. From there on out, she begins training with the X-Men, learning to control her powers and becoming better acquainted with the other members of the team. She leaves her old family behind and integrates herself into a new one, all because of her decision to help the X-Men instead of fleeing. She takes this essential step in determining what kind of adult she is going to be and what kind of life she is going to live.

The X-Men are often described as a family, and that’s what they are to Kitty. In this tumultuous time in her life, with her parents splitting up and her powers emerging, she craves a stable core of people who will love and support her. She finds this in the X-Men. Not only do they welcome her onto the team, they nurture and guide her, both in the use of her powers and in her moral and psychological development.

The X-Men provide the sort of care that Kitty needs in this stage of her life as she transitions from child to adult. Kitty’s parents wouldn’t have been able to nurture Kitty in this way, because they are humans and because she has outgrown them for the time being. The Hellfire Club would have nurtured her in a very different way, perhaps grooming her to become evil just like them. So it is something very unique and valuable that Kitty Pryde receives from her time with the X-Men. Clearly she made the right and necessary choice for her personal development. Who she becomes going forward – X-Men member, Excalibur co-founder, X-Men schoolteacher, Marauders leader – can be traced back to this very crucial moment early on in her publishing history, where she chooses compassion and growth over cowardice.

Election Terror: What Happens when the Dead Come Back to Vote in Homecoming


Jane Cleaver: “It’s words. It’s a game. You say whatever it takes to win.”

David Murch: “Well, maybe that’s the problem.”

This dialogue exchange happens early in Homecoming (dir. Joe Dante), a strange but unique zombie story from the Masters of Horror anthology series created by director Mick Garris (The Stand). It serves as a preamble for what’ll come soon after the two conversations between the two characters ends, which flips the zombie formula on its head with bravado. An army of undead war veterans rallies from beyond the grave for one final mission: to vote against the president that sent them to war based on a lie. A lie that killed them.

The episode came out in 2006, two years into George W. Bush’s second term as president, at a point where the ‘weapons of mass destruction’ excuse used to justify the War on Terror was wearing off and being heavily portrayed as the lie that got the US stuck in the Middle East (and the reason why dead soldiers come back to vote in Homecoming).

Homecoming follows a White House speech writer called David Murch as he navigates Bush’s reelection with a team of public relations pundits hellbent on winning the election, by any and all means necessary. During a televised panel discussion, Murch is confronted by the mother of a dead soldier who’s protesting the war, which inspires the conflicted speech writer to sincerely wish her son could come back and tell the world why he died for his country. He gets his wish, only it comes with a battalion of undead combatants desperate to fulfill their civic duty.

Watching it now, just as Americans are casting their ballots on the Biden v. Trump election, it’s unsettling how relevant this story still is, if only for its discussion on how politics is ultimately a game of words. As Murch and his team pick up on the fact zombie votes are leaning towards the other side, a mad dash for control of the narrative takes place. What was first scene as an act of patriotism—rising from the grave to vote—becomes an un-American rebellion looking to steal the election from the living.


While Homecoming is firmly rooted in the context of the Bush presidency, it comments enough on the dangers of political storytelling to effectively turn its metaphors on the politics of today. Murch will struggle with his own morality throughout most of the episode, always hesitant as to how and when to use the undead as part of the campaign. Here’s where Jane Cleaver comes into play.

Basically a stand-in for Ann Coulter, Cleaver becomes the right-wing commentator that puts on her radical pro-America persona when in front of a camera only to later admit she’ll say anything to secure her party’s victory. She basically stands as the unethical extreme of public discourse. The game, as Cleaver puts it, is won by the best storyteller. Homecoming does a magnificent job of proving this point through her, with the other PR people acting as her chorus, encouraging her to further spread her warped political views.

There are a lot of parallels between Cleaver’s philosophies and Kellyanne Conway’s media performances (which she had to put on as the former counselor to the President), especially when she was asked to explain or defend Trump’s comments on most about everything. There’s a scene in Homecoming, after the soldiers have revealed who they’re voting for, where Cleaver doubts the legality of undead voting after previously championing it. She supported the undead vote before she knew the problem it posed to her party. Conway’s “alternative facts” statement comes to mind here, which was uttered when asked to comment on the actual number of people that attended Trump’s inauguration. It’s as if you can trace a solid genealogical line, if you will, from Bush era politics to Trump era politics. The side with the best spin on information wins the crowd, and potentially their vote.


It should come as no surprise to Joe Dante fans that this movie is as blatantly political as it is. As Homecoming’s director, Dante pulls out every trick in his book to make each metaphor land. Be it the violent nature of American politics (seen in his werewolf movie The Howling) to a people’s inability to keep chaos at bay by following simple instructions (Gremlins), Dante likes to put his movies’ messages in full view, covered in blood if he has to. Homecoming is no different.

During a televised Presidential rally, Murch and Cleaver ruminate on Bush’s ability to command an audience. Cleaver asks just what it is about the President that makes people adore him. Murch responds, “He’s not stupid. He has a way to make stupid people feel like they’re just as smart as he is.” A bit crude, but it speaks to the power of storytelling. In Bush’s America, militaristic values were the way to win hearts and minds, especially after 9/11. There was an appeal to patriotism that the Bush administration took and turned into a party value. As a result, to criticize the war was to criticize the need to protect America, to badmouth its soldiers. Being anti-war meant being un-American.


In Trump’s America, the idea is to show America as a place that’s been robbed of greatness by liberal policies that see their own country as the problem. The principle is the same. It’s just a matter of taking outdated story elements out and putting new ones in. By then, it’s a race of two stories and it all boils down to the side that tells it better.

Homecoming is a horror story with a call to action. It’s not cynic in its entirety but it’s not entirely hopeful either. It’s about awareness. Stories are never one thing or another in the world of politics. They’re in constant spin and can spiral out at any moment to the benefit of those who can harness their power best. It might take zombie voters to come back and put us all in our place for things to get better. Until then, it’s up to the living to make sure we don’t screw up so bad this time.

Dynamite Issues a Statement Regarding Their Stance Over Comicsgate

A little over a week ago, Dynamite Entertainment found itself in hot water after the publisher’s involvement with the harassment group Comicsgate was fully unraveled. What started as anger over covers turned into a revelation the involvement was much deeper. The comic publisher had been releasing variant covers with CG involved individuals for some time now and it was revealed after things had boiled over that Dynamite founder Nick Barrucci had been working with Comicsgate ringleader Ethan Van Sciver in various capacities.

Comicsgate is a harassment campaign presented as a consumer revolt. A conservative, regressive backlash to the world moving forward with equality and generally growing up. You can read more about it here.

Dynamite has officially released a statement regarding their involvement and the fallout from it.

Dynamite Entertainment is a partner in the fight for equality and inclusion. Our company was founded on these core values more than 15 years ago and they are essential to the creative process – the work of visionary artists and entrepreneurs – that we are passionate about. Intolerance has no place in our company or our industry. The impulse behind this brief association was that of helping a friend of many decades and his family, and not how that assistance could potentially affect our valued colleagues, partners, and friends. That association is behind us and this time has strengthened our resolve to continue working with the most diverse talent in creating the best comics possible.

It’s a statement…

What the statement glosses over is the publisher, and more importantly Barrucci’s, actual involvement with the movement that has been ongoing for years. Were they instrumental in getting EVS up and running? Did they connect and hire creators? What other services did they provide? These are all unanswered questions that will haunt the publisher until it comes clean. While being involved with Comicsgate the publisher at the same time was hiring rather progressive creators, some of whom have been targets of CG. It feels like a poor attempt to have their cake and eat it too.

The initial reaction to the statement has been one of skepticism and a general consensus that it’s a weak attempt at a response.

Dynamite and Barrucci need to sit down and answer hard questions to get behind the situation and come clean with their involvement and more importantly show through action their values. As a saying goes, deeds not words, and it’s a saying they should be focusing on as a publisher.

Valiant Hero Of The Week: Doctor Mirage, Divinity, Quantum and Woody, and Animalia

Every Monday for the next few weeks, Valiant Entertainment is running a poll on their Twitter feed to provide fans with some escapism while new comics are in short supply. The poll allows Valiant fans the opportunity to select the Hero Of The Week from four choices – this week, the poll features Ninjak, Doctor Mirage, Quantum & Woody and Animalia. That week’s hero will then be the focus of free pdfs featuring the character, videos from Valiant staff, giveaways, and more.

At Graphic Policy, we’re going to be running a spotlight on the winning character all week through various features depending on the character, but at the very least you’ll see our favorite covers and stories.

But Valiant has a lot of great characters, and it’d be a shame to not let you know which stories to read to get to know some of them a little more in case they don’t end up winning the fan vote. This week’s characters are a prime example of this, and the exact reason that we wanted to shine a little light on all four ahead of the week.

Below you’ll find a brief snapshot of the character and a trade paperback or two to check out. For fun, I’ll also note who I think is most likely to win (bear in mind this is being written on Sunday).

Doctor Mirage

Who is she? Shan Fong. A woman who can communicate with the dead, including her late husband Hwen (who is the Doctor Mirage from the original Valiant run that began in the 90’s). She is also a former reality television star and a woman versed in magic. If there’s a supernatural threat, then Doctor Mirage is going to be the first person that the general public turn to.

The Death-Defying Doctor Mirage

What should you read?

The Death-Defying Doctor Mirage

Doctor Mirage talks to the dead…but the only spirit Shan Fong can’t find is that of her late husband, Hwen. Instead, America’s favorite semi-retired paranormal investigator is haunted and raw, using her gift to solve homicides and bring peace to the recently bereaved. But when a big-time occultist with a classified military past hires her for a special job, Shan discovers a lead that might close the greatest mystery she’s ever tackled – how to get Hwen back. Now, Doctor Mirage must enter the undiscovered country and cross all the realms of the underworld, if she has any hope of rescuing the man she loves…or be forever lost beyond the earthly plane.

I copied the above directly from Valiant’s website because I couldn’t remember much about the book other than I really enjoyed the story, which is great because this also happens to be a great place to pick up the character’s story.

Purchase: AmazonKindlecomiXologyTFAW


Who is he? One of the three most powerful beings in the Valiant universe, Divinity was a Russian Cosmonaut who gained phenomenal power, and can manipulate reality as he sees fit. Essentially a man who has become a god. Fortunately, he is also a pacifist and just wants to be left to himself. You can imagine how that ends up.


What should you read?


At the height of the Cold War, the Soviet Union – determined to win the Space Race at any cost – green lit a dangerously advanced mission. They sent a man farther into the cosmos than anyone has gone before or since. Lost in the stars, he encountered something unknown. Something that…changed him.

Long thought lost and erased from the history books, he has suddenly returned, crash-landing in the Australian Outback. The few that have been able to reach him believe him to be a deity – one who turned the scorched desert into a lush oasis. They say he can bend matter, space, and even time to his will. Now the rest of the world’s powers must decide for themselves – will the enigmatic Divinity offer his hand in friendship, or will Earth’s heroes find themselves helpless against the wrath of the divine?

The above text, again taken from Valiant’s website, describes a four-issue miniseries that introduces the character, and is an example of some of the best stuff Valiant put out. Divinity kicks off a four-part epic encompassing the Divinity trilogy and culminating in Eternity. Regardless of whether Divinity wins the poll this week or not, I highly recommend you reading the books.

Purchase: Amazon – Kindle – comiXology – TFAW

Quantum and Woody

Quantum And Woody: The World's Worst Superhero Team

Who are they? Yes, they. While one can wonder about the technicality of including two characters as one, Quantum and Woody are inseparable. Including one and not the other would make as much sense as playing football without a ball. It’s just not the same. Quantum and Woody are adoptive brothers who must touch the golden bracelets on their arms once every 24 hours or they’ll explode into nothingness – potentially taking the planet with them. That the brothers are polar opposites only makes the comics even better; Eric Henderson, aka Quantum, hides his identity to protect those around him because he wants to be a hero. Woody Henderson doesn’t. He’s all about the fame.

What should you read?

Quantum And Woody: The World’s Worst Superhero Team

Honestly, the Quantum and Woody story I’m the most taken with is the one being released currently. However, that’s not ideal for you if you’re looking to check them out now because the last two issues will be released…. eventually. Instead, then, I’ll point you to Quantum And Woody: The World’s Worst Superhero Team because it’ll introduce these guys to you in the most honest way possible. The title alone should give you an idea as to what you should expect; this book isn’t dark and moody but is injected with humor as it deals with the estranged brother’s relationship and their new place in the world.

Purchase: Amazon (Paperback)KindlecomiXologyBookshopTFAW


Generation Zero: We Are the Future

Who Is She? A former child soldier for Project Rising Spirit, Animalia was one of the psiots rescued by Bloodshot during the first Harbinger Wars. Her psiot abilities allow her to create constructs of animals (real or imagined), which in turn grant her incredible strength and durability and flight (though within the construct she is still vulnerable).

What Should You Read?

Generation Zero: We Are The Future

Generation Zero: We Are The Future may not be her first appearance, but since that has been recommended numerous times across the Bloodshot, Peter Stanchek and Toyo Harada, rather than recommend Harbinger Wars and the final volume of Harbinger, I think that this volume is also worthy of a look.

The Generation Zero story has the young psiots that were rescued from Project Rising Spirit offering up their services to other kids who are being downtrodden, who need help, and have nowhere to go. It’s kinda like the Littlest Hobo meets the X-Men, and it works better than you’d expect.

Purchase: AmazonKindlecomiXologyBookshop

This post contains affiliate links, which means that if you click on one of the product links and make a purchase, we’ll receive a percentage of the sale. Graphic Policy does purchase items from this site. Making purchases through these links helps support the site

The Thin Line Between Good And Evil: Toyo Harada

When you look at the typical comic book bad guy, there is often a clear cut case of black and white. Hero and villain. Good verses evil. This is never clearer when it comes to the Joker, or Sabretooth (although that has been known to be more in flux over the last half decade or so).  However with some antagonists it can be a bit murkier, sometimes a villain’s motivations are almost understandable when you take a moment to remove yourself from the hero’s narrative. When you look at the antagonist’s motivation removed from the protagonist’s story you can begin to see that when experienced from a different angle, these characters wouldn’t be seen as villains.

The Thin Line Between Good And Evil aims to take a look at the characters traditionally portrayed as villains within the world of nerd culture, primarily comics, and explore if it were their story we were reading, whether the villain would instead be seen as a hero.

Toyo Harada

This month, in honour of Valiant’s Hero Of The Week event, we’re taking a look at Toyo Harada.

At first glance, you could be forgiven for thinking that Toyo Harada is just your standard evil overlord/CEO, but that would be doing a huge disservice to the character. Instead, it’d be slight more accurate to suggest he’s a blend of Professor Xavier and Magneto, but only in broad strokes.

Harada is a rare psiot born with incredible telepathic and telekinetic powers; within the Valiant Universe, most psiots are dormant until they’re activated – usually by an incredibly painful and risky procedure – but very few, often the most powerful, are born with their abilities activated. Harada’s abilities were activated by the nucleor weapon dropped on Hiroshima, and this understandably shaped a lot of the man he would become (explored in detail during The Life And Death Of Toyo Harada, though it is touched upon in Harbinger and Imperium briefly).

Toyo Harada is arguably one of Valiant Entertainment’s more complex characters. He is a Psiot using his incredible telekinetic and telepathic powers in order to shape the world into a better place for everyone by using his company’s immense wealth for philanthropic efforts. Harada’s methods haven’t always been perfectly angelic, and he exemplifies the phrase “the end justifies the means.” But his heart has always been in the right place.. his end goal is to end war, to which he conquered a small country… and then tried to turn it into a Utopian free state (in Imperium).

Toyo Harada

The more you learn about Toyo Harada, the more you realize that he’s far from an evil man. He spent decades trying to influence political policy, gradually and gently nudging the world in the direction of a Utopian future while gathering and training the smartest minds and craftspeople of their generation to further the technologies that humanity will come to rely on.

Only for some ungrateful little drug addict that wants to start to tear down everything you’ve worked for (which you can read all about in Harbinger). Now it wasn’t all Peter Stanchek’s fault; circumstances didn’t quite favour Harada. He’d spread himself too thin, and eventually the final straw landed upon his back and things started to fall apart, but one has to wonder whether things would have been different if not for Stancheck. Whether Harada could have continued to guide the world in the shadows rather than forcibly showing governments how to create a self sustaining society.

But this column isn’t about recapping the man’s history; there’s a great resource here if that’s all you want to know, or you can check out the links below with the first volume of Harbinger, which kicks the saga off.

Instead, we’re here to look at why Toyo Harada is considered a villain, and I genuinely think it’s because of how he’s been framed in stories. When reading Harbinger, you’re following the story of Peter Stanchek and the Renegades. In X-O Manowar and Unity you’re naturally rooting for X-O because of Harada’s desire to acquire the armour whilst also preventing a cataclysmic confrontation.

Toyo Harada

If it wasn’t for that, and his penchant for making some questionable decisions in pursuit of (what he believes to be) the greater good, then I’m sure I wouldn’t be alone in viewing Toyo Harada as Valiant’s greatest hero. He’s doing what he feels he needs to do to save the world, despite our best efforts to the contrary. He’s been working for decades to make the world a better place, and in the grander scope of things he forms the question: can we save ourselves, even if we wanted to?

That’s what this really comes down to; as a global society, are we really capable of lifting the most unfortunate and desperate members up and coming together to save ourselves? Toyo Harada clearly doesn’t think so, and I’m inclined to agree with him. Toyo Harada is the villain we need to save our world.

And he’ll do it, by any means necessary.

Read the start of Toyo Harada’s story here:

Purchase: Amazon – Kindle – comiXology – TFAWBookshop

This post contains affiliate links, which means that if you click on one of the product links and make a purchase, we’ll receive a percentage of the sale. Graphic Policy does purchase items from this site. Making purchases through these links helps support the site.

Beyond Utopia: Exploring Krakoan Justice

House of X #3
House of X #3 by Jonathan Hickman and Pepe Larraz, August 28, 2019, Marvel Comics

The Paradigm and the Shift

Krakoa has proposed a radical new vision of a mutant society, but in its hasty formation, it has also planted the seeds of it’s very undoing. I’d like to examine both the successes and failures of Krakoa’s model of justice and along the way explore some models of justice and community protection of our own world. There will be moments of alignment and moment of dissonance, both of which are infinitely fascinating in their own right.

Accountability and justice are among the most complex ideas to navigate in the new Krakoan paradigm. Because of the way that comic-books as a medium frame the morality of the characters in them, it’s unfair to look at their actions through the same moral lens with which we assess our world. With roughly 40 years of continuity, comic-book characters have constantly changed hands from one writer to another, leading to countless departures in characterization  & rebranding, due to a writer’s biases and editorial campaigns. Fans themselves also hold biases for certain characters who have come to more strongly align with one particular reading of the mutant-metaphor or another. For example, Jewish readers may be more protective of Magneto or Kate Pryde, Romani readers will be more protective of Scarlet Witch, queer & trans readers may be more protective of Mystique (lacking explicitly trans characters) and chaos-lesbians would take a bullet for Magik. Because of what some of these characters have come to mean to fans from marginalized groups, their past transgressions can at times be overlooked. All of this leads to characters with immensely complex, at times contradictory, and unresolved histories that complicate any attempt to weigh the morality of any single character. It’s why for mutants, in particular, the semiotics of “hero-villain” taxonomy feels entirely ill-fitting.

House of X #5
House of X #5 by Jonathan Hickman and Pepe Larraz, September 18, 2019, Marvel Comics

House of X forever recontextualized the mutant-metaphor, breaking the status-quo for mutant communities and recontextualizing all previous relationships and conflicts, by bringing both “hero” and “villain” together under a single banner (House of X #5), defined by mutant solidarity. When antagonists like Exodus, Apocalypse, Sinister, and Sebastian Shaw showed up on Krakoa, discourse began about who did and did not belong in the new mutant utopia. To some extent, this same discourse continues to this day, and it’s likely that it will continue on for some time. House of X #5 forced fans and characters alike to quickly adjust to this recontextualization in service of a revolutionary vision, without the space on the page needed for characters to work through their past conflicts and abuses. This rapid formation of a mutant nation raised a great many questions and while it may have radically changed the mutant mise en politique, the haste at which it was constructed left many toxic elements of the past unresolved.

Radical community building requires an equally radical approach to resolving conflict and healing broken bonds within the community, which we have not seen. Enter restorative justice.

Restorative Justice 

Restorative justice is a model of community-protection that focuses on rebuilding the interpersonal & community relationships destroyed and/or damaged by crimes. In framing restorative justice in a way that maps to Krakoa, I’ll just say “abuses’ or “transgressions” since, with only three actual laws and no codified rights, most transgressions on Krakoa wouldn’t technically be crimes. Many propose the model as an alternative to the prison-industrial-complex because of the focus it maintains on the rights of the offender, rather than dehumanizing them. The model is built upon three major spokes:

  1. the healing, protection, empowerment, and support of the victim,
  2. the healing of community relationships destroyed by the transgression and
  3. the rehabilitation & reintegration of the abuser into the community.

The process is generally conducted by the community to ensure that the results and the path to achieving them are in the best interest of the affected community. But the community privileges the victims’ needs, recognizing that an outcome can only truly benefit the community if it empowers the victim/s. Advocates of the model recognize that it can’t eliminate 100% of crime, though that would be welcomed if it were possible. The goal instead is to break cycles of abuse and injustice and therefore create safer more sustainable communities.

Restorative justice frames crime as more than a transgression of the law– it causes harm to people, relationships, and the community which the model aims to heal. The process can take many forms but at its core are facilitated meetings between victim and abuser. The goal of these meetings for the victim is healing & resolution and for offenders, it’s accountability and understanding the damage they’ve done. It requires a neutral mediator to first ensure the safety of the victim and to ensure all negotiations are equitable, preventing social power dynamics from influencing the decisions made. For example, a telepath like Emma Frost would mediate for Wanda Maximoff and somebody impacted by The Decimation, such as Melody Guthrie. This oversight ensures that if the conversation got too heated, that Wanda could not use her powers to influence the outcome or threaten the victim.

The model embraces a form of accountability that rises from within the abuser rather than be imposed onto them. They’re empowered to recognize the damage caused by their actions through a variety of empathy mapping practices and accountability meetings with the victim. Informed accountability aims to break cycles of abuse and empowers the offender to take greater agency in their own rehabilitation. This also builds empathy which in many cases breaks the cycle of violence, preventing relapses. Concretizing paths towards reconciliation is critical in repairing community bonds. Reintegration can be facilitated in many ways, but one of the most common is through community service programs, where reformed offenders are given the chance to not only repair broken community bonds but also to contribute to the growth of the community at large. Another such program for reformed-offenders is serving as mentors for individuals who are currently working through the process, functioning like a sponsor within the AA model. If reintegration is not possible, the goal should be rehabilitation to ensure they do not perpetuate this form of harm in other communities.

The model is far from perfect though and it hasn’t been tested on a scale needed to make it viable enough for many to consider replacing the prison-industrial complex. Beyond that, restorative justice presupposes a cooperative offender, but the model’s ideology breaks down if offenders are recalcitrant, unrepentant, or non-cooperative. It’s immediately undermined whenever it has to deal with repeat offenders and is strained further if the victim/s remains consistent. There are some transgressions that this model at times fails to appropriately address due to the severity of the offense such as assault, rape, murder, hate crimes, etc. And repeat offenders whose transgressions fall on this severe end of the spectrum can greatly challenge faith in the model’s efficacy. Some argue that the model’s idealism can put the community at risk again by reintegrating the offender. Until we see the model used on a larger enough scale, most of the criticism of the model remains speculative for the moment. In the context of applying the model to Krakoa, many of these concerns would be valid, along with considerations of how the model would be further strained by reality warpers or telepaths for example.

Krakoan Justice

Krakoa is what you get if you took the restorative justice model and skipped all the work to get to the goal of reintegrating abusers into your society. It’s the form of privileged idealism we’ve come to expect from Xavier. It’s also great storytelling for exactly those reasons.

The justice system of Krakoa is still largely undefined, and in their current form, Krakoa’s laws make space for gross injustice and abuse, in part because there’s only three of them. Krakoa also does not have codified the rights for its citizens, making finding justice and building equity a moving target. The only forms of accountability we’ve seen so far are an infinite abyss or getting put on the mutant Suicide Squad. Outside of these two instances abusers go free from accountability, holding some of the highest seats of authority. In some cases, this places them in close proximity to their victims or gives them authority over their victims. Again, interesting story-telling, but a bad way to run a nation.

For the reasons I mentioned previously regarding how the medium of comic-books problematizes these considerations, I’m not discussing who is and isn’t redeemable. Many also conflate “redemption” with “absolution”, making those considerations feel even more fraught. But there are individuals whose past offenses make them questionable choices to sit on The Quiet Council, Krakoa’s sole body of authority and legislation. The council is actually composed of a number of current & reformed “villains”, and folks who have certainly “done some shit.” 

Xavier, Magneto, and Emma (who fall into the latter category mentioned above) have each undergone periods of characterization that range from outright villain to morally dubious. Magneto has a history of large scale anti-human violence some of which could be seen as self-defense or preemptive strikes against bigoted humans. But there are also actions that are harder to justify like threatening earth with nuclear missiles from Asteroid M. He is also known to be incredibly manipulative of his fellow mutants. Xavier has done his share of brainwashing, sexualizing his students, knowingly enslaving a sentient being [Danger], erasing memories, building a “theoretical” database on how to kill all of his students[ the Xavier Protocols], endangering the lives of children, and violated countless ethical boundaries while treating Gabrielle Haller. Emma has a history of working against the X-Men, but much of this is wrapped up into her association with the Hellfire Club, and it’s reasonable to attribute some of those actions to the abuse she suffered at the hands of members of the Club such as Sebastian Shaw, who also sits on the council. She’s also known for questionable practices when it comes to mentoring her students.

It is important to note that of these three, only Emma and Magneto are referred to as “reformed-villains”. Charles is not considered a “former-villain” largely because of the nature of publication history. The idea that Charles is a “good-guy” was fed to readers from the beginning, therefore he’s implicitly framed as such. If you were to explain his transgressions to a stranger without the context of his name or establishing him as a hero, they’d likely not even bat an eye at considering him a villain. I’ve done this, and never have I received push back on the label. This is yet another symptom of the way that the medium of comic books continues to frame the morality of characters. At any rate, though, all three are no longer considered to be villains.

The Council does include some explicitly villainous figures. One such figure is Sinister, who has a history of manipulation, abuse, and violence that should exclude him from holding such a position of power. One of the major offenses that should preclude him from holding a seat of authority is his orchestration of the Morlock Massacre. Sinister is responsible for the destruction of hundreds of lives, but because he possesses something that Xavier wants, his genetic archives, Xavier ignores the damage he’s done for his own gain. As a result, Sinister is given power over the very community that he previously attacked. Morlocks don’t even live on Krakoa but in a habitat somewhere in Arizona. Whether this is an empowered choice or not is unclear. Did they choose not to live on Krakoa? Or did they specifically choose not to live alongside their abuser, Sinister? Needless to say, in restorative justice models, you don’t put a violent abuser on the single body of authority within a community and give them further social & institutional power over their victims, while you force his victims to live outside of the community-proper.

X-Men: Black Emma Frost
X-Men Black: Emma Frost by Leah Williams & Chris Bachalo, October 31, 2018, Marvel Comics

Sebastian Shaw’s inclusion on the council is troubling as well. With his history of abuse and manipulation of both Jean and Emma, who are forced to sit on the council with him, he too should not be permitted to hold such a seat of authority. We learn in X-Men Black: Emma Frost that Shaw also abused and exploited a number of underaged girls “employed” by the Hellfire Club. Shaw has long been an avatar for anarcho-capitalist ideology, a “radical” offshoot of capitalism that focuses on individual and decentralized wealth through participating in unregulated “free” markets. To put it plainly, Shaw is a monster whose sole impulse is self-interest with no allegiances of value. He constantly demonstrates a disregard for mutant identity, throwing mutant-kind under the bus for his own gain. Shaw’s behavior after stepping onto Krakoa represents one of the ills that restorative justice models aim to address, the cycle of abuse left unchecked. With the resources afforded to him by his seat on the Council Shaw wastes no time in conspiring to destabilize Krakoan infrastructure. In fewer than nine issues of Marauders, readers watch Shaw install his own agents into seats of authority [two of which are literal Nazis] and they watch him undermine Krakoan pharmaceutical-trade by disseminating faulty Krakoan drugs to bad-jacket Krakoa. Shaw collaborates with Hominus Verendi, hires X-Cutioner & Hatemonger to attack the Marauders, establishes ties with the Russian Ambassador responsible for developing power-dampening technology, and conspires with Verendi on a plot to use the Yellowjacket Probe to provide various anti-mutant parties with direct intelligence on Krakoa. Not to mention that Shaw murdered Kate Pryde.

Marauders #6
Marauders #6 by Gerry Duggan, Mario Del Pennino, and Matteo Lolli, January 22, 2020, Marvel Comics

In failing to hold Shaw accountable and giving him a position of power, Xavier has given him the resources to not only fundamentally undermine Krakoa’s diplomatic presence on the world’s stage but to also murder its citizens. Xavier’s ignorance is nothing new, but the choice to provide Shaw and Sinister with seats on The Quiet Council has set in motion the potential undoing of Krakoan society at large. Again, this is really good story-telling but a really bad way to run a nation.

Incarceration: The Metaphor & Beyond

One of the only examples we have of “mutant justice” so far, is the “trial” of Sabretooth. Sabertooth, of course, is on trial for breaking one of their three laws, “ Kill no man”. Only he didn’t break this law, because the law was established only after the violence in question took place. This is referred to as an “ex post facto” law, which retroactively changes the legal ramifications of an action, which many nations regard as a violation of individual rights. In fact, many countries’ human-rights codifications explicitly prohibit this form of legal action, such as the African Charter on Human and People’s Right which specifies in Article 2, Paragraph 7 that

…no one may be condemned for an act or omission which did not constitute a legally punishable offense at the time it was committed. No penalty may be inflicted for an offense for which no provision was made at the time it was committed.

House of X #3
House of X #3 by Jonathan Hickman and Pepe Larraz, August 28, 2019, Marvel Comics

In the US Articles 25 & 26 of the American Declaration of Rights and Duties of Man* , codify a citizen’s “right to be tried by pre-existing laws”. A number of nations have constitutional or equivalent prohibitions of ex post facto criminal trial including Brazil (5th Article, section XXXVI of the Brazilian Constitution), Canada (paragraph 11(g) of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms), Germany (Article 103 of German Basic Law), India (Article 20(1) of the Indian Constitution, Iran (Article 169, Chp. 11 of Iran’s Constitution), Italy (Article 25, paragraph 2 of Italian Constitution), Japan (Article 39 of Japan’s constitution), Pakistan (Article 12 of the constitution of Pakistan), Spain ( Article 9.3 of the Spanish Constitution), and South-Africa (Section 35(3) of the South African Bill of Rights).

Since all mutants are Krakoan citizens & cannot be tried by human courts (House of X #3) and since at the time of the mission in question Krakoa had no established laws, there was no jurisdiction to which Sabretooth was subject to that prohibited his actions. That doesn’t excuse his actions on a moral level, but given the dynamics of his citizenship and Krakoa’s lack of codified laws at the time, he is not legally guilty of any crime. This makes his trial definitively” ex post facto”, which again many consider to be a violation of individual rights. It’s also critical to accurately contextualize Sabretooth’s actions; he was sent on this mission by Xavier, placing him in a situation primed for violent interactions with militarized human forces of a known anti-mutant organization. And if you can put somebody on trial “ex post facto” for killing humans, half of the council should also be placed on trial on the same grounds. We haven’t even mentioned that he was tried and sentenced without representation, without testimony or any ability to plead his case.

House of X #1
House of X #1 by Jonathan Hickman and Pepe Larraz, July 24, 2019, Marvel Comics

The viewer arrives at the mission in question in media-res, it’s possible that Sabretooth isn’t the only mutant to take a human life and perhaps the humans instigated violence, causing Sabretooth to fight back in self-defense. Considering the mission involved gathering intelligence for a military campaign, and that Mystique, Sabretooth, and Toad were under attack, Sabretooth’s actions could be argued to be acts of self-defense to one degree or another. So, not only can you not hold Sabretooth accountable to laws that didn’t exist at the time of the actions they prohibit, but given the context of Sabretooth’s involvement in this particular mission, the defense could make a reasonable case for Sabretooth’s actions to either lessen the sentence or have the trial thrown out.  At least that much is true of a nation that has a due process legal system, which Krakoa does not.

Of all the things to retroactively put Sabretooth on trial for, this doesn’t even feel as narratively satisfying as it should have. Sabertooth has a long history of victimizing & attacking countless members of the X-Men with a fixation on the women of the team. He was also a member of the original Marauders team. Perhaps it would feel more like justice if the offense he was tried for had a deeper hook into this history. For a better look at Sabretooth’s complex history of violence and attempts at “rehabilitation”, check out the work of Sara Century. There’ve been periods of detainment and attempted rehabilitation in the past, and in the last 10 years we’ve seen him take a place on teams alongside the X-Men such as in Uncanny X-Men: Superior (2016-17), including some of his previous victims.

House of X #6
House of X #6 by Jonathan Hickman and Pepe Larraz, October 2, 2019, Marvel Comics

Sabretooth’s consistent lack of remorse and history of abuse should preclude him from taking part in larger Krakoa society, but I disagree with throwing anybody into a waking void indefinitely. Sabertooth is taken from human custody only to be placed in far worse conditions humans may have placed him in. Let’s look at Xavier’s exact words, just after passing the sentence of “exile” in House of X #6; “Alive but immobile. Aware, but unable to act on it. How long…? Forever.” This type of punishment is a radically more cruel form of solitary confinement, which is already known to have an immensely damaging impact on the victim’s physical & mental health. Solitary confinement has been studied rigorously by neuroscientists, who’ve found that even with less than a year of forced isolation victims experience loss of navigational-reasoning, memory loss, loss of temporal reasoning, develop a form of face-blindness, long term sensory avoidance behaviors, CPTSD & PTSD, loss of reading comprehension, loss of fine motors skills, loss of some gross motor skills and much more. 

This form of confinement also causes the hippocampus [the portion of your brain that regulates learning & pattern recognition ] to shrink while the amygdala [ which mediates fear, anxiety, & stress ] increases in activity. In studies of victims of 10-20 years of isolation, it was observed that the brain significantly slowed the process of creating new neurons; even as little as two months in solitary can cause a 20% reduction in neuron creation. You should be able to extrapolate what happens over the course of 20+ years such as was done to Robert King, who spent 29 years in solitary confinement. It’s estimated that in the US there are an estimated 80,000 men  (a disproportionate of that number being African American men serving in solitary confinement. Solitary Confinement exceeding 3 months is associated with a 26% increased risk of premature death, stemming from an out of control stress response resulting in higher cortisol levels, increased blood pressure and inflammation. Extensive forced isolation and sensory deprivation have been proven to cause permanent and long term damage to the mind of the victim which is the reason many regard it to be a form of torture. This is why a wave of activism, led by Robert King and his legal team to utilize the 8th amendment [prohibiting cruel and unusual punishment] to abolish the use of solitary confinement.

Comics, like all fiction can help us build empathy, but at the same time it can normalize otherwise cruel forms of treatment. Because of the way that the things media normalizes can spill-over into how we interpret our own world, it’s critical to acknowledge that what the council did to Sabretooth is not humane and that the members of the council who made that choice are complicit in torture & violations of individual rights. Sabretooth’s last breaths, before being swallowed by the void, were a promise of future violence. Clearly absolute sensory-deprivation & isolation in an abyss will do nothing to break the cycle of violence. It’s hard to imagine the idealism of restorative justice’s reform and rehabilitation working for Sabretooth but such an extremely cruel form of imprisonment is not only dehumanizing & torturous, but it’s also unlikely to prove effective. I believe firmly that for all the resources available to the X-men that they could devise forms of accountability that do not constitute torture.

Raising Hell

Hellions #1
Hellions #1 by Zeb Wells, Stephen Segovia, and David Curiel, March 25, 2020, Marvel Comics

Why do concepts like Hellions and Suicide-Squad appeal to us so much? I think many of us long for redemption; to not be judged by our worst choices or our weakest moments. For many, a reformed villain is a godsend; if these people can absorb an entire planet, kidnaps elected officials, or throw the planet of its axis, and still be given another chance, we feel like we stand a chance of overcoming our own mistakes. The Hellions aren’t villains, though some of them may look like it from the surface. Some of them are just looking for a place to be, some need to be looked after, some need an outlet, while others just need to atone. Empath and Scalphunter (I will continue to refer to him by his name John Greycrow, because I think “Scalphunter” is a wildly insensitive name for an American Indigenous character ) are characters whose story demonstrates one aspect of the restorative justice model that we’ve already discussed; reform through community service.

John Greycrow has a history of working for & against the X-Men but he’s largely known for his involvement in the Morlock Massacre. Greycrow certainly took lives, but as the result of his employment by Sinister. This by no means excuses him or assuages him of his accountability or atonement, but it changes the nature of his offense and his rehabilitation. He’s a hired gun, where Sinister is the hateful mastermind. Greycrow has also lived much of his life in a cycle of violence that he cannot escape, which Sinister points out to the council in Hellions #1.

When Greycrow was “executed” for attacking his fellow soldiers in World War II, there’s an ambiguity surrounding what incited his attack. Considering the way American Indigenous people were treated in and out of the military at the time, it’s entirely possible that his violence was in reaction to mistreatment and abuse from other soldiers. At a time where children were still being stolen off of reservations, indigenous histories were being erased culturally and in the education system, Greycrow was drafted into a war to fight for the country that was destroying his culture and his history. This isn’t the reason he became a mercenary nor am I establishing the two experiences in a deterministic relationship, but it could certainly build up a current of rage within an individual, which needs an outlet. Having settled on Krakoa though, Greycrow is given the opportunity to escape the cycle of violence.

Hellions #1
Hellions #1 by Zeb Wells, Stephen Segovia, and David Curiel, March 25, 2020, Marvel Comics

On the anniversary of the Mutant Massacre, Greycrow is attacked by a band of Morlocks (Hellions #1). He doesn’t argue, he just gets up and prepares to defend himself to some degree and when the council accuses him of attacking the Morlocks, Greycrow makes no attempt to clarify that the Morlocks instigated the violence. The scene reads as him recognizing that he had this coming, showing him begin to more thoughtfully grapple with the role he played in the massacre. It also shows him protecting the Morlocks in question, putting him on a path towards atonement. Krakoa’s resurrection protocols present greater potential for Greycrow’s ability to reconcile with his past victims. This is one of the things that genuinely excites me about the series and its potential. Not only is it providing more nuanced ways of looking at purportedly villainous characters by making space for these individuals to have their own histories and trauma acknowledged, but it’s also creating opportunities for resolution that are unprecedented in our world.

Recognizing that for the moment it’s unsustainable for Greycrow and the Morlocks to freely cohabitate, the council assigns him to the Hellions. Many restorative justice models incorporate these forms of community service into the reintegration/rehabilitation process. Sometimes this takes form in community clean-ups, or programs like Philadelphia Mural Arts’ Guild Project. The goal is to allow the individual to contribute to the growth of the community that their transgressions have damaged. In doing so, they build faith with the community, can work to atone for their actions, and can acquire new skills and experiences that the individual can draw on to enhance the reintegration process.

Hellions also shows how the restorative justice model can provide more nuanced strategies for addressing how issues of class, education, ability, and neurodiversity can be contributing factors to some offenses. Relevant to the mutant metaphor, this is an idea which we see manifest in The Quiet Council’s approach to the actions of Empath, a former member of the Hellions. Sometimes, the restorative justice model embraces models of harm reduction. If we can’t get this individual to cease a certain behavior, then it’s in their best interest and the best interest of the community to find a safe outlet for them, in respect to narcotics these are called safe-consumption sites and they provide a safe environment, intended to reduce unsafe & unclean usage conditions as well as to prevent lethal overdoses. The Hellions provide just such an opportunity.

Hellions #1
Hellions #1 by Zeb Wells, Stephen Segovia, and David Curiel, March 25, 2020, Marvel Comics

As a result of his mutation, Empath’s mind has developed using “bad data” to quote a data-page from Hellions #1. Rather than being a sociopath who was given powers, as is noted on a data page in Hellions #1, his mutation created sociopathic tendencies. While this doesn’t excuse his abuses or the damage he’s done, if he isn’t able to understand the consequences and impact of his actions, you can’t hold him accountable in the same way you could a neurotypical person. His mutation inherently prevents him from building the same neurological empathy maps that neurotypicals develop to help avoid doing harm to others in the future. If you push over your friend on the playground, your friend may bleed and cry out in pain. For some, this builds a cause-effect mapping in the mind and you’re able to anticipate that pushing over another person will likely have the same effect. But what if, from a young age, you were able to control and manipulate others to not only not crying or expressing pain, but you could manipulate them into thanking you for it. 

Hellions #1
Hellions #1 by Zeb Wells, Stephen Segovia, and David Curiel, March 25, 2020, Marvel Comics

On the data page, Empath is labeled “sociopathic” but in truth, his eroded sense of empathy leaves him somewhere between “sociopathy” and “psychopathy”, both of which are diagnostically known as “Antisocial Personality Disorders” (APDs) in the 5th edition of Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Disorders. The two terms are so heavily stigmatized in society because of the way that the media we consume has perpetuated the myth that both are 1.) Interchangeable and 2.) inherently prone to violence. This is largely due to the frequency at which lazy writers attribute a villain/protagonist’s actions to being a “sociopath” or “psychopath” when they need a one-word fix for their poor characterization. While there are cases of individuals with APDs who become violent, it’s a smaller number than we’re led to believe. From what we’re told about the effect his mutation has had on his mind, and what can be understood about the brain of individuals with psychopathy, it’s most accurate to describe Empath as psychopathic rather than sociopathic. While the two have some overlap, Empath’s eroded sense of “right and wrong” stems from his brain’s inability to emotionally & intellectually process and connect the consequences of his actions, which is most consistent with the pseudo diagnosis of “psychopathy”.

Because Empath is unable to recognize the damage he has done over time, he will likely continue to do harm without any awareness. He’s likely unaware that his manipulation of others is abusive, cruel, and invasive leading to an obstructed sense of “moral cognition”, or the neurological coding that dictates “right and wrong” decision making in our minds. This proposes a really interesting framing for mental health and mutant-justice. It’s a terrific example of how Krakoa continues to reframe parts of the continuity that we’ve written off. You can’t look at Empath’s past transgressions the same way after this page. Accountability means something different if you are neurologically wired in a way that prevents you from seeing the harm you do.

Appropriately, Krakoan leadership recognizes that the same measures of accountability used for neurotypicals, not only wouldn’t be effective for Empath but would not be appropriate either. He’s given an outlet and given a place on Krakoa that neither ignores his transgression nor demonizes him for his neurodiversity. In this sense, Krakoa is arguably embracing a social model of disability & neurodivergence to inform their justice model as well a model of harm reduction.

House of X #6
House of X #6 by Jonathan Hickman and Pepe Larraz, October 2, 2019, Marvel Comics

Looking at Krakoa’s failures and successes can help us to learn many lessons about the ways we navigate our own communities. It’s not just a matter of fan-analysis or a thought experiment about mutant-politics. This isn’t just a story, these situations happen within our communities on a regular basis; abusers hold seats of authority over victims, individuals are unfairly tried and subject to cruel & dehumanizing “punishment’, cycles of violence can go unbroken, and people commit offense after offense without understanding the consequences of their actions. Krakoa shows us what happens when abusers go unchecked and at the same time, there can be moments of nuance where communities seek out ways to break cycles of violence by embracing more holistic and humane models of justice.

Recognizing the reality of these situations can also deeply enhance our experiences in engaging with these stories, deepening our sense of nuance and empathy. Understanding just how flawed Krakoa is doesn’t take away from the story that’s being told. If anything, it underscores just how interesting Krakoa is a storytelling device. Krakoa is deeply, almost tragically flawed in some ways, and in other ways, it embraces some truly radical forms of community building. It’s that balance that has made the stories coming out since House of X #1 so much more memorable and engaging and have allowed the fanbase to explore aspects of the mutant metaphor that had gone largely unexamined until now.

Friends Who Play Together, Stay Together: How playing D&D led to publishing our own comic book series

This week sees the release of A House Divided: The Accursed Inheritance of Henrietta Achilles by Haiko Hörnig and Marius Pawlitza. We have an exclusive essay by Hörnig about how he and his co-creator first met all the way back in middle school playing Dungeons and Dragons—and how that experience directly led to the publication of their own comic book series.

“Friends Who Play Together, Stay Together: How playing D&D led to publishing our own comic book series,” is a funny and sweet look at how the collaborators’ current success can be directly traced back to their middle-school RPGs

When you are 12 years old and able to draw passably well, you quickly become the “kid who can draw“ in your class. I was that kid in my class, and I liked my role. I would scribble in my school books and draw caricatures of our teachers to the amusement and applause of everyone (except the teachers). Life was good. A year later, I met Marius and everything changed. Marius was the other kid who could draw at my school. Problem was, he was way, way better than me. Naturally, I hated his guts.

I met my new nemesis through a mutual friend who was looking to start a Dungeons & Dragons group at our school.I was already vaguely familiar with the concept of role-playing games. When I was 8 years old, I had found a strange game in our garage. The box was a bright yellow with artwork of Spider-Man, Captain Marvel, the Thing and Captain America punching through the cardboard lid. The game was called Marvel Superheros and it was a roleplaying game where you could create your own superhero and experience any kind of adventure—the only thing needed was your imagination! Well, at least in theory. The other thing you needed was a bunch of other 8 year olds willing to spend their afternoons reading a near incomprehensible dense rulebook. Which, to my great disappointment, didn’t happen.

So when the chance presented itself to play D&D, I pounced on it! We played whenever and wherever we could, even at school during lunch break. I was a chaotic evil fighter/priest of Malar, the god of the hunt. Marius was playing a lawful good paladin. Naturally, our characters hated each other’s guts. Meanwhile, I started to realize that maybe, just maybe, sharing the “kid who can draw“ role with someone wasn’t such a bad thing. Marius drew dozens of maps and monsters, crests and coat-of-arms and, of course, our characters. That didn’t just mean less work for me, it also meant everything looked way cooler! We quickly became best friends.

Above: Our first D&D party as drawn by Marius, age 14. As you can see, our early adventures were quite… gory.

Life went on, and when Marius eventually left school to start an apprenticeship, the D&D group slowly disassembled. A few years later, Marius reached out again. It was because of a D&D game. He had recently joined a new RPG group and they were looking for another player. Naturally, I said yes. After gaming for a few weeks, we wondered how we could have ever lost touch in the first place. We never stopped playing again.

Above: Characters from our long standing Vampire – Requiem campaign. This time, I was the DM and wove an intricate plot which the players chose to ignore.

Call of Cthulhu, Vampire, Shadowrun, Star Wars, Warhammer Fantasy, Dark Heresy—no matter the game system, creating characters and crafting adventures became a cornerstone of our friendship. And by graduating from players to dungeon masters, RPGs even taught us how to tell stories: how to create tension, how to subvert player’s expectations, and how to hold their attention.

We were both in our twenties when we started our first webcomic, Selektive Erinnerung (Selective Memory), a gag-based weekly strip. At this point, I had long accepted that I’d never be as good as an artist as Marius, and so I concentrated on the writing part. But as great as making a quick funny strip was, there was an itch Selektive Erinnerung couldn’t scratch. Both of us had long dreamed about making something bigger. Something that was equally inspired by the dungeon raiding campaigns of our youth and classic animated movies we both loved.

Above: Marius did this illustration to commemorate the end of our most recent campaign, Rise of Tiamat, that lasted from 2014 to early 2020. Yeah, that’s me as the DM next to the dragon heads.

After writing hundreds of D&D adventures for our friends, thinking about plot and character arcs and writing elaborate backstories, I felt well prepared for writing a longer story. In the back of my head, an idea had been forming. A story about a girl exploring a gigantic house, much like a dungeon from a D&D adventure, filled with monsters and mystery and magic.

From the very beginning, Marius was game. He sat down and churned out page after page of beautiful concept art. Slowly, A House Divided began to take shape.

When we started working on the first part of the story, The Accursed Inheritance of Henrietta Achilles, it became apparent how great it was to have a shared shorthand for expressing ideas.

In the story, our hero Henrietta learns that she is the only living relative of the deceased Ornun Zol, a notorious wizard who leaves her a gigantic, magical house. When Marius and I talked about the kind of person Ornun Zol was, we frequently used D&D terms to describe him. “He must have been pretty high level, right? What kind of schools of magic did he use? Is he more of a transmutation kinda guy? Did he have an arcane focus?” Marius even went so far as to write up a whole character sheet for him!

In a way, making A House Divided felt a lot like coming full circle. We’re still creating characters and crafting adventures. I’m still playing make-believe with my best friend, the kid who can draw way better than I ever could. And we don’t plan on ever stopping.

Haiko Hörnig is a writer of screenplays and graphic novels. He lives in Frankfurt, Germany, where he writes for various clients and works with his friend Marius Pawlitza on their fantasy series A House Divided. The first book, The Accursed Inheritance of Henrietta Achilles is available wherever books and ebooks are sold on April 7.

Purchase: Library BindingPaperbackKindle

This post contains affiliate links, which means that if you click on one of the product links and make a purchase, we’ll receive a percentage of the sale. Graphic Policy does purchase items from this site. Making purchases through these links helps support the site

The Creative Comics Shop: Diamond and the industry’s push for survival

Diamond Comic Distributors

The moment comic book shops started transitioning to mail orders and curbside pick-ups due to the COVID-19 pandemic, fans and owners alike have been waiting for the other shoe to drop. On March 23, 2020, the drop came in the form of a letter from Diamond’s chairman Steve Geppi. In it, we learned that the distributor would not be taking orders on new products. Anything slated for an on-sale date of April 1st would not be shipped.

Given that local comics shops rely on weekly comics sales to stay alive (although some stores have done wonders with their backlogs to make them an even more essential part of their business model), this sounded off an alarm many expected but no one wanted to hear.

The letter goes on to specify what exactly it is that this means for Diamond. Geppi spoke about how hard it was to make the decision and explained that it boiled down to the safety of his team and shop owners alike. Health in the workplace is essential and no one can fault Diamond for taking measures to ensure its workers remain safe, but the decision to stop distribution didn’t hurt any less because of it. One thing did stand out from the letter, though.

In his message, Geppi offered some advice to owners that continue to operate remotely: get creative. He says:

For those retailers who remain open in various forms, I encourage you to let loose your own creativity. For the time being, you will be able to replenish your perennials from Diamond and/or Alliance, but you should also remember the stock you already have in your stores. If your doors remain open, it’s likely you will have customers who will continue to seek diversion from events of the world. Special sales, promotions, and even eBay can help you bring in cash during this trying time.

Initially, this sounded to me a bit like “you’re on your own.” To be fair, Diamond did state it will be evaluating debt accrued and credit options to help out stores affected the most by the economic pressures of the pandemic. But the stores that might receive any help from Diamond are those that would’ve already survived the pandemic’s hit on the market, in all its dimensions. This consideration made it difficult to take Geppi’s words as the rallying cry for comic shops that I think it was intended to be.

I should clarify, I’m commenting on this situation as a concerned comic book fan who buys weekly periodicals, the bread and butter of the current comics market in America. I’m standing on the outside of this, given I’m not a shop owner, but following industry developments and writing about comics has given me some insight into the workings of Diamond and just how difficult it is to rely on one major distributor of the product.

All of this led me to think about the concept of creativity in sales, which the letter alludes to. I remember thinking that shops were getting creative with their stock well before the pandemic hit and that many stores had already put certain ideas in motion to stave off closure because of economic constraints coming from many different shifts and outdated ways of thinking from multiple sides of the industry. Diamond is not the only entity to carry the blame here (lack of unions, the volatility of freelance work, and the state of print media, in general, are important factors as well).

This pandemic, though, did put the spotlight once more on one of the comic book industry’s biggest problems, market-wise: weekly periodicals cannot continue to depend almost entirely on Diamond if comics are to survive in print. We need more options.

As this pandemic has shown (and if nothing changes, it’s possible we see a repeat of this), a single comic book distributor cannot account for the survivability of an entire industry.

The comic shop owners that adjusted to the new normal—and responded in kind by fully embracing outside-the-box problem solving—have shown that creativity isn’t choice but a rule if they are keep their doors open, even before a pandemic forced them into stretching that creative streak further.

There’ve already been a lot of stores that have found that becoming more of a community-driven space (invested in creating local shop culture through reading, talks, author events, and creative discussions) results in a loyal customer base that will do most of its comic book purchases with them.

Anyone Comics in Brooklyn, for instance, has been churning out social distance events to keep its customers ‘in the store,’ if you will. They hosted a social distance signing with writer Vita Ayala on March 26, complete with Q&A and the promise of customers getting free signed books with regular orders; Midtown Comics in New York has offered generous discounts on entire purchases to motivate buyers; and Challengers Comics in Chicago has teamed with SKTCHD to give customers the chance to win a new Hoth Battle scene Star Wars sketch by Daniel Warren Johnson.

If anything, the chaos that the Coronavirus pandemic has unleashed will make many of these stores stronger once we get clear of it. But not everyone is going to survive. One of the reasons survival isn’t guaranteed lies in Diamond remaining a necessary evil for weekly periodical distribution.

Competition is key, and stores all around the country have shown they are willing to experiment in order to keep selling comics well into the future. Back issues can be made appealing again, trades can be discounted, and figures can be sold in fairly priced bundles. But having a diversified market is essential as we move forward, with a mind to prepare for any other crisis that might come our way. We can’t assume nothing like this will ever happen again.

I’m not calling for the dissolution of Diamond nor for it to close its doors to let others take over. I just think it can do better and it should focus on contingency plans that don’t require the suspension of sales in times when stores need them the most. It can be via limiting the size of orders, coordinating with shops to ship the product in strategic spots to replenish stock, or even offering more generous discounts for local comic shop owners when certain social conditions call for them.

Comic shops are doing their part, putting ideas out there to keep customers happy and satisfied. Maybe it’s time Diamond took their own advice to heart and start getting creative.

Hold Fast: The Marauders and the Anti-Fascist Model

Pyro in the Marauders
Marauders #6, January 22, 2020, by Gerry Duggan, Matteo Lolli, Mario Del Pennino, & Erick Arciniega

Resistance, Reclamation, and the Red-Queen of Anti-fascism

What does it mean for marginalized communities to resist oppression and protect themselves and their kin when the governments of the world leave them behind? [A totally theoretical question, in no way relevant to the world we live in] Marauders asks this question, consistently expanding on the complexities of Krakoa’s role on the world’s political stage.

Having spent years working in multiple above and below ground anti-fascist/anti-racist organizations and affinity-groups, I love X-Books like Marauders, that acknowledge the complexities of revolutionary struggle, telling a story of an autonomous cell of mutants, using tactical violence and property damage, to carry out direct-action operations to defend their community. For this reason, Marauders can help readers approach the stigmatized political ethos of anti-fascism. I don’t expect you to walk away with a full understanding of the history and strategies of anti-fascism. For a more holistic account of the history and political validity of anti-fascism, I suggest Mark Bray’s, Antifa: The Anti-Fascist and Robert Paxton’s Anatomy of Fascism.

Anti-fascism or autonomous anti-fascism [as it’s known outside the US, where political discourse can sustain a multifaceted definition of anti-fascism] is an illiberal politics of cultural self-defense, necessitated by the inaction of a corrupt state-apparatus, utilizing historic & emergent methods of protest and direct-action. It’s a single aspect of larger strategies of resistance to white supremacy, not a discrete political ideology. Anti-fascists organize in autonomous cells, collectives, or affinity groups without traceable ties to larger organizations of the left. They reject the liberal formula for opposing fascism; debating fascists in the “marketplace of ideas” or trusting the police to counteract fascist violence. History shows that parliamentary government is not a barrier to fascism, in fact, it’s historically a red carpet. Police, who historically began as slave-patrollers, often share membership with white-supremacist groups and have given birth to reactionary movements like “Blue Lives Matter”. Not to mention they are constantly emboldened by our president’s calls for increased levels of violence.

The series/team’s title is a reference to a group of mercenaries, who Sinister hired to wipe out the Morlocks. Kate chose this name to distance what they’re doing from the X-Men but It’s also an act of reclamation, as Callisto herself notes in Marauders #7. They take a name tied to their own pain and use it in the fight against their oppressors. There are numerous leftist organizations whose names are reclamations, like Trigger Warning, Philly’s Dyke March, the SHARPs, and Redneck Revolt come to mind. This is also seen in revolutionary aesthetics like the pink/purple triangle, used by Nazis to identify queer people, which was reclaimed in the 1980s & 90s by many organizations working in AIDS & HIV advocacy and is used by queer anti-fascist affinity groups to this day. It’s worth noting, that there is a meta-complexity in “reclamation” in comic books. Because these characters are not autonomous and self-aware, they themselves can’t reclaim certain things in the way we in the real world can [ which is still an intense and complex path to navigate]. What I think works here, is that everything is textual. Kate isn’t reclaiming a slur from our world, like naming a non-binary character Snowflake and their twin Safe-Space. Kate is a character, within a constructed world, reclaiming a term specifically located within the confines and context of that constructed world.

X-Men #4, January 01, 2020, by Jonathan Hickman, Leinil Francis Yu, Gerry Alanguilan, & Sunny Gho

The Marauders play a vital role in the safety of mutants of the 616, providing an alternate model of resistance to anti-mutant oppression, a model of resistance that larger structures of mutant governance cannot engage in. In X-Men #4 we see what happens when the X-Men do participate in larger institutions of economic and political governance, specifically the Davos World Economic Forum; the theme, “Globalization for a New Age: How to Secure and Maintain a Cohesive & Sustainable World.” It’s important to remember that by this time, there’s already been one successful attempt on Xavier’s life. Although they toast to peace, yet another assassination attempt unfolds. It’s easily dealt with, but one of the first attempts Krakoa made to participate in global politics is still met with violence. It’s clear that Krakoa cannot trust human structures of governance to achieve justice and equity.

Marauders #1 establishes the team’s two objectives. The first, to bring Krakoan drugs to countries without “legitimate” trade agreements with Krakoa, prioritizing Nations who need it most. In Marauders #2 we see Kate liberating a shipment that Shaw diverted from a nation in Africa who can’t take Krakoa’s deal publicly as it may start a civil war. The second objective is to liberate mutants being held against their will.

To an extent, the Marauders travel by sea because Kate Pryde can’t use Krakoa’s gates, but as Emma Frost states in Marauders #1 this is “…an opportunity”. In House of X, it’s observed that Krakoa’s gates have a military capability to move forces any distance instantaneously. Humanity implicitly sees the gates as a threat. This is why in some places they’re policed, making it difficult to utilize them to support mutants refugees. That’s where the Marauders come in, operating within the gaps between larger Krakoa’s politics and the rest of the world, through which the most vulnerable of mutants will fall. Revolutionary struggle is complex; at times necessitating open conflict, such as the ongoing Hong Kong Protests, the Ferguson Riots, the J20 Protests, the Warsaw rebellion, the Battle of Cable Street. Revolutionary struggle can also be immensely complex though, requiring less overt forms of resistance. In the new paradigm, mutants have the upper hand, but only the mutants living there and on the world’s political stage, Krakoa can only do so much to help them.

Building Power in the Gaps

There’s certainly a complexity to the various political parallels to navigate on Krakoa. X-Force, a covert-ops/CIA analog, establishes its own surveillance state within Krakoa. We’re spoon-fed that reading by the text itself and marketing. In X-Force #7 we learn Beast is investigating methods of surveillance with Forge, using sound-absorbent stone and placing objects made of this substance around the globe. This is certainly one way to read their actions. Although it’s easy to pass judgment on some of Beast’s recent actions, I would politely challenge that interpretation along with anti-fascist framing. Sometimes resistance is ugly; sometimes when they go low and you go high, they take out your legs from beneath you. Beast’s actions throughout X-Force, have been in the grey, but that is much of what it feels like to be involved in anti-fascist organizing. Sometimes protecting your community isn’t squeaky clean. While this is not me condoning some of Beast’s more questionable choices, this is me saying it should take much more for us to condemn them.

But surveillance doesn’t always just serve the state. Surveillance & data-collection can be used to protect marginalized communities. In my years of “organizing”, I’ve encountered and partnered with multiple organizations that did just that, dedicated to observation, surveillance, and consolidation of data regarding the personnel, operations, and whereabouts of known fascists, neo-nazis, and abusers. Sometimes organizations come along, like the One People’s Project, [ founded in 2000 ] by Daryl Lamont Jenkins, whose sole mission is to prove “ hate has consequences”. Through OPP’s “Community Watch” project, they’ve created regional databases of known fascist organizations and personalities, to ensure they cannot use anonymity or opacity as tools in their rampage against marginalized communities. Countless times the information provided by these groups is used to make split-second safety decisions regarding the presence of known instigators and agitators, violent abusers within the community, and to anticipate and intervene in potentially dangerous fascist actions.

Krakoa itself is a unique composite of various modes of social-governance. On the one hand, there’s a radicality of Krakoa that stretches beyond a socialist model, leaning into an almost anarcho-syndicalist model. I see this mostly in the way that Krakoa’s exports of various drugs become a foothold for further economic and political power. These drugs become economic leverage on the global scale, much in the way that anarcho-syndicalist models utilize the power of the worker. There are also parallels to the way that mutant identity itself, rooted in Krakoa, becomes surrogate for the role of the union as a sort of consolidation and point of focus for work-power. Krakoan also represents a semi-liberal state apparatus, though without even a symbolic democratic element given the nature of the Quiet Council’s structure and formation. Krakoa is best understood as a combination of Monarchy and Oligarchy. The Monarch [Charles] establishes a puppet Oligarchy [The Quiet Council], which he assumes a major role on. Charles often makes major choices unilaterally, without consulting the council. This council was not elected and contains members such as Sinister, responsible for the genocide of the Morlocks and Sebastian Shaw a serial abuser.

Marauders #1, October 23, 2020 by Gerry Duggan, Matteo Lolli, & Federico Blee

The Marauders embody the anti-fascist slogan “outside and within”; both a part of these larger structures of power and yet operating entirely outside of them at times, both with and without the blessing of Krakoa’s elites. Anti-fascism isn’t all about bandanas and brick-throwing, so I’d like to return to the first mission of The Marauders, to distribute Krakoan drugs to vulnerable communities. This idea of “outside and within” is not just how The Marauders engage in acts of resistance, it also impacts how they provide radical forms of aid to others.

When it comes to providing much-needed material aid to vulnerable communities, there many examples of such work within anti-fascist organizing for us to turn to. And this aspect of anti-fascist organizing is very similar to the first objective of the Marauders that we’ve discussed, and that is to provide Krakoan medications to vulnerable communities. An example that many on the left may already be familiar with is the “Food not Bombs” movement, popularized by many anarchist and anti-fascist communities. The goal of which is to consistently host soup kitchens, food drives, and community potlucks within under-resourced communities. While not all members of FnB also do anti-fascist work, there is a significant overlap between the two. There are many other organizations dedicated to this type of work. Much like the Marauders, anti-fascists serve as both swords and shields to the communities they place themselves within.

Marauders #6, January 22, 2020, by Gerry Duggan, Matteo Lolli, Mario Del Pennino, & Erick Arciniega

In issues #5, #6, & #7 it becomes clear that Sebastian Shaw has formed alliances with Verendi. Like many anti-fascist organizations, the Marauders deal with the never-ending struggle of sectarian in-fighting. While it never gets as heated as Democratic-Socialists drowning members of anarcho-communist affinity groups in the ocean, a sizeable amount of time and energy is spent vying for new footholds of power when the focus should be on fighting oppression. Shaw’s plot to kill Kate, his choices of who he appoints as Black Bishop and Black Knights, and his constant attempts to undermine Emma, are all very similar to how some organizations on the left squabble and feud over things like, membership, titles, and power.

From  Jackboots to Pinstripes

We’re introduced to a group named “Homines Verendi”. “Homines” translates from Latin into “ people/mankind”, in this context, it means human. “Verendi” is the masculine, vocative & nominative conjugation of the Latin, “verendum”, meaning “awe-inspiring”. The title alone paints Verendi as a human-supremacist organization, evocative of many “pinstripe fascist” white-supremacist groups, like the Proud Boys. The Proud Boys have over time made them the darlings of the established right, unlike many groups of the alt-right. In fact, the Proud Boys’ notable assault [2018] on counter-protestors in Manhattan, happened at all because of an invitation of members of the Metropolitan Republican Club, a mainstream Republican organization.

Marauders #6, January 22, 2020, by Gerry Duggan, Matteo Lolli, Mario Del Pennino, & Erick Arciniega

Verendi and Proud Boys share aesthetics of class, building a “legitimate” image that contrasts the “messy” aesthetics of the left. Like famously punchable Nazi, Richard Spencer they present themselves as well-groomed, and well-dressed “intellectuals”, endearing themselves to far-right elites. As Emily Gorcenski states in her profile on the fascist group,Compared to the white supremacists they march alongside, Proud Boys enjoy comfortable proximity to the Conservative Mainstream”. Even at protests, they appear in collared shirts, cufflinks, and styled hair. They fit right in, rubbing shoulders with politicians and billionaires, masking their continued reactionary violence. According to their own official publications, two of four spokes of membership to the group require acts of violence. Their founder Gavin McInnes has openly referred to his group as “gang” on multiple occasions, defending members’ senseless violence. In March 2017, Proud Boy Kyle Chapman was photographed beating a counter-protester over the head with a 2×4, earning him a role in the alt-right mythology, “Based Stickman”. He went on to form the “Fraternal Order of Alt-Knights”, which McInnes refers to as the “military wing” of the Proud Boys on his twitter.

Gavin McInnes and members of the Proud Boys, Photo Credit: Stephanie Keith, Getty Images

More recently, fascists like the Proud Boys, Richard Spencer, Baked Alaska, Gavin McInnes, Jason Kessler, and their ilk have attempted to rebrand referring to themselves as the “alt-right“. It’s a clever bit of branding for sure, “violence fringe fascists” doesn’t quite seem too palatable. The alt-right, on the other hand, sounds like a contingent of principled youngsters who land a little further to the right of most party republicans. It’s a name that washes over their hate, their violence, and the overtly fascist goals they hold.

A common misunderstanding of fascism, as Robert Paxton points out, is the neo-liberal Western interpretation of fascism as a form of extreme “evil”, forced onto societies by a single evil individual. Fascist power comes from their ability to co-opt, manipulate, and navigate established institutions of power, while still assaulting marginalized communities at the street-level. Respectability politics allows them to systematically acquire and consolidate power, through entirely “legitimate” means. Mussolini’s march on Rome was a mere spectacle legitimizing his prior invitation to form a government. Hitler’s Beer Hall Putsch of 1923 failed miserably; it was only when President Hindenburg appointed him chancellor that he was able to seize and consolidate power, along with parliaments Enabling Act that granted him complete power. The US elected flavor-blasted garbage pile Donald Trump, and we may do it again.

“Wear a sheet get beat!”

Black Lives Matter Organizer in ” black bloc”, Photo Credit: It’s Going Down

The Marauders’ first mission is reactionary, much like a lot of anti-fascist organizing. This is not to say that anti-fascist politics are reactionary, but that they quite literally react to fascists. When a threat emerges, they rise to meet it, popularized in the Antifa slogan “ Anywhere they go, we go!”. In issue #1 Iceman discovers that on the other side of a less active gate, the Russian military has established a blockade around the gateway, which may be evocative of continued travel bans instated by the flavor-blasted bowl of bird shit, Donald Trump. Kate, Iceman, and Storm see vulnerable mutant refugees being policed and their rights denied, so they intervene. Their violence is never an escalation, but always proportionate. They fight to disarm and de-escalate. The Russian military is the one who escalates. The Marauders’ use of violence is tactical, measured, and defensive. We see a mission like this again in Marauders #4, when the team liberates a group of younger mutants trapped by their country’s naval forces. By issue #5, the Marauders have brought many dozens of mutants refugees home to Krakoa. Have real-world anti-fascists ever gone to bat for refugees?

The Syrian Civil War [2011] catalyzed the largest influx of refugees that Europe has seen since the displacement caused by WW II. In 2015, 1.3 million refugees from Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq, and elsewhere fled to Europe, in 2016, another 350,000. At least 4,812 people died attempting to cross the Mediterranean in 2016 alone. With this influx came a rise in nationalism & xenophobia. Despite the fact that economic experts stated firmly that the refugees had not caused a notable increase in poverty or crime, nationalism fomented into violence. As Georg Pazderski of the far-right Alternative fur Deutschland himself admitted, “perception is reality,…our citizens feel unwell and insecure“. This is another way that fascism solidifies power, providing easy answers to the anxieties of the middle and lower classes, jettisoning their explicitly racist trappings for dog-whistles about “scarcity” and “security”.

In the following October, nationalists attempted to burn down a refugee camp near Bostock. By July 2015, matters escalated further forcing anti-fascists mobilized to defend a refugee tent city from neo-nazi attacks in Dresden. One month later, the conflict reached a breaking point. On the evening of August 20, 2015, an attempt was made to burn down the refugee center. The next day, buses carrying 250 refugees into Heidenau (outside of Dresden ) were blocked by a thousand members of the neo-nazi National Democratic Party and anti-immigrant locals. Several hundred anti-fascists responded to a call to defend the refugees in what had quickly become a matter of life and death. Dressed in black and black bloc, they waited out in front of the tent city to defend the refugee populations from “nationalists” with bricks, bottles, firecrackers. A large number of refugees even join the black-bloc to defend the encampment.

In issues #5 & #6, a major clash plays out between Verendi and the Marauders, which reveals the synergy between various fascist organizations & mobilizations. Verendi has conspired to incite violence in the streets of Madripoor. Verendi has invaded “legitimate” political structures and demonstrated their flexibility to work outside of them. In issue #6, we learn that the Russian ambassador from House of X has a deal with Verendi, to exchange the intel gathered by the “yellowjacket” probe, for her supply of power-dampening technology, both in the suits that we saw in earlier issues and future generations of weapons. In issue #6, we also learn that they’ve made an arrangement made with the ambassador of Madripoor, Donald Pierce while simultaneously working outside of governmental structures, hiring fringe fascists like the Hate-Monger and the X-Cutioner to kill Kate and the Marauders, characters with long histories of ant-mutant violence. Their designs alone evoke explicitly fascist images like Klu Klux Klan hoods, which is even more vile when you consider the origin of Hate-Monger as a clone of Hitler himself. X-Cutioner, on the other hand, is a “former fed”, drawing on the familiar trend of ranking government officials having ties to the Klan and other white-supremacist organizations.

Marauders #6, January 22, 2020, by Gerry Duggan, Matteo Lolli, Mario Del Pennino, & Erick Arciniega

For a bisexual, Jewish woman to face these two is an intense challenge, one many anti-fascists and activists from marginalized groups face; putting your body on the line, in direct opposition with those who wish you harm. In the context of the comic, they’ve been hired to kill Kate. In real life, it gets much blurrier, but at times members of marginalized groups have been injured and killed during protests or actions where they stand against their oppressors. This is why even though Donald Pierce and Chen Zhao claim diplomatic immunity, Kate doesn’t get hung up on bureaucratic international diplomacy. Kate recognizes them as oppressors, intending to harm her and her community. She doesn’t take this to the floor of the UN or try to beat Hate-Monger in the “marketplace of ideas”. She fights them where they can’t hide behind the shield of civility politics, and that’s exactly what anti-fascists do.

On the night of February 1, 2017, former Breitbart editor Milo Yiannopolous, was set to speak at UC Berkeley. He’d become a major celebrity of the `alt-right, using his identity as a gay immigrant to mitigate his racism, misogyny, Islamophobia, transphobia, and promotion of rape culture. Students demanded the lecture be canceled when Berkeley officials announced that Yiannopoulos planned to “publicly name undocumented students,” much as he outed trans students at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, who were then harassed and assaulted. Shortly before Yiannopoulos’s speech, anti-fascists arrived at the demonstration and launched a quick but intense escalation effort. What weeks of advocacy, petitions, and “reasoned debate” couldn’t accomplish was achieved in 15 minutes. The event was canceled. Undocumented students stated that lives had been saved, as far-right students had made threats on social media regarding the students to be exposed.

Clashes like this catapulted Antifa into the spotlight. Despite a complete lack of historical or theoretical knowledge or awareness, pundits incorrectly concluded that anti-fascism was a greater threat to free speech than fascism itself because they refuse to provide an unchallenged platform for hate-speech. Pinstripe fascists leverage “free speech” to appeal to a mainstream sense of decorum—which they capitalize on to spread their hate. That position incorrectly asserts that anti-fascism is the only threat to an otherwise pristine state of free speech, safe-guarded by the government. The government already restricts speech. It restricts false advertisements, libel, and advertisements for tobacco products and alcohol. The government prosecutes incitement of violence, protects copyrights, and limits where pornographic images can be shown.

Journalists are regularly arrested and assault by police at protests. Trump’s White House restricts access to oppositional reporters. This is why the US only ranked #43 on the World Press Freedom Ranking in 2017 and fell to #48 in 2019. It’s why witnesses in critical trials against the police end up dead, an improbable distance from their home for some weed. It’s why the man who filmed police murder Eric Garner was the one who ended up in jail, while the killer cops remained free. In the 1960-70s J. Edgar Hoover and the FBI created COINTELPRO (Counter Intelligence Program) to shut down social movements through the spread of disinformation, bad-jacketing, infiltration, and even killing prominent members of the Black Panther Party, such as Fred Hampton. Which you can read about in the appropriately titled Assassination of Fred Hampton: How the FBI and Chicago Police Murdered a Black Panther. 

How Can You Help Your LCS?

Comic Shop Locator

When I first started thinking of writing this article just before lunch, it was going to have a lot of different ideas. But as with all things related to the COVID-19 pandemic we’re all experiencing right now, things have changed quickly. The news about Diamond ceasing distribution will have been shocking for a lot of you. After this week there will be no new comics for an undetermined amount of time.

Which means now, more than ever, you need to think about your local comic shop. As with all small businesses, they’re going to be feeling the effects of the shutdown – especially now that Diamond, the sole distributor of comics, has ceased distributing comics to comic shops for the foreseeable future. We’re certainly experiencing something as a society that hasn’t happened in any of our lifetimes, and so the way we shop and support our local comic shops have to change.

(I know that there are far more businesses struggling than just our LCSs, but as a comic/nerd site I wanted to focus on comic shops).

All of the following suggestions are subject to the health rules in your area/state/province. If you’ve been told to shelter in place, or are in either quarantine or self-isolation, don’t go into your comic shop. Do what you’re told by your government (regardless of its level). However, if you can leave your house, then ask if you can pick up your comics from the side of the road, or if an employee can drop them in your trunk. If the shop can deliver or mail them to you, then do that. If you’re fiscally able to.

That said, how can you help your LCS?

Third Eye Bonds

Pick up your damn pull list. Look, I get that it’s hard to get in to your LCS every week. But if you’ve got months of comics to pick up, pick them the fuck up. Your shop has ordered them in for you. Letting the comics build up over months is bad form. Not picking them, especially now, is really uncool. If you’re on top of your list, and I hope most of you are, then try and stay that way this week. Your LCS is going to need your support, so the least you can do is pick up part or all of your pull list.

Fill your want list. After this week, new comics will be in short supply. But you what they will have? Potentially boxes and boxes of back issues. Send your shop a list of what you want. If you want to save them time and effort, send a priority list of the comics you want and a maximum budget that you’re able to spend. That way the staff aren’t finding your entire list for you to only buy two comics.

Buy that book you’ve been eyeing up. Most, if not all, comic shops stock soft and hardcover graphic novels of various sorts. Whether it’s the classic book you never got around to reading, or something entirely different, now is a good time to pick that up.

Bored? Games. My LCS also has a pretty robust selection of board games, which can be a great way to pass the time. Ever played Zombicide? Elder Scroll? Forbidden Island? Scotland Yard? Many carry Magic: The Gathering. This is probably going to be a good time to invest in a game you and your family can play multiple times.

Pay in advance. So you can’t go and get your books for a couple of weeks. If you can, consider paying for them anyway. Think of it like you’re buying yourself a post quarantine gift of comics, games, toys or whatever other goodies you think you’ll want when this is over.

Waive your discount. There are a lot of shops that offer a discount to certain customers. If you’re one, consider waiving part of, if not all of your discount. It could be a small gesture, but at this time every bit can help.

Don’t shop online. Unless your local shop has an online store, most of us tend to think of Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and other online retailers. Yes, they stock comic book collections and board games. Yes, they’re probably a bit cheaper and are easier to get. But if you spend all your reading money there during the pandemic then that’s not helping your LCS.

Don’t read digital. It’s easy to say, but if you’re stuck for new comics, and publishers are still releasing them digitally… you know what I’m gonna say. Unless you’re the kind of person who will buy digital then buy the physical issues because you’re a collector, try and resist temptation. It will be hard.

This is an unprecedented time. You’ve heard that said a lot, and it’s true, and more than ever we need to find new ways to come together while also staying apart. I want my LCS to still be in operation in a year. I want yours to still be there. With all the months, years and decades of enjoyment, they’ve helped to give us, it’s time for us to help them.

Almost American
« Older Entries