Today is International Holocaust Remembrance Day and inappropriately timed is news that a Tennessee school board has removed, aka banned, Maus from the curriculum due to “language and nudity” concerns.
Maus is the Pulitzer Prize-winning graphic novel by Art Spiegelman about the experiences of Holocaust survivors. The Tennessee school board of McMinn County voted 10-0 to remove the book from the curriculum to be replaced by another book that didn’t feature “objectionable” content. Maus is based on Spiegelman’s parents in 1940s Poland, their experiences of anti-Semitism, and their internment in Auschwitz. Jewish people are depicted as mice and Nazis as cats.
McMinn County Director of Schools Lee Parkison stated:
The values of the county are understood. There is some rough, objectionable language in this book and knowing that and hearing from many of you and discussing it, two or three of you came by my office to discuss that.
The word “damn” was brought up as an example of an objectionable word.
I’m trying to, like, wrap my brain around it. …I moved past total bafflement to try to be tolerant of people who may possibly not be Nazis, maybe… They’re totally focused on some bad words that are in the book. I can’t believe the word ‘damn’ would get the book jettisoned out of the school on its own.
I think they’re so myopic in their focus and they’re so afraid of what’s implied and having to defend the decision to teach ‘Maus’ as part of the curriculum that it lead to this kind of daffily myopic response.
English language arts instructional supervisors spoke out at the meeting explainging why the book was used in the curriculum.
Board member Tony Allman showed further ignorance by stating:
We don’t need to enable or somewhat promote this stuff. It shows people hanging, it shows them killing kids, why does the educational system promote this kind of stuff? It is not wise or healthy.
Allman apparently is more offended of reminding people about the six million murdered than the six million murdered. One wonders what Allman thinks about teaching the reality of slavery, and Jim Crow in the United States which also saw hangings and kids being killed.
An instructional surpervisor responded:
I was a history teacher, and there is nothing pretty about the Holocaust, and, for me, this was a great way to depict a horrific time in history.
Mr. Spiegelman did his very best to depict his mother passing away, and we are almost 80 years away. It’s hard for this generation. These kids don’t even know 9/11. They were not even born. For me, this was his way to convey the message.
Board member Mike Cochran stated in the meeting:
I went to school here 13 years. I learned math, English, reading and history. I never had a book with a naked picture in it, never had one with foul language. … So, this idea that we have to have this kind of material in the class in order to teach history, I don’t buy it.
We highly doubt that was reality and sure Cochran has no issue with the violence, rape, and murder that is depicted in the Bible.
The issue isn’t as it stands isn’t about dropping Maus for another text to teach about the Holocaust. It’s calling it “obscenity”, a slippery slope of a claim. Even the preacher of Footloose realized their mistake and what a slope that claim is. It should also be noted that no text has been suggested to replace Maus showing that part of the argument is dubious at best.
This is the latest example of book banning that is being pushed by right-wing provocateurs to make gains politically by stoking “culture wars”.
As has been shown, a dark money network is funding campaigns against “Critical Race Theory”, something not being taught in schools. This book banning is an off-shoot of that showing these pushes are about as natural as an oral bowel movement. The “movement” is being used as a wedge issue to whip up voters and by the right since they have nothing else to run on. It pits parents vs. bureaucrats (and teachers), a match that’s pretty easy to get traction on. The movement has been working for decades and continues the right-wing push to take over at the local level, first at the state and now even lower to get their regressive agenda passed.
The controversy and backwards thinking has just shined a greater spotlight on Maus causing it to sell out and rocket to #1 in numerous lists.
Al Ewing and Joe Bennett have been working together for the recent epic, and well reviewed, Hulk run Immortal Hulk since 2018. In recent months, Bennett’s negative behavior has begun to overshadow the collaboration for Marvel. Today, Ewing took to Twitter to speak out about Bennett and an image that has been making the rounds since 2017.
On Twitter, Ewing writes:
There’s an image doing the rounds that Joe Bennett drew back in 2017. I won’t link to it, but I have seen it, and it’s reprehensible. Thread follows.
If you’ve seen the image, you know what it is. An armoured swordsman, which I assume represents Bolsonaro given Joe’s commentary, slaughtering tiny, scurrying people, with the buck teeth and ears of rats. And big noses. One of them is cosplaying Dracula.
I’m assuming these are political enemies of some kind, but even if not, the tropes are apparent. Human beings as vermin being exterminated. Even if it’s no longer up, that it was drawn in the first place, signed, and so proudly displayed by Joe speaks volumes.
This isn’t the first issue with Joe that I’ve been made aware of. I’ve spoken behind the scenes, but that’s no comfort to people at the sharp end of this kind of brutal propaganda. My lack of public visibility on this has let people down, and I apologise.
In the interests of adding some material action to that apology, I’ve made donations to Rainbow Railroad and the Rainforest Trust. I understand if that feels like an empty or insufficient gesture for those reading this.
Immortal Hulk is done, but I won’t be working with Joe again. If people choose not to pick up my work with other artists in the future on the basis of my handling of this, I understand and accept that. If I’ve lost your trust, that’s on me.
I can’t speak for Joe on this. He can speak on it for himself. But I will say that it’s not up to him – or me – what those hurt by his behaviour in the past should be willing to accept from him now. He’s made his bed.
With all this said, I’m probably going to remain off Twitter myself for now, and not read or reply to mentions for a while. Again, if that feels insufficient, I understand. Thank you for reading.
Bennett has courted controversy within comics and out. Immortal Hulk #43 featured anti-Semitic imagery which was removed by Marvel after printing. Bennett expressed remorse over the art saying it was “wrong, offensive, and hurtful in many ways”. He also called it a “mistake”.
Bennett also has shown anti-LGBT sentiment replying with a laughing emoji to a transphobic comment as well as saying that a gay journalist should have been punched instead of slapped by a far-right journalist.
While Ewing has spoken up, Marvel has remained relatively silent. It’s clear Ewing is done working with Bennett now that the Immortal Hulk run is over but is that Marvel’s attitude as well? Time will tell.
Usually, when discussions of Immortal Hulk happen, it’s about the quality storytelling. This week’s latest issue made news for other reasons, antisemitic imagery snuck in by artist Joe Bennett.
The issue features Joe Fixit in control of Bruce Banner’s body. In the comic, Fixit buys some jewelry with a stolen credit card to pawn in later. In the panel featuring the crime, the store window says “Cronemberg (something) Jewer(y)” and underneath is the Star of David, a Jewish symbol. You can see the panel below and the sequence in a released preview.
The use of “Jewery” and the Star of David play into numerous stereotypes of Jewish individuals running the diamond industry. It also ties into antisemitic beliefs that Jewish merchants are shady people to do business with.
The scene has nothing to do with Judaism at all and there’s little reasons for any of it to be included in the background.
Artist Joe Bennett released a statement through Marvel:
I’ve been including references to famous horror directors to pay respects to the genre throughout the series, and in Immortal Hulk #43, I included a nod to David Cronenberg. The misspellings on the window were an honest but terrible mistake – since I was writing backwards, I accidentally spelled both of those words wrong.
I have no excuse for how I depicted the Star of David. I failed to understand this troubling and offensive stereotype, and after listening to you all, I now understand my mistake. This was wrong, offensive, and hurtful in many ways. This is a mistake I must own, and I am sorry to everyone who I hurt by this. I am working with Marvel to correct this, and I am using this lesson to reflect on how I approach my stories and my work.
Bennett has found himself in controversy in the past when he responded to a transgender joke about She-Hulk with laughing emojis and stated that journalist Glenn Greenwald should have been punched instead of slapped in 2019.
Marvel also stated that they “fully acknowledged this mistake was missed on our side as well.” They will be “correcting” future printings as well as digital copies.
This isn’t the first time antisemitic imagery has been snuck into a Marvel comic. In 2017 artist Ardiaf Syaf featured numerous references in X-Men Gold #1 to verses in the Quaran that are commonly translated as antisemitic as well as having the word “Jewelry” next to Kitty Pryde, a Jewish character. After that, you’d think Marvel editorial might pay a bit more attention to these sort of things making their excuse a bit more puzzling.
It’s been a bit since an author has really insulted comics and graphic novels as an entertainment and reading medium but yesterday, author S. E. Hinton went all in.
When asked if she would consider a graphic novel version of her modern classic novel The Outsiders, the author dismissed the idea. Hinton bluntly stated you read a book while you just turn pages on graphic novels.
A beyond insulting statement, it’s also a hypocritical one as The Outsiders has been turned from a book into both stage and screen as well as an audio adaptation. It can be enjoyed and consumed beyond the printed page, so, Hinton’s statement that there’s some special aspect to the book, that it has to be read, is betrayed by her past willingness to see it elsewhere. It’s possible she has since changed her mind about that.
There also seems to be a lack of understanding or acknowledgement of what graphic novels are today. Hinton absolutely helped continue to pave the way for young adult literature with The Outsiders and today, graphic novels are playing a similar role for a whole new generation of readers (and more).
The fact, in general, that a creator would look so down on an art form, something she herself experienced with her debut book, is at this point sad and beyond out of touch. Ironically, Hinton has released comic books having worked with Bluewater who later was re-branded Tidalwave Productions.
Hinton interestingly enough has since retweeted numerous individuals who disagree with her take on graphic novels and praising the medium and at times calling out Hinton. But, as of this article Hinton herself has not clarified her position or thoughts further.
Update: S. E. Hinton has rethought her opinion and apologized.
DC Comics has been teasing the upcoming The Dark Knight Returns: The Golden Child the latest chapter in Frank Miller‘s take on Batman. One image has apparently caused some issues.
Artwork by Rafael Grampá features Carrie Kelly as Batwoman throwing a Molotov cocktail with the text “The Future is Young.”
That imagery was seen as support to the Hong Kong protestors by some. Those angry took to the Chinese social media Weibo to voice their displeasure.
DC has deleted their posts featuring the image. This is the latest example of the “China” problem where major corporations bend to the will of the authoritarian nation. The NBA, Marvel Studios, and more have had to censure staff who have spoken out about in support of Hong Kong or in the case of Marvel Studios, change characters and add scenes.
A group of artists, writers, publishers, volunteers, and others have posted an open letter to Medium calling on comic festivals to stop accepting sponsorship money from comiXology.
ComiXology is the digital comic platform owned by Amazon and the group is concerned over numerous issues regarding that parent company.
Listed as to reasons why sponsorships should be rejected include Amazon’s labor abuses and the company’s hosting of Palantir the company that provides ICE with information to use in the arrest of undocumented individuals as well as surveillance against unions.
The group is calling for the comic community to “consider alternate sources of funding” and for conventions to make a “public statement announcing their decision” regarding future commitments.
Further mentioned is the singling out of CXC and Thought Bubble to sever ties, a public pledge to not accept further partnerships and transparency regarding sponsorships and money allocation.
Signing the letter are Aaron Renier, ABO Comix, Aim Ren Beland, Alex Degen, Alex Hoffman, Alex Nall, Ann Xu, Becca Tobin, Birdcage Bottom Books, Cathy G. Johnson, Chris Kuzma, Cleopatria Peterson, Colleen Tighe, Conor Stechschulte, Courtney Menard, David Ziggy Greene, Dean Sudarsky, Dresden Douglas, Eleanor Davis, Eli Valley, Elisha Lim, Entropy Editions, Ethan Heitner, Evan Dahm, Festival Workers Association, Flynn Nicholls, Frankie Johnson, Garrett Young, Gianluca Costantini, Gina Wynbrandt, Gloria Rivera, Ilan Manouach, Io Ascarium, Jack Hayden, Jackie Roche, Jade Armstrong, Jen Wang, Jesse Jacobs, Jesse DeNobrega, Jessica Campbell, Jillian Tamaki, Jonathan Dyck, Jordan Crane, J.T. Yost, Jules Zuckerberg, Julian Glander, Katie Fricas, Kevin Budnik, Kevin Czap, Kimball Anderson, Kori, Michele Handwerker, Kris Mukai, Kurt Ankeny, Lala Albert, Laura Knetzger, Laura Lannes, Laurel Lynn Leake, Leela Corman, Liz Suburbia, M. Sabine Rear, Maria Photinakis, Marnie Galloway, Melanie Gillman, Meredith Smallwood, Michael DeForge, Mickey Zacchilli, O.K. Fox, Paloma Hernando, Patrick Kyle, Phil McAndrew, Priya Huq, Rebecca Mock, Reilly Hadden, Remus Jackson, RJ Casey, Roxanne Palmer, Ryan Sands, Sabrina Scott, Sage Persing, Simon Moreton, Sophia Foster-Dimino, Sophie Yanow, Sunmi, Tom Whalen, Victor Martins, Vinnie Neuberg, and Zach Hazard Vaupen.
Marvel has refused to publish Art Spiegelman‘s essay due to a dig within it at President Trump where he calls him “Orange Skull Trump.”
Spiegelman, the creator of the graphic novel Maus, says he was asked to remove a dig at President Trump from an upcoming book by Marvel and Folio Society. Spiegelman was asked to write the introduction to Marvel: The Golden Age 1939–1949 which is out in September and was announced this past week.
Spiegelman’s essay touched upon how the young Jewish creators of the first superheroes created mythic, godlike, secular saviors to address the issues of the time such as the Great Depression and World War II. Spiegelman ended the essay with:
In today’s all too real world, Captain America’s most nefarious villain, the Red Skull, is alive on screen and an Orange Skull haunts America.
That was too much for Marvel who said they were trying to stay “apolitical,” and “is not allowing its publications to take a political stance.”
Spiegelman says he was asked to remove the sentence about the Red Skull or the essay would not be published. He chose to pull the essay. Marvel editor Roy Thomas will instead be writing the introduction.
An investigation is underway by the St. Louis Metropolitan Police department regarding officers who published “concerning” images and statements on social media. A police union has asked its members to post the “blue lives Punisher logo” to show support for those officers.
Clark seems to ignore the fact the Punisher is a vigilante who works outside of law enforcement and unlike police officers tries not to kill innocent individuals. In the comics, the character is a vet whose family is killed by the mob for witnessing a crime. He then seeks revenge in a one man war against crime.
The St. Louis Police Police Chief John Hayden released a memo that indicates he has a better understanding of the character. In it, he states the logo “does not coincide” with the department’s “mission to protect life and property and achieve a peaceful society.”
A project cross-referenced police officers with their social media posts uncovering racist and anti-Muslim posts implicating 22 officers. The city’s chief prosecutor has added those officers to a list the officer won’t take cases from.
The Punisher’s creator Gerry Conway has spoken out on the subject:
Whether you think the Punisher is justified or not, whether you admire his code of ethics, he is an outlaw. Police should not be embracing a criminal as their symbol.
The Punisher himself addressed the issue in a recent comic:
Marvel has been silent over the use of their intellectual property.
DC Comics has reached out to retailers and has canceled the Vertigo series Second Coming before the release of the first issue in March.
Writer Mark Russell Tweeted:
He said there’s already other publishers interested.
Artist Richard Pace followed up to Russell’s Tweet agreeing with how the two were treated.
Though a reason wasn’t given, it may be due to pressure over complaints from religious circles including a petition signed by over 227,000 individuals. The series was called “inappropriate and blasphemous” due to its use of Jesus Christ.
Written by Russell with art by Pace, the series followed the return of Jesus Christ who becomes roommates with the super hero Sun-Man. Jesus is “shocked to discover what has become of his gospel—and now, he aims to set the record straight.”
The series was to debut March 6 and Russell has written numerous religious explorations and is a master at intellectual exploration and satire.
Thankfully it sounds like the series will be rising from cancellation.
This is the latest black eye for Vertigo which was rocked by a previous scandal over the series Border Town whose writer was accused of abuse which led to its cancellation and the returnability of previously released issues.