With the country still in shock and the civilized part outraged by the events this past weekend in Charlottesville, Virginia many have wondered what they can do about the domestic terrorists that plague our nation. While they might hide behind labels such as “alt-right,” the triumvirate of White Supremacists/Nationalists, KKK, and Nazis are exactly that, domestic terrorists responsible for the murder of Heather Heyer and injury of 19 others.
The comic industry does what it does best in these situations, hashtag their way to involvement while ignoring their own numerous issues in their backyard that involves creators, fans, the press, and the publishers that enable it all.
Not even a month ago we ran a story about a comic about
white “American nationalist” Kyle “Based Stick Man” Chapman being created with quite a few “mainstream” creators who publically haven’t seem to be condemned for their involvement. Mike Baron, Donald Jackson, Rick Miller, Brett R. Smith, and Mort Todd have escaped in their involvement mainstreaming through propaganda a comic an individual who sided with those domestic terrorists this weekend. These five individuals aren’t conservatives in the industry, these are five individuals who are working with a racist that’s on the radar of both the Anti-Defamation League and Southern Poverty Law Center. They are aiding and abetting a racist.
Brett R. Smith went so far to call it a “war”:
This is not only a culture war, this is war. The highest form of warfare is to subvert the culture because you don’t have to raise a standing army. We’re never going to change the culture from Washington. We’re going to do it from comics, from movies.
And, I’m sure Smith will suffer no consequences for his comments continuing to get work much like the other deplorables in the industry have been protected in the name of “free speech,” “art,” or whatever other excuse is in vogue for the week. I’m sure some creators will brush this entire post off as “mob justice” with an agenda (there is one, fuck Nazis).
But should we be surprised by the industry’s inaction? No. It’s the latest in a long string of instances where publically we’re told “diversity” and “inclusion” but those words ring hallow as behind the scenes reality is anything but. The industry still makes money off of material that called “art” and “challenging” (ex. Image’s Airboy and Divided States of Hysteria) but in reality is the same edginess that makes the Fryer’s Roast still a thing. It’s a bygone mindset that hasn’t been “in vogue” for decades now. They profit off of it catering to a dying breed of “cis het white males” that are the same cesspool that gave us things like GamerGate, Trump, and Charlottesville.
Beyond a few creators, the industry has been silent about the above comic and outright defends insensitive material not realizing you can defend it’s right to be published and condemn the content at the same time. Instead those (often marginalized groups and individuals) raising concerns are dismissed instead of being listened to with creators rallying the wagons around in defense in the name of “art.” But how many creators will refuse to work with the above? How many publishers? How many conventions will not invite them? When push comes to shove few creators really act on their convictions instead settling for a few Tweets of support.
But, one doesn’t have to look far to understand why this is the case. The industry still sees those cis het white males as their customers.
Marvel Comics made news when a quote by their Vice President of Sales David Gabriel was taken out of context:
What we heard was that people didn’t want any more diversity,” Gabriel told ICv2. “They didn’t want female characters out there. That’s what we heard, whether we believe that or not … We saw the sales of any character that was diverse, any character that was new, our female characters, anything that was not a core Marvel character, people were turning their nose up against. That was difficult for us because we had a lot of fresh, new, exciting ideas that we were trying to get out and nothing new really worked.
“What Marvel has heard” has led the publisher to rethink their sales slump and return to a “core” and “traditional” set of their characters, mainly “cis white and male.” What few seem to connect is this same narrative is the one that has plagued the video game industry for years now and gave rise to GamerGate. Video game companies were catering to “social justice warriors” by making their stories and characters more diverse. In reality one can easily argue those same companies are instead positioning their releases for a broader worldwide market. Where in video games there was a name for this neolithic and backwards movement, in comics it hasn’t revolved around a hashtag instead being push as a narrative by fans, stores, and even the a duped media who while discussing “sales” push the narrative that diversity doesn’t sell.
For months the narrative has been the same, the industry’s (re Marvel and DC) sales have been in a decline during the period they have attempted to diversufy their characters and much slower the creators. Though sales numbers are incomplete and often off by thousands (something I’ve confirmed directly with creators) a lack of deep dives into market trends, changing consumption rates, shifting business models, broken distribution systems, keeps the narrative focused on “numbers” and “diversity” playing into the regressive fan narrative. Further when pointing to sales years ago without further insight can only lead one to a conclusion that those backwards looking individuals must be right. There is no counterpoint only flawed numbers.
But beyond the sales, lack of condemnation, there’s a simmering acceptance of articles and discussions that don’t get called out for what they are.
The launch of Wonder Woman pivoted from the success of a female led superhero film to a discussion as to whether actress Gal Gadot was “white.” Numerous sites ran think pieces on the debate while little was dedicated to the anti-Semitic nature of the discussion as a whole and it playing into the Nazi/KKK/white supremicist narrative. In an industry founded be Jewish individuals, Jack Kirby, Stan Lee, Joe Simon, Will Eisner, the cluelessness within the “comic community” over the discussion was astounding. Argue Gal Gadot isn’t white you’re reinforcing racists beliefs that Jews are “other.” Argue Gal Gadot is white and you’re reinforcing racists beliefs that Jews “blend in” and are “sneaky.” So maybe it’s best to not even have the discussion let alone have it run on (formaly) reputable sites? But, that’s rarely, if ever, brought up. Instead the discussion as a whole is treated as a valid one to have and it reinforces a belief of racists.
But should we be shocked by any of this? A publisher can’t even condemn the use of their character’s iconography by racists a simple act that even the Detroit Red Wings were able to do.
In an industry that was founded as a haven for individuals that couldn’t get work due to their gender, skin, or religion, and whose earliest works challenged the status quo championing a progressive outlook, we’ve slipped over its 100 years of existence.
It’s time to remember our roots and practice the lessons taught by the champions we love on the pages. We don’t need hashtags, we need real heroes who will stand up.