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The Comics Are All Right: Now’s The Time to Be Political

greater_coat_of_arms_of_the_united_states-svgI began “The Comics Are All Right” feature to explore the inner workings of the comic book industry and give a take that’s focused more on data, facts, and examples, not opinion. And for the most part I’ve succeeded diving into actual sales numbers and trends, throwing out hypotheses as to the direction of the industry, giving examples of publishers and stores that are breaking the marketing mold, and more. And, I think I’ve done a decent job of staying away from opinion (Yes that is an opinion. The irony is not lost). But, this one is going to be opinion, sort of. Here we go:

The comic industry needs to get political!

Now, this particular column isn’t what you think it is. I’m not going to debate that politics and comics go hand in hand (they do and have a long history together). No, this is a call for the industry and publishers to become aware of possible legislation and policy changes over the next years and how it’ll impact them.

For almost seven years I worked as the Online Advocacy Director for the Entertainment Consumers Association (ECA). During that period we monitored legislation and built campaigns to allow video game consumers to have a voice in the political process about legislation and proposals that directly impacted them. At times those campaigns overlapped with the needs and wants of the video game industry itself. We tackled issues ranging from censorship, broadband expansion, a Supreme Court case, video games and health, Net Neutrality, broadband caps, and more. I’m proud to say, we never lost a battle.

The comic industry will face legislative issues (they always do beyond censorship) and it’s time we recognize this, and do something beyond it. Here’s just a sampling of what we’ll likely have to deal with in the years to come and why it’s important.

Repeal of the ACA aka Obamacare – The pay for comic creators can be pretty low and add on top of that a lack of benefits and it’s clear that eeking out a living as a creator isn’t the easiest or most rewarding career there is. Freelance creators are forced to purchase their own healthcare through the ACA, from a union, a spouse, or through another job. That first option is currently at risk with threats of a repeal which will cost an estimated 18 million people their insurance in the first year.

Our insurance system is flawed, that’s not what this is about, this is about ensuring an easy way for self-employed individuals to gain insurance, not be discriminated against due to pre-existing conditions, and benefiting women and helping with their choice of birth control.

A repeal would increase costs by either putting some individuals in a high cost “risky pool,” deny coverage outright, or increase out of pocket benefits. It’s estimated that women will have to pay $1.4 billion in copay for birth control for instance.

That’s less money in the pockets of creators. More freelance jobs needed to take. Possibly greater cover prices due to the need to charge more by freelancers. Decreased health. Less money means less traveling for conventions. Less interaction because time spent online is time not spent earning money.

Quality of life will decrease for those in the industry.

What this means is the industry needs to start thinking of solutions. A guild through which freelancers could purchase insurance or publishers offering ways for creators to buy into their offerings are both solutions. Now is the time to think this through before it’s too late.

Import Tax – The Trump administration has threatened to create an import tax, the theory of which is it’ll force manufacturers to produce items in the United States. I’m not going to go into the legality of this or how flawed the economic theory is (that’s for another post). Instead, if it goes through, the import tax won’t be paid by corporations, it’ll be paid by the consumers. That $3.99 comic will now be $4.99 or $5.99. Nothing changes except higher retail prices which equates to fewer items sold, stores struggling further, and publishers cutting back or going out of business. No one gains in this scenario, from the consumer through to the publisher, we’re all screwed.

Repeal of Net Neutrality – If you sell digital comics or use the internet to market, you should care about this issue. At it’s basic core, Net Neutrality is the concept that like content online should be delivered at like speeds (it’s more complicated than that, but we’ll stick with the basics). If Comcast offers you internet and voip phone and another service offers voip, Comcast wouldn’t be able to slow down the competitor to benefit their service.

If Net Neutrality goes away the internet becomes pay for play with content producers shelling out money making it more difficult for upstarts to get noticed. It would allow internet providers to outright block content and websites. It could slow down connections making it more difficult for creators to talk to fans, their publishers, or fellow creators to work on projects.

That’s not even getting into data caps.

The Return of SOPA/PIPASOPA/PIPA is online censorship. The legislation was first put forth in 2011 and threats of new versions rear their ugly head every year. We beat it once. It doesn’t mean we will definitely beat it again.

European Rules on Copyright Infringement – Lets not focus on a “what if” and instead focus on the now. A current proposal by the European Commission would adopt new rules requiring platforms to scan and filter user uploads for copyright infringements.

Want to share that cool art? Yeah, not happening. Want to upload a gif? Nope.

SOPA/PIPA was a similar plan and was defeated here in the US, but this is one that’s being discussed, today. As is, the copyright system and its tools are broken. The DMCA is used in ways it wasn’t meant to and the one hand doesn’t know what the other is doing. A rule like this is an affront to the rule of law and freedom of expression and if you’re in Europe, this should concern you.

Immigration and Travel – The Trump administration that has put out an Executive Order that has thrown our immigration and border system into chaos. Individuals are being asked to hand over their phones and unlock them even if they are US citizens. Not to mention the disturbing questions being asked and social media being mined. The EO threatens all of us, but if you’re a foreign creator or US creator (citizen or not) who has to return from overseas, I’d be nervous right now. Do you enjoy creators being flown from overseas to conventions? This could impact that, at a minimum.

Publishers, creators, and we the fans, need to organize and be aware. These issues will impact our enjoyment within the industry and the ability for publishers and creators to deliver. Now is the time to band together. Now is the time to build an apparatus to lobby and help speak on our behalf. Now is not the time to sit on the side and watch it all pass us by.

California Has Made Getting and Selling Autographs and Limited Edition Items More Confusing and Labor Intensive

2000px-flag_of_california-svgIn early September Governor Jerry Brown signed into law AB 1570, a consumer protection law aimed at fake signatures on sports memorabilia. The legislation has been the subject of a lot of chatter lately sparked by an impassioned blog post by Eureka Book Sellers. As usual, the discussion is full of hyperbole as to what the law does and does not do, and let me begin by flat-out saying it’s bad legislation that accomplishes little to solve the issue of fraud autographs.

Championed by celebrities like Mark Hamill (who we’ll point out make a decent chunk of change by selling autographs) the law does the following:

  • Expands the definition of “collectible” to mean an autographed item for sale in or from California by a “dealer” to a consumer for five dollars or more
  • “Dealer” is defined as a person who is mainly in the business of “selling or offering for sale collectibles in or from this state, exclusively or nonexclusively, or a person who by his or her occupation holds himself or herself out as having knowledge or skill peculiar to collectibles, or to whom that knowledge or skill may be attributed by his or her employment of an agent or other intermediary that by his or her occupation holds himself or herself out as having that knowledge or skill. “Dealer” includes an auctioneer who sells collectibles at a public auction, and also includes persons who are consignors or representatives or agents of auctioneers. “Dealer” includes a person engaged in a mail order, telephone order, online, or cable television business for the sale of collectibles.”
  • Whenever a dealer sells, or offers to sell, an autographed collectible in or from California, the dealer has to provide a certificate of authenticity at the time of sale. That certificate has some specifics that need to be met:
    • Shall be in writing (does a computer print out count?)
    • Signed by the dealer or authorized agent
    • Feature the date of sale
    • Must be in at least 10-point boldface type
    • Contain the dealer’s legal name and street address
    • The dealer must retain on file a copy of the certificate for no less than seven years
    • It shall describe the collectible and specify the name of the personality who autographed it
    • Specify the date of sale or be accompanied by a separate invoice with that information
    • Contain a warranty
    • Specify if the collectible is offered as a part of a limited edition and if so it has to say how it’s numbered and the size of any prior or anticipated edition. And if that’s not known, it should state that it’s unknown.
    • Indicate if the dealer is bonded or otherwise insured to protect consumers against errors and omissions and if so, provide proof
    • Indicate the last four digits of the dealer’s resale certificate number from the State Board of Equalization
    • Indicate if the item was autographed in the presence of the dealer and if so the specific date, location, and name of the witness
    • Indicate if the item was obtained or purchased from a third-party and if it was the name and address of the third-party
    • Include a serial number that corresponds any identifying number printed on the collectible item, if any. That should also be on the sales receipt and if that receipt is printed then write the number on the receipt
    • A dealer shall not present an item as a collectible if it was not autographed by the personality in his or her own hand
    • You need to post a sign close to where your collectibles are that let consumers know you need to provide them with a certificate of authenticity
    • Mail order dealers have some other things they need to do, especially if they advertise
    • If you plan on selling autographs at conventions you need to displace a “specimen example of a certificate of authenticity”
    • Consumers who don’t receive a certificate of authenticity with the above, or if it’s got false information, shall be able to receive damages equal to 10 times actual damages, plus court costs, reasonable attorney’s fees, interest, and expert witness fees. Plus the court can award additional damages
    • Dealers in the state must have a valid resale certificate number from the State Board of Equalization
    • A dealer may be surety bonded or otherwise insured for purposes of indemnification against errors and omissions

And there’s some things promoters need to do as well, such as warning any dealer about the above with specific language provided:

As a vendor at this collectibles trade show, you are a professional representative of this hobby. As a result, you will be required to follow the laws of this state, including laws regarding the sale and display of collectibles, as defined in Section 1739.7 of the Civil Code, forged and counterfeit collectibles and autographs, and mint and limited edition collectibles. If you do not obey the laws, you may be evicted from this trade show, be reported to law enforcement, and be held liable for a civil penalty of 10 times the amount of damages.

There are exemptions to the law as far as what a “dealer” is….

  • “Dealers” don’t include licensed pawnbrokers
  • An online marketplace that is not primarily in the business of selling, or offering for sale, collectibles, in or from California
  • The personality who signs the memorabilia

Get all of that?

Lets begin with the failure of the law…

johnhancockThe exemptions are the first problem with the legislation. The fraud that exists with online sellers through eBay is rampant and though there’s no numbers as to how bad it is, the legislation begs individuals to move their business online solving nothing at all in reality. But, eBay’s lobbyists are strong and their money flows regularly to California politicians. Check out 2015 through 2016’s donations and I’m sure the company’s donation of $15,000 to Jerry Brown’s run for Governor had no impact at all (and $5,000 to his Attorney General race). In general, the company’s donations to California’s politicians has greatly increased in recent cycles. When it comes to rampant forgery online, California elected officials apparently don’t care.

The exemption of the personality who signs the memorabilia is also hypocritical. I’m not sure if I’d really call this a failure, but there’s irony in the fact the celebrities who have demanded certifications themselves don’t have to provide one. What’s good for the rest isn’t good for them. And, I guess they don’t stand by their autograph, and as a consumer I wouldn’t trust any I didn’t see them sign in person. Autopens do wonders.

Finally, there’s already protections for consumers about fake autographs, this legislation really creates a consumer right to a certificate of authenticity. There’s already laws to protect against forged signatures. In other words, it’s not needed. Those who break the law by selling fake autographs will now likely continue, just with a piece of paper. There’s no difference in practicality of what was and what is when it comes to fighting this issue. Consumers had a right to sue then. Consumers can now sue now for the same thing. What is needed is for celebrities to file lawsuits, not consumers, put the onus on them, but then again, they can’t be bothered by providing a piece of paper themselves for authenticity.

There’s also the weird…

The legislation goes into defining “limited edition.” A consumer can request proof that the films, electronic coding, molds, or plates used to create the collectible was destroyed after the edition is up. It also decides to delve into the debate on “mint condition” to mean an item that must never have been circulated, used, or worn, with no signs of aging, and otherwise free of creases, blemishes, or marks. There’s no use of “mint condition” in the legislation other than to define what it is.

What’s the actual impact to comic dealers and comic creators?

For creators, there’s little impact by the legislation. They fall under that personality exemption so they can continue to go about selling autographs directly.

For dealers, the impact is much greater. There’s the signage that will now had to be had if they’re selling autographed materials in their store or their booth at conventions. In reality, the legislation is worded so poorly it indicates everyone that sells collectibles needs the sign, but I don’t think that’s the actual intent or how it’ll be enforced. If you’re selling autographed items for $5 or more you’ll need to provide a certificate and keep it on file for seven years. Yay more paperwork! I’d also expect more lawsuits by individuals looking to make a good buck. The fact is anyone can sue anyone and there’ll be a nice business coming out of this legislation potentially. Dealers should also be aware of any autographed items they’re purchasing, such as from Diamond, in that they’ll now need to provide a proper certificate of authenticity. I know autographed items I’ve purchased through Diamond in the past have had one, but they didn’t comply with the above.

For consumers, this is a good thing in that, in theory, it should scare off some sellers of forged autographs. It also means you get to keep a certificate of authenticity somewhere, so more items for you too.

The up in the air…

Since this includes all autographed items this now includes greeting cards as mentioned in Eureka Book’s post, something that wasn’t intended, unless that item is less than $5. Then “agent or intermediary” that is defined under dealer isn’t defined as well.

The bigger impact is signings in stores. If a comic creator comes to a comic shop and then signs items before leaving, that may fall under the celebrity exception, but maybe not? If the shop is selling the item at a celebrity signing, like what happens in shops, is one needed?

In reality…

The legislation is a failure of those who drafted and lobbied for it, but also a failure of those in the memorabilia industry for letting it get passed. This has been something that’s been lobbied for quite some time and went through the legislation process. Where was the comic industry speaking up about this when it was going through that? Where was our lobbying effort? We have a CBLDF, is it time for someone to look out for creators, stores, and consumers when it comes to matters beyond free speech?

The biggest reality is the legislation is passed and signed by the Governor.

What can you do?

You can still make your voice heard. Contact Governor Jerry Brown or contact elected officials in the State Senate and the State Assembly. Most importantly, pay attention at your state level to make sure you speak up before legislation like this is even passed.

The law takes effect in January.

Bruce Campbell Gets Political to Correct the Record

2016-06-08_1316Charismatic actor, author and now…fact checker, Bruce Campbell, star of the hit STARZ Original series “Ash vs Evil Dead,”  is setting the record straight on a photo that has been circulating falsely on conservative websites. Originally the photo posted to the left and in the Tweet below had been identified as a Trump supporter that was injured after meeting with liberal protesters.

In actuality, this is a photo of actress Samara Weaving in a make-up test for Ash vs Evil Dead.  Weaving guest starred on the final episodes of the first season of the hit series and had originally posted the photo to her Instagram and Twitter account on January 4, 2016.

Listen to Graphic Policy Radio on Captain America: Civil War (Part 2) on Demand

On demand: iTunes ¦ Sound Cloud ¦ Stitcher

Graphic Policy Radio talks Captain America: Civil War diving deep into the politics. Joining hosts Brett and Elana is frequent guest and Graphic Policy contributor Steven Attewell as well as return guest Amanda Marcotte. Marcotte recently wrote for Salon arguing Captain America is now an Ayn Rand acolyte. Attewell in 2013 wrote in Lawyers, Guns, & Money that Captain America is a New Deal Democrat. We’ll discuss both and more!

You can listen to the first part with Steven discussing the film and comics here.

Amanda Marcotte is a politics writer for Salon. In the past, she’s covered liberal politics and feminism for Slate, the Rolling Stone, USA Today and many other publications.

Steven Attewell wrote that article everyone quotes about Captain America being a New Deal Democrat and can tell you which specific New Deal jobs program Steve Rogers worked for before he joined Project Rebirth.  He teaches public policy at CUNY’s Murphy Institute for Labor Studies. He is the founder of Race for the Iron Throne.

Graphic Policy Radio on Captain America: Civil War (Part 2) LIVE this Monday

Captain America Civil WarGraphic Policy Radio talks Captain America: Civil War diving deep into the politics. Joining hosts Brett and Elana is frequent guest and Graphic Policy contributor Steven Attewell as well as return guest Amanda Marcotte. Marcotte recently wrote for Salon arguing Captain America is now an Ayn Rand acolyte. Attewell in 2013 wrote in Lawyers, Guns, & Money that Captain America is a New Deal Democrat. We’ll discuss both and more!

The show airs LIVE this Monday at 10pm ET.

You can listen to the first part with Steven discussing the film and comics here.

Amanda Marcotte joined the team for the third episode. Marcotte is a politics writer for Salon. In the past, she’s covered liberal politics and feminism for Slate, the Rolling Stone, USA Today and many other publications.

Steven Attewell wrote that article everyone quotes about Captain America being a New Deal Democrat and can tell you which specific New Deal jobs program Steve Rogers worked for before he joined Project Rebirth.  He teaches public policy at CUNY’s Murphy Institute for Labor Studies. He is the founder of Race for the Iron Throne.

We also want to know who you stand with! Tweet us your thoughts and questions @graphicpolicy.

Listen to the show as it airs LIVE tonight.

30% GOP, 19% Dems Want to Bomb Aladdin

Public Policy Polling is known for adding goofy/fun/trick questions to their very real polls. In a recent poll measuring opinions of Republican Presidential candidates as well as thoughts on recent issues, PPP added a question that has a lot of folks shaking their heads.

After series questions such as if Islam should be legal or illegal, or thoughts on the World War II Japanese internment, the polling firm asking if individuals supported or opposed bombing Agrabah?

Agrabah

Agrabah is the city in Arabia that the 1992 Disney film Aladdin takes place in. Yes, folks are willing to bomb animated cities to… well not sure.

If you think this is made up, the PPP tweeted about the poll, even pointing out the question:

Even emphasizing this isn’t The Onion, the satirical news site.

Being fair, the polling firm also asked Democrats.

Having fun with it, neoconservative Bill Kristol, an architect of the Iraq invasion, joked on Twitter bombing wouldn’t be enough, and there’d be a need for ground troops.

We’re awaiting the evidence of Agrabah’s WMDs before we have an opinion.

Politics Gets in on the Star Wars Fun

reaganmissilesStar Wars has an interesting history with politics. Announced in 1983, President Ronald Reagan announced his Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI), a missile defense system dubbed “Star Wars” partially due to the hype over the film series. Ironically, much like the Death Star, the technology wasn’t quite there (an exhaust port people!) and it would have caused massive destabilization in the philosophy of the time concerning nuclear weapons of mutually assured destruction.

When Star Wars: Episode III — Revenge of the Sith screened at Cannes in 2005, George Lucas himself said the film had similarities President George W. Bush’s role in the Iraq war. Anakin Skywalker in the film states “if you’re not with me, then you’re my enemy” which echoed President Bush’s “either you are with us, or you are with the terrorists.”

Obama lightsaberOur current President in Geek, President Obama has referenced Star Wars numerous times. To help promote bringing the Olympics to Chicago the President used a lightsaber to fence with Olympic fencer Tim Morehouse.

President Obama’s connection to Star Wars doesn’t end there. A petition asked the White House to secure funding for a Death Star by 2016. Receiving over 34,000 signatures, the White House response titled “This Isn’t the Petition Response You’re Looking For” brilliantly broke down why this request wasn’t feasible.

But, Obama’s White House and Star Wars connections haven’t been perfect. In 2013 during the sequester, Obama used the term “Jedi mind meld” mixing up Star Wars and Star Trek. The geeks set their phasers to stun with that mix-up. The White House made fun of themselves over it.

And during this year’s May the 4th, politicians, non-profits, and political organizations all joined in on the fun with Tweets celebrating this year’s “Star Wars Day.”

A little over 30 years after SDI politicians and political organizations again are having fun with Star Wars, and like every other brand out there, are using the opening Star Wars: The Force Awakens to look relevant or tied in to a specific agenda.

While I might not agree with his politics, I do have to give Speak Paul Ryan credit for this rather funny Tweet.

Canada has their own Prime Minister in Geek with the recently elected Prime Minister Justin Trudeau went to see Star Wars: The Force Awakens with friends from the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario and said the film was amazing.

Trudeau is an admitted geek having even attended conventions. Don’t believe me? Check it out yourself.

trudeau montreal comic con

The Texas Democrats sent the below fundraising email with the subject “This is the email you’re looking for.

Greg Abbot Death StarWe need you to join the Rebel Alliance today!

Our galaxy is under attack from Imperial Governor Greg Abbott and the rest of the dreaded Imperial fleet. You know, the ones who built the DEATH STAR.

Abbott’s Republican Empire isn’t backing down any time soon — but neither are we.

We have a brave group of freedom fighters leading the way. We need you to join us by chipping in $7 right now so we can win big in 2016 against Abbott’s evil REPUBLICAN GALACTIC EMPIRE.

Imperial Governor Greg Abbott has been using legislative fear and unbridled one-party rule to promote his evil agenda, collect millions from special interests, and slow down the progress of our state by freezing our heroes colder than Hoth past the first marker.

Help me, (redacted)! Donate $7 right now to show you’re ready to strike back against the Republicans’ dreaded Imperial fleet >>

The tide is about to turn.

As a Texas Democrat and member of the Rebel Alliance, you know that we’re a bunch of scruffy-looking nerf herders working to overcome the odds. We will never give in to the Dark Side: the force is strong with us and we will free Texas.

With a new hope, our walking carpet, and trusty protocol droid, all we’re missing is your support to take on Imperial Governor Abbott. Go all in today so we can clean up the Republican Empire’s mess:

http://act.txdemocrats.org/StarWars

May the force be with you,

Brittany Switzer
Digital Director, Texas Democratic Party

P.S. Let the wookie win!

US Rebel AllianceFinally, you can now join the Rebel Alliance and get involved in actual political advocacy! The US Rebel Alliance is a an organization that’s speaking out about big money in politics, the Empire of Big Money. The organization is looking to get big money, such as Super PACs, out of politics. They’re using the hashtag #maytheforcebewithUS to help promote their issue and organization.

This week the organization posted a video featuring Mark Ruffalo, Darren Criss, Brizzy Voices and more taking the “Jedi Pledge.”

That’s just a few examples, but I’m sure not all. If you see any more, sound off in the comments!

Prez, Smart Satire or has the 2016 Election Sunk that Low?

Today we have a guest post from Shaun Richman, a union organizer from Staten Island, NY. You can follow him more at his website or on Twitter.

Prez 1 CoverI can’t tell if Prez is a smart satire, or if American politics are so dumb that the 2016 campaign trail can be so effortlessly lampooned by a comic book. The limited series reboot of an obscure 1970’s title began publishing in June. Its first four issues have uncannily predicted a number of summer’s political lowlights. Penned by Mark Russell, the DC Comics book details the rise of a 19-year-old fry cook from Oregon, Beth Ross, to become the first teen president of the United States, through a combination of botched legislative manipulation, viral social media and voter revulsion against politics as usual.

In 2036, the media are dominated by the 24-second news cycle and embedded corporate sponsorships. Crossfire-style talking head debate shows feature real time thumbs-up/thumbs-down viewer polls with “winners” thusly declared. Voter turnout in actual elections got so embarrassingly low that the law was changed to count tweets and Likes as actual votes. Corporate interests have enshrined the logic of the Citizen’s United decision into a “Corporate Citizenship” constitutional amendment that had the side-effect of eradicating age requirements for political office. CEO’s wear hologromatic likenesses of their corporate logos when standing in for their corporations’ personhood. Corporations, declares the big yellow smiley-faced CEO, “aren’t players in this game. We are the game.”

taco-drone-panels-from-Prez-1-DC-Comics-2015Unfortunately for them, the game does require likeable personalities to win votes. But the most likeable – and most beholden – of the potential candidates are sidelined by scandals caused by their youthful indiscretions having been self-documented on Vine and Grindr. The two very boring candidates representing – eh, whatever respective parties they’re representing – run a humiliating gauntlet of YouTube talk shows, pranks and physical endurance tests.

It is here that our hero rises to the occasion…by cleaning the grill at her job for a training video. Her hair gets caught in the deep fryer, and her yokel co-workers post the video on Youtube. “Corndog girl” becomes a viral sensation. The “Anonymous” hacker collective (Glad those guys kept the band together) enter Beth “Corndog Girl” Ross into the presidential race. She trends and surges and…wins Ohio (Good to know the voters of Ohio 21 years hence have retained the sense of humor that gave us two terms of Jon Kasich as governor). The Electoral College is deadlocked and the election gets thrown to the House.

Prez02In the House, things go haywire as states trade their delegations’ votes for pork barrel promises (Colorado gets a naval base! Everyone gets a NASA!) and switch their votes to Ross to extract more goodies…except everyone miscounted and she accidentally wins a majority of the states, at which point she is promptly whisked away to prevent her immediate assassination.

The satire of Prez is awfully broad. Mark Russell dissects the targets of his scorn with a meat cleaver where a scalpel might have sufficed. Patients whose health insurance can guarantee them a hospice bed, but not life-saving treatment, are treated by a labor-saving animatronic “end-of-life- care bear.” The debate over whether food stamps recipients can be trusted to make “responsible” choices results in a federal contract for a Taco Bell stand-in to deliver tacos by drone to the poor. Perhaps this satire needs to be so blunt because it might not take until 2036 for these “solutions” to be debated on Fox News.

The comic has been oddly prescient at times. It’s hard to imagine that the idea of debates being settled via social media was the stuff of science fiction in June. Already, we have seen no less than four mainstream presidential candidates drop out of the race because their debate performance did not attract the attention of the Internet. Not one vote has been cast in a primary and yet four campaigns are over because the Internet yawned!

PREZ-3-3-f7e7b-932x1433Russell’s coup de grace, however, came with the third issue of Prez, where the smiley-faced CEO (NOT a stand-in for Wal-Mart as it turns out!) parachutes in to his hellhole of a warehouse to deliver a “rock star” pep talk to his miserable human drones. The publication of this issue eerily coincided with the New York Times’ devastating profile of Jeff Bezos time-management sweatshops at Amazon. “Every time a fulfillment comes in a few seconds late,” the smiley-faced CEO hectors his employees, “YOU ARE LITERALLY STEALING THE LIFE FORCE OF OUR CUSTOMERS!” And then of course he’s helicoptered away while that theme song of tone deaf politicians everywhere, “Keep On Rockin’ In The Free World,” plays him out. Of course, Donald Trump was this year’s ignoramus to pump his crowd with Neil Young’s ode to “death and crack babies.” Prez’s Bezos stand-in is, at least, is a lyrics guy. “What’s with that exit music?” he demands of a subordinate. “You ever listen to that song?”

That is either very well anticipated by Russell, or else such a piece of luck that, either way, should be rewarded by your reading this comic. The only real misstep has been the understandable assumption that the political parties of 2036 would strain for “boringness” the way that the Bush and Gore candidacies of 2000 did. Who knew that reality television and Twitter would so radically alter candidates’ performances so quickly? Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders relish their media appearances the way that Randy “The Macho Man” Savage relished his interviews with “Mean” Jean Okerlund before a wrestling match. Political campaigning will never be the same.

Beth Ross only just got inaugurated, which means that Prez is about to face the challenge of moving from criticizing the system to proposing solutions. This is where things can really go off the rails for the series. I, for one, will be disappointed with anything less than an agenda for “FULL COMMUNISM!” But this series is clever, relevant and wholly unexpected from DC Comics. It deserves more attention.

Sunday Roundtable: Is there a place for politics in comics?

JLA Roundtable politics comicsSunday’s are known for talking heads on television discussing and pontificating about the latest hot topics around a table. We’re bringing that tradition to our site with the Graphic Policy team debating tough topics in our own Sunday Roundtable.

This Sunday’s topic? With lots of discussion about the political themes of Captain America: Sam Wilson #1, is there a place for politics in comics?

Troy: I think most of the Big name Comic Publishers owe their block buster events to politics. i.e Secret Wars, or Civil War in Marvel. I think the stories that leave the most impact and spur the most discussion are the most memorable and enjoyed. It’s hard for me to read or enjoy any story involving the Shi’ar without considering the long-term legacy of colonialism and cultural syncretism. If a comic can help us orient our own political world, that speaks to its strength as a form of media in my opinion. How best to consider the limits of justice and the ethics of vigilantism, when we have years of rich Batman lore?

Brett: Yeah, it’s interesting that Marvel has almost embraced politics in their recent events. Even Dark Reign had a tinge of politics. For me some of the best entertainment, especially sci-fi, is commentary about the world we live in, in a fantasy setting. Not much of a shocker, but I enjoy when my entertainment has something to say.

mlp economicsDaphne: If we want comics to be considered a respectable and legitimate art form, I think comics have to take politics into account. Writers and artists have to be able to use their storytelling mediums as a lens for viewpoints and discussion. I don’t think EVERY comic has to do that – I wouldn’t expect to see a discussion about the .com bubble bursting in My Little Pony – but I think that if the comic is age-appropriate and it doesn’t detract from or ignore world building and come off as forced and heavy handed, adding a political slant can be very effective.

And it helps readers know which creators they want to support or not support, if they have those concerns.

Brett: MLP is the perfect place to have a discussion about trickle down capitalism! Just kidding.

Elana: But I’m pretty sure it does have gender politics

Brett: Very good point. It does.

I also think comics really had their roots in politics to start. Some of the earliest were political cartoons, which then turned into strips which commented on society at the time. They were a discussion of the haves/have nots and class. There’s a long tradition.

havok-16Troy: Now that I think about it you’re right Brett, I’d say a good 90% of the Golden Age (I think it’s golden age) comics were war or post-war stories. It makes sense for publishers to flow within that tradition. That said, I am of the opinion that there can drawbacks to this, specifically when a given political narrative begin to eclipse a given character’s voice. I think most of us remember Havok‘s infamous “M-word” speech from Uncanny Avengers Vol.1 issue #5. As well as Wanda’s sentiments on minorities soon after. For me those initially felt somewhat shoehorned and not consistent with character…..but then I had to remember Havok is a Caucasian blonde haired blue eyed mutant. And perhaps sentiments on mutant identity aren’t so uniform. Still this dilemma of political narrative and voice stands on a very thin line.

Do you see any other drawbacks to how or perhaps when politics are deployed in comic narratives Brett?

Brett: Really good question. To me the drawback is if it takes you out of the narrative. But, that’s a sign of bad writing to me. Some of the best is when you don’t even realize there’s politics in it. Thinking out of comics, Star Trek was amazing at that. Then when, I don’t think there’s ever an issue. If it works, and fits, then go with it.

Joe: I absolutely think there is a place for politics in comics. Comics are no longer pure entertainment or relegated to the “funny pages”. They have graduated to modern literary art. I think no topic should be off limits in a comic book. I enjoy when they make social commentary, whether I agree with the view or not. That is how you keep new ideas in constant flux. I don’t agree with the new storyline for Captain America personally, but I can appreciate it’s value for readers and fans.

Blondie-and-Dagwood1Brett: But weren’t even the “funny pages” political? Blondie and Dagwood was as much about marriage dynamic as it was the laughs.

Joe: Guess I never thought of that. Great point sir.

Brett: Family Circus is very conservative in its values. I will say, I might have trouble arguing Garfield is political, so there are some that are straight entertainment, as there should be.

thanos recycleDaphne: And not every comic has to be! Some comics would absolutely not work with a political slant. Mutts having comics about adopting shelter animals and getting pets neutered makes sense because it’s focused so heavily on the lives of house pets. But taking a detour in the middle of Guardians of the Galaxy so Thanos can remind us to conserve water by turning off the faucet when we brush our teeth would be awful.

Alex: The idea of Thanos giving a conservation speech made me choke.

Joe: Hahahaha!

Elana: Isn’t that the point of our site? And even the absence of politics is political.

Alex: For me, whether I think about it or not – and I didn’t until recently, comics and politics go together like peanut butter and jam (yes I said jam, not jelly, I’m English!).

Just take a look at the newspapers the day after the Canadian federal election where Justin Trudeau won a Liberal majority – there were some fantastic single panel comics that said more with a handful of words and an image than a full essay could have hoped too (I’m thinking specifically of the “just imagine if he was ready” comic).

Brett: Very good points everyone. Now, you the readers, what do you think? Sound off in the comments below!

Everything is Not Awesome for Sen. Ron Johnson

The_Lego_Movie_posterSen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) is definitely not a fan of The Lego Movie. The Senator spoke with WisPolitics after addressing members of the Milwaukee Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce.

At the meeting with the MMCC, he spoke on topics ranging from “Cuba to regulatory relief.” So, how did The Lego Movie come into this?

According to the United States Senator, the movie is an example of Hollywood propaganda that business is bad and government is good. That opinion was derived from a Wall Street Journal article written by Doug Haugh. Haugh is the President of Mansfield Oil Company.

Johnson said to WisPolitics:

He lamented what he called a “cultural attitude” that “government is good and business is bad,” giving as an example the animated “LEGO” movie, in which the villain is called “Lord Business.”

“That’s done for a reason,” Johnson said. “They’re starting that propaganda, and it’s insidious.”

This nothing new about how some viewed the movie. Many conservatives took to their platforms to blast the film for being ant-capitalist. It can also be argued that the film is about individuality, something conservatives also claim to champion…. so, yeah.

How far has this all gone? The Senator has responded on his official United States Senate website.

The strange thing isn’t that a kids’ movie was anti-business, it is that someone claiming to be a journalist never encountered the idea before.

The Senator faces a tough reelection campaign where he’ll face former Wisconsin Senator Russ Feingold. Johnson defeated Feingold in 2010. I’m pretty sure he doesn’t have the vote of Lego fans after this.

 

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