Marvel’s zero-sum politics needlessly damage the comics industry

The partisan politics of modern Marvel Comics creators is a mainstay of this blog, but for the most part it is usually discussed within the context of whatever “red state vs. blue state” argument makes headlines each week. Today, however, I’d like to dig a little deeper into the zero-sum politics of these writers and artists. In short, they act as if any positive development for “Character A” means that “Character B” is negatively affected.

For instance, Tony Stark’s existence as Iron Man was problematic for writer Brian Michael Bendis’ to introduce Ironheart — Riri Williams. Normal people have no problem with a young girl named Riri flying around the Marvel Universe while Mr. Stark does his thing. That is not the case for Marvel writers these days. In the mind of the modern Marvel creator, Mr. Stark needed to be hurt or sidelined or have his reputation sullied in some way so that a minority female character could succeed.

This line of thinking has poisoned Marvel’s decision-making from the top down in recent years, and as long as it continues the industry as a whole will needlessly suffer. For more details on this, be sure to check out my latest YouTube video on the subject. Then, if you like what you’ve seen, be sure subscribe for regular updates.

As always, make sure to let me know what you think in the comments section below.

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Marvel CEO donates to charity, social justice babies cry over Trump link

G Willow Wilson
Marvel writer G. Willow Wilson believes company CEO Ike Perlmutter’s donation to a veterans charity linked with Donald Trump “raises more questions than answers.” Translation: I won’t put my money where my activist-mouth is because I like getting a paycheck.

If a man wants to know just how sad and bizarre the social justice crowd is, then he only needs to look at the reaction over Marvel CEO Ike Perlmutter’s $1 million donation to Donald Trump’s recent fundraiser for veterans. Yes, we’ve now reached a point where charitable donations now cause all sorts of hand-wringing among liberal kids over at Vox, Comic Book Resources, The Mary Sue and a whole host of other websites.

The Hollywood Reporter got the ball rolling Jan. 28:

During the event, Trump made note that Marvel Entertainment CEO Ike Perlmutter and his wife, Laura, will donate $1 million to the fundraiser.

“One of the great, great men of our country in terms of business and talent,” Trump said.

A rep for Perlmutter said: “The Perlmutters are thrilled to support their friend Donald Trump in his efforts to help veterans.”

The Perlmutters also donated $2 million to Marco Rubio’s campaign this season.

Writer G. Willow Wilson was publicly lamenting the news by Friday in her Tumblr feed:

Under normal circumstances, a CEO making a generous donation to aid American veterans would be laudable–and probably not newsworthy in and of itself. But given the concerns raised over the questionable way in which The Donald has solicited donations, and the fact that several major veterans groups have rejected his money, a lot of people have been left wondering: was this really a donation to benefit veterans? Or was it a donation to benefit Donald Trump? And if it was the latter, what does that mean for fans of Marvel comics? Did the money come out of Perlmutter’s private fortune, or did some portion of what you spent on your Marvel pull list support a political candidate who wants to deport millions of immigrants, build a wall along the Mexican border and require religious minorities to carry ID badges?

I have no easy answers to these questions. In an ordinary election cycle, I’d say that when the CEO of an entertainment company supports a conservative candidate while also fostering diverse creative talent within his company, it is a sign of a healthy democracy. Being a Republican is not a crime. However, this is not an ordinary election cycle, and Trump is not an ordinary Republican. The irony that Ms Marvel was launched on Perlmutter’s watch–while Donald Trump would like to prevent Muslims from even entering the United States–was not lost on the mainstream media, nor on me.

Rather fortuitously, I’m down in California on Marvel-related business at the moment, so I had the opportunity to talk all of this over in depth with a bunch of people who have been at the company a long time, and whose opinions I value. But after we talked, I found myself with more questions than answers. Can we separate a CEO from the company he runs, or the company from the creators, or the creators from the art? Should we?

Years ago the G. Willow Wilsons of the world were weirdly boycotting chicken sandwiches because the openly-Christian CEO of Chick-Fil-A held a definition of marriage that (gasp!) adhered to his Christian faith.

Today, writers like Ms. Wilson find themselves distraught because a hands-off CEO who lets them randomly turn Iceman gay and Thor into a woman happened to give to a veterans charity linked to Donald Trump.

Donald Trump wants to deport illegal immigrants. Donald Trump wants to easily identify refugees from the Middle East and North Africa because the men have this weird habit where they get together in groups and rape women.

No matter what one thinks of Trump’s delivery of the message, at the end of the day it has nothing to do with charitable donations that go to wounded veterans.

It is rather telling that an activist-writer like Ms. Wilson suddenly has “more questions than answers” when it comes time to putting her money where her mouth is. She won’t bite the hand that feeds because to do so would mean the end of a steady paycheck.

If I found out tomorrow that Mr. Perlmutter gave $1 million to a veterans charity started by Bernie Sanders, then I would not call for the man to be fired. I would think it was weird that he didn’t go through Wounded Warriors or countless other reputable organizations, but I wouldn’t wail and moan about what it means about “the creators or the art.”

Ms. Wilson says “being a Republican is not a crime,” but the reaction by she and her followers makes it clear that being a Republican is certainly a mind crime to social justice stormtroopers. 

A man is being called on to step down from his job because he donated to a veterans charity. This is where we’re at today, and the people who scream the loudest about Donald Trump’s rhetoric do not even have the self-awareness to see that they are his mirror image.

Editor’s Note: Check out Hube’s take over at Colossus of Rhodey.

G. Willow Wilson’s A-Force: Will Marvel put ‘the boundaries of diversity’ before good writing?

Marvel A ForceMarvel’s upcoming Secret Wars will bring about the end of The Avengers and start of an all-female group known as A-Force.

Marvel confirmed Feb. 6:

Marvel Comics is excited to announce the new group of Earth’s Mightiest Heroes taking over an all-new era with Marvel Comics’ A-FORCE co-written by G. Willow Wilson and Marguerite K. Bennett with artwork by Jorge Molina .

This May, beginning in Marvel’s Secret Wars, the Avengers are no more! …

“She-Hulk, Dazzler, Medusa, Nico Minoru and other fan favorites, will take charge,” says series co-writer G. Willow Wilson. “We’ve purposefully assembled a team composed of different characters from disparate parts of the Marvel U, with very different power sets, identities and ideologies.”

Given that the current crop of Marvel editors and writers tend to prioritize political correctness over sound storytelling, one has to wonder if A-Force will actually be a creative juggernaut or a forgettable mess loved only by feminists for what it aimed to do instead of what it actually accomplished. Series editor Daniel Ketch hints at the answer, and it is not good.

The Huffington Post reported Feb. 6:

“Marvel has always celebrated the diversity of its family of characters and creators,” series editor Daniel Ketch said. “This new series will unite Marvel’s mightiest heroines with the exceptionally creative minds of writers G. Willow Wilson and Marguerite Bennett to craft a story full of epic battles, personal triumphs, and heart-stopping peril … and an all-new character who will push the boundaries of diversity in comic books even further.”

If a character just so happens to break new ground, then that’s great. It is a completely different situation when the creative origin of a character is “How do I push the boundaries of diversity?” The probability that the project will turn into politically correct psychobabble increases exponentially with the latter scenario because a writer will usually compromise his or her character’s integrity at the alter of “diversity” before allowing said hero to enter uncomfortable places.

Regardless, Ms. Wilson assured fans on Friday that she wasn’t going to “create yet another amazon.”

G Willow Wilson TwitterMarvel fans who rolled their eyes at She-Thor hope Ms. Wilson and Mr. Ketch are telling the truth. If they are, then perhaps A-Force will be a comic worth reading. If they are not, then it will be another embarrassing stain on a company that employs men like Tom take-your-devil-dealing-OMD-“medicine”-and-shut-up Brevoort.

Exit question: Marvel’s Daniel Ketch says the company celebrates the “diversity … of its creators.” Really? How many openly conservative writers are employed at Marvel? Can he name one? Where is the Captain America book penned by a writer who shares Nicholas Irving’s worldview? Has there been one since September 11, 2001? I don’t believe so.

Marvel’s ideological diversity seems to include a very small spectrum of political thought, which begins and ends with people like Dan go to “Christ-Land” Slott.

Update: If you’re one of the people bashing me over at Bell of Lost Souls, then … thanks for reading! I find it strange that you have such animated opinions of me that you’re willing to share with your friends, but not in the comments section here…but to each his own. It is telling, however.

And for the record, my avatar isn’t Tyler Durden from “Fight Club”; it’s Mickey O’Neil from “Snatch.” It fits with my “bareknuckled commentary” tagline. Your insults aren’t as funny when you can’t even get those straight.

Related: Ms. Marvel Vol. 1: Like Kamala Khan, intriguing book doesn’t know whether to go big or go small

Ms. Marvel Vol. 1: Like Kamala Khan, intriguing book doesn’t know whether to go big or go small

Ms Marvel No NormalThe trade paperback for ‘Ms. Marvel Vol. 1: No Normal’ is out, and on the cover a Comics Alliance pitch reads “This may be the most important comic published in 2014.” But is that true? It all depends on how you define “important.”

Here’s what NPR had to say about Ms. Marvel on Oct. 16:

Consider the ways you could misstep in updating a classic comic-book superhero. Now imagine that your protagonist is A) female, B) 16, C) a Pakistani-American and, oh yeah, D) Muslim.

Could there be a tougher assignment? […] How can the timeworn superhero format possibly express the complexity of a modern teenage girl’s experience — all without objectifying her bod?

You can put it in the hands of G. Willow Wilson and Adrian Alphona, that’s how. Faced with one of the trickiest problems a creator could imagine — rebooting Marvel Comics’ decades-old heroine Ms. Marvel — Wilson and Alphona rise to it and burst through. …

Wilson and Alphona have written a comic for people who appreciate superheroes as icons, but don’t necessarily feel an ongoing emotional investment in their battles with the forces of evil. As such, the authors risk alienating the traditional fan base to zero in on a narrower demographic. Is it inevitable that an innovative female hero will have to draw her fans from this razor-thin cohort? To find out, stay tuned for our next installment.

Can a superhero comic book really be important if it’s marketed for a “razor-thin cohort” that doesn’t really possess an “emotional investment” in the battle between good and evil? Magic 8 Ball says, “not likely.”

Kamala Khan is actually a very interesting character, and writer G. Willow Wilson does a superb job conveying the trials and tribulations of a first-generation American teenager. Even her shape-shifting ability fits in nicely with the psychological tug-of-war that many teenagers go through, putting on a specific face for their friends and another for family. It is also incredibly moving to witness Kamala’s search for identity after she subconsciously uses her new powers to turn into Captain Marvel — a white woman — instead of Kamala Khan in a Captain Marvel costume.

Likewise, the complexity of Kamala’s family life is well written; her mother, her father, and her brother are all characters that readers will want to know more about. When a family risks everything to come to America to give their children a better life — and then those children frustrate or confuse them — how does that play out behind closed doors? What kind of conversations go on? Ms. Wilson deftly provides answers.

Ms Marvel FamilyUnfortunately, outside the intimate portrait of what it’s like to grow up as an immigrant in the United States, it’s hard to get excited for the book — especially for readers with limited disposable income — because so little energy is invested in “battles with the forces of evil.” That may change as the series develops, but readers without much cash to spare aren’t interested in third-rate villains from Jersey City — they care about bad guys who threaten to take down New York City. Oddly enough, Dan Slott does a good job highlighting the character’s potential in her team-up with everyone’s favorite wall crawler in issues 7 and 8 of The Amazing Spider-Man. (Perhaps Dan Slott should just stick to writing light and fun Marvel Team-up fare since more substantive stories give him a hard time?)

The title’s other weakness is its lack of nuance when it comes to addressing those with legitimate questions about Islam — even labeling such characters “concern trolls.” Lily-white mean-girl “Zoe” and lily-white meat-head “Josh” generally represent ignorance, intolerance and racism.

They can’t go to the predominantly black area of Jersey City without hand sanitizers.

Ms Marvel No Normal partyZoe is a vapid party girl who says Kamala smells “like curry,” and Josh (who bumbles around with a giant bobble-head), thinks it’s hilarious to trick a Muslim girl into drinking vodka.

Ms. MarvelThe two characters are portrayed as jerks for wondering whether adherence to Islam forces Ms. Khan to do things she’s not happy with, and then a few panels later readers see her openly resentful of the fact that women must sit below men and out of sight during prayers at the local mosque. She even sneaks out a back door, saying, “it’s not like they’re going to notice we’re gone.”

Ms. Marvel has the potential to be a great book. It also has the potential to be “important,” as Comics Alliance would say. However, at this time it seems a lot like Kamala, trying to find an identity within the Marvel universe. Right now, it’s a well-written book for a niche audience. If it aims for something more, then it’s going to have to make changes. If writer G. Willow Wilson is happy with where it’s at, then that’s fine too — but outlets like Comics Alliance should refrain from overselling the book.

Related: Marvel: We killed Peter Parker and ruined Tony Stark, but who cares — you now have Muslim Ms. Marvel

Marvel: We killed Peter Parker and ruined Tony Stark, but who cares — you now have Muslim Ms. Marvel

Ms Marvel Cock Knocker

Marvel comics has some interesting priorities. It allowed Dan Slott to kill one of the most popular characters of all time — Peter Parker — and has been dragging its feet on bringing him back ever since. It recently announced an embarrassing new origin for Tony Stark. Tens-of-thousands of long time readers might be livid, but Marvel wants you to know that it’s all going to be okay because this February they’ll be introducing … a Muslim superhero who has the ability to look a lot like “Cock Knocker” from Kevin Smith’s ‘Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back’? Weird.

The Outhousers reports:

Marvel announced to the New York Times that G Willow Wilson (writer of the short-lived revival of the Crossgen series Mystic) will be writing a new Ms. Marvel series starring Kamala Khan, a Muslim American teenage girl with the ability to shapeshift.  According to the Times, Khan idolizes Carol Danvers and takes up her original codename after discovering her powers.

Okay. Fair enough. Marvel gets to put out a press release and pat itself on the back for being “diverse.” Sure. But questions remain: Is this going to be a book on how all Americans are apparently fearful of Muslims, or will the superhero use her powers to save Muslims like Malala Yousafzai before they’re shot in the face and left for dead by Pakistani Taliban psychopaths? Or, will the book primarily just be about the struggles of a teenage girl?

The New York Times sheds some light on the issues:

Kamala will face struggles outside her own head, including conflicts close to home. “Her brother is extremely conservative,” [Marvel editor] Ms. Amanat said. “Her mom is paranoid that she’s going to touch a boy and get pregnant. Her father wants her to concentrate on her studies and become a doctor.” Next to those challenges, fighting supervillains may be a respite.

The creative team is braced for all possible reactions. “I do expect some negativity,” Ms. Amanat said, “not only from people who are anti-Muslim, but people who are Muslim and might want the character portrayed in a particular light.”

But “this is not evangelism,” Ms. Wilson said. “It was really important for me to portray Kamala as someone who is struggling with her faith.” The series, Ms. Wilson said, would deal with how familial and religious edicts mesh with super-heroics, which can require rules to be broken.

It’s really hard to comment on the book before it’s come out. I want to give Marvel the benefit of the doubt, but how can I? History indicates that they’ll go the politically correct route. Remember when Marvel wanted Spider-Man readers to know that Muslims are safer in Iran than New York? I do.

Let me set the stage. Something is very wrong in New York City. Citizens have been taken with fear, and they’re acting out in irrational ways. Spider-Man is working overtime (what else is new?) to keep the city from tearing itself apart. Cue Naveed Moshtaghi, a taxi driver and Iranian immigrant. Naveed’s vehicle is hit by an angry white guy, who then blames the accident on Naveed: ”He’s one of the terrorists. He wants to kill us all!”, says the aggressor. A mob is swarms around Naveed, swallowing him whole until Spider-Man saves the day.

At this point I’m willing to give writer Chris Yost a break. Maybe the “God of Fear” is really behind it all. I’m even willing to shrug off a narrator who begins, “Naveed Moshtaghi is afraid of the same thing he’s been afraid of for ten years,” (i.e., Americans are just itching for an excuse to bum rush Muslims post-9/11 to infinity and beyond), right before the story unfolds that way.

But then something interesting happens. All alone on a rooftop, Spider-Man tells the man he’s dealing with the crisis very well. Naveed responds: “I’m a second generation Iranian in New York City. Living in fear, that’s what I’m used to. What is happening down there, sometimes I think it was only a matter of time.”

Those darn white guys. Indeed, it was all just a “matter of time.” Maybe they were the same white Christian guys the Pentagon fears these days. Who knows.

Regardless, the point is, Marvel wonders why fans roll their eyes every time there is a new character seemingly invented for the sole purpose of throwing a diversity parade. Usually, those creations have less to do with adding an interesting new personality to the universe and more to do with beating readers over the head with a particular worldview. Don’t believe me? See DC’s Muslim Green Lantern.

Will I check out Ms. Marvel when it hits shelves? Perhaps. Although, quite honestly, it seems as though Marvel should get right with Spider-Man and Iron Man fans before it starts asking readers to fork over cash for teenage shapeshifters.

Related: Check out Hubes take over at the Colossus of Rhodey