Regular readers of this blog know that on any given day there will be an honest comic book review or a post that exposes the hypocrisy of partisan writers within the industry. If a book is good — like Renew Your Vows — I’ll say it. If a book is bad, like Brian Michael Bendis’ Invincible Iron Man, then readers will know exactly why. Certain Marvel scribes have tried to claim over the years that this blog is irrelevant, but a strange thing keeps happening to me: Writers and editors who I never even talk about block me on Twitter. That seems like an odd action to take for someone who is not effective…
Consider J. Michael Straczynski, for instance. I never talk about the man in my blog posts, never tweet the man, and in the rare events I have mentioned him in my comments section I have been extremely kind. He was the last writer on The Amazing Spider-Man who got me excited about the book after years of mediocre writing. He “gets” Peter Parker, and if it weren’t for weird “Gwen-rape” stories then I would have even more nice things to say about his work.
Why, then, did he block me on Twitter? Tonight I ran across his name in a follower’s feed and thought, “Hmmm. JMS. I wonder what his tweets are all about,” before getting Twitter’s classic “you are blocked from following…” message.
I tweeted, “I guess he’s not a fan of limited government?” before checking it out via another account, and what do you know? I was right!
Just like most of the other industry writers, J. Michael Straczynski is such a petty man that he turns First Lady Melania Trump into a vehicle to attack her husband — because it must feel so good to get dozens of “likes” or “loves” on social media for rage-tweeting.
Whether it’s Hydra-Cap writer Nick Spencer talking about the “myth of the good Republican” or ASM writerDan Slott telling Christian supporters of Hobby Lobby to go to “Christ-Land,” this blog has consistently called out their mean-spiritedness and hypocrisy. And because it has a growing number of readers here and on YouTube, guys like Mr. Straczynski have taken notice.
Given this latest development, I will once again reiterate to you, dear reader, that if you want to see someone expose the self-proclaimed “tolerant” comic writers for the intolerant ideologues they are, then you have come to the right place. And since Mr. Straczynski was so concerned about what yours truly might find in his Twitter feed, I will give it extra attention going forward.
Stay classy, Mr. Straczynski.
Exit Question: How long will it be before Mr. Straczynski starts using weird comments about Barron Trump to attack his father?
I recently said that I would withhold judgment on Superman: Earth One until it was given a comprehensive conservative review. I gave it a few weeks, and since it drifted for the news cycle without that happening, here now is my attempt to fill the void:
Superman: Earth One, written by J. Michael Straczynski, is a solid retelling of Superman’s origin. Part of this is because the story is so strong to begin with that any good-faith effort to preserve the most endearing elements of his origin can head off disaster. The other is because of Straczynski: he’s a professional. The reason why he’s had such a successful career is because even when he experiments with sacred cows (e.g., Spider-Man), he tries to be smart about it. This time around, the politics that riled up conservative media outlets are there, but there are enough bones thrown to guys like me to assuage a lot of our anger.
For example, Jonathan Kent, Clark’s father—the man who shaped his life—tells him:
You’re different from every other man, Clark. You’re more powerful than any other man in history. You’re unique in all the world. Extraordinary. Not just any man…and more than just a man…a Super Man.”
Americans have always viewed Super Man as a symbol of the country. The above wisdom, spoken to Clark as he receives the costume sewn by his mother, can easily be interpreted as making the case for American Exceptionalism. Substitute “America” for “Clark” and “country” for “man” and conservative comic nerds (like me) are right on board. As I’ve said before, The Rule of Law, Free Markets, Religious Liberty, Science, and an acknowledgement that our rights come from our Creator—not man or their man-made governments—fused in the United States to form the freest nation the world has ever known. Whether it stays that way depends on us.
Superman: Earth One does drop the occasional liberal allusion (e.g., the self-serving businessman who only cares about profits while people suffer, scientists warning of possibly catastrophic changes to the planet’s temperature who are ignored). However, more or less the comic avoids intentionally getting bogged down in politics. It’s really in the afterward, an “article” by Clark Kent where he “interviews” Superman, that an interesting conversation takes place. For example:
Superman: Lincoln said that the proper role of government was to do that which individual people couldn’t do for themselves. He added, ‘you cannot help men permanently by doing for them what they could and should do for themselves.'”
Clark Kent: Sounds like you are advocating trickle-down heroics.
Superman: Not at all. I’m just saying that until that ship [an existential threat to all mankind] showed up over Metropolis, everything that came along in human history to that point could be handled by average men and women who could rise to the occasion. But no amount of rising was going to stop this.
In this case I don’t want to waste time debating whether Straczynski’s analogy to supply side economics is correct or even appropriate. What’s more interesting is that the newspaper article is a way for the reader to see the internal debate Clark is having in regards to who he is and the proper role for Superman on the world stage. That is natural, and it’s a conversation that Americans have every day. As Thomas Sowell (the living legend) writes, we have a Conflict of Visions vying for our allegiance, even though many citizens don’t even realize it. The reader can ultimately decide if the following lines, tucked away in the interview, render Superman: Earth One unreadable:
I saw this documentary a few years ago about the British police force,” [Superman] says, speaking slowly and deliberately, making his point. “They interviewed a London bobby who said—and I’m not taking sides, I’m just repeating what he said—that American police enforce the peace, while British police create the peace. I like to think that’s why I’m here: to help create the peace by doing what’s right for people without trying to change them. Maybe that sounds naive, or superficial, but it’s the truth.”
Anyone who’s seen the student protests in England over tuition hikes has seen that the British police have not really created peace, but they have done a very good job of picking up rubble in the wake of ignorant socialist-kiddie temper tantrums… Regardless, I have an answer for Superman (i.e., J. Michael Straczynski), who says he’s not “taking sides” before doing just that: Yes, you are naive.
I would like to do right by the people of Afghanistan and Pakistan and large swathes of the Middle East, while simultaneously enforcing the following:
Chopping off heads when you disagree with someone isn’t acceptable. Attempting to down commercial flights in large metropolitan areas to make political statements will not be tolerated.
Civilized nations do not stone women to death.
Countries that make it “illegal” to be a Christian, convert to Christianity (i.e., allow religious freedom) are backwards, and they should be called out on it at every opportunity.
If your culture includes large numbers of individuals and community leaders who go ballistic over cartoons that offend them—and threaten to kill artists like J. Michael Straczynski over said offenses—it has problems and needs to be reformed.
With that said, Superman: Earth One also routinely returns to the idea that it’s important to have individuals who are willing to “stay and die for truth.” And that is a good thing. I may disagree with Straczynski over what the definition of ‘truth’ is, but at least his writing leaves openings for those who think he’s wrong to make their case. Buy Superman: Earth One for your kid, and then tell them why The United States is such a great nation.
Happy Thanksgiving, everyone. We have a lot to be thankful for.
From what I’ve read so far, it seems like conservatives are not reacting too well to DC’s Superman: Earth One. This is somewhat expected, given reports like this:
The creators also portray the new Superman as politically correct — refusing to become “an instrument of politics or policy” of the United States, saying things like: “I was raised in this country. I believe in this country. Does it have its flaws? Yes. Does it have its moments of greatness? Yes. Bottom line is, it’s my home and I’ll always carry those values around with me. But if I do what I can do just for the U.S., it’s going to destabilize the whole world. It could even lead to war.”
In and of itself there actually isn’t too much wrong with this statement. In a vacuum it’s actually rather innocuous. It’s healthy to be skeptical of one’s government. However, a Superman imbued with a liberal worldview would mean those very same comments are much more loaded than they appear. When conservatives see The Huffington Post giving rave reviews, it’s understandable that their antennae would be on moral-relativist alert. And after what’s gone on with Wonder World-Consensus Woman or Captain “The Tea Party is the New Red Skull” America over the past year or so, I can’t begrudge conservative comics fans for being on the defensive.
DC’s Dan DiDio wants to reach out to a younger audience, and that’s understandable. Marvel basically did just that with its Ultimates line (which I also don’t read). One theory on how to get new readers is by wiping the slate clean so the clutter that comes with decades of continuity doesn’t need to dealt with by first time readers. Understandable. Another way is by regularly writing really good stories with really good artwork —that actually come out on time—but for all intents and purposes DC is behaving rationally. If they want to write “Superman for Twilight fans,” as DiDio put it, then fine. I won’t buy it, but God bless them if the market rewards them for the decision.
My biggest problem is having a culture where our heroes are just as confused as the people who are supposed to look up to them. People aren’t perfect, but they can achieve great things if they have an ideal to live up to. If you expect excellence from someone they’re going to sometimes disappoint you, but they’re also going surprise themselves with just how much they’re capable of achieving—and experiencing a little strength and success has habit of becoming addictive to those who experience it. It would be more comforting to know that the stable of heroes helping to shape the minds of young people has a few men and women who could instill strong values and encourage them to dream big. A listless hipster Superman who attends Jon Stewart rallies, and whose ‘S’ basically stands for “Sub-parman” or “So What?”, doesn’t do that.
In this case I’ll reserve judgment. Anyone who is familiar with J. Michael Straczynski’s work knows that he’s a pretty creative guy. I’ll be looking forward to reading the first conservative review by someone who’s actually completed Superman: Earth One, instead of reactions to press statements, or excerpts from the book.