Many years from now there will be business courses on Marvel Comics’ bizarre decision to demonize large swathes of its fanbase as a means of securing sales. Common sense tells objective observers that Marvel’s downward sales trajectory is tied to hostility towards the fans, and yet guys like Stephen Wacker, VP for Current Series and Development, continue to double and triple down on insulting loyal customers.
As has been said before, the “House of Ideas” has become the “House of Ideologues,” but if you need further evidence then check out my latest YouTube video. Mr. Wacker declared victory over the fans in a war that he has cooked up in his own mind, but he did so while preemptively blocking yours truly on Twitter.
Indeed, I am so utter defeated by men like Stephen Wacker and the Marvel’s Gate cult that I must be blocked from seeing what the victor is up to on social media. Never mind the fact that I have never made contact with him on the platform, either directly or indirectly.
Anyway, check out the video, subscribe if the format is up your alley, and make sure to leave your two cents in the comments section below. Unlike Mr. Wacker, I want to hear what you have to say.
Joe Quesada, Chief Creative Officer of Marvel Entertainment, took to Tumblr on Friday night to bemoan the way comic industry “professionals” are treated by fans. He played the world’s smallest violin for people like Steve Wacker, Dan Slott, Mark Waid, Erik Larsen, Gail Simone and countless others who say incredibly nasty things via their social media accounts. When confronted about his silence on the despicable behavior of his buddies, he chose to play dumb.
“It has never ceased to amaze me how some people, in defense of their favorite fictional characters or stories, treat creators and each other, flesh and blood people living actual lives with actual feelings and families, with such disrespect and cruelty as though they were two-dimensional, fictional villains who merely exist on a page or the imagination.”
A fan then called him out on the laughable attempt to play the victim.
Joe Quesada’s response: What you talkin’ about Willis?
I don’t know what inexcusable behavior you’re referring to, but I known that they all love this medium and the fans as well. I see them at conventions and online, they’re giving of their time, funny, even cheeky at times, even when provoked in horrible ways. But, I’ve never known them to behave inexcusably.
Let’s take a trip down memory lane just for Joe, shall we?
Note: I’m pretty sure that if a group of mostly Jewish individuals won a court case and I told them to go to “Jew-Land,” Dan Slott would find that rather repugnant. The same goes for a request to go to “Muslim-Land” to a group of Muslims. But hey, Mr. Quesada has “never known” Dan Slott to behave inexcusably.
Moving on, we have Erik Larsen last year letting all his Christian fans know just what he thinks of their faith by posting an Easter bunny ejecting bloody eggs out of its butt, which then hatched different versions of Jesus. But again, Mr. Quesada has “never” known comic book industry “professionals” to behave inexcusably.
What about if you’re a conservative comic book fan? How do writers and artists comport themselves online, then? Since Mr. Quesada has “never” known creators to behave inexcusably, let’s see a snapshot of Mark Waid’s online behavior. Ah yes, he wants Republicans to go “f**k themselves.” How quaint.
Speaking of conservatives, how many conservatives work with Joe Quesada? I know he likes to talk about diversity, but I seem to have trouble finding one comic book writer employed at Marvel who is openly conservative. I guess ideological diversity doesn’t count.
I can go on and on, but since Mr. Quesada struggled to find comic book industry “professionals” acting inexcusably I’ll even add in an example from Gail Simone. Apparently it’s okay to start resorting to personal attacks against combat veterans if they disagree with Ms.Simone’s politics.
If I called Ms. Simone a “walnut-brained woolly mammoth” over a disagreement on politics or comics, I suppose Mr. Quesada would lecture me on how I need to treat her like “flesh and blood” with “actual feelings.” We all know that he won’t give that lecture to Ms. Simone, though — he agrees with her politics.
Here’s the bottom line: At Marvel, tolerance, tact and understanding are all part of a one-way street.
If you agree with them on politics or the creative direction of their books, then they’ll laugh and giggle and chortle along with you all day long. If you happen to think that young women who work the late shift at a hospital should be able to carry a handgun, then things start to change. If you think having Peter Parker make a deal with the devil goes against everything the character stands for, then it’s a different story. Steve Wacker and Dan Slott and Tom Brevoort and the whole Marvel crew can make smarmy, condescending cracks in your direction all day long, but if you’re a smart guy who has a few intellectual nuclear warheads in your back pocket, then suddenly you need to be concerned about “feelings” and “families.”
Joe Quesada is the guy who burns bridges and then berates fans for not making those bridges out of stronger material in the first place. Joe Quesada is the guy who eggs on his buddies to act like bullies, and then when fans give them a verbal beat-down he gives lectures on inflammatory rhetoric. The brown-nosing comic book and entertainment “journalists” who will do anything to cozy up to a few Marvel writers and artists may not call out inappropriate behavior, but bloggers will.
Keep playing dumb, Mr. Quesada. Keep going with the Arnold Jackson “What you talkin’ about Willis?” strategy. This isn’t 1990. The digital trail doesn’t go cold very quickly, and bloggers are always ready to chronicle your hypocrisy. If you want to know why you’re not treated with respect by countless fans — or why the comic book industry is a shadow of its former self — all you have to do is look in the mirror.
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.
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?
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.”
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.
Anyone who has read George Orwell’s ‘1984’ is familiar with the Ministry of Truth and its “memory holes,” those fabulous tubes that get rid of pesky realities for the good of The Party. Anyone who has ever frequented the Spider-Man section of the Marvel message boards for any length of time knows that Ministry of Truth is alive and well, deleting comments that draw metaphorical blood from the monster that is Superior Spider-Man — or its creator Dan Slott.
Lucky, the Brotherhood exists … and proof of it can been seen in the search engine terms being used online each day by countless Peter Parker fans.
War is Peace. Freedom is Slavery. Ignorance is Strength. Doctor Octopus is Spider-Man. It doesn’t have to be that way.
This blog is on pace to have roughly 25,000 page views for the month of July. The individuals who get here search any number of topics, from liquid fluoride thorium reactors to Navy SEALS, weightlifting advice to the national debt. However, readers also get here because they care about the character Spider-Man. I have taken one search result from each day this month in order to highlight what many Spider-Man fans are thinking:
July 31: “Is Peter Parker coming back?”
July 30: “When will Superior Spider-Man end?”
July 29: “Dan Slott should be fired”
July 28: “Will Peter Parker return?”
July 27: “Superior Spider-Man ending”
July 26: “Dan Slott is an asshole”
July 25: “Why Dan Slott ruined Spider-Man”
July 24: “Dan Slott is an asshole”
July 23: “Bring back Peter Parker”
July 22: “Will Peter Parker return as Spider-Man?”
July 21: “Dan Slott sucks”
July 20: “Fire Dan Slott Superior Spider-Man”
July 19: “Superior Spider-Man people are pissed”
July 18: “Can Marvel make Spider-Man good again?”
July 17: “Bring back Peter Parker”
July 16: “Why Dan Slott doesn’t want Peter Parker returns?”
July 15: “Dan Slott hates Peter Parker”
July 14: “Bring back Peter Parker”
July 13: “Dan Slott sucks”
July 12: “Why does everyone hate Dan Slott now?”
July 11: “When is Superior Spider-Man ending?”
July 10: “Bring back Peter Parker”
July 09: “I hate the Superior Spider-Man”
July 08: “When is superior spider-man going to end?”
July 07: “Idiots killed off Spider-Man”
July 06: “Sick of Superior Spider-Man”
July 05: “The Superior Spider-Man sucks ass”
July 04: “Will Peter Parker come back?”
July 03: “When is Peter Parker coming back?”
July 02: “Will Peter Parker come back?”
July 01: “I hate Dan Slott”
Here is a screenshot from the July 21 to give you an idea of what WordPress bloggers see on the back end. (Side note: I love that people are now searching ‘Harold and Kumar Get Droned’ because it was a piece of satire I wrote on Kal Penn’s hypocrisy that appears to have taken on a life of its own).
These are only a fraction of the search terms available, but even if I included the others a pattern becomes clear: There are a lot of dissatisfied fans out there who want Peter Parker back and many of them are not happy with Dan Slott.
Search Engine stats tell us exactly why the moderator for the Marvel boards has a penchant for deleting posts when they come from someone who might be perceived as Dan Slott’s intellectual “superior.” Search engine stats tell us why Dan Slott must turn to the moderators at Comic Book Resources and ask them to shut down the debate when he can’t goad guys like me into saying something that would get us banned.
“This whole topic has become abhorrent. Can the mods please close this thread? This has already gotten far more attention than it deserves,” (Dan Slott)
Search Engines stats are why the moderator at Newsarama shut me down — and then shut down all comments when strangers came to my defense.
And finally, search engines give us a clue as to why, perhaps, Dan Slott was a no-show at the San Diego Comic-Con for the Superior-Spider-Man panel. I suggest you watch it, if only to see 33 minutes of pure awkwardness. (At one point fans had to be asked to show their excitement for the book three times because the first two efforts sounded like a room full of kids being told to eat re-fried beans out of the can.) Dan Slott “phoned in” his participation towards the end, and when someone said they couldn’t relate to the Superior Spider-Man because Otto was essentially “Jerk Spider-Man,” the response by Mr. Slott and Steve Wacker was essentially: “The book is awesome! … Want to hear Dan Slott’s impression of J. Jonah Jameson?”
In the end, there will always be many more comic book fans than there are Peter Parker fans. That is why Dan Slott likes to talk about sales. And that is why when intelligent people start mulling over the actual merits of the book (e.g., How is this any different from turning the Red Skull into Captain America and then trying to pass it off as creative genius?) their comments go down the Mighty Marvel Memory Hole.
Rolling Stone put a real terrorist on the cover of its magazine, a lot of people got upset, and sales went up 20 percent. Dan Slott turned a fictional terrorist into Spider-Man, a lot of people got upset, and sales are up. Sales are not the sole litmus test for success, and they certainly aren’t the litmus test for decency. Hopefully, by offering you a glimpse into the search terms people use to get to this blog, your confidence will be renewed that there are plenty of fans out there who are not happy with the state of Spider-Man in 2013.
History will not judge this era of Spider-Man comic books kindly. In time a writer with true vision will come along who will unite ardent fans of Peter Parker, those with no particular loyalties who are just looking for an interesting tale — and yes, the lowest common denominator — who will buy anything as long as it says Spider-Man on the cover. And when that happens and sales skyrocket the world will see Dan Slott for what what he truly was, which was certainly not a good steward of one of the greatest characters of all time: Peter Parker.