‘Superman: Action Comics’ more like ‘Activist Comics’ with police brutality story ‘Justice’

Action Comics 42 DCSometimes people ask me why I write on comic books. The reason is because culture matters, and these days comic book creators see themselves as activist-storytellers instead of simply storytellers. Superman: Action Comics #42 is the perfect example of how modern writers attempt to do their small part to inculcate the “correct” ideological bias into readers.

Superman Justice AC42Evil white cops: Check. Police phalanx marched into place with ominous close-up on black boots: Check. Angelic minority voices of peace and reason within the ranks of both law enforcement and the protesters: Check.

“We’re going to beat the hell out of you. And you’re going to crack. You’re going to fight back. And then we’re going to roll over every other moron on this street,” says Sergeant Binghamton to Superman. The whole issue left Business Insider’s Joshua Rivera “breathless.”

Superman Business InsiderMr. Rivera wrote:

It’s a moment that echoes similar events that have unfolded across the country recently in cities like Ferguson and Baltimore, where law enforcement — primed to use excessive force — attempt to strong-arm peaceful citizens into submission. Like in those cities, the smallest miscalculation can lead to utter chaos.

When a Metropolis citizen then gets unruly, the commanding officer sees it as an opportunity to march on those gathered, with batons and shields at the ready — and then Superman, absolutely exhausted from his fight, places himself in between the crowd and the cops.

It’s a beautiful, arresting image by artist Aaron Kuder and colorist Tomeu Morey, a cathartic moment for anyone who saw the shocking imagery coming out of Ferguson and felt utterly powerless. But that’s not even the real gut punch.

The cops march anyway, raining tear gas on the citizens and even attacking an officer who objects to the proceedings— while Jimmy Olsen photographs the entire ugly affair. […] I still haven’t caught my breath.

Modern comic book writers embrace activism because left-leaning sites like Business Insider write op-eds about how said activists leave them “breathless.”

Accuracy and nuance are ignored because Business Insider writers are not left “breathless” when they read about Baltimore cops who are ordered to “give space” to looters and rioters.

Baltimore lootingMr. Rivera would probably not call it a “beautiful image” if Aaron Kuder drew his inspiration from the Ferguson, Missouri looters who ran off into the night with as much liquor and alcohol as they could carry.

Liquor Looter FergusonFox also covered the Superman story with straight-news reporting. Brian Henry interviewed Dimitrios Fragiskatos, the manager of Midtown Comics in New York City, and Patrick Colligan, president of the NJ State Policemen’s Benevolent Association, for his July 31 piece.

Mr. Henry never used words like “breathless,” so of course Bleeding Cool’s Rich Johnston wrote up something special to allow his readers to get out their Two Minutes Hate on Fox.

Bleeding Cool Action Comics 42The interesting thing is, all the people talking about “lies” and “propaganda” never point out the “lies” and “propaganda” in Mr. Henry’s reporting. Even his headline is politically neutral: “Superman fights the police in new comic paralleling Ferguson riots”.

Superman Action Comics 42 CopIn short, comic book writers in 2015 do not simply see their work as “just” a comic book. Writers like Dan Slott — who has been openly political in his Twitter feed — will trot out that sort of sentiment when they’re exposed by yours truly or writers like Hube at Colossus of Rhodey, but in general they see themselves as social justice foot soldiers.

Action Comics Superman JusticeMr. Colligan’s comment to Fox sums up how a lot of comic book readers feel these days:

“Comic books are taking on social issues lately and maybe they should get back to taking on superheroes and making people laugh.”

As long as writers continue shoehorning their personal politics into titles or saying nasty things on social media platforms — while also behaving like Mark “fuck off” Waid when they receive legitimate push back — the industry will continue to founder. It’s a shame, because it doesn’t have to be that way.

Mark Waid F off tweet