Thursday, July 21, 2016

Comics and politics

 I've been waiting to post this one for quite some time. At first I was waiting for Bernie Sanders to officially endorse Hillary Clinton... then some other things got in the way, but now in the midst of the completely insane Republican National Convention, I wanted to make sure I finished this up.

Much of the divide and infighting amongst the comic community has been about Bernie vs. Hillary. Now that doesn't mean every comic creator or member of the community is a liberal or progressive... but the majority arguably are. There are some Trump supporters out there, some conservatives that are "falling in line" and others who are genuinely lost at the hijacking of their political party.

So I'll get this right out of the way. If you follow me on Facebook or Twitter, you know that I am a VERY opinionated political watcher. I'm a liberal, an independent and a close follower of politics. It's more than social media posting for me... I've been legitimately considering running for office for a long time, my mindset just isn't there right now. That's me. I'm not ashamed of it, I don't hide it and I will gladly talk and debate politics in a civil manner any day of the week on all sides of the spectrum.

Anyway, there are a lot of strong personalities in comics. After all, we're all creative types.

There are a few creators who stand out more than others in their political views... namely: Nick Spencer, Billy Tucci, Jamal Igle and Ethan Van Sciver to name a few. There are times that politics influences writing and storytelling, there are also times politics influences and effects interactions with fans. Every now and then, creators get into it with each other.

I've also seen criticism along the lines of: 'keep politics out of comics," often in regards to Marvel in their push for greater inclusion and diversity. Sorry, but politics have been a part of comics since Captain America debuted with a punch to Hitler's face. For someone to suggest that a character named "Captain America" keep politics out of comics is kind of ridiculous. In the case of Steve Rogers, he's certainly not a liberal or conservative by today's standards, he is and always has been a New Deal Democrat. That's part of what make Steve Rogers and Captain America work - the era he comes from. Cap is also a soldier and for the most part can remain apolitical.

A great influence on my social and political views comes from Denny O'Neil and Neal Adams' run on Green Arrow/Green Lantern. That run is the epitome of politics in comics and continues to speak to many of today's issues.

I've been at conventions where I'm tabled close to Billy Tucci on more than one occasion. If you've ever met Billy - he's loud, he's opinionated and he's funny as hell. I've heard plenty of anti-Obama rants coming from him and I generally disagree with most of his views, but that doesn't change my personal feelings that he's a genuinely good guy and obviously extremely talented.

Conversely, Jamal Igle is a good friend of mine and we share MANY similar views. He's also politically active on Facebook. He's also extremely talented. But word of advice, if you ever think about debating politics with Jamal, be prepared because I witness him shut people down with facts and real substance on a daily basis. It's quite admirable.

However, I actually disagree politically with a number of creators and personalities I greatly admire. For example, Chuck Dixon is a staunch conservative and Republican, but he's one of the finest comic book writers out there and a big influence on me. In fact, the greatest influence on my writing is the late Tom Clancy, who wrote some of the finest spy and military novels imaginable. Clancy was also a conservative and another example of someone who politically I don't necessarily agree with, but he was a good man and he is probably the greatest single influence on my writing.

See that's the ultimate difference when it comes to politics and comics - even entertainment in general. You shouldn't judge a person's work on their politics if it doesn't affect the quality of their work. Now, if the politics of said person affect their character in a way that just makes them seem generally nuts, that's a different story.

Politics do influence my writing. "Patriot-1" dabbles in it a bit, but the sequel I'm currently writing? HEAVY influence. "ExtraOrdinary" also has a great deal of social and political influence.

What really drives me nuts is when someone says, "I respect you as a comic creator, but I can't follow you on social media anymore because politics" or "your political views that are different than mine are making it difficult for me to support your work."

Unless I'm directly a jerk to you - either about politics or something else, which is rare - then I really can't wrap my head around that bit of self-righteousness. As I've mentioned, I welcome civilized political debate, but absolutism of such a nature gets us nowhere overall.

If you're going to stop supporting someone's work - especially someone who you claim to respect or previously respected - do it because of their character or because they are directly an ass to you - not because they share different political views. For example, there is a writer whose work I REALLY enjoyed. Lined up with my interests, a hell of a storyteller - his politics didn't match up with mine... but it didn't affect my enjoyment of his work. What has affected it is the fact this creator has been the subject of numerous sexual harassment incidents and is generally flippant towards fans and criticism.

I understand politics can be touchy, especially in today's climate. But when you stop supporting someone's work or someone in general solely based on ideas being different and not because of their character - well, then you're just part of the problem.