Monday, October 23, 2017

Comics and the Alt-Right

 I'm a big believer in the idea that "comics are for everyone."

For the most part, if you don't like what you're reading in stores or from the big publishers. There are a TON of alternatives available. Sure, the quality varies WILDLY and you may or may not get something that is on par with a Diamond publisher, but you may find something that piques your interest or that is something not being offered elsewhere.

This was the driving force behind my creating Patriot-1. Although I didn't serve, I've always had a strong interest in the military, specifically Special Forces and Special Operations Forces. I'm also a big Tom Clancy fan, so these interests - tied in with my love of comics and Captain America - that's kind of where Patriot-1 came from. I also believe in America as an ideal and how Patriot-1 - like Captain America - can exemplify that.

Actually, I'm going to draw the line. America IS an idea. It's in constant need of improvement, learning from sins and incredible work to continue to foster the idea of what that ideal is intended to represent - a place where all people are equal regardless of race, creed or social status. That's exactly what Superman and Captain America represent - the ideal to strive towards.

I spent years researching, conferring with current and former service members, developing characters, making comics, teaching myself the ins and outs, best practices, creating my own publishing house and all the trimmings before pitching Patriot-1 a few places and ultimately doing it myself. It's been carried by Diamond, it's built a decent fan base, I love introducing the character to new readers and there is an ongoing series in the works.

It's an action thriller, but it has a decent message. That's what art does. It says something about life in some kind of fashion.

Anyone who tells you "comics shouldn't be political" has ZERO idea about comics. The industry rose to popularity - especially in America - with costumed heroes fighting oppression, injustice and crime. Oh, and Nazis. Especially Nazis.

This all brings me to the Alt-Right. Some would call them modern day Nazis. They've been getting much attention of late and they are doing their best to lock themselves in every corner of American culture. Their de facto leader - or at least, most prominent face - the guy who got punched in the face on Inauguration Day, believes in a white ethno-state, which is literally just about the dumbest thing I've ever heard. Why, you ask? Well, what's going to count as white? Some broad description of European? Full blown Aryan, which he doesn't match? Because there are a lot of different cultures among Europeans, just as there are many different cultures among Americans.

Anyways, the Alt-Right has created some hub-bub in comics recently. There's been some trolling, harassment of creators, high targeting of Marvel for their slumping sales and push for greater diversity. Well, comic sales are up - and while Marvel has some issues, it's not because of their diversity push or "SJW agenda" as some on the Alt-Right like to talk about.

Apparently, there's a crowd-funding platform for the Alt-Right called Freestartr. Essentially, Kickstarter, GoFundMe, IndieGoGo and the mainstream crowd-funding services want no part of such an agenda. They are independent and private companies that do make money from their service, so it's entirely within their right to turn down projects.

I'd never heard of Vox Day until recently. I don't really know much about the Supreme Dark Lord beyond his Wikipedia page. However, the guy seemed like he had a lot going for him in the 90s and has a formidable following. Anyways, I don't know the guy, but he's inching his way into comics, which is one of my industries, so okay, welcome.

On that crowd-funding platform, he's got a comic called "Alt-Hero," that has raised a considerable amount of money and has roped in legendary Batman writer Chuck Dixon.

I'm not going to sit here and be abrasive or try and pick a fight, but I am going to do what we creators do. I'm going critique the hell out of this project which is allegedly going to "challenge and eventually replace the SJW-converged comics of DC and Marvel."

My dude. I have some bad news about the comic book industry for you.

I'll give you credit where it's due, I don't know the legitimacy of Freestartr, but on the surface it looks like you've raised a decent amount with a fair number of backers. Considering the number of backers plus the potential size of the book and some extra rewards, plus your profile saying you are in Italy, you're going to need a lot of that money to cover shipping.

And further credit, you've got a fleshed out universe, complete with an alternative post-WW2 history. Look, that's no easy feat. Any writer will tell you that kind of universe building it's tough and often frustrating.

Beyond that, the book really needs some work. I'm speaking strictly as a publisher. If you want to be taken seriously in comics - you know, beyond your Alt-Right faithful - at the very least you need to hire a real letterer or get better at it. The lettering is amateurish at best, and would definitely turn off an average reader at one glance.

Speaking of the average reader, if you think you're somehow going to replace Marvel and DC, I look forward to seeing you at Comic Cons across the country. They tend to get quite expensive between table cost, travel, hotel and food, and believe me, they are a GRIND. On top of that, cons have gotten pretty selective when it comes to who they let into Artist's Alleys and the show in general, so good luck. I know A-list artists that don't get space at some of the larger cons.

That's the other thing, you can build your audience in your niche all you want, but if you're going to "challenge and replace" the foundations of the comic industry, you better hope Diamond will carry you. On top of that, you had better hope your pre-orders reach into the tens of thousands and that stores will even carry the book. Subject matter aside, if Diamond doesn't carry your book - or if the logistics are overwhelming (hint: they can be for a small operation) - enjoy cold-calling comic stores already cautious to carry independent and small press titles beyond local creators.

Just to temper expectations, the prospects of challenging and replacing Marvel and DC aren't looking good. When you start selling the book at cons - and you really need to do this if you want any semblance of success - in a general sense you're competing with Marvel and DC, but you're also competing with people on your left, right, back, front, aisle, section, row and overall show.

If you don't distribute through Diamond, you might get a store to carry a copy either through discounted purchase or consignment, but if that book doesn't sell, don't expect stores to keep carrying the book. You'll likely be able to carry it on Amazon, but that's not going to do much in terms of replacing or challenging the big publishers.

I'm not exactly sure what the thread of the story is beyond creating "liberal tears" and frankly, the Freestartr description doesn't really call for much of that. For comics and new characters to have resonance, there needs to be something deeper there. It seems the idea is to simply "trigger," which after some initial buzz, will just fade into the white noise that is independent and small press comics. It appears you want to start some kind of culture war through this comic, but maybe it would be better served if you used the money and effort to create a book that somehow expresses your grievances and the views you're trying to convey in a constructive way that promotes discussion.

This, of course, is part of a broader issue with political discourse, not just in America, but all over the world. Is the driving force of some groups simply just to stick it to the other side? There's ample evidence people are willing to vote against their own self-interests simply to "stick it to (insert political party name)."

Look, I don't share your beliefs and I find the Alt-Right runs counter to the idea of America. It also runs counter to what superhero comics are all about. But I'm not going to tell you what to do with the money you raise and your art. I just think your book needs some work. But hey, if you corner this section of the comics market and make some money, well, that's capitalism. Does the Alt-Right believe in that? I'm asking seriously.

Truthfully, while I am no friend of the Alt-Right or GamerGaters, I don't write this post with ill-intentions or malice in my heart. I don't believe racism and doing things just to "trigger" others have any place American society, and rather than stoking flames of a culture war, I'd rather Americans sit down and find ways to create a better society for people of all races and creeds - as the founders intended.

So really, good luck to you. I hope you find peace.