Working People – Town – Country – Diamonds – Dwelling – The Good Guy, a story, Part Two of Three (The following is a work of satire. The people and events depicted, including those based on real people and events, are all entirely fictional.)
One of the aims of this project is to examine how ideas and ideals are instantiated in various ways across various forms of cultural expression, and mainstream superhero comics have always seemed to me especially fascinating in this regard. It would be difficult, for example, to overstate the influence The X-Men had on me as a child: although a clumsy and at times maybe even offensive analogy for the Civil Rights Movement, the mutants’ struggle against prejudice in the Marvel Universe made me aware of the racism and anti-Semitism that existed in my own community growing up, and wholly disinclined to tolerate either. In recent years, I have become more and more a fan of their creator, Jack Kirby, a man whose work, though certainly not without its flaws, nonetheless demonstrated a kind of expansiveness—in every sense—that has rarely been matched in popular entertainment, before or since; and yet, as with The X-Men and with Kirby himself, I have only belatedly realized what Captain America, one of his earliest, most iconic, and most familiar creations, has meant to me personally. I don’t think it occurred to me I was much of a fan at all until I began to process my anger over the publication of the Secret Empire storyline by Nick Spencer in which Cap is revealed to have been a Nazi spy, more or less, from the very beginning. (Denise Paolucci speaks my mind here, while Kim O’Connor takes a closer look at Mr. Spencer’s political thought.)
If, on the other hand, it is ultimately no less disturbing, it is still somewhat less shocking to discover how closely the comics industry mirrors our national politics at the corporate level. Officially, Marvel has blamed its declining sales not on stunts like the above, merely the latest in a long line of tedious gimmicks which have alienated fans and creators alike, or on the kind of sheer rapacity that allows such decisions in the first place, but on its all too brief and none too vigorous experiment in diversity, if such it really was. Asher Elbein refutes this pretty soundly; G. Willow Wilson, writer of the justly acclaimed Ms. Marvel, has something to say about it, too. And here again the current state of superhero comics (really, the state of science fiction in general) is a reflection of society at large: for, in spite of all the attempts at scapegoating, it is precisely the contributions of those from marginalized communities, and especially the contributions of women, that offer the greatest hope for the future of both. Lindsay Smith suggests how even Captain America might be rescued after all.
In any event, I should probably warn you that a number of stories very much related to these specific interests and concerns have been rolling around in my head for quite some time, and I hope to get them out soon.
Also, I’ll be taking next month off, so Happy Fourth of July.
Next issue: August 1st