Tom Spurgeon's Web site of comics news, reviews, interviews and commentary

June 10, 2014

I Worked For Ronald Reagan In 1984 & I Don't Understand Chuck Dixon's Conservative Comics Editorial

I learned here that the writer Chuck Dixon and the artist Paul Rivoche paired up to write an editorial about moral relativism in comics. That editorial may be hard to find due to the Wall Street Journal having a policy that makes it difficult to read stuff for free. It's been discussed a lot of places, so I'm betting you can track down one to read if you put a little effort into it.

imageI'm not sure you should, mind you, but you probably can if you want.

I'm afraid as a whole it just doesn't make a lot of sense. I get that authors are given the opportunity to do op-eds to promote books -- Dixon and Rivoche are selling their adaptation of the Amity Shlaes work Forgotten Man -- and those kinds of pieces are not exactly a place you go for rigorous history. I'd hate to see someone seriously vet the piece I wrote for the LA Times when the Stan Lee book came out. But this particular essay seems all over the place. It asserts a progression of stories featuring the Superman character as moving from basically conservative to stridently liberal that no rational reading of those comic books would support. Its depiction of the comics code as a moral force is certainly, well, unique for the present day. The modern comics history employed here is selective and loaded.

In broader terms, there have been some good works using superheroes that have espoused American liberal points of view, and others American conservative. The basic set-up of the superhero, with its routine physical imposition of moral virtue, that seems more right-wing to me, too. The culture of comics -- mainstream American comic books in particular -- seems much more conservative in a lot of ways than the rest of the culture, in terms of accepted approaches and baseline storytelling decisions. I read a lot of Chuck Dixon comics in the 1990s as part of my job, and don't remember them being the kind where you could easily object on facile, political grounds. Superhero comics tend to be much less about politics in any direction than about other comic books.

I also don't really see anyone not getting work because of political views, at least not in a way that stands out against a backdrop of people not getting work for all of the other reasons people don't get work. Last I knew, both of these gentlemen received a lot more work than many of their peers. I suppose there aren't as many conservative-leaving comics-makers as there are liberal-leaning ones, as is true of most arts communities, but there doesn't seem an disproportionate number of either group out of work. Or, to put it another way, there are a lot of people of all political affiliations out of work, all of the time. There are certainly ways of grouping under-employed comics people with much more compelling cases to be made on that score than by political belief.

I'd actually love to see more politically aware adventure genre comics, although it's hard to do such comics without descending either into "special episode" syndrome or turning into Jack Chick a bit. There seems to be a lot of money in conservative media; maybe one of those groups could sponsor a sustained effort. Isn't letting the market decide the way conservatives solve things?
posted 8:05 am PST | Permalink

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