Last week I told you about The Forgotten Man, a graphic novel adaptation of Amity Shlaes’ history of the Great Depression by Chuck Dixon and Paul Rivoche. As Shlaes is a well known conservative pundit, she’s been using outlets like National Review and Pajames Media to call for the Right to use comics as effectively as the Left to get their story out there, since comics are the future of education.
Now Dixon and Rivoche have written their own call to duty for the Wall Street Journal, entitled How Liberalism Became Kryptonite for Superman — it’s paywalled but if you google it you should be able to read it —or maybe this link will work.
Dixon and Rivoche look at Superman’s renunciation of his American citizenship in 2011 as the darkest day for heroism in the super crowd, and it seems this event still causes a bit of a rise in the gorge for some. Dixon has long been known for his conservative views, and a ruckus was raised in 2006 when he was assigned to wright The Authority even after expressing what some called anti-gay views. He’s certainly among those who feel that today’s heroes are just not heroic enough. The article includes a timeline of the march to the relentlessly grim ‘n’ gritty 90s:
In the 1950s, the great publishers, including DC and what later become Marvel, created the Comics Code Authority, a guild regulator that issued rules such as: “Crimes shall never be presented in such a way as to create sympathy for the criminal.” The idea behind the CCA, which had a stamp of approval on the cover of all comics, was to protect the industry’s main audience—kids—from story lines that might glorify violent crime, drug use or other illicit behavior.
In the 1970s, our first years in the trade, nobody really altered the superhero formula. The CCA did change its code to allow for “sympathetic depiction of criminal behavior . . . [and] corruption among public officials” but only “as long as it is portrayed as exceptional and the culprit is punished.” In other words, there were still good guys and bad guys. Nobody cared what an artist’s politics were if you could draw or write and hand work in on schedule. Comics were a brotherhood beyond politics.
The 1990s brought a change. The industry weakened and eventually threw out the CCA, and editors began to resist hiring conservative artists. One of us, Chuck, expressed the opinion that a frank story line about AIDS was not right for comics marketed to children. His editors rejected the idea and asked him to apologize to colleagues for even expressing it. Soon enough, Chuck got less work.
I can see how Dixon would be alarmed over getting less work (but to be fair he was writing four or five books a month for quite a while and that is a pace that must end eventually for all.) But if you squint a bit the above seems to be pining for the good old days of the Comics Code—the industry weakened???—which seems to go against the call for free speech elsewhere in the piece. He also seems to think that comics are for kids, which, as we know, isn’t always the case and is probably the most damaging viewpoint of all for comics.
Dixon is best know as the co-creator of Bane, the Batman villain, and back during the last election had to be called on to defend his conservative bona fides when Rush Limbaugh nonsensically called the use of Bane in the Dark Knight Rises a liberal plot again Bane Capital and….say, does anyone remember anything that happened in 2012? So silly.
But then so much of this posturing (on both sides) is silly. I’m neutral on this call to action for more right-leaning comics. As several people pointed out in the comments to my last piece on the subject, many comics with conservative themes already exist.
But there is a terrible danger here. While I’m always in favor of expanding the comics audience, right wing attempts at satire have often fallen short in the humor department—so if you can’t be funnier than Mallard Fillmore, please, stand down.
Heidi MacDonald is the founder and editor in chief of The Beat. In the past, she worked for Disney, DC Comics, Fox and Publishers Weekly. She can be heard regularly on the More To Come Podcast. She likes coffee, cats and noble struggle.