I Am Superman, And I Can Do Anything

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Reason Contributing Editor Julian Sanchez commands the cover of The American Prospect this month with a compact-but-informative piece on comic books in the War on Terror. For all the hand-wringing (especially this year) about movies that deal with rendition or Iraq or leaders of the free world who don't always exhibit veracity and wisdom, comics have been attacking these themes since right after the attacks. And they got cynical way before Hollywood did. (I haven't heard of any movies save Death of a President which show George W. Bush taking one to the temple, but I've seen Bush stripped naked and forced to kiss a supervillain's feet in Ultimate X-Men, and I've seen a Bush surrogate in The Authority dumped out of a portal into the streets of Baghdad, ostensibly to be murdered by a mob.)

Still, Sanchez argues that they're still pretty superficial:

Perhaps the most interesting thing about these stories is why they fail. For as much as they seek to tease out the complexity and moral ambiguity of their themes, the authors of most of these tales clearly mean to convey a liberal or civil libertarian message. So much so that in 2003, the Foundation for Defense of Democracies released a screed titled "The Betrayal of Captain America," by right-wing pundit Michael Medved, decrying leftist infiltration of comics; that same year, professional bluenose Brent Bozell of the Media Research Center condemned Superman as a Ba'athist sympathizer. Yet when these stories go beyond leftish imitations of a previous generation's simplistic propaganda comics, the allegories tend to collapse under the weight of their own internal contradictions. There are, of course, openly conservative comics—ranging from the ludicrous Liberality for All (starring a cyborg Sean Hannity!) to Bill Willingham's brilliantly layered Fables. But there is often a strong (if unintended) neoconservative subtext even in stories by left-leaning authors.

Last year I barely survived a marathon read of right-wing science fiction about the WoT.

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  1. What noisy cats are we.

  2. They did decide to kill off Captain America. It was quite sanctimonious.

    I mean gimme a break … he’s CAPTAIN AMERICA!

    I hate to sound like some jingoistic hawk, but it’s a comic book … if we can’t have guns blazing, idealistic, red, white and blue heroism in a fucking comic book …

    The mind reels.

  3. Peter,

    One of us is confused. I assumed from Weigel’s title that this is thread that we post random 1980s era REM lyrics.

    If your friends took a fall, are you obligated to follow?

  4. Am I the only one that thinks the current political environment makes for boring allegory in pretty much every form of entertainment?

  5. The insurgency began and you missed it

  6. Somewhere it must be time for penitence.

  7. Conservative: “You are against the war, therefore you must be liberal”.

    Liberal: “You are against the war, therefore you must be liberal”.

    This extends even unto comic books.

  8. Am I the only one that thinks the current political environment makes for boring allegory in pretty much every form of entertainment?

    The 80s was the best and won’t be beat for at least a hundred years.

  9. The 80s was the best and won’t be beat for at least a hundred years.

    We can reach our destination, but we’re still a ways away

  10. They crowded up to Lenin with their noses worn off

  11. Im out….have fun….

    These rivers of suggestion are driving me away

  12. The 80s was the best and won’t be beat for at least a hundred years.

    WOLVERINES!!!!!

  13. That’s my folly, I’m ready to go

  14. I’m callin all citizens from all over the world

    This is Captain America callin

    I helped you out when you were down on your knees

    So won’t you catch me now I’m fallin – FALLIN

  15. Cyborg Hannity? I thought he already was one.

  16. The whole “Civil War” theme of Marvel was interesting, but definitely a bit overdone. I only followed the Spiderman and Punisher parts of it, though.

    “The Dark Knight Returns” is still the best comic of all time, though.

  17. Who over the age of 10 reads comic books?

    Oh, yeah, sorry.

  18. From the 1996 DC graphic novel Kingdom Come:

    Superman: I can do anything…I’m Superman.

    Wonder Woman: Except, apparently, face your own fears…

  19. The whole “Civil War” theme of Marvel was interesting, but definitely a bit overdone.

    For “Civil War” to work, readers have to buy into the idea that “defending civil liberties” equals “giving free reign to powerful, costumed vigilantes who are above the law, answer to no one, and can’t even be held libel for collateral damage” The writers at Marvel could write Iron man as a dick all they wanted, Iron man was still right.

  20. I thought the X-Men Ultimate issue where Magneto humbles GW to be maddeningly stupid. OK, so I know people have been racheting Magneto’s capabilities up and up to near Galactus levels (look at the Ultimate FF issue where an alternate universe verion nearly single handedly scatters dozens of Marvel’s mightiest), but it is just bizarre that he would reshape the circuits in the Sentinels control mechanisms to “counter-program” them to turn on the Pentagon…WTF is he a computer programmer now?

  21. For the record, Dr. Doom is the greatest Marvel villian of all time. Magneto is far, far below…

  22. David,
    Why didn’t Peter Bagge post this thread?

  23. I’m fairly right-leaning, and a lot of those things get under my skin more than they should. So I may not be on the same page with you.

    But for some reason the last line of this post truly had me laughing out loud, it’s just such a crappy-sounding marathon to be in.

  24. For the record, Dr. Doom is the greatest Marvel villian of all time.

    Well said, peasant! When Doom destroys the accursed Reed Richards and his Fantastic Fools, Doom swears that your life of servitude will be slightly less unpleasant than those of your fellow future slaves.

  25. As a horror comic writer, artist and self-publisher, I was pleasantly surprised to return to superheroes (after a lengthy hiatus) with the Marvel Civil War storyline. It had pretty much everything to offer: politics of privacy invasion to fight an intangible war, the falling out between two best friends (Iron Man and Captain America), the marital problems between Mr. Fantastic and Invisible Woman, the symbolism involved with Captain America’s assassination. This also shows how comic’s target age group has matured, the majority of comic readers are in their 20’s, so the content isn’t something one would normally find off a Saturday morning cartoon (not that there is anything wrong with that, mind you). Not to mention the art is spectacular. I recommend the Civil War storyline to anyone and everyone.

  26. The writers at Marvel could write Iron man as a dick all they wanted, Iron man was still right.

    Which is why Spidey was working with him until he discovered the superhero “Guantanamo” where they locked up all of the heroes that didn’t want to register. Like I said, it was a bit overdone.

  27. David,
    You read a bunch of right wing WoT Science fiction and it did not include John Ringo’s Paladin of Shadows series? Not a very through job there Weigel.

    On the other hand Ringo’s books are more revenge fantasy and have relatively little Science Fiction in them.

  28. We are, we are, we are ever helpless
    take us forever
    a whisper to a scream

  29. Who over the age of 10 reads comic books? …Oh, yeah, sorry.

    That’s funny coming from someone who thinks the X-Files was a documentary.

    Lonewacko, maybe you’d like comics if they had heroes for you – CaptainBorderPatrol, or NorthAmericanUnionAvenger

  30. Who, with an I.Q. over ten, rejects Reason for the likes of World Net Daily?

    No one, apparently…

  31. Who over the age of 10 reads comic books?

    People with far more sophistication and intelligence than you’ll ever hope to have, TLB.

  32. Personally, I’ve always thought superhero comics are for Peter Pan types (“Look, up in the sky! It’s Pec-Man and his scantily clad partner, Buxom-Woman!”).

    However, I differentiate between comic BOOKS and comic ART, as I would read Peter Bagge, Chris Ware, Art Spiegelman, Robert Crumb or Berkeley Breathed in a heart beat, but wouldn’t wipe my ass with anything that contains the suffix “-MAN” in the title.

    Real men read The Iliad. Little boys read 300.

  33. Fred, you really should pick up the Civil War storyline. Find the trade and read it. You’ll find there’s a lot more to offer than “flights, fights and tights.”

  34. Well said, peasant! When Doom destroys the accursed Reed Richards and his Fantastic Fools, Doom swears that your life of servitude will be slightly less unpleasant than those of your fellow future slaves.

    Oh God, here he goes again. Doom, do you want to end up like Future Namor?

    I have *got* to up his saltpeter dosage.

  35. You are all wrong!

    I, Darkseid, am the greatest Marvel villian of all time. The power of Apokalips shall-

    What the fuck? Marvel? Damn your eyes, Dan DiDio, you brought back the multiverse and now everything is screwed up!

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