Man, writer Nick Spencer sure poked a hornet’s nest with last week’s Captain America: Sam Wilson #1, huh? According to Fox News and some other right-leaning media outlets, the Marvel comic placed ordinary (conservative) Americans square in the crosshairs of Steve Rogers’ successor, unfairly politicizing a usually neutral title. Check the video:
But does anything correspondent Clayton Morris says there hold up? I read the issue and did some digging to find out.
Firstly, let’s acknowledge that Sam Wilson is not Steve Rogers. Sam Wilson grew up a black man in America, so if he has a particular political persuasion, you have to think it’s kind of been forced onto him through personal experience. So it’s understandable Sam would lean a little bit when Steve was more rigid.
Except that wasn’t the case. The Fox and Friends crew openly yearn for a time when Captain America comics were all Hitler punches and no social commentary, while being unaware or unwilling to talk about the book’s previous excursions to the left, such as when Captain Rogers helped out a gay former classmate in 1982, or when he took the Falcon on as a teammate in the first place. Sam Wilson was the one of the first black superhero in mainstream comics, so you can imagine what a 1969 Fox News might have thought about that.
Would Morris and company like to throw the baby out with the bathwater, though? There have been plenty of times when Captain America bent in a direction more fitting to their tastes, like in Mark Gruenwald’s “Streets of Poison” story, an anti-drug parable the end of which could have been ghost-written by Nancy Reagan.
Or what about the entire fucking Civil War story? You know, the one that inspired Marvel Studios’ next billion-dollar blockbuster, in which Steve Rogers shoves the civil liberties of living weapons up the ass of big government overreach, as personified by an uncharacteristically maniacal Tony Stark. Come on, now.
Okay, past is past; let’s take a look at this specific issue. In Captain America: Sam Wilson #1, the titular hero is a little down on his luck, stripped of government funding and forced to fly coach. That liberal elitist! Seriously though, it’s understandable how honest conservatives might feel queasy about how illegal immigrants — not people already here, but those now crossing the border — are portrayed. I’m a liberal pinko, and it seemed a little too glowing even to me.
The illegal immigrants run afoul of some guys who are clearly not honest conservatives — old-school Cap villains the Sons of the Serpent (Morris seems to think they’re “new” and therefore a departure from Hydra, even though the two groups debuted only a year apart — five decades ago). Here’s the panel the Fox crew freaked out about:
It’s subtle, but that et cetera, et cetera at the end should be a clear tip-off that the Supreme Serpent doesn’t really believe what he’s saying, and is just using the ideology as an excuse for whatever awful thing he’s planning to do — which actually fits in perfectly with the group’s history. After stoking nationalistic fires in the very first SoS story, the Supreme Serpent is revealed to be a foreign agitator, not the ordinary American he claimed to be. Who’s to say the same won’t happen here, and we’ll find out that Fox has jumped the gun?
“These serpents are stopping people from coming across the border,” Morris says, moving from words to actions, “and Captain America is saying, ‘Uh-uh, that’s not going to happen on my watch; I’m Captain America.'” And this is where his whole argument breaks down.
There’s a difference between enforcing the law and illegally abducting other human beings, whether or not they are also doing something illegal. Two wrongs don’t make a right, and the fact that Morris seems to like throwing in with this lot should give all compassionate conservatives pause. Unless of course he just didn’t read that far (it’s only on the next page), in which case he should be more ashamed of his frighteningly incomplete journalism.
I thought I’d point these things out to Morris — the historical inaccuracies, his strange desire to equate all conservatives with bloodthirsty villains — but I figured the internet, being full of its own shaming and frightening forces, would have already beaten the poor guy up about it. So I decided instead to simply correct what is really the least meaningful part of what he said, that “comic books have been struggling for the past few years.”
— Russ Dobler (@russdobler46) October 19, 2015
I tend to pay attention to these sorts of things, so I know that the comic book industry as a whole is looking at its fifth year of annual growth if trends continue through the end of 2015. Undaunted, Morris replied.
— Clayton Morris (@ClaytonMorris) October 19, 2015
Of course I knew the story I linked to was from 2014, but I figured a “few years” covered more than just one year. But hey, he’s probably right; I should have gone past the fourth Google result to find something more timely. At least I made it that far.
But wait a minute, look at that chart he tweeted to me. It’s unsourced, so who knows where it came from, but doesn’t that actually confirm there’s been overall growth this year?
@ClaytonMorris Units up less than 7%, but still an increase
— Russ Dobler (@russdobler46) October 19, 2015
Morris didn’t respond. If he thinks readership has decreased since 2014, does that mean fewer people are buying more comics? How can he glean that from the data he presented? Or maybe he just … looked at the September 2015 vs. September 2014 numbers and didn’t go any further. Seems to be a habit for this guy. Digging deeper still would uncover that DC didn’t really do their typical September gimmick month this year, making a September comparison look especially bad. That almost certainly won’t hold through the rest of the year, as the conclusion of Marvel’s Secret Wars mega-event and the relaunches of many of their biggest titles are expected to crush the sales from those months a year ago.
Maybe I shouldn’t quibble over numbers when we’re talking about serious social issues. Here’s one that Fox and Friends didn’t raise — Spencer’s hateful depiction of metal fans as whiny Firefly dorks:
If you can’t portray us properly, Marvel, keep it out of comics!