AiPT! Roundtable: On Politics In Marvel Comics



Politics. It seems like you just can’t get away from politics these days. It’s all over the news, in our science, and even in our comic books! It always has been, to some degree, and Marvel’s Captain America series has often led the charge on social issues and hot-button topics.

That’s never been more apparent than in the company’s just-begun Secret Empire mega-crossover, in which the world puts too much power into the hands of a single man who betrays us all. Given the incredibly charged, real-life political climate we now live in, is it all too much? What happened to escapism?

We asked some of our intrepid AiPT! contributors for their thoughts on the matter, and what could or should be done once things are back to “normal.”Have Marvel Comics become too political? Is Secret Empire what we need or want right now?

Cam: One of Marvel’s strengths has always been that they keep a finger on the pulse of current events. Whether it was the Hate Monger being a metaphor for Nixon or Civil War commenting on the pros and cons of government oversight, they’ve never not been political.

What I think people are reacting to, I certainly am, is that it’s all just a bummer. The real world is so stressful right now that to see Cap be a bad guy is just like, “Great! The president lies to us, Congress lies to us, everybody is lies lies lies, now the man who literally has an American flag on his chest is lying too?! Gah!”

Patrick: I agree with Cam, in that Marvel has used current events to make storylines real, and metaphorical. The difference, in my opinion, is that they’re currently suffering from a bit of a villain overload. When the X-Men were showing the plight of the downtrodden and discriminated, they were still a force for good – using their powers and weirdness to shine a light on their predicament.

Now, with the current climate in the world — and the far more realistic plot lines – the villain-as-main-character syndrome is exhausting. Doom, Doc Ock, Hydra Cap, etc. – we’re seeing the bad guys win and win, only this time the resistance is barely there.

Dave
: Comics certainly offer a respite from the stress of the world which is why I love done-in-one issues that are fun. But when the Red Skull starts spouting a speech very similar to the alt-right’s message, it does make one a little less relaxed! I think Secret Empire is a series we do need in that the best content coming out right now is centered on reacting to the politics of today. Stephen Colbert is winning in the ratings because he’s not a goofball like Jimmy Fallon, but is shining a light on Trump and the daily craziness. I think Marvel is trying to tap into that audience.Jason: I’ve personally always enjoyed comics (or really any medium for creative fiction) that reflect the real world, and I’m not sure if Marvel could see the writing on the wall with the Trump presidency, but this is the rare occasion where they’re tackling an issue at its apex, and I for one welcome it. It’s the kind of move publishers need to pull in an era where sales are slumping, and generating buzz for your book is harder than ever.

Sure it means making Steve Rogers a duplicitous Nazi sometimes, but given that there’s the living deus ex machina that is Kobik, I suspect Steve will be back to his old self (complete with original costume) by the end of all this.

If Marvel Comics does go “back to basics” after Secret Empire, as has been alluded to, what does that say? And where does that leave the younger, less recognizable heroes that have flourished over the last few years?

Cam: I have real mixed feelings. On one hand, it’s worrisome, considering they’ve also recently wanted to blame the younger and more diverse characters [for] their recent sales slump. Despite that crunching the numbers has proved this misguided, it feels like maybe the higher-ups want to fall back to “safer” stories, aka their tentpole white dudes.

That said, though, it could also mean an interest in more “Heroic Age” type stories, which were pretty refreshing after Dark Reign and Siege. More than relying on the White Boy Brigade, I think what would be appreciated right now is a focus on superheroes being examples of good in the world, resisting hate and fear. And none of that requires them to cut out Miles [Morales] or Kamala [Khan].

Patrick: I’d like a back-to-basics approach. The stories from my own childhood had a few things in common – think of Avengers Mansion, the Xavier School, etc. The bad guys and good guys had their places in society, and there was a sense of home for a lot of the people involved. Keep the younger heroes, elevate them, make them as recognizable as the “white dudes,” but also give them some security.

Peter Parker could deal with being broke and [with] the crazy world because he had M.J. to come home to. Marvel’s good guys have been on the run, and the move since Civil War and Disassembled, and Utopia, etc. is not the same. Hell, pull an “X-Men in the Outback” move if you have to, just give them a place to take the tights off and unwind.Dave: When I think about this rumor, I don’t think it’s necessarily a bad thing. “Back to basics” simply tells me it’s more about a single hero fighting a single villain without 15 team-ups, a storyline dragging on for three years, and the action in a single issue not building toward a mega-event. I think the new characters can excel in this format.

Cam: If “Back to the Basics” means cooling it on the crossovers, I can get behind that.

Jason: Though I’ve mocked DC for doing the same thing and know that it would mean yet ANOTHER massive crossover event, I’d love to see Marvel do a line-wide continuity reboot. This would allow them to get rid of their obnoxiously ornate continuity, do away with the issues created by the sliding timescale, and effectively go “back to basics” in a fresh and interesting way.

I think Cam is right that someone from the Disney side looked at the profitability of the films vs. the comics and said that the two should align more closely, but it was that exact line of reasoning (in my mind at least) that led to the creation of the POC legacy characters. Given those characters’ prominence in the advance materials I’ve seen for Secret Empire thus far, I don’t think Riri [Williams] or Amadeus [Cho] are going anywhere – not while Disney corporate still wants to appeal to those under-served demographics.

  • Morse

    “But when the Red Skull starts spouting a speech very similar to the alt-right’s message” sorry but you’re delusional, calling anyone who disagrees with you and anyone with a different political view literally a “Nazi” or “red skull” won’t make your argument more legitimate, it only makes you look like a close minded idiot.

    i’m a Persian, banned from entering the U.S, yet i almost completely agree with almost anything the right wingers of america have to say about gender politics and forced diversity. it’s funny how most of the people moaning about diversity are WHITE WOMEN, yet they never ask actual people of color like me about what do we want out these representations or do we actually like these characters., you automatically think if you darken the skin of a character, it becomes appealing to us. MILES MORALES IS NOT INTERESTING. there i said it.

    “I don’t think Riri [Williams] or Amadeus [Cho] are going anywhere – not while Disney corporate still wants to appeal to those under-served demographics” oh yes! tell me about how under-served the African Americans are in comics! there are literally a female or black version of any original superhero.

    overall: this article felt like a circle jerk of people repeating the same political view to comfort themselves.

    • tmana

      “Sorry but you’re delusional, calling anyone who disagrees with you and anyone with a different political view literally a “Nazi” or “red skull” won’t make your argument more legitimate,”

      Even when his name is literally Red Skull, an he is actually a Nazi agent?

      You’re bringing real life anger into a discussion about comics. So your point doesn’t make any sense.

      • Morse

        “Even when his name is literally Red Skull, an he is actually a Nazi agent?”
        sorry to burst your bubble, but red skull doesn’t have free will of his own (gasp!!) , he says what the writer wants him to say,and in this case, it’s the argument of people who the writer doesn’t agree with. their saying right wingers argument is wrong because the freaking writer made red skull make the same arguments…smh

    • JJ

      “i’m a Persian, banned from entering the U.S, yet i almost completely agree with almost anything the right wingers of america have to say about gender politics and forced diversity.”

      So you’re getting in line with the people that want you banned from entering our country simply because of where you’re from?

      “PS: you say “white dudes” as if it’s something inherently bad”

      I was suspicious of your claims of being a Persian after your comments about the Red Skull (Nazi Agent) and agreeing with a group of people that are banning you from our country because of where you’re from. This comment solidified it for me.

      Nothing that Cam or Patrick said when using “white dudes” in their points indicated they had any negativity towards white males. You’re reaching and poorly at that.

      • Morse

        you see, that’s what makes people like me, who are banned because of racism, take their side when it comes to gender/diversity politics, because you’re side is so completely moronic on these matters. you’re so caught up with your own that you make immediately make assumptions about my race even tough I’ve already said it.
        you are so caught up with your own bs that when a Persian guy living in @#%$ Iran, who is literally seen as the villain in the eyes of the american right wing, takes their side, instead of stopping for a moment and thinking to yourself that: “i maybe wrong on this…”, you automatically tell me that :nope your a white guy :I

        “Nothing that Cam or Patrick said when using “white dudes” in their points indicated they had any negativity towards white males. You’re reaching and poorly at that.”
        oh yes, because the most striking feature of the original Marvel characters is them being “white males” and saying it in an insulting matter as if it’s bad thing… but don’t mind me , i’m just “reaching” here

        • JJ

          If you’re actually Persian and I’m mistaken then I apologize.

          It’s just incredibly strange to me that you can open this discussion by calling the writers closed minded idiots holding a circle jerk and then attack all white woman. You accuse them (white women) and supporters of diversity, the people would who welcome you to this country, of ignoring your voice. Then voice support for the openly racist group who want to keep you out. You assume the actions of all white women/supporters of diversity. Yet now you’re angry with me for assuming your background. Is it that outlandish that I would have doubts of your background give your completely irrational and hypocritical behavior?

          Cam and Patrick’s use of “white dudes” is simple generalization in response to a question that had nothing to do with the point you’re trying to make. It’s also a relevant term given the political nature of the discussion and nature of the question they’re being asked. Please explain to me how what they said was insulting, because I can’t see it.

          In case you forget, they were asked:

          “If Marvel Comics does go “back to basics” after Secret Empire, as has been alluded to, what does that say? And where does that leave the younger, less recognizable heroes that have flourished over the last few years?”

          You have acknowledged the alt-right are openly racist. So why is comparing them to a racist comic book character idiotic? Your citing as different political views as your point, but no one is calling out conservatives or democrats.

          • Morse

            “It’s just incredibly strange to me that you can open this discussion by calling the writers closed minded idiots holding a circle jerk and then attack all white woman”
            that’s a little exaggerated don’t you think? i’m calling it what it is, unlegitimizing an argument because a fictional character brought up a racist version of it is close minded and idiotic. also i said MOST of the people complaining about diversity are white women not ALL, most, which i’m not “assuming”, from all of the people I’ve seen and encountered moaning about diversity, most were white women. and it’s not an attack, it’s simply a criticism (which i can see where you are coming from on this, i may have worded that a little wrong, i should have said out of all people I’VE encountered…)

            “Then voice support for the openly racist group who want to keep you out”
            see the problem is, people brand logical anti pc or right wing american people ,”alt right” when they are not. you think you’re helping, but you’re making the actual racists not seem so bad when logical people are put in the same category as them. you’re doing it yourself right now as well! i said i agree with the logical arguments of the right wingers(which is actually “anti pc” people who are forcefully branded right winger because their ideology doesn’t match up with pc culture) yet you accuse me of supporting the alt right!!

            “Please explain to me how what they said was insulting, because I can’t see it.”
            don’t know about you but i find it insulting to see characters i grew up with like spiderman, who have had 50+ years of character development, being reduce to their race and gender

            “You have acknowledged the “alt-right are openly racist. So why is comparing them to a racist comic book character idiotic?”
            the problem is, what red skull is saying, is NOT the alt right’s racist messages, it’s what anti pc and common headed people say with some racist stances mixed with it to make it seem racist

          • JJ

            So before I respond should I go back and edit my comments to make my argument better like you did?

            “also i said MOST of the people complaining about diversity are white women not ALL, most, which i’m not “assuming”, from all of the people I’ve seen and encountered moaning about diversity, most were white women.”

            What can I even say to this? The article is written by entirely men and you provide ZERO evidence to support this claim. From there an easy skim of your comment history shows you constant issue with women, but again never anything substantial to back it up.

            “i said i agree with the logical arguments of the right wingers”

            No you didn’t. This is what you said:

            “yet i almost completely agree with almost anything the right wingers of america have to say about gender politics and forced diversity”

            “don’t know about you but i find it insulting to see characters i grew up with like spiderman, who have had 50+ years of character development, being reduce to their race and gender”

            You’re doing the same exact thing with women and people who support diversity. Pot. Kettle.

          • Morse

            “So before I respond should I go back and edit my comments to make my argument better like you did?”
            i saw i was saying the exact same thing in my second more complete paragraph as i said in the first, so i removed the first one which i don’t think changed any of my argument points

            “yet i almost completely agree with almost anything the right wingers of america have to say about gender politics and forced diversity” “right wingers” ” RIGHT WINGER” not the alt right, understand the difference, not all liberals are social justice warriors as well.

            “From there an easy skim of your comment history shows you constant issue with women”
            please do enlighten me of how my comments give any sense of “issue with women”!! if actually read any comment i’ve put before, i have a problem with mary sue characters and i am very vocal about it, that doesn’t mean i HAVE ISSUES WOMEN!!! again, you’re using the same tactic of painting me like the bad guy here, same tactic the your left wingers tried to use against your right, which resulted in getting an idiot like trump in your government

            also reading my older comments? that’s a little creepy/stalker type of thing to do don’t you think? searching someone’s account to find a point you can latch on to when your losing an argument.

            “What can I even say to this? The article is written by entirely men and you provide ZERO evidence to support this claim. From there an easy skim of your comment history shows you constant issue with women, but again never anything substantial to back it up.”
            Anita sarkeesian, zoe quinn, leigh alexander, lindy west, laci green and SO many more famous radical feminists. also this “diversity pushing” is the common belife between radical feminist, which if you didn’t notice, most of them are white women. and i say again, NOT ALL OF white women are crazy like this.
            as for my personal experience, i don’t file records of the people and accounts of people i argue with, sorry 🙂

          • JJ

            “if actually read any comment i’ve put before, i have a problem with mary sue characters and i am very vocal about it, that doesn’t mean i HAVE ISSUES WOMEN. again, you’re using the same tactic of painting me like the bad guy here, same tactic the your left wingers tried to use against your right, which resulted in getting an idiot like trump in your government”

            I’m not trying to paint you as anything, I’m straight up telling you I think you have a problem with women based off of things you have said. Beyond what I’ve already quoted there are plenty of comments about feminists, mary sues and concerns about women being portrayed as stronger than men. I’ve quoted you off of what you’ve said in this comment thread already.

            “also reading my older comments? that’s a little creepy/stalker type of thing to do don’t you think? searching someone’s account to find a point you can latch on to when your losing an argument.”

            If it were private information not meant for my eyes then sure. But no I don’t see how me looking at your public comment history to back up my argument is creepy and/or stalker related. I’m not looking for information about your job, where you live, what you do or anything remotely personal – I’m looking for information on your views on women. Which you clearing know from my point in relation to your post history.

            “Anita sarkeesian, zoe quinn, leigh alexander, lindy west, laci green and SO many more famous radical feminists. also this “diversity pushing” is the common belife between radical feminist, which if you didn’t notice, most of them are white women. and i say again, NOT ALL OF white women are crazy like this.”

            Listing a group of noted feminists does not support your argument. It just makes it weaker. You’re again singling out women and then claiming not to have issue with them. I can google search feminists too. It doesn’t in any way support your argument that most people “moaning about diversity” are “WHITE WOMEN”. You demonize diversity and single out women in the same sentence, then claim not to have a problem with them. Feminist supporting diversity, NO WAY REALLY?!

            Perhaps if men were persecuted as badly as women have been by men for most of recorded history you’d be a little more supportive and a little less critical. It’s easy to jump on feminists and supporters of diversity when your sex has never faced the discrimination they have. Imagine if you were:

            -banned from attending sporting events

            -banned from playing football

            -banned from playing volleyball

            -banned from leaving the country without your wife’s permission

            -banned from applying for a divorce

            -had your genitals mutilated for resisting a woman’s advances

            How do you think you’d feel about equal rights for men after that? The fact is you came into a conversation that four white men had and started demonizing white women and reducing them to the gender/race. Which is exactly what you were upset with the writers with for doing to your beloved characters. You’re a hypocrite and sexist in this case.

          • Morse

            It took you a week to write THIS…
            You’re to much of an egomaniac to even think about what I said and then responding, so I’m not gonna even bother writing long so I’ll be brief

            -sorry but biology is not sexist, study it

            -women have already reached in the west (not to say they are privileged I.e. military drafts, child custody, female friendly education system and etc.)

            -cy·ber·stalk·ing/ˈsībərˌstôkiNG/
            noun
            the repeated use of electronic communications to harass or frighten someone

            -you: “I’m not trying to paint you as anything”
            Also you:”you’re a sexist hypocrite” XD XD XD XD 🙂

          • JJ

            “It took you a week to write THIS…

            4 days. But hey why split hairs? I know this may shock you, but I have a life outside of arguing with you on the internet.

            You’re to much of an egomaniac to even think about what I said and then responding, so I’m not gonna even bother writing long so I’ll be brief”

            AKA you have no actual logical defense for your arguments and shitty behavior. Thus you’ll ignore the vast majority of my points and try to shift the focus of our argument to something else vague.

            Respond to my example of your hypocrisy. Here it is again for the third time, since you always ignore it:

            “The fact is you came into a conversation that four white men had and started demonizing white women and reducing them to the gender/race. Which is exactly what you were upset with the writers with for doing to your beloved characters.”

            “-sorry but biology is not sexist, study it”

            When did we reach biology? Please point out where that was touched on in our discussion.

            “-women have already reached in the west (not to say they are privileged I.e. military drafts, child custody, female friendly education system and etc.)”

            What????? This sentence makes no sense and is in no clear reference to anything.

            “-cy·ber·stalk·ing/ˈsībərˌstôkiNG/

            noun

            the repeated use of electronic communications to harass or frighten someone”

            Great use of the dictionary. So you’re saying because I’m disagreeing with you and I looked at your comment history, I’m now stalking and harassing you?

            “Also you:”you’re a sexist hypocrite” XD XD XD XD :-)”

            See I didn’t just throw the words out there without anything to back them up. I took my time to tell/show you all the reasons why, based off of the things you said. It’s all the stuff in my previous response that you’ve completely ignored since you clearing have no way to defend against it.

            I’ll enjoy continuing to watch women’s rights expand while guys like yourself throw nonsensical fits on the internet.

        • Russ Dobler

          “i said i agree with what they say about “gender politics and diversity'”

          And what is that, specifically? I’m having a hard time telling what your argument actually is. Can you define it, please?

          • Morse

            that forcing diversity for the sake of diversity is not a good idea, demonizing white people and men and making them the root to all evil, in an industry with the said people as it’s most readers is wrong. to genderbend every iconic male character to female, just because to have more female character and calling everyone who complains , a sexist bigot, is wrong.

          • Darrell

            Those are all fine stances, but literally one of that was said or even insinuated in the article.

          • Morse

            Russ Dobler asked me what was it that i agree with when it comes to the right wing when it comes to gender and race politics, nothing to do with the article

          • Russ Dobler

            You think “American right-wingers,” at least the ones with any power, spend time thinking about what goes on in comic books? Well, other than this guy.

            http://www.adventuresinpoortaste.com/2015/10/20/fox-news-contributor-thinks-marvel-hates-conservatives-doesnt-understand-numbers/

          • Morse

            “You think “American right-wingers,” at least the ones with any power, spend time thinking about what goes on in comic books?” no, and they shouldn’t , what are you getting at?