Publishers and editors of different comic book companies take different official stances on different topics. Some stand firmly with their creators to prevent harassment and uphold artistic integrity. Some take a ‘middle ground’ approach to maximize the dollars brought in. Which is the better business model? Is the ‘middle ground’ of American politics shifting?
— Newsprint is BACK at Alterna Comics! (@ALTERNACOMICS) August 30, 2018
Marvel’s Editor-in-Chief, C. B. Cebulski, declared that comics shouldn’t be “too political”, touching on the reality we see outside our window, while still being entertaining. Alterna Press comics issued their social media policy, informing their creators that they weren’t to use chain block services on social media to keep trolls at bay because Alterna doesn’t want to alienate any potential readers.
The entire existence of the X-Men is to showcase the discrimination, abuse, and marginalization that minorities of every kind see on a daily basis, whether it be people of color, women, the poor or LGBTQ+. Captain America punched Hitler. Daredevil is disabled, after a fashion. Marvel is steeped in politics. Its roots, it’s very foundation is left-leaning (at least!), social justice warrior politics.
Creators must retain the option of keeping their social media as private or inaccessible as they’d like, keeping their private lives and their work lives separate. Some comic book creators remain extremely accessible, and fans are lucky they do so. But access to the creators isn’t a right. If harassed or attacked, they should be able to defend themselves appropriately, and chain blocking folks who follow people who attack them or harass them is one way of keeping themselves protected. Customer service is the publisher’s job, not the creators. A policy that restricts that is only inviting trouble for creators, burning them out and destroying the very thing you’re trying to build. Without creators to create, you don’t have a business no matter how many readers you have access to. Supporting your creators, who are in turn supported by their fans, who spread word of mouth and bring more readers in. That creates a happy foundation for a company and creates stability between publisher, creator, and fan.
At the end of the day, everything is political. If you’re not seeing politics, you’re only seeing politics you agree with. But it’s still there. Racial, economic, discrimination in a myriad of micro-aggressions. If your entertainment is only mind-numbing fun and doesn’t make you think about reality at all, great! That’s okay! Sometimes that’s what your brain needs! Something to zone out and just mindlessly enjoy. But that doesn’t mean that the person sitting next to you doesn’t see the politics in your entertainment. They’re still there, but it fits with your world view, so you don’t see it as “politics”. See, all art is subjective, all art gives individuals different messages through the story, visuals, dialogue, even music. Just because you don’t see the politics in the art doesn’t mean someone else isn’t going to look at it and think of a hundred different political messages they get from that same art. It’s okay to be political. It can still be entertaining.
The comic book industry goes where the money is. If they shift to a more left-leaning political stance and continue that trend, that means those are the comic books that are selling the most. When they don’t lean that direction, or lean the opposite direction, they’re not selling as many books. Every comic book publisher, especially the big ones, will publish what sells, and cancel what doesn’t. That’s just the way the industry, and much of the world works. If you’re seeing comic books move away from your worldview, then your worldview isn’t selling as many comic books. Comic books are still fighting for the same dollars they were 25 years ago, but there are more publishers, more titles, more avenues to obtain comics, and more choices for even pickier consumers than there ever have been before. That means every comic book sold, or not sold, makes an even bigger impact on decisions, not that the industry isn’t making as much money. It’s just being spread thinner.
So, why are publishers still taking a “middle of the road”, “centrist” approach to their public policies? Partly habit. It sounds like a good business model on paper. The more people you have to put on your pages the more people who will pay for those pages. But it rarely works out that way. It’s a short-term mindset that handcuffs your creators, either from telling their story authentically or to a social media presence filled with toxicity. Taking that stance also minimizes the vocal minority that hates “political correctness” in comic books, because, at the end of the day, that’s really what it’s about. Anything that overtly pushes towards diversity or equality gets kneejerk reactions and labeled as “pushy” because god forbid comic books not be geared towards the gaze of the straight white male Christian.
In conclusion, it’s really just blowing smoke. Alterna is losing the creators that disagree with the policy and many more have vowed to avoid the publisher. Marvel creators will continue to tell the stories the way they want to tell them, or the stories will suffer and stop selling. Of course, Marvel doesn’t actually seem to be practicing the policy. Their creators are continuing to tell their stories the way they want. This could be a subtle way of Marvel saying that their comic books aren’t really any more political than before, but those shaking their fists in anger over political correctness may be abated by this statement that on the surface seems to agree with them.
What’s your favorite escape-from-reality comic book? Can you recognize your own world view in your entertainment? Let us know in the comments below or hit us up on Facebook or Twitter!