Category: Pop Culture
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(DM) – Tuesday February 2, 2016 It’s easy to say comic books are affected by the climate of today’s cultural demands. We’ve seen the impact on characters from super hero appropriation like switching up a character’s gender to changing sexuality and race. Characters have also changed levels of aggression and overall agenda – much of it due to outcry from the millennial generation. But this get’s bit ahead of the discussion. To best understand the politics of comic book super heroes it’s helpful to get the right mental model of super heroes in comics.
Super heroes are created for a publisher under work for hire contracts. When it comes to the big two publishers DC and Marvel, the creator doesn’t own their character. Just search creators like Jack Kirby, (Fantastic Four, Hulk, Silver Surfer and more), Bill Finger (Batman), Joe Simon (Captain America), Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster (Superman), Bill Mantlo (Guardians of the Galaxy), Alan Moore, (Watchmen), you’ll learn how publishers swindle creators out of both ownership and revenue sharing.
With the publishing rebellion in the 1990’s more friendly independent publishers like Image mandated a creator kept ownership of their creation, yet once a character enters a publishers universe, every writer leads a tough stewardship as multiple influences force change.
The points-of-view of the publisher, the public and the writer clash. Later, as new writers enter the picture and take over stories, the end result is that writers become caretakers of something that feels like it is publicly owned. So while you think it would be nice to see Hulk smash or Wonderwoman be more or less aggressive, all these hidden elements are at play.
While this may all seem new, it is not. Comic books have been a reflection of society since their inception. From Superman as a solution to Nazi hate towards Jews to Captain America’s creation for pro-war propaganda and the sale of war bonds.
Pacifism in Comics
Pacifism and super heroes make little sense. The pacifist may take offense to this revelation but consider that all super heroes were created to take on aggressive evil with equal and greater aggressive strength. Is it any wonder that we have super heroes at all when they have powers that can kill any average human being? Yet they do not kill, not most. The exclusive non-kill club seems to be locked up by the big two publishers, DC and Marvel. One example is Wolverine with his razor sharp claws. When is the last time you saw him impale an adversary that died? If he stabs anything it’s in a battle with a robot an inanimate object or at best a self healing adversary such as Deadpool. Hulk can smash, yet that seems to be all he does. Hulk’s constraint and inability to kill is a reflection of our culture.
When it comes to modern values, Superheros carry many torches, but all fall strangely under the control of pacifism. Superheroes are restrained because our society demands it. A writer may want his hero to make a vital life making decision but the character will be condemned if their vigilante cause crosses the line of taking a life. It’s for this reason The Punisher has so few fans and writers have a hard time painting him as a sympathetic character. Of course he’s under Marvel which also impacts any story he’s a part of. Contrast Punisher with any other character and he doesn’t fit.