January 30, 2011

A "shut up and write" protest doesn't quite work, but ...

One of my favorite comics writers of all-time is the "Modern Master of Continuity," Kurt Busiek. Possibly the single greatest comics story I've ever read is the spectacular Superman: Secret Identity (and I'm not even much of a DC fan). Not to mention, Kurt's Marvels, Avengers Forever, and various Astro City books are nothing short of sensational. Not only are Kurt's yarns first-rate, but unlike so many other of his contemporary peers he doesn't inject a whole lot of blatant politicking into his stories.

But that being said, Busiek isn't exactly mum about politics on various social media outlets. Back during the Ground Zero mosque controversy, Busiek (on Facebook) wasn't exactly ... accepting of the view of the protesters -- those who preferred the mosque/cultural center be built elsewhere -- some 70% strong nationwide at the time. He voiced the usual concerns about "intolerance" and the like, and on one occasion I attempted to engage him (and others) in a rational discussion about the dual nature of "intolerance" and "sensitivity." Although Kurt still strongly disagreed with me (and the protesters), at least he was more civil than many of his like-minded supporters on the thread.

Even further back, many years ago I had an e-mail discussion with Kurt about not patronizing creators who show an open disdain for a good portion of their audience by being outspoken regarding a particular political point-of-view. If memory serves, writer Mark Millar played a prominent role in that back-and-forth. Kurt was -- and is -- contemptuous about "boycotting" a creator (in the comics field or otherwise) simply due to political disagreement. My view was (and is) that it is pretty darn presumptuous to expect [some of] the public to continue to support you (financially and otherwise) when you continually trash their political views and opinions -- in effect, calling them stupid. I'm not referring to organized boycotts against creators who do this, just personally not purchasing anymore of said creator's work. But even so, I'm not a complete ideologue when it comes to this; I've still purchased stories from creators whose outspoken political views and statements I find rather risible -- such as the aforementioned Millar and artist/painter extraordinaire Alex Ross -- when those stories are top notch and mostly apolitical. (Millar's Superman: Red Son, though not exactly apolitical, maintains enough of a "gray" political outlook so as the overall superb story can be enjoyed to the fullest. Ditto for Ross' work on Kingdom Come and the previously mentioned Marvels.)

I mean, look -- these creators make hundreds of thousands of dollars, even millions -- but Busiek and others would expect your average Joe Six-Pack to continue to shell out $3.99 per issue ... even though they're essentially being spit in the face?

What prompted this post are recent comments made by Busiek on his Facebook page following the shooting of Arizona Rep. Gabrielle Giffords. Avi Green at The Four Color Media Monitor opined on Busiek's remarks, while I provided the screen shots of them as well as a lengthy comment in the comments section. Shortly after the news reports of the shooting, Kurt had immediately pointed out the Sarah Palin "crosshairs" ad which "targeted" Giffords for potential electoral removal. A bit later he mocked Palin for speaking out against the unfair treatment she (and other conservatives) were getting in the press with regards to the whole incident. Now, I'm not a very big fan of Sarah Palin, but she indeed was treated ridiculously unfairly by the MSM, along with conservative pundits and Republicans in general. (Many of the reasons why have been documented right here at Colossus since the Tucson shooting.)

Does Busiek not realize that a lot of his fanbase just might be comprised of right-leaning individuals? He's certainly not a dumb man, so of course he does. So what does he expect when he makes such politically skewed comments? No reaction? People not to get pissed off when he's essentially parroting what the vacuous MSM puts out there? For example, why didn't he note that the other side did, and does, precisely what Sarah Palin did with her "crosshairs" ad?

I titled the post what I did because as a writer, Busiek can certainly touch on matters political ... and really should to a degree given his field. Again, as I noted, he's never been very overtly outspoken in his comics. And it's not a situation like I encountered about six years ago at a Jimmie Dale Gilmore concert where the singer, instead of doing what we paid him to do -- SING -- constantly rambled on and on about the supposed ills of the Bush administration. Even regular Colossus commenter, "cardinals fan," who is a huge Gilmore fan but is farther to the right than I, openly voiced his displeasure to Jimmie Dale at said concert smack dab in the middle of one of his soliloquies! In other words, with apologies to Laura Ingraham, shut up and sing! It's simply a matter of respecting your entire fanbase, whether you agree with them, but especially if you don't.

I've always said that if I was ever fortunate enough to be in a position like Busiek, Millar or even Jimmie Dale Gilmore, I'd keep my freakin' yap shut on matters political while in the public realm. Because I know that my [financial] support comes from all across the proverbial spectrum, and alienating any segment of that is simply obtuse from a basic self-interest angle. Some may say that this is all a "free speech" matter; let's just do away with that silly argument right now. Nothing is preventing Busiek, et. al. from speaking their minds, and it is unfortunately too common a misconception that criticism of someone speaking his/her mind -- including a boycott, whether individual or organized -- "suppresses" that free speech. Baloney. Indeed, what is such a boycott other than free expression itself? If I did insist on opining on matters political and/or newsworthy at various social network arenas, I'd do my damndest to cover both sides of an issue as in-depth as possible. And, perhaps most importantly, I wouldn't presume that my position/status somehow makes me smarter than the next guy, merely because I've been fortunate enough to possess that position/status.

Posted by Hube at January 30, 2011 11:33 AM | TrackBack

Comments  (We reserve the right to edit and/or delete any comments. If your comment is blocked or won't post, e-mail us and we'll post it for you.)

As Michael Jordan is supposed to have out it: "Republicans buy sneakers too."

If someone is willing to sacrifice market share in exchange for expressing their point of view, that's their right but they shouldn't express anger when people take them up on that deal.

Posted by: Paul Smith Jr. at January 30, 2011 02:40 PM

Well Busiek is no Chuck Austen that's for sure. I have several friends who monitor where Austen is working just so they know what to avoid. We celebrate him working on books we hate and mourn him writing for books we love.

Posted by: Jeff the Baptist at January 30, 2011 05:42 PM

Jeff: I actually had a very good relationship with Austen back when I was writing for an Iron Man fanzine. I liked his US War Machine (series 1). That said, I've never read much else he's written, but he was a great guy to work with in the manner I did.

Hell, Busiek was too when I worked for that 'zine. He's extremely fan friendly and seems like a genuinely down-to-earth dude.

Posted by: Hube at January 30, 2011 05:58 PM

Dunno what he's like to work with, but he does a lot of really ham-handed political and especially religious commentary in his books.

Posted by: Jeff the Baptist at January 30, 2011 08:50 PM

ALl right, what gets me about these guys is they don't have a clue about what they're talking about to begin with. Consider the
"Civil War" saga in Marvel. The heroes that were pro-registration were led, I think, by Iron Man, and were portrayed as, I think, conservative. I might have it wrong, because I never read the series, but if I'm right, that's by no means a conservative point of view.

They was probably basing that to a degree on the Patriot Act, but there again, that was supported by almost every Democrat politician, with few exceptions, until the next election came up and they decided they could turn it into a political football. After the voted for it. Without even reading the bill. Why don't comic book creators come up with a series about how craven liberal progressive Democrat politicians are? Don't hold your breath waiting on that one.

They're actually pretty stupid, in my opinion. I thought a person who was creative should be able to see what's going on more clearly than most, but maybe not.

Posted by: ThePaganTemple at February 1, 2011 08:00 AM

The worst thing about Civil War is that Iron Man's side, though certainly a rational POV by any stretch of the imagination, was made out to be quite morally questionable beyond the -- again -- rational opinion of registering those with superpowers. An interdimensional jail for those who refused? Using deadly villains as enforcers?

C'mon.

Posted by: Hube at February 1, 2011 08:09 AM

I don't know when Civil War was published, I'm assuming it was after 9/11. The inter-dimensional jail was probably a symbol for GITMO, and the villain enforcers might have been a symbol for some of the private security firms that were so controversial in Iraq. The whole thing was based on the Patriot Act, I'm sure.

My point is that Marvel has a screwed up view of what's conservative and what's liberal. To them, conservatives are all Bible-thumping bigots who use the Bible to justify their bigotry, or they are crooked businessmen who don't care about the people or the world, or they are people who use war as a means of gaining power and wealth. That's what conservatives are to them, and that's what they try to portray them as in their comics.

Iron Man has always been a conservative to their way of thinking, but he is one of the few good conservatives. And even he turned out to be quite the bloody fascist.

Posted by: ThePaganTemple at February 1, 2011 06:24 PM