July 17, 2012

Where I lose a little respect for an iconic comics writer

Last week, a buddy of mine lent me a copy of legendary comics guy Roy Thomas's fanzine Alter Ego (no. 103, July 2011 edition). In it is a lengthy interview with prolific writer Steve Englehart, famous for his stints on Marvel titles such as Captain America and The Avengers in the 1970s.

I've given credit to Steve for his superb "Secret Empire" storyline that was directly analogous to the Watergate scandal. Then, I wrote

Steve Englehart's awesome "Secret Empire" series in Cap in the mid-70s was a not-so subtle analogy of Watergate. Yet even Steve didn't hit us over the head with a brick ... even though he could have (Richard Nixon was pretty much thoroughly disgraced on the left and the right).

And in the interview, Steve notes just that: He could have hit us over the head with a brick had he wanted to. Marvel would have imposed no censorship on him had he desired to explicitly name Richard Nixon as the head of the Secret Empire. And again, as noted above, it probably wouldn't have mattered all that much; Nixon was a pariah on both sides of the aisle by 1974.

But then, Englehart unfortunately lapses into standard "progressive" boilerplate:

It's not entirely clear whether Englehart is referring to the public, politicians or fellow comic creators when he says "nobody," but I believe it's the latter since he then says "I could not see any way that a character named Captain America could not react to something like Watergate." Which, then, is just sad. And patently false. I've meticulously documented the many instances of comic creators ripping the Bush administration quite overtly during the former president's tenure as chief exec. (If you're so inclined, see here, here, here, here, and here just for starters.) How Englehart can state "nobody seems to do anything about that" means he hasn't read a lot of the stuff from the 2000s, or he's being disingenuous. This doesn't even address the issue of "using lies as excuses" -- a quite common bit of "progressive" dogma regarding the Iraq War. I've been consistent in my opposition to that conflict; however, I never bought the "Bush lied" screed for mainly two reasons: One, Bush's predecessors in the executive and legislative branches all said the same thing(s) he did about Saddam Hussein's possession of WMDs; two, if Bush purposely lied about WMDs to begin a war against Saddam, why would he do so knowing that they weren't there? This make absolutely zero sense. Wouldn't Bush have ordered the CIA (or whoever) to plant some WMDs to thus justify his invasion? Why would order an invasion based on a premise which would undermine his whole presidency? (Which it pretty much did once no WMDs were discovered.)

I suppose such was inevitable; Englehart is a product of his era -- the late 60s and 1970s. He came of age during the Vietnam War and an era of highly progressive change. I suppose at some point we should've expected him to fall into a few typical (liberal) talking points. Still, when it mattered, Steve didn't bludgeon us to death on his pages with his politics, calling on us to denounce our country ... nor did he do it it himself.


Posted by Hube at July 17, 2012 01:01 PM | TrackBack

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That's not surprising that he's liberal. I've been to his website where he talks about the comics he's done over the years and when you get to the politically-charged stuff like the Secret Empire story (which is good in spite of its politics) and the short-lived (and terrible) New Guardians series he wrote for DC in the late 1980s, he does get a little political when talking about it.

Posted by: Carl at July 17, 2012 03:23 PM