Saturday, November 3, 2007

The Politics of Slugfests

I am quite often surprised by the venues in which I will encounter stories on comics and graphic novels. I certainly never would have expected the self-styled journal of "liberal intelligence," The American Prospect to feature as its cover story a report on current trends in super-hero comics, complete with a blow up of a panel from Warren Ellis' Black Summer.

The article by Julian Sanchez examines recent attempts, in stories that directly or indirectly criticize the Bush administration, from Black Summer to Marvel's Civil War, to mix progressive politics and super-heroes. It is Sanchez's conclusion that, while well intended, these super powered political allegories ultimately fail because of what he sees as the conservative--he goes so far at one point as to use the word "fascist"-tendencies inherent in the nature of the super-hero genre itself.

Sanchez cites Civil War as "...the clearest example..." of his thesis: "The Superhero Registration Act," he writes,"is a straightforward analogue of the USA PATRIOT Act; the rhetoric of its opponents could have been cribbed from an ACLU brief. But under scrutiny, their civil libertarian arguments turn out to hold very little water in the fictional context. The 'liberty' the act infringes is the right of well-meaning masked operate unaccountably, outside the law--a right no sane society recognizes."

Sanchez, in my view, has a valid point. Super-heroes have always been defenders of the establishment and the status quo, and political allegories in the genre have always worked better when the so-called heroes become the oppressors rather than the freedom fighters.

1 comment:

J Gilpin said...

I did not read the source article but would like to comment on your synopsis and analysis. When the status quo swings so far to right, even the superheroes start to seem liberal. I try to stay moderate on these issues myself as either extreme of the continuum can be a bit wacky.

I have watched with some puzzlement as lots of popular media, especially TV, depict mild torture, ignoring civil liberties and violating miranda rights. Is this "art imitating life" or does it lead to a dulling of our sensitivity to these issues as "life imitates art"?