Friday, February 24, 2017

Ballot Box & Long Box

As if our current political situation here in the USA hasn't created enough turmoil, NPR's new midday show, 1A, got me thinking about how my spending habits impact (positively or negatively) those who either support or oppose political parties/politicians. It was on my weekly drive to the local comic book shop for New Comic Book Day, that I listened intently as the host and guests worked through the question of "How does one respond to an administration that has no issue shaming corporation and businesses that express any disagreement with them?"

One of the guest reminded the listening audience of the Walter Reuther quote regarding the "direct relationship between the ballot box and breadbox."

Turning off the radio at the close of the interview, I headed into the shop wondering about who the publishers of my favorite comic books supported in the most recent election. The two most likely financial contributors of note would be those at the head of the Big Two, Marvel and DC. I recall hearing something in passing about an executive at Marvel Comics being involved with the Trump administration, but had not sussed out any particulars. Yet. Was there... or should there, be a direct relationship between the ballot box and the comic book long box? What practical impact would a potential buy-cott of  a company like Marvel whose chief executives contribute significant amounts of their personal financial gains (and therefore the money the consumer spend on the services provided) have? If I were to find out a Marvel bigwig was helping fund a politician I did not agree with, would my moral compass suggest I stop supporting that line and would it provide a meaningful enough message?

My initial thought is that the majority of artists (editors, writers, inkers, pencillers, letterers, etc.) in the industry, at least based on what can be inferred via Twitter, lean toward the more liberal side of the political spectrum. This group would include some of the most prominent Marvel creatives including Spider-man writer Dan Slott. My weekly pull sheet includes many titles that reflect my own (and presumably those of the creators) political leanings though such a factor has not always been a factor in my choices. (I do however purchase some titles that I don't outright "love" but recognize the need to support the artistic voice in the mainstream with my dollars.)

I am only a comic book fan with a very limited understanding of the industry beyond what can be gleaned though online reading and the tweets of a myriad of creators. (I do know that the "Marvel way" and "bullpen" was something of a ruse, albeit one I totally bought into as a youth: "Kirby, Stan and the crew hang around an office together goofing and making comics, right?")

So, what is "the story" with Marvel Comics and the 2016 Presidential candidate?

Last January, according to most news sources (whether the action was framed as a "good" or "bad" thing depends on the sources ranging from Breitbart to The Hollywood Review), "Marvel Entertainment CEO Isaac 'Ike' Perlmutter joined Republican presidential frontrunner Donald Trump by donating $1 million of his own money to America’s veterans on Thursday night in Des Moines, Iowa." (Breitbart) This was after first donating $2 million to Marco Rubio's during the primary season (THR). Following Trump's election victory, Perlmutter's wife was part of Trump's Inauguration committee.

Despite this personal support of Republican candidates, Perlmutter's employer Marvel Comics has famously published reality "crossovers" that (at least superficially) are decidedly pro-Democrat. There are two obvious examples that quickly come to mind. Who can forget the Amazing Spider-man #583 variant cover that featured Spidey snapping a picture of President Obama? This stunt proved successful enough to warrant four reprint runs. More recently, issue Ms. Marvel #13 in which the book's protagonist, Kamala Khan aka Ms. Marvel, overtly throws her support behind Senator Clinton. In an unfortunate twist, the issue actually hit stands after Election Day. This is chronicled in greater detail in "Marvel Comics Superhero Uses Her Powers to Help Elect Hillary Clinton" (from an unbiased website who's mission is to "combat liberal media" so take that as you will).

Whether a calculated move for image purposes or (optimistically) because of the high quality of the product warrants it, Marvel has also been willing to publish titles reflecting a very clear political agenda. The most obvious recent example of this would be the cover to issue 8 of 2016's short-lived "ongoing" Mockingbird. (Ironically the last issue to be published as the book was canceled following it's publication.) It made quite a bit of news when the protagonist was featured on the cover wearing a t-shirt inviting readers to "Ask me about my feminist agenda".

The bottom line is while I like using my disposal entertainment dollars to be entertained, I also recognize to use these limited resources to support political/social perspectives with which I have agreement. Not buying certain comic books might make one "feel better" but ultimately only impact negatively those at the creative level. It is fair to suggest that this group includes many individuals whose ideals are consistent with my own and are giving larger voice to relevant issues.

Nothing is simple, even in the murky place where the worlds of lol it's and "funny books" overlap. The resolution to the decision of whether or not to buy-city is to remain vigilant in following the money in a way that works best for you and your conscience.

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