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by Matt "Stars" Morrison
"I'm Telling You For The Last Time..."
Okay kiddies. Closing time. You don't have to go home, but you can't stay here.
But before we lock the doors and turn out the lights, I've got one last thing to say. Something I feel the need to share after an extended philosophical conversation I had a few nights ago. Something that may set more than a few of you on edge. But I've never been one to shy away from controversy.
The other night, some fellow geeks and I got to talking about some political matters in addition to the usual shop talk and this question was raised: what side of the political spectrum do you think most superheroes come down on?
Now, there are a few obvious gimmies. Hawkman is an old-fashioned conservative, with old fashioned taking a whole new meaning with a guy who's been steadily reincarnated since the Egyptian dynasties. Green Arrow? FDR/Kennedy liberal with no party affiliations. The Question? Ayn Randian Libertarian.
Of course it's easy for second-tier heroes to have a distinct political identity. Many is the time a writer has used a lesser-known character as a mouthpiece for his own opinions. But honestly, how many readers are going to be seriously offended if Green Arrow calls for Richard Nixon's head on a platter or if Hawkman makes comments against single people who live together?
But the big guns of the DC Universe? The major icons that everyone knows about? Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman? Well, that's a whole other story. Editorial mandate has kept politics out of their books for the most part, for fear of offending the readers who might just stop buying comics if they thought that Superman were a bleeding-heart liberal or Batman was a stone-cold conservative.
Still, occasionally the writer can slip his own opinions into a story. For example, consider how Superman went from a reluctant executioner (John Byrne, during the whole General Zod saga) to being very anti-Death Penalty years later in the 90's. Compare the stories where Batman pimp-slaps the thug who dares to pull a gun on him and talks about the inherit weakness of those who use them to the Chuck Dixon penned story where Batman lectures Robin about the importance of gun safety while giving him a marksmanship lesson.
Well, the debate has gone on from chatroom to chatroom, message board to message board for years and years. And having thought a while about it, I'm ready to give you a very simple thesis.
Superheroism, by its very nature, is a liberal act.
Think about it: we have a person who goes out and gives of himself or herself, often times risking their life. They do this for no reward, no expectation of gratitude purely because of a personal moral code: because they have abilities that make them greater than everyone else and yet use those abilities to help those in need. Reword that a bit and it sound a bit like one of the more famous Karl Marx quotes: "From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs."
When you put it that way, it makes Superman sound like a Commie Pinko, doesn't it?
And Batman? Talk about the poster boy for gun control. It's been shown before that Bruce Wayne has a deep, near pathological hatred of guns. Now Bruce Wayne, in terms of the drunken playboy persona Batman uses as a mask, is probably not openly political, what with moving around some very conservative circles. Still, I'd be deeply amazed if any of the Wayne family fortune were going into the campaign war chest of any politician getting money from the NRA. Also, it's been shown that the Wayne Foundation does a LOT of charity work, putting money into the local shelters and offering jobs to the needy. See the excellent Batman: War on Crime by Paul Dini for a very detailed look as to how Batman fights crime without throwing punches.
And Wonder Woman? Classic feminist. Woman from an island populated by only women, saying they have created a paradise without men, made amazing scientific advances and achieved a lasting peace for several thousand years. I mean, just think of the political subtext here. Ignoring the obvious lesbian issues (And don't think most of us haven't!) it still doesn't look like Diana is going to be meeting with Liddy Dole or baking cookies with Laura Bush anytime soon.
And yes, I know Bush isn't president in the DCU universe. So please don't write in saying that she'd actually be baking cookies with Lana Lang.
Actually, you can't write in at all, will you? 'Cause I'm done. Or am I?
You may be pleased (or horrified) to know that I've just been picked up as a writer for the comics section of the upcoming website www.411mania.com. You can read my new regular weekly column, Looking To The Stars, as well as the occasional comic review at http://www.411mania.com/comics/index.php
It's been a blast, folks. Before I sign out, I'd like to thank some people.
First, thanks to Michael Hutchison for having had the sheer insanity to give me a chance writing here. We may not have always agreed on everything, Hutch... but you've always tried to respect me even as we argued like Carter and Ollie. And I think I've returned the favor.
Thank you to David R. Black, who handled most of my writing during the last year and was always polite enough to remind me when a deadline had passed and I had forgotten to e-mail my last article without beating me up too badly.
I'd like to thank the friendly staff and my ex co-workers at Lone Star Comics, who always made sure I'd have something to talk about in my writing.
I'd also like to thank all the fans who have sent me e-mail to thank me for saying what they thought and thought they were alone in thinking. I'd even like to thank the few people who wrote me to question my lineage and my mother's virtue.
Finally, thanks Michele. For listening, even when you had no clue what I was talking about.
Now, and for the last time... may your clerks be friendly and your comics unbent.
Matt "Stars" Morrison is a college student in Arlington, TX. He is a staff writer for Fanzing and dreams of one day actually being paid to tell people his opinions.
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This piece is © 2003 by Matt "Stars" Morrison
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