This week, I want to talk about comic books and politics. Should comics be influenced by politics? And have comics lost some of their sense of social justice?
Now, to get to the bottom of this, I have to go back to the Silver Age of Comics, the late 50's to early 70's, a time of great social and political reform and upheaval, especially in America. The prevalent black civil rights movement saw the birth of the first black superheroes, such as Black Panther and Falcon at Marvel and Black Lightning at DC. But even before then, there were some instances of comics favouring civil rights. For example Real Fact Comics issue 5 (DC, 1946) ran a highly favourable piece on Paul Robeson, a black actor/ singer/ athlete, which included the phrase "He already, by example, has taught the world, as well as his race, that color has nothing to do with greatness." which was hugely progressive for a time when there was still segregation in federal buildings. Also some comics featuring white protagonists came out against racism, such as Green Lantern/ Green Arrow, The Avengers and Captain America (admittedly the later two really only came out against racism when they had the two aforementioned black heroes amongst their rooster of characters). However, whilst black people seem to be doing well in comics now, I still think that some ethnic groups are being left out. For example, whilst I can think of a few Asian superheroes, I struggle to think of many Hispanic heroes and I can only think of at best 3 representatives each for any religion that is not Christianity. I can't name any explicitly Muslim heroes apart from Dust from the X-Men (Simon Baz is never said to be Muslim as far as I'm aware, just Arab-American, but feel free to correct me if I'm wrong) and I can't think of any Hindu heroes off the top of my head.
Then we come to more a political side. Whilst I am glad to see a decent proliferation of LGBT heroes and heroines in comics today, I can't help thinking that the writers are actually shying away from any big political story-lines that might result. This is also now true about dealing with racism. It's almost as if they are denying that these problems exist. I know comics are still meant to be aimed at younger people (some might say kids), but surely that's a good enough reason to do it. By including any character specifically as a "good guy" (Batwoman, Hulkling and Wiccan from the Young Avengers, etc.) you are saying that it doesn't matter who they love, hopefully making an impression. So why is the bad side being ignored. They're saying "this isn't something that is wrong" about being gay, so why are they not saying "this IS something that is wrong" about the hatred and violence directed at people just for being different.
Anyway, that's my two pennies worth. I'd like to hear what you guys think about this subject. However, be warned. I want a fair and reasonable discussion, so if I see anyone being unreasonable or being intolerant towards any group mentioned above, I will be removing your comments.