I’m astounded. We shouldn’t even be having this conversation.
Yet here we are. Racist tweets by comic shops, Glenn Beck talking about Spider-Man and the change of traditions, and a “radical” Superman.
What the hell happened?
If you have been near the Internet or a TV, you have heard the news: Superman has metaphorically murdered America and Miles Morales as the new Spider-Man is reading the eulogy.
While I’m being a bit comedic above, this is the tone of the reactions to Superman renouncing his American citizenship and the mantle of Spider-Man being passed to Miles Morales.
What, not frightening enough? Did I mention that Miles is a bi-racial teen, black and Latino. The conservative right, and other morons, were practically going into anaphylactic shock at the news.
Story-wise, neither change is that big of a deal. Superman only threatened to renounce his Citizenship in Action Comics #900. To date, he has never been shown to actually have done so. And Miles Morales is taking up the mantle of Spider-Man in an alternate universe. Every other Spider-Man comic on the rack right now is still Peter Parker. No worries, pasty white guys, you still rule comics.
In the age of 24-hour news cycles, hungry for anything salacious, many outlets ran both of these stories. But surely there was nothing much to politicize or cry over. Except that pundits cry for money. This is fuel for them. Yet it’s still sad watching them react exactly how you would expect: Fox News and other right-leaning publications blathered on about they are losing “their” America.
While all this attention on comic books is nice, let’s not forget the why it’s occurring. No, it isn’t that they suddenly care about comic books. Sean Hannity is not going to comic-book shops to argue over whether Barbara Gordon should be Batgirl again. They are angry because “their” America is changing. You know, the one that fit nicely and neatly in a box of definitions that they understood.
This is not the America they want. Glenn Beck on air said that Miles Morales being Spider-Man is a “change in traditions,” then blamed this change on First-Lady Michelle Obama, who is a black woman.
The question at this point begs like a hungry dog: what exactly is this change in traditions?
Perhaps this quote can help sum this problem up: ”Stand with us, brothers and sisters. Together we will overcome the forces that are trying to take our country away from us.”
The only problem is that this quote is taken from the North Carolina White Knights literature. This rhetoric shares many similarities with the reactions to Miles Morales becoming Spider-Man. Some clearly fear that this change in skin tone somehow equals the loss of a whole nation.
At the core of this type of rhetoric / platitudes is the idea that the nation has an essence. That America can so easily be delineated into a simple slogan that it could be bought and sold. The question is what that “their” means, when folks like Sarah Palin say not to change “their America.”
Isn’t that what this is about really. Property? That one person, somehow, has laid claim to the entirety of how the country should be. I am not sure what sort of economic / ethical rectitude you would need in order to have this type of authority. I know that I for one am not made of it, whatever it be.
You know who we could get to lead this moral crusade though: Superman! After all, he is the emblem of America. The truest symbol of American ethics and will. In fact, he so embodied the munificence of America that he would renounce his citizenship so he can help the entire world. This way there would be no repercussions against America either. His willingness to renounce his citizenship protected Americans, and what could be more patriotic than that?
But here again, the pundits weeped for their country being peeled away like onion skins. The truth of the story was obfuscated by the megaphone.
Truth be told, if our country does rest on a fictional character being white, the foundation was shit to start. But this sort of rancor and politicizing doesn’t happen in the comics community.
Oh. Well, maybe that was a mistake. Surely a comic book owner would never be so racist.
For those not in the know, this is the Twitter feed of Larry’s Comics. The same Larry’s Comics that was running the Twitter community #comicmarket, a well celebrated commonwealth that brought retailers and creators together, with the two sides often giving advice back and forth. It was a symbol of actualizing the potential of comic fandom. True community building.
Is this the face of our comics community now? Are we all so hungry for what we want that we are willing to disparage any other culture for a cheap, shitty joke like the above? The only difference between these out-and-out racist tweets and Glenn Beck, and other pundits who “fight” for “their” America, is that Glenn Beck and company shroud their racism as a culture war.
But this shrouded racism still does not get at what is being said here, which is racist and elitist. While it is obvious the people mentioned would not be proclaimed geniuses by most, they still carry weight / respect. This is, to me, truly frightening. That there are people out there who will continue to watch Fox News, listen to Glenn Beck, and spend money at Larry’s Comics.
I offer no quick salve. Racism is a complex issue that has haunted our country. Instead, perhaps collectively the comics community can still come together, and we can progress past Larry’s Comics. A community that can become an example of not how to fix problems but the need for camaraderie.