Cartoonist Art Spiegelman is famous for his Holocaust-themed graphic novel Maus from the 1980s. Unfortunately, he’s also a boilerplate leftist who believes rightists are the root cause of all evil, including Donald Trump, and recently wrote an essay that was originally to be included in a collection of Golden Age Marvel reprints, but the editors balked because of his use of a slang that’s been associated with Trump, and as a result, he had it published in the far-left UK Guardian’s pages instead. Here’s the paragraph in question from the essay itself:
Auschwitz and Hiroshima make more sense as dark comic book cataclysms than as events in our real world. In today’s all too real world, Captain America’s most nefarious villain, the Red Skull, is alive on screen and an Orange Skull haunts America. International fascism again looms large (how quickly we humans forget – study these golden age comics hard, boys and girls!) and the dislocations that have followed the global economic meltdown of 2008 helped bring us to a point where the planet itself seems likely to melt down. Armageddon seems somehow plausible and we’re all turned into helpless children scared of forces grander than we can imagine, looking for respite and answers in superheroes flying across screens in our chapel of dreams.
And at the end of the essay, it looks like he had some addendum specially for sources like the Guardian:
I turned the essay in at the end of June, substantially the same as what appears here. A regretful Folio Society editor told me that Marvel Comics (evidently the co-publisher of the book) is trying to now stay “apolitical”, and is not allowing its publications to take a political stance. I was asked to alter or remove the sentence that refers to the Red Skull or the intro could not be published. I didn’t think of myself as especially political compared with some of my fellow travellers, but when asked to kill a relatively anodyne reference to an Orange Skull I realised that perhaps it had been irresponsible to be playful about the dire existential threat we now live with, and I withdrew my introduction.
A revealing story serendipitously showed up in my news feed this week. I learned that the billionaire chairman and former CEO of Marvel Entertainment, Isaac “Ike” Perlmutter, is a longtime friend of Donald Trump’s, an unofficial and influential adviser and a member of the president’s elite Mar-a-Lago club in Palm Beach, Florida. And Perlmutter and his wife have each recently donated $360,000 (the maximum allowed) to the Orange Skull’s “Trump Victory Joint Fundraising Committee” for 2020. I’ve also had to learn, yet again, that everything is political… just like Captain America socking Hitler on the jaw.
Let me put it this way. I happen to find Perlmutter dismaying because he showed no interest in improving Marvel’s comics themselves, and he may have expressed disrespect for Stan Lee, startlingly enough. All he seemed to care about was building up the movie brand, which looks to be receding in terms of success now. But if Spiegelman’s just attacking him because of his political standings, that’s incredibly dumb. And it would only become dated in less than a few years down the memory lane. And no, not everything is political, but his fellow left-wing travelers sure seem to want it that way. Here’s the same paper’s news report on what happened:
Art Spiegelman, the legendary graphic novelist behind Maus, has claimed that he was asked to remove criticism of Donald Trump from his introduction to a forthcoming Marvel book, because the comics publisher – whose chairman has donated to Trump’s campaign – is trying to stay “apolitical”.
Spiegelman, who won a Pulitzer prize for Maus, his story of the Holocaust, has written for Saturday’s Guardian that he was approached by publisher the Folio Society to write an introduction to Marvel: The Golden Age 1939–1949, a collection ranging from Captain America to the Human Torch.
[…] After submitting the essay in June, Spiegelman says he was told by the Folio Society that Marvel Comics was trying to stay apolitical, “and is not allowing its publications to take a political stance”. Neither publisher responded to requests for comment from the Guardian, but Spiegelman claims he was asked to remove the sentence referring to the Red Skull or his introduction would not be published. He pulled the essay, placing it instead with the Guardian.
[…] Marvel: The Golden Age 1939–1949, which now carries an introduction by Marvel editor Roy Thomas, is published in September.
Well I gotta hand it to them – they certainly made a good choice for who to develop an introductory essay instead. A comics veteran who’s mostly conservative himself, but usually far from political in the same way Spiegelman sadly is not. And Spiegelman doesn’t think he’s especially political? Back in the early to mid-2000s, he published another graphic novel called In the Shadow of No Towers, and the left-leaning Sequart describes it as such:
Spiegelman’s second original page (as numbered as ten) depicts Osama Bin Laden and George W. Bush standing over a sleeping Spiegelman, depicted as one of the mice from Maus; Osama Bin Laden carries a bloody saber, George W. Bush a U.S. flag and a revolver. A caption reads “EQUALLY TERRORIZED BY AL-QAEDA AND BY HIS OWN GOVERNMENT…” The image — which Spiegelman notes in his introduction “had made some editors visibly shudder” (perhaps with reason) — strikes me as almost a stereotype of the liberal response to 9/11.
The problem is that, not only does it reek of moral equivalence, but it practically does echo what some leftists at the time thought of right-wingers; not just merely Bush himself. The bizarre notion that al Qaeda was working for the US government, a conspiracy theory since come to be known as 9-11 Trutherism. Surprisingly enough, though the writer has a negative view of people like Bush for all the wrong reasons, he does admit this graphic novel is mediocre, if not pan it altogether:
Spiegelman’s obviously straining here, and not only to produce political commentary in a tumultuous time. His narrative starts with his experience on 11 September 2001, then increasingly gets distracted by anti-Bush commentary. Spiegelman himself seems to recognize this, writing in his introduction that “new traumas began competing with still-fresh wounds and the nature of my project began to mutate.” He recalls how he’d planned at least three additional sequences depicting his experience on 9/11 and shortly thereafter. His narration of his day, on 11 September 2011, is good enough that one can regret that he didn’t stick to his original plan and complete that story. Yet by the fifth page, he abandons his narration of that day completely. It returns briefly on page six, as if he’s trying to steer his story back on course, but page six then jumps forward to an unrelated incident, and then Spiegelman surrenders completely to his passions. The A-plot of 9/11 disappears, not unlike those towers, and all that’s left is the wild B-plot of flailing political commentary.
Addressing Bush, Spiegelman writes, “You rob from the poor and give to your pals like a parody of Robin Hood while distracting me with your damn oil war!” Criticizing Bush as anti-progressive or harsh on the poor is certainly fair game, although the alarming gap between rich and poor Americans didn’t start with the current administration. But thinking Iraq an “oil war,” although conventional, shows a remarkable lack of contemplation: the U.S. could have opened Iraqi oil through the U.N.’s oil-for-food program, and oil companies routinely disdain destabilization of oil-producing countries while generally not caring that the stabile government selling oil oppresses or kills its people.
There’s just one problem here: the oil-for-food program was corrupt. That aside, I’ve got a feeling Spiegelman would’ve been just as opposed if the Bush administration had declared war on Iran, their own nuclear warfare and violence-prone regime notwithstanding. His claim Marvel wants to be apolitical surely isn’t true either as Saladin Ahmed currently stands out as one of the most political writers they’re still employing. I’m guessing the reason they may have avoided making the introduction to their newest Golden Age archives politically charged is because they’re not marketing that to the same audiences that guys like Ahmed seemingly are, and realize more reasonable people are bound to notice the politics and object. So, in order to remain under the radar with what left-wing ideologies they’re still forcing down everyone’s throats, Marvel may wish to avoid putting such things in most of the older archival material they publish.
It’s really too bad that Spiegelman’s gotten to be such a political firebrand in his own way, and otherwise maintains an ignorant view of Islam and Saddam Hussein’s evils in Iraq. I think sometimes that if leftists were to become a bit less politically active, it could help make improvements in our culture.
Originally published here.