Public Radio International spoke with Brian K. Vaughan about his new graphic novel titled Barrier, a bilingual comic mixing the topic of illegal immigration with sci-fi elements. First though, let’s take a look at what seems like an exaggerated boast:
“It was incredible,” Brian K. Vaughan said of the movie. “I love superheroes, but it’s wild that superheroes, in particular, have become so mainstream.”
Vaughan said that’s because when he was young, comics were inexpensive and more about art. Vaughan was one of the people that made it more mainstream. He’s written comics that star Spider-Man, Captain America, Batman and the X-Men. His comic book series “Saga” is a huge hit, and there’s a movie in the works based on another series — “Y: The Last Man.” For TV shows, Vaughan’s written for “Lost,” “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” and Marvel’s “Runaways.”
Oh please. He may have written books starring some of these mainstream characters, but he’s done anything but make comicdom proper more mainstream. They don’t sell in millions, and if a huge chunk of the public never heard of Vaughan or his books, it actually figures. Insular marketing and failure to advertise in wide ranges is just part of the problem, along with his wretched politics.
Now, let’s turn to Barrier itself, and what his artist has to say, which is pretty eyebrow-raising:
“The biggest appeal to me was probably [that] we’re gonna be able to alienate all the readers now,” said Marcos Martín, who illustrated the “Barrier” comic book series. “Having them speaking in their own languages was one of the best ways for the reader to understand that [alienation] feeling.”
Martín is a veteran of superhero comics like “Batgirl” and “Daredevil,” and drew the “Barrier” stories in much the same style. He and Vaughan published them independently with their company, Panel Syndicate. Martín said at the time they didn’t think much about the politics of immigration.
“Donald Trump hadn’t even been elected yet,” Martín said. “It wasn’t, I think, as much a hot topic as it’s become in the last couple of years or the last year even.”
He sure sounds pretty delighted at the notion their comic would supposedly echo the times. No less disturbing is that he finds it just as appealing they’d alienate audiences. What kind of people are these who don’t care about an audience? Mainly because he doesn’t seem to understand that anybody who can’t read Spanish per se can consult a dictionary to learn what’s written in the dialect and script.
In the first book of the “Barrier” series, US Border patrol officers descend on a caravan of migrants. A teenager from Honduras flees. He finds himself on a ranch, facing a lone American woman — a widow with a shotgun. She yells at him in English and points the gun. He tries to explain in Spanish, and they don’t understand each other. It looks like there’s going to be an ugly confrontation.
And then … wait for it … the aliens arrive. They’re both abducted.
“Once these people are on a spaceship we realize they have so much in common — more than anyone else in this section of the cosmos they’ve been dragged to,” Vaughan said.
I recall the ill-fated Vertigo title Border Town, written by the now disgraced Eric Esquivel, may have featured a vaguely similar plot involving space aliens. I just don’t get what all this propaganda about “needing each other” is meant to do, other than make people think laws are irrelevant in real life when it comes to border interlopers on terra firma? And apart from being whisked away by space aliens, what do the two prime characters have in common other than one’s a US rancher and the other’s an illegal migrant from Honduras? This sounds like a blurring of the facts involved.
There’s a long tradition of comic books taking on political issues, said Rob Salkowitz, an author and comic book industry analyst. Superman, after all, was an immigrant.
Oh dear. I’m not sure if Salkowitz or the interviewer made that statement, but it’s just a huge exaggeration to say the Man of Steel is an immigrant, rather than a refugee infant from a distant, destroyed planet, who was adopted by earth inhabitants to grow up and become a great hero. How long has this propaganda angle exploiting Superman been going on? I’d say almost a decade now, and those pushing it have got to cut it out. It’s nothing more than attempts to blur the boundaries of science fiction and reality, and above all, it’s exploitative of somebody else’s sci-fi creation to bolster their heavy-handed agenda.
“When confronted with another language, it drives a lot of people crazy,” Vaughan said. “I guess I didn’t understand when I first released it exactly how political this story was going to be.”
The angriest complaints came from North America, he said.
“I think they were the people most expecting a sort of more conventional comic experience,” he said. “But everyone else I think was largely open to something new.”
Please. Anybody can consult a dictionary, even online, to translate what’s written in Spanish, if not what’s written in otherworldly dialects, and thus get an idea what’s in discussion. And what if the complaints coming from the USA happened to be focused on the shoddy politics, rather than the bilingual scripting?
There’s quite a few writers these days who try to twist everything to suit their visions, and Vaughan’s probably one of them. Whatever he’d brewed up here is just more dreadful leftism focused on cheap viewpoints and shows no interest in doing a comic based on research into more serious matters. These, sadly, are the kind of people running the asylum today.