I don’t know if it’s possible to separate values and the fiction that we create.
Over the last couple of years since I’ve been doing videos and I’ve been talking with people within the comic book industry, I’ve become less and less certain that we’ll ever really completely eliminate politics from comics. One person that I’ve been pleased to chat with in the past is Brett R. Smith (Jawbreakers: Lost Souls) about culture and comic books. Brett’s been around the world when it comes to the industry. He’s a true industry veteran and despite disagreeing with him on some things he’s someone I have quite a bit of respect for. After an episode of my podcast Micah and The Hatman, we talked for about an hour off the air about whether or not you can remove politics from comics. What I gathered of Brett’s position is that you can’t, and as such it’s important for Conservatives to enter the medium.
(p.s. Brett if I’m wrong about this let me know)
What’s been interesting about that conversation with Brett as time has gone on is I still haven’t decided on whether or not I completely agree or disagree. I’m a big fan of Andrew Breitbart, who I credit with taking me from a meek conservative to a vocal one politically. In his book Righteous Indignation, Andrew often talks about how politics is downstream from culture. I agree with the sentiment, as do people who are politically opposed to me. You ever wonder why so many comic books come across like pre-approved DNC messaging? This is why. Modern comic book writers don’t care as much about selling comic books. They care about you voting the same way that they do. That’s why they use the medium the way that they do. It’s why you see a cringy Gamergate reference in Iron Man, or Kamala Kahn telling people to go to the polls (ostensibly to vote for Hillary Clinton).
I’m rather obviously opposed to this. Not so much because of my political affiliations. I think that it misses the point of escapism. The last thing that I want to think about if I’m picking up anything from my narrowing pull list is tariffs, Palestine, immigration law, or other such topics. I want to immerse myself in a universe that is not my own. I want to read about a man in a spider costume trying to make his neighborhood a better place. I want to read about a man dressed like a bat fighting a sociopathic clown for the soul of a city. I want to see Venom wreck stuff. It’s not hard. I have no issue with hard topics being tackled, but I want them tackled as ideas. I don’t want a sermon. I don’t want propaganda.
I think there are two philosophies to writing these days that are present that have been expanded on well by people on both sides. There’s the apolitical method of Chris Avellone (writer of games such as Planescape: Torment, Knights of the Old Republic 2, and others) where he wants to tackle ideas during the stories he writes. The other is that of freelance writer Shawn Kittleson (Injustice 2, Mortal Kombat 11) who thinks that you can include a “pill in the pudding” when it comes to your writing and deliver a message while still being entertaining. His example was that Mortal Kombat has a message of peace and unity in its story. The difference that isn’t lost on me is that Kittleson is the weaker writer of the two, and his writing is Mortal Kombat 11 was at points cringy and had the least character consistency the series has seen.
Though some may find that a cheap shot, I think that it matters to point out. As I mentioned in my last article here at Bleeding Fool, when you pull focus away from the plot and into some sort of a message you will quite literally lose the plot. As time has gone on and I have written and conceptualized more stories (I have two other books aside from Englewood with artists attached, plus two others that I have concepts drawn up of) I’ve realized that something completely different is true. I call it the “values bleed.” Anyone who has worked a blue collar job before will tell you that there is a point where you bleed for what you do. Both figuratively and literally. If anything is important to you in life, you are willing to bleed for it. It’s intrinsic to your character as a human being. There’s a piece of your essence within your work, and there is inevitably art that reflects that of the person who makes it.
As I’ve gone back and read through the script of Englewood, it’s become obvious to me that there’s a piece of me within this book. You can gauge some of my values. Family, mentoring, love for Chicago, and so forth are all there. My desire for the city of Chicago to become greater than it is now is why the book exists. It is born of the question, “what would happen if the Windy City had its own superhero?” Reason being is within the real-life Englewood (the roughest part of town) I had a co-worker bury several family members in a short amount of time. My heart broke for her. So I took that heartbreak and made it into a master martial artist who simply said, “enough is enough.”
As such, I have a book in front of me that I didn’t aim to be political whatsoever, but has some topics in it that some will inevitably see as political. The fact that I’ll be portraying the historically corrupt city of Chicago as corrupt will likely get some attention. Do I think it’s a very political statement? Not really. Utter the words “Jussie Smollett” and people of all political persuasions will tell you the city is corrupt. It has been as far back as I can recall. If that’s political, then The Untouchables is a political film. I think that men should we willing to shoulder the burden of mentoring other young men, especially whenever a father is not acting like a father. I believe that the world needs positive examples of men to look up to. Are these political? To some, though I think they’re just elements of natural life.
Then I started to realize where I sit. I think it’s important for people who aren’t left-leaning that are creative to enter the mediums of entertainment. If I could, I’d write comics, make music, write an animated series, and pile that on top of being a podcaster and writer. Thing is, whenever I enter a creative medium I’m not intending to make things political. I’m simply bleeding on stage. I’m pouring out myself in a performance for an audience with the intent to entertain. We have entered an era where the most political thing a person who hates politics can do is try to be sane and tell a good story that focuses on entertainment.
As such, I’m happy to bleed for you all.
Micah’s first comic, Englewood, will be on Indiegogo on June 28th!