Former Marvel Editor Uses Viral Central Park Encounter to Develop Dubious Comic

 

The Washington Post wrote a biased interview with the former Marvel Comics editor Christian Cooper, who’s now written up a digital comic for DC that’s supposed to be based on the encounter he had with Amy Cooper in NYC’s Central Park, where, even if she acted stupidly herself, he wasn’t doing much better with the way acted like a “public moralist”.

 

What follows is stunning:

 

Christian Cooper, the former Marvel Comics editor who famously recorded a racial profiling incident he experienced while birding in New York’s Central Park, has returned to the world of mainstream comic books. And his new story is partly inspired by that moment on Memorial Day, when he asked a White woman to abide by the rules and leash her dog, and she responded by calling the police.

Cooper’s 10-page comic book, “It’s a Bird,” became available digitally Wednesday. Illustrated by Alitha E. Martinez, inked by Mark Morales and colored by Emilio Lopez, the comic is the first issue of “Represent!,” a digital series from DC Comics that will showcase writers and artists from groups that are underrepresented in the industry.

“It’s a Bird” features Jules, a teenager given a pair of binoculars by his father and told to explore his surroundings. Jules, who has an encyclopedic knowledge of birds, is quickly harassed by those threatened by his presence as an unannounced black man in an open space.

 

Say what?!? Is this serious?

 

From this alone, it becomes mind-boggling. It sounds more like Cooper’s acting as though racism is the only problem here, when a white man could’ve done exactly the same thing he did, acting creepy as the NY Post described it earlier, come away looking just as disturbing, and not somebody you’d want to let into your house so easily. The political motivations behind this production are beginning to show.

 

After threatening Amy Cooper’s dog (by his own admission), and telling her that he would do something “you’re not going to like,” Christian Cooper began to record the visibly distraught dogwalker, who then called the police, emphasizing the race of the man she claimed was harassing her.

 

 

That and other moments of hostility evoke racial profiling that Cooper and other Black birders have experienced, but the story turns slightly mystical when Jules begins using his binoculars and sees images of Black people who have fallen to police violence, including Amadou Diallo, Breonna Taylor and George Floyd.

So again, what this boils down to is racial profiling and victimization at the hands of police, huh? On that note, I think it’s worth pointing out that Israeli airline security, for example, makes use of racial profiling for tracking suspects in potential crimes, as do Israeli police and military sources, and that’s because it’s important to know how to identify an individual terrorist by their physical features, for example (which could include freckles, among other marks on a person’s skin, or even a misshapen thumb). Alleged concerns about racial bias cannot be allowed to get in the way of safety concerns for all. So, is this digital rant by Mr. Cooper some sort of a subtle assault on security elements?

While Taylor is innocent (the Diallo affair, however, was rife with manufactured controversy), if Cooper’s whitewashing Floyd’s criminal record, which includes armed robbery and assault that got him 5 years in prison during 2009. If Cooper’s aware of Floyd’s record and deliberately chose to ignore it, that’s disturbing. What next, will it turn out he has a lenient view of Jason Blake, despite his worse criminal record? Also, why don’t white/Latino/Asian people killed by police over any kind of issues count?

 

“I really appreciated it when [DC Comics] came to me and said do you want to do this comic, because I did have something to say,” he said in an interview. “It’s interesting how it slips into maybe this space in the DC Universe that isn’t normally occupied. It is a very magical-realist tale. There is something fantastical that happens in the course of the story. But it’s not capes. It’s not superheroes.”

 

And it doesn’t sound like good news coming from DC either. It sounds more like a sign of leftist social justice politics to come, as they pick up from where Marvel all but left off a few years ago. Although Mr. Cooper’s former place of employment under C.B. Cebulski may have decided to move away from the kind of rabid politics Axel Alonso unleashed from a Pandora’s Box in the past decade, one could argue DC decided to fill the void under the confidence the MSM would cover for them in much the same way as they did during Quesada and Alonso’s EIC tenures at Marvel.

 

Cooper gave Jules’s black binoculars a central role in the comic in part because, as a Black birder, having a pair in your hands invites ignorant eyes to assume they are a weapon. […]

 

Oh, please. Beyond the notion they could be used to bop somebody on the head with, binoculars don’t strike me as a weapon at all, period. Ridiculous.

 

As enjoyable as it was to reconnect with creating comics, Cooper had to prepare himself for the emotions of working on a story that wove in so much Black pain. While writing, no matter the subject, he said, he is always able to emotionally detach. That was the case while writing “It’s a Bird,” but not so when he saw Martinez’s illustrated pages.

“When the artwork came back and I saw the visuals, I literally gasped,” Cooper said. “It was almost too powerful. I think the one that got me the most was the Breonna Taylor image. That one kind of kicked me in the gut when I saw it.”

Any DC Comics fan can tell you that “It’s a Bird” is a clear nod to Superman (It’s a bird, it’s a plane, it’s Superman!). But Cooper also saw the title as a way to pay tribute to the fallen Black lives he featured.

“At the end, [the story] takes that phrase that is associated with Superman and just launches to this other place, to this moment of grace that so many were denied in how they died and kind of giving that to them in fiction what they didn’t get in real life,” Cooper said. “I think that was very important to do.”

 

But does he believe all police are inherently evil creatures with no redeeming values? The Insider website notes him telling:

 

“There are people who are invested in distracting us right now, and there are people who want to distract us from their failures on so many other things,” Cooper continued. “That’s not what this moment is about. This moment is about the ones we’ve lost, and how we’re going to keep from losing any more. And if you’re not talking about that, I don’t want to hear it.”

Well if it matters, the Taylor tragedy does look like an abominable case where the 3 officers overreacted grossly, for which they should be punished severely. (If Republican senator Rand Paul manages to enact legislation to prevent such horrors in the future, will Cooper be grateful?) But lumping in a subject like Floyd, even after his past criminal record came about, or worse, Blake’s (who had a weapon when the cops went after him), seriously undermines the agenda, and if Cooper has no interest in prevent tragedies like 9-11 from happening again, then he’s not being particularly altruistic. Besides, how do we know the above comments aren’t a subtle lash at the Trump administration?

And when NY1 Spectrum News reported about this subject, they curiously omitted something:

 

It’s the first installment in a digital series called “Represent!” by DC Comics. The avid birder draws from what’s now his infamous encounter with a woman in Central Park, who called the police after he asked her to leash her dog.

I wonder why they don’t mention Ms. Cooper called after he started trying to feed the dog some food he was carrying, let alone the incredibly stupid accusations she made that he was threatening her life? And why don’t they ask why Mr. Cooper didn’t call the police himself, to report a woman breaking the rule in the park, if he really felt so strongly about the issue? Something must be missing here. The New York Times, which didn’t do much better, notes:

 

The slim, 10-page story is impressionistic, without a real plot. It is the first in a series called “Represent!” that features works of writers “traditionally underrepresented in the mainstream comic book medium,” including people of color or those who are LGBTQ, Marie Javins, an executive editor at DC, said in a statement. It will be available online for free starting Wednesday, at several digital book and comic book retailers.

What are the chances zero right-wing Armenians and Israelis will be the focus of such a project? Or Egyptian Copts? That POC and LGBT are made the most obvious citations only sends an open hint that’s all it ever amounts to. It gets even more problematic with the following:

 

 

After a white man shoos Jules off his lawn, the illustrator, Alitha E. Martinez, has drawn Jules envisioning Mr. Floyd’s face in place of a warbler in a tree.

In later pages, the teenager confronts a white woman in the park with her dog off leash — here the woman is named Beth and is depicted as heavyset, though Ms. Cooper is not. When Jules faces her, he is backed by the images of several Black people killed in interactions with police. When he turns his back on her, he sees them winged and flying free.

 

Let me get this straight. It’s implied the protagonist was trespassing on private property, and the lady in the story is depicted as obese? The latter reeks of stereotyping, right down to having blond hair. If that’s his idea of revenge, it only makes him look absurd.

 

Mr. Cooper refused to cooperate in the investigation, and publicly expressed compassion for Ms. Cooper in the face of the consequences that she has suffered.

He has still not heard from her, he said, and does not want to.

“It has never stopped being about the birds for me,” Mr. Cooper said. “From the beginning that confrontation had nothing to do with race. It became about race when she made it about race.”

Mr. Cooper said the Beth character is intended to be a pastiche, not a depiction of Ms. Cooper. (Ms. Cooper could not be reached for comment.)

In the final pages, as Jules and Beth verbally spar, in Ms. Martinez’s images the woman’s words physically diminish.

“You see her words become smaller and smaller, and less important,” Mr. Cooper said. “Because it’s not about her, it’s about the ones we’ve lost and how we keep from losing any more.”

 

Umm, how do we know it’s because they consider a white person’s thoughts invalid? For now, it sounds like, despite his decision not to make things worse for Ms. Cooper, he’s still feeling bitter, and continues to believe a suspect in a possible offense shouldn’t ever be identified by skin color, even though, as I noted before, Israeli authorities firmly support it as crucial to tracking suspects in terrorist activities.

Since we’re on the topic, I found an entry at The American Lawyer written by Vivia Chen, who may be Black herself, who addressed the following points:

 

Before we go there, let me say this: Most readers agree that she acted reprehensibly. Many were also troubled that the white women in my post were more concerned about their own victim status than the tragic history of racism. “The white women you give as examples don’t see the crazy—and frankly dangerous—irony of whining about unfair groupings by race and gender,” wrote a Black female lawyer.

But at least a quarter of the readers’ messages I got also defended Amy Cooper—to varying degrees. Several women told me she was rightfully scared of Christian Cooper because she found herself alone in the woodsy part of the park with a strange man. What’s more, he pulled out dog treats that could have been poisoned. (Apparently, there’s often tension between birdwatchers and dog owners, and birders deploy treats to get owners to leash their dogs.)

“She called the police to scare him because she was scared,” said one reader. Though this reader agrees Amy Cooper “went racist,” she added that “he was more threatening.”

Then there was this: “I am writing this letter in support of Amy Cooper. I do not believe that Amy filed a farce police report, as I believe that Amy was being antagonized, provoked and bullied by Christian Cooper.” This reader goes on to say that she’s concerned about female suppression and how it’s important to speak up because “the ‘Karens’ are in need of a voice of empowerment.” She added, “trying to knock the ‘Karens’ down a few pegs in status by playing the shame game is offensive to Anglo women.”

How does one begin to parse those comments? Is this reader suggesting that the fight for equality is a white woman’s cause or that she’s insulted that all uppity white women are reduced to a “Karen” caricature?

Another reader focused on Amy Cooper as feminist: “Amy Cooper was acting in defiance of a man who felt he could tell her what to do, and she wasn’t going to be put in her place.”

Then, there were a few comments that carried racist undertones, such as this: “If the man were white and she called the police on him, he would have been roundly condemned and perhaps even charged with sexual assault. But the man was Black and she was white. The color of his skin automatically granted him the victim status, even if facts spoke to the contrary. That is what really needs to be talked about.”

And, yes, this reader lamented that we are all too focused on race.

 

Let me put it this way. That reader has a point in the sense that it’s ludicrous to run the gauntlet of acting as a public moralist, rather than just say you’re going to call the cops and make a report. Again, I’m at a loss to understand why, if Mr. Cooper thought it was such a big deal, he didn’t think to do just that. He probably assumed she’d think he was joking about and merely watch in amusement, but it’s not always so simple when you’re living a city where under Bill deBlasio, crime’s taken a horrific turn, particularly ever since they made it easier for criminals to be released from custody. How was Ms. Cooper supposed to know he wouldn’t make a violent lunge at her after trying to feed the dog? And how was anyone else? The UK Independent also gave surprising revelations about Ms. Cooper:

 

In response to the video, many on social media began to speculate and insist that Amy Cooper was a Trump supporter and a member of the “MAGA” movement.

However, campaign contribution information — with donations to Democrats such as Barack Obama, Pete Buttigieg, and John Kerry — leaked online earlier today appeared to suggest that Amy actually identifies as a liberal. If true, this matters, because in this political era, during this most critical US presidential election, it is necessary that we understand and recognize that white violence transcends party lines and political ideology.

If this is so, then what we have here is a case of liberals winding up on the receiving end of political correctness this way and that, exactly the problem with this whole case Mr. Cooper’s now going out of his way to dramatize to the 10th degree. I haven’t heard any indications so far that Ms. Cooper’s married, which could suggest she’s a feminist in some ways.

 
All that aside, I’m also wondering if Mr. Cooper took the direction he did because he thought a mere white woman would be easy: if the target were a visibly Muslim woman, would his reaction be entirely different? Or, as much as I don’t like ultra-Orthodox Judaist clans like the Satmar, what if the dog-walker had been a visibly Haredi adherent, whether a man with a fur streimel hat and long beard, or a woman with a wig covering a possibly shaved head and wearing a frumpy dress, and he/she called one of their community security patrols, whereupon a bunch of Shomrim drove to the park, went after Mr. Cooper to make a citizens’ arrest and took him to a police station to prefer charges? Would Mr. Cooper have had any contact with the dog-walker in such a case if he knew they could take actions that could ensure he would get in trouble with the law more easily? Now that’s a good question, if you ask me. Regardless of how such scenarios turned out, DC would probably be less likely to ask him for a contribution to their digital comic project because of the political landmines more likely to occur based on the background of the targets. Suggesting he may have gone after Ms. Cooper because she was otherwise just another Anglican/Scottish descendent, and selectivity may have played some part in this whole drama. And, as I’d wondered before, would he have started any of this if the dog-walker were an underaged child?
 
 
Also, while there are parks in Israel where the authorities would want dogs kept on leashes, and Ms. Cooper would have been issued a fine if discovered failing to heed the requirements, most of the populace still don’t take kindly to the approach Mr. Cooper used. Here too, there’s women, including Israeli Blacks, who’d take offense at his behavior (especially after horrific cases like these), and I’m not just talking about the more piously observant ones and those who serve in the IDF. If Mr. Cooper acted smart here, then no matter how much they’d frown on Ms. Cooper for failing to uphold the rules of a park, he could still face disciplinary action by police for potential stalking and harassment instead of contacting them directly. Point: the ends cannot be used to justify the means, and Ms. Cooper herself did not commit a violent crime.
 
 
In the end, what’s clear is that political correctness played quite a part in this whole affair, and if Mr. Cooper holds the biases I worry he does, then how can I respect a man with such beliefs who condones victim culture? I’m sorry, but he’s done little more than insult the intellect, and while I’m sure there were some comics he’d worked on 3 decades ago with value, his recent conduct forces me to take it with a grain of salt. At least he won’t be able to pull a stunt like that again without dampening his reputation more than need be in the forseeable future. But, if he believes police are the sole problem, one can only wonder what he thinks of superheroes today?
 
 
 
Originally published here

Avi Green

Avi Green was born in Pennsylvania in 1974, and moved to Israel in 1983. He enjoyed reading comics when he was young, the first being Fantastic Four. He maintains a strong belief in the public's right to knowledge and accuracy of facts. He considers himself a conservative-style version of Clark Kent. Follow him on his blog at Four Color Media Monitor or on Twitter at @avigreen1

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