In a recent conversation, a trusted friend of mine stated a fact: “Every generation has its cuss words… even this current generation.”
It’s true, though the claim may seem odd at first glance. There are words thrown into everyday conversations around us now that were once considered offensive or, at the very least, crude or unnecessary in public or private discourse. (Instead of this author giving you a list, just use your imagination.) The once-offensive words are used with such frequency that even a string of them spoken in a loud voice in a public venue likely won’t be noticed.
However, this current generation certainly still has its own list of “bad words” and other things that will cause folks to turn their nose up at another, start an argument, end a friendship or business partnership and so on. These days, it might be using the wrong pronoun from an ever-expanding list. (Wait until choose-your-own-pronoun proponents find out that Mandarin only has one main pronoun that they use for everyone and everything, all pronounced the same and whose variations are distinguished only by a few brushstrokes!) And, sadly, the white-knuckled tightness with which modern day Puritanical Progressives hold to their list of “bad words” is a detriment to every human-to-human interaction. For in their worldview, every minor offense is a great offense. What’s more, no apology is ever good enough or sincere enough. Even when reconciliation is sought, the person seeking it is always to be held the object of suspicion. So we’re left with irreconcilable situations; hurt people unwilling to drop the political correctness and just be real on a human level.
In this author’s opinion, one such casualty of this is veteran comic book artist Mike S. Miller, creator of Lonestar. Mike has been in the comic business since 1992 and, though he’s still young, he has already left an indelible mark. He has worked on X-Men, X-Factor, Hulk, Wolverine, Aquaman, Superman, Wild C.A.T.S., WetWorks, and so many others. Yet not only is his work some of the cleanest and visually stunning, Mike has even changed the nature of the comic business itself… for the good: His highly acclaimed work on Injustice: God Among Us changed how much artists were compensated for digital copies of works sold.
And Mike is also an outspoken Christian who doesn’t mince words. For example, back in a 2002 interview in the now defunct underground Christian comic zine called “Megazeen”, Mike delivered a scathing indictment of the then-current state of Christian comics, saying:
“…most of the Christian comics do just suck. And that sucks. We, as a community of Christian creators, need to be especially concerned with not putting out sub-par material. Frankly, that’s pretty much all you see out of the Christian comic market. Sub-par garbage.” (Megazeen #4, 2002, interview by Mark Melton)
In times past, speaking honestly with someone was considered a virtue. Even today, most people desire that from friends and relatives. And we certainly expect nothing less from doctors. Yet today, speaking honestly in public requires an almost supernatural level of bravery, since doing so can get you suspended or swiftly kicked off social media, dry up work opportunities, or worse. You’ll be “fact-checked” (using only the facts that are State-approved), digitally dog piled, or worse. And if you’re a Christian simply stating Christian beliefs or merely silently living out Christian principles, it appears that you are an especially despised target.
So who better to talk to about the practical implications of being an outspoken Christian in the modern-day comic scene than Mike S. Miller, someone who has stood and stood strongly for what he believes, stated it, experienced the positive / negative effects it has had on his career, and what others can learn from his decades of experience.
Hope readers are encouraged and challenged by Mike’s answers as I was.
JAY: Whether it’s covert Satanism / Crowleyism in works like “V for Vendetta” (spoiler alert: V is the Devil — and you thought he was just a cool rebel) or in recent comics like The Second Coming, mocking Jesus and anti-Christian bigotry seems to be a “cool kid” thing. Surely it’s deeper than the pages; maybe it resides in the people. You worked in the professional comic book field for decades. You would know the answer better than just about anyone. Settle the dispute: Is there open antagonism towards Christians in the field? If so, how is it manifested? And is the antagonism just towards those who are outspoken?
Mike: Jesus promised us there would be. If they hated him, they will hate us. As the industry moves farther and farther to the left, they stand more against the traditional beliefs of the Christian faith. Add into that the squeaky wheel of left thinking ‘social justice warriors’ who feel they absolutely must report anyone who denies their Social Marxist agenda to the publishers… It’s safe to say that there is an antagonism toward anyone willing to speak up for the traditional doctrines of Christianity. There are people who fly under the radar by essentially staying off of social media. If you want to be a faithful Christian in the mainstream, that is what I would suggest you do. Frankly, it’s probably a good idea for all of us, social media is destroying society… But that’s another topic.
JAY: Is the same bias extant against conservatives too?
Mike: Yeah. It got really bad when Trump was elected. Trump Derangement Syndrome is actually a thing. The mainstream media successfully programmed left-leaning people into believing that if you were a conservative and you voted for Trump, you were a Nazi. I had family say they were scared of me. Say they wouldn’t talk to me. All because of TDS. And that bled over into any conservative out there. The brainwashing, the lies told about Trump and his supporters by the media and spread through social media have brought us to the brink of civil war. That mindset is as firmly set in the left-leaning publishers and editors at the big companies as it is anywhere else.
JAY: What have been some of the fallout from your outspoken Christian beliefs? Have there been more positives than negatives? Please explain.
Mike: Before social media was even a thing, I was active on message boards speaking out about my faith. That brought me to the attention of the ‘GLA’. The ‘Gay League of America’ they called themselves back then. They started a letter-writing campaign to DC comics to get me fired. At the time I was working on JLA and had a 12 issue maxi-series greenlit that was DC’s answer to Avengers Forever. It would have been epic. It got canceled. I got canceled. I was told (ironically by a gay friend of mine who had inside information) that I had been blacklisted at DC, and it very much seemed to be the case. I could not get work at DC New York to save my life, after just having been the artist on their flagship title. I did end up years later working for the old Wildstorm crew at DC west coast, which led me to be the artist on INJUSTICE, the biggest book of my career. God is good.
JAY: We might be able to draw a principle from your response to this. In the comics industry, how vocal should one be about their beliefs, whether religious or political? And what actual, relative dangers do they face voicing their beliefs?
Mike: You won’t get work if you’re vocal on social media about Christian or Conservative beliefs. Bottom line. If you want to work for the big companies, keep those opinions off of the Internet. You can talk with friends and colleagues at conventions PROBABLY. But social media is forever, and anything you put online will be used against you by the social Marxists who either control the levers of power or are noisy enough to make those in control wary of hiring you. So what is more important to you, speaking your truth to as many people as possible, or drawing Spider-Man for shekels? That’s your choice.
JAY: You’ve had monumental success on Indiegogo with your creator-owned character Lonestar, the latest campaign earning nearly $30,000 USD. What advice would you give to up-and-coming comic creators who may be either conservative or Christian or both? Is it better to focus on working apart from the Big Two (or Three) and growing an audience there? What sort of pitfalls can they avoid if they do so?
Mike: Let me approach that from my nearly 3 decades of working in this industry. If I were to give advice to myself 30 years ago, I would tell me to work for myself. Do your own book. Do your own stories. Learn the craft. Learn to write. Learn to do every part yourself. Build your own business, no matter how small you may start, if the dream is to make comic books, then make your own comic books. The ‘dream job’ of drawing someone else’s characters doesn’t pay off for most people. If you’re good enough to draw Wolverine, you’re good enough to make a living drawing your own original property. Plus, if I had 30 years’ worth of a catalog now, I could be making residuals off my own books, not the pennies I get from Marvel royalties. Literally. I think my last royalty check for EVERYTHING I drew for Marvel was $28.00. Lol.
JAY: Has the state of Christian comics improved since 2002?
Mike: Yeah, I’ve seen some good stuff out there. I mean heck, ‘The Action Bible’ is awesome, and I think it’s the top-selling graphic novel in America. For a time, Zondervan was publishing some great Christian graphic novels. I even wrote and drew one of them. And I’ve seen some quality independent Christian projects as well.
JAY: There was once a time where comic creators who were shunned by mainstream comics were welcomed to the “ComicsGate” (CG) movement. Speaking as an external observer, it appears that some pockets of CG have morphed into just another exclusive club that attacks anyone who dares express a different opinion. Do you agree or disagree with that assessment? And how would you assess the indie comic scene / scene outside of mainstream comics at this time?
Mike: I’d say that’s a fair observation. I think the indie comic scene has a bright future. Crowdfunding has really opened the floodgates to people who previously had to go through a whole lot more trouble to get their books into the hands of fans. Self-publishing has never been easier than it is with crowdfunding. Used to be you had to glad-hand a whole lot of comic store owners and managers to get them to order even a handful of your comics, go to countless conventions at extraordinary cost to try to cobble together a few new fans. Print and stock an unknown number of comics and hope that someday you might be able to sell them… With crowdfunding, you can print as many orders as you get, you can reach people through social media and youtube, you can share audiences with other creators. You might not get rich doing it, but if your dream is to make comics, it’s become a reachable dream to just about anyone these days.
JAY: What are you working on at the moment and what can fans expect in the near future from you?
Mike: Waiting on colors to come in for Lonestar 3 and for Monster Hunt 2, both still available on Indiegogo. Waiting for the launch of Shadow of the Conqueror: Enemies of Self for Shadiversity (YouTuber with 1.22 million subscribers), sign-ups available on Indiegogo. Waiting for the colors and the launch of Bitboy for Bitboy Crypto (Youtuber with 1.14 million subscribers), as the first NFT comic book project launch. And trying to decide what my next personal project will be. Although I might have to jump on Shadow of the Conqueror #2 soon after #1 launches if it is as successful as expected.