web stats

CSBG Archive

Omar Karindu on “Hitler vs. Comic-Book Hitler; or, Why Super-Heroes Shouldn’t Fight Al Quaeda”

Our pal Omar wrote this up at the Comics Should Be Good forum here, but I thought it was notable enough for it to appear here, too! Nice work, Omar!

Every so often, someone will ask, “Where is today’s version of a comic in which Superman or Captain America deck Bin Laden?” They point, with nostalgic pride, at the cover to Captain America Comics #1, or to Siegel and Shuster’s oft-reprinted Superman strip from a 1940 issue of Life Magazine featuring the capture and Hague-style trial of then-allies Hitler and Stalin. (As an aside, the crime for which they’re punished is “modern history’s greatest crime — making war on unarmed nations!” The news of Nazi and Stalinist genocide hadn’t made it big yet, apparently.)

I’m here to argue that we oughtn’t bother with such bizarre posturing by proxy. I’m here to argue for the long-overdue death of nostalgia for the WWII propaganda comic.

Portraying Cap punching Osama on the cover or interior of a comic, like Frank Miller’s recent announcement that he’s sending Batman after the murderous demagogue’s organization, seems quite silly and meaningless in a a world where the real Al Qaeda virtually daily blows up a bunch of civilians or soldiers.

And before you ask, I have some trouble with the Cap vs. Nazis stuff as well. And those problems are exactly those that’d inhere to nearly any direct portrayal of “Cap vs. Bin Laden” as well.

It’s the same problem one gets when one sees Kruschev comedically ranting about how he’ll destroy Iron Man and crush freedom in old Tales of Suspense issues, or in that awful West Coast Avengers story where historical monsters including Stalin and Himmler came back from Hell with costumes and powers and proceeded to run around having punch-ups with Wonder Man and Tigra. It’s just, at a certain level, deeply stupid and offensive.

It invariably amounts to the pretense that these guys are no different than comic-book supervillains and can be dealt with in the same way. Of course no one sane or decent likes Stalin, bin Laden, Hitler, or the rest. But most of those people don’t need a clumsy cartoon to make them feel better by having pretend heroes beat up unrealistic, pretend versions of real dangers to humanity.

At a basic level one has to remember that all of those old stories featuring a caricatured, cowardly, blowhard Hitler 1) came out before most people knew the extent of the Nazi regime’s anti-Semitism, and long before any of the creators or buyers of the comic knew of the Shoah; and 2) already seem rather trivializing of the monstrosity of the real Hitler and the deaths of real people when you consider that at the same time the average comics fan of the 1940s was reading about Cap punching cartoon-Hitler in the face, the real Hitler was oppressing millions and his troops were shooting real bullets at real troops; and 3) the average age of a comics reader at that point in time was somewhere between 6 and 10 years old; no one much older read the things until Stan Lee and the 1960s came around, and, if anything, comics had an even worse reputation as juvenilia back then than they have for quite a while now.

Does anyone read the vaudeville-accented, utterly silly Hitler of those comics — hell, of even a number of 1960s Cap comics — and think that caricature in any way resembles the real Hitler or does justice to the real sacrifices made to stop him, the very real horror he caused? Or is he at best a mere shorthand for “comic-book evil” requiring minimal work on the writer’s part and at best a madly errant effort to make people with minimal power and some degree of insecurity over the final outcome of a conflict feel as if they were winning all the same?

Viewed in that light, it’s at best misguided and at worst rather tasteless.

Consider also the general message one might take from such a comic: real soldiers are useless, and it would take a superhero to actually threaten these tyrants and terrorists. It elevates the enemy to the status of a grand super villain, when the enemy was never that grand or that omnipotent…nor, sadly, that absurd and comical.

More to the point, it’s a profoundly uninspiring message in today’s context, where it’s infinitely harder to simply pretend that a clash of symbols can solve a problem of reality. Such stuff provides imaginary, childish hope at the expense of practical, adult solutions. Patriotism is no longer interchangeable for most people with jingoism, and propaganda of that sort no longer functions even as working propaganda. Nor do most people read reality in the terms of heroic epic.

Bin Laden, like Hitler, will probably always stand in (in Europe, America, well, pretty much everywhere wihtout a significant population os Islamist militants) as a byword for unspeakable evil, but the binary doesn’t, for most today, automatically confer nobility and virtue on whoever opposes them. And that conferral of nobility is the other side of the allegorical transfer meant by pitting comics’ paragons of morality against reality’s icons of monstrosity and atrocity. That’s the danger of propaganda; it fools us into believing in our absolute virtue without being bothered to demonstrate it, without being forced to check it against our actions and their results.

Old-style propaganda comics aren’t bad because they’re anti-bin Laden or anti-Hitler, they’re bad because, like all propaganda, they at some level aim at producing psychological relief by way of the inherently disempowering impulse to avoid a real confrontation and real complexities in favor of a pretend showdown where victory is easy and the foe is both absurdly large-scale and inanely non-threatening.

In short, it’s not only kids’ stuff, but badly-done kids’ stuff. And I don’t think contemporary comics or their readers or the war effort will benefit from reviving any of it today.

I’m sensible enough to realize that Nazi iconography and, yes, comic-book Hitler are effectively now fictions almost totally detached from the original reality; that Hitler in the Marvel Universe really isn’t the real Hitler, but instead just one more super-villain who occasionally wears a colorful costume and spouts a melodramatic rant and wields a Kirby ray gun; but you see, that’s just about the only way he works in the MU: as something that really isn’t the real Hitler in any way, shape, or form, but instead as an astoundingly reductive allegory for prejudice that Captain America defeats by refusing to give in to his hate, or Nick Fury beats up and shoves through a space-station airlock.

Nor am I arguing that superhero comics can’t do real-world problems and threats; they do ‘em all the time. What I’m arguing is that superhero comics generally have to do these problems as reductive allegories; that the price of bringing gun control into the Marvel Universe is that it becomes Superhuman Registration; that the price of writing a story where Batman confronts terrorism is that neither his methods nor his opponents will really be all that much like any real military operation or any real terrorist, nor will they wind up being all that distinguishable from his last go-round with Ra’s al Ghul (who is, really, already a vaguely Arabic terrorist, isn’t he?). Putting the face and name of the real enemy on such thin fictions is, at some level, profoundly dishonest. Pretending that pretend, often impossible methods have direct relevance to real problems likewise seems dishonest, and more than that, willfully stupid.

To do politics, let alone war, superheroes need instead to take into account just what the translation of those issues into the terms of the artifices of the genre will do upon what I might term a re-translation. There are stories that I think have done this aspect halfway well, to be sure. I won’t name them here, at the risk of sparking an even bigger and certainly more tangential argument than this post might.

No, I’m here to argue against the return of a type of story that really isn’t as inspiring or as clever or, ultimately, as good as some people seem to remember it.

72 Comments

Before I even opened the article, I decided to count down the paragraphs before the words “Frank Miller,” “patriotism” or “jingoism” appeared. The Miller reference came pretty early, but it took longer than I expected for the other stuff, I give you credit on that. But honestly, discomfort with patriotism is really what this comes down to when I hear people complain about it. White knight depictions of America make modern progressive readers uneasy. As far as the trivialization of real life tragedy argument goes, I don’t buy it. Serial killers are real life tragedies that hurt a lot of people, as are murders, bank robberies, rape and mass genocide, yet we see those depicted regularly in comics with no complaint. If trivialization of real life tragedy was taken out of comic books, what would we be left with?

And how does everyone feel about that fact that they’re STILL fighting Nazis in mainstream comic books (See the initial Justice Society arc)? Why should we shy away from someone who wants to write about superheroes and arab terrorists doing so?

Discomfort with Patriotism? That’s what you boil this down to? That’s a pretty good straw man there.

It’s not any discomfort with patriotism that causes me to suggest that simplistic depictions of America are not what is needed. I think we can look at America’s faults and mistakes and still think that America is a damn sight better than Islamic Terrorists. By the same token I think we can look at Al-Qaida and acknowledge what they think they are trying to accomplish while remembering that they are pretty damn evil.

Simple minded analysis of the propagandistic sort is what got us into Iraq, and I’m pretty sure we need more complex understandings than simple minded pictures of Captain America punching Osama Bin Ladin are likely to provide.

As far as the trivialization of real life tragedy argument goes, I don’t buy it. Serial killers are real life tragedies that hurt a lot of people, as are murders, bank robberies, rape and mass genocide, yet we see those depicted regularly in comics with no complaint.

We see them perpetrated by fictional characters, usually. Batman never went after Jeffrey Dahmer or John Wayne Gacy either, to my knowledge.

(“No complaint” about rape in comics? You don’t read many blogs, do you?)

Well, the rape complaints were more because it was exploitative and crass than the fact that it was rape. When tackled more tastefully I’ve seen it get a pass.

And yeah, I do consider it mostly about discomfort with blatant patriotism. When Marvel Knights had its launch of Captain America, it tackled terrorism and 9/11 with moral equivalency and I didn’t see this level of complaints about incorporating real villains into comics. Captain America being disillusioned after a thinly-veiled Watergate scandal is still considered one of the great storylines. Captain America still fights a Nazi regularly, the Red Skull. As long as the stories have moral equilancies and shades of grey, or we’re reminded that he’s fighting on behalf of the “American people” and not that dreaded American government, it’s fine. Yet after Frank Miller announces his project, suddenly the same people that keep saying that superhero comics need to grow up and address adult issues suddenly cry foul? It’s just a fear of anything that might remotely be considered neo-con friendly.

Did 9/11 even happen in the Marvel U? Because if so, I missed the explanation for why the Stamford Incident would cause the American public to be overwhelmingly in favor of their government conscripting superheroes and establishing forces with certain fascist connotations to round up other heroes and police the population, rather than conscripting them after 9/11 to go after the people who attacked us. But I guess Mark Millar understands America a lot better than me.

Yes, 9/11 happened in the MU.

T – the problem is, the only depictions of Middle Easterners we ever get in our media depict them as one-dimensional terrorists who just hate America for no particular reason.

These depictions, cumulatively, lead to a dehumanization of Arabs. Some of it is deliberate and some of it is not, but we tend to dehumanize our enemies in war through whatever media we have available in order to make ourselves feel more comfortable about atrocities we commit (atrocities like Abu Ghraib).

And you’re going to try to make me out like I hate America, but “we” is “humans”, not “America”. Sure, America did it in WWII, dehumanizing the Japanese so that we wouldn’t mind relocating them into camps, and we did it with all sort of Communists (especially Asian Communists), but it’s not in any way limited to America. The Nazis dehumanized the Jews. The Japanese dehumanized the Chinese. The Israelis and Palestinians dehumanize each other. The Crusaders dehumanized the Muslims.

That’s my big issue with it. What Brian posted was related to what I’ve been thinking over for the past few days (since seeing the new Iron Man trailer — FINALLY a superhero who is a rich white man with ties to the arms industry burning brown people alive with his flamethrower hands! AMERICA! FUCK YEAH!), but it’s the idea of watching human being be dehumanized that bothers me.

T., I have to address your arguments. My concern is essentially with the failure to take into account the differences between the superhero genre and real life, and the way in which forcing very real issues and people into superhero stories tends to rob the genre of its power.

I’ve no problem, for example, with Batman tackling Ra’s al Ghul, nor even with the way in which al Ghul (especially in Chuck Dixon stories) has been made into an allegorical model of a real terrorist. The advantage in doing so is that al Ghul can function as a (supered-up) terrorist, can employ exaggerated versions of terrorist tactics, but can also be rendered up as a character of dimensions and breadth.

You can’t do that with Hitler, bin Laden, Stalin, or the rest. To begin with, the idea of making them sympathetic is repugnant on its face for nearly everyone, myself included. The flip side of this is that no one can do a comic in which that real-life Nazi or real-life terrorist gettin punched in the face is a proper character. They’re narratively uninteresting; their only value to the story is, frankly, propagandistic. And I, at least, would hope that patriotism can operate at a level more authentic and more worthwhile than that of thin propaganda, the clash of mere symbols. The substitution of jingoistic simplifications for patriotic sympathies is, to my mind, the nasty operation that propaganda carries out (or tries to, at any rate).

I’ll go a step further and say that most of the very best Captain America adversaries work the same way: the Viper is a nihilistic terrorist, for instance, and by explicitly making her a nihilist — when I can’t really think of any real-world terrorists who are avowed nihilists — we’re able to play with the way in which terrorist acts appear to be nihilistic from the outside of the lunatic ideologies that drive them. Even the Red Skull has gradually been divorced from any meaningful connection to real Nazi ideology or Nazi political philosophy; he’s become a figure of almot literally Satanic evil, one who can stand in for any number of existential threats to America or totalitarian logics. (Note how unreflexively the 1950s Cap comics switched his allegiance from Nazism to Communism, something quite absurd in real-world political terms, and how clunkily Marvel had to go about explaining that away in more continuity-conscious times.)

My crityique isn’t a political one; it’s an aesthetic one. And while I’m not going to claim that aesthetics are bigger than politics, I might ask you: is a story about Cap punching bin Laden about anything other than the visceral power of that image, or is it a story about characters interacting as characters and carrying a narrative?

There is a definite Modern Leftist slant in Mainstream comics. From having Luthor become President during Bushs term to the Warren Ellis’ cry for Fox News attention, Black Summer to Marvels Civil War.

Of course I am shocked that no one has mentioned CrossGen’s, just-about-censored, American Power, where Chuck Dixon had a hero punch Bin Laden. With just that cover alone, Lying from the Gutters Rich Johnston began a campaign to get this comic removed. Racism was a word thrown around.

Recently Matt Fractions Punisher has the HAtemonger as a racist anti illegal immigration terrorist. In many interviews he does mention that he gives almost 2 pages to the other side of the immigration issue, but he also states a comic book is no place to discuss politics. BUUUUTTT he is discussing it. I find that explanation weak.

Also, the silence of the CBLDF community when it came to the Danish Islamic cartoons was astounding. I suppose fighting censorship idiots in Alabama is both cooler and safer.

Yes, 9/11 happened in the MU. It made Doctor Doom cry.

But it makes no sense that it happened. Apparently, every superhero was busy that day, so it was able to happen exactly as it happened in the real world. The superheroes didn’t even bother to try to rescue anybody until after the towers fell.

Here’s an article I read yesterday by Peter Gillis, linked from a site which was linked from this site, where he talks, among other things, about how it makes no sense to depict real world things in comic books, as if the history of the Marvel Universe has not actually been affected by having superhumans present for sixty-plus years.

http://homepage.mac.com/petergillis/iblog/C42440305/E20070313184320/index.html

T – the problem is, the only depictions of Middle Easterners we ever get in our media depict them as one-dimensional terrorists who just hate America for no particular reason.

So what? Neocons and republicans only get depicted as one dimensional demagogues who just hate everyone different for no particular reason. They get dehumanized all the time too. Yet I don’t see Reggie Hudlin’s Black Panther for example getting a fraction of the vitriol of Frank Miller’s announcement. It’s that double standard that bugs me.

Of course, I know that 9/11 is supposed to have happened in the Marvel U. My question was somewhat rhetorical. My point is that you can’t really portray 9/11 in your comics and then not follow through with the implications of it, while you’re going to have a similar “Stamford Incident” and all hell breaks loose. It’s poor writing.

As for the dehumanization of Arabs and others, how do you think a rape victim feels picking up a copy of pretty much anything Alan Moore writes?

I thought that was a great little essay, Omar. Very thought provoking – good job.

For me, the main problem with fighting real life foes in superhero comics is that there are no real life consequences depicted in comic books. Or, at the very least those consequences are rare. If Marvel wrote a story where they sent the Avengers to capture Bin Laden, and a couple Avengers died – and stayed dead – that would provide a consequence within comicdom that has an impact. If Captain America was killed by friendly fire, and Luke Cage was killed at a checkpoint by an IED and they never returned to comics, I could accept that story of being worth writing.

Beyond the fact that comics are far from reality, they are a business; and there product is characters. None of DC or Marvels popular or loved characters (or Villains for that matter) EVER die. They always come back. The only people that die in superhero comics are throw away heroes created just for the purpose of dying, or “civilians” which sadly do not even come close to meaning anything within a comic book.

I know it is an overdone argument, but I think it is the root of why these types of stories never ring true with readers.

Neoconservatives and Republicans are not an ethnic group. That analogy doesn’t really work.

Even if it did, I don’t think that Mr. Karindu defended Hudlin’s run on Black Panther in this article at all. He was specifically focusing on the use of our enemies in the real world as villains in superhero comics.

Personally, I tend to agree with your point that conservatives, as a group, are negatively portrayed in superhero comics. Unfortunately, the ones that address political issues are rarely able to reflect the complexities of the real world, and transform all points of view into narrow stereotypes. This gets a lot worse when the writer is explicitly trying to make the title some kind of political allegory. Hudlin should be the target of vitriol for over simplifying complex political viewpoints. But I think that’s a separate debate.

For your edification, comments of mine from 2005 after the first six issues of Hudlin’s Panther were published:

—————————
It’s potted, woefully underarticulated postcolonial theory aimed at people who already agree with its conclusions, every bit as clumsy and propagandistic as a 1940s Captain America comic.

And I say that as someone who believes that colonization is responsible for much of the current horrors in Africa. It’s just that any intelligent view of that problem doesn’t revolve around fantasies of an African super-state whose pro-wrestler style victories take place over cheerfully stereotyped Europeans and Idi Amin stand-ins.

This is a throwaway superhero story featuring the ubercool, unbeatable hero vanquishing the ugly nasty villains, one pretending to be more than that only because real-world history is being invoked in a superficial and utterly unexamined manner.

For God’s sake, it’s got a character named “Cannibal” in it and prortrays a 20th century European as a lunatic Crusader out to convert the heathens. This is subtle, careful, and intelligent?

In contemporary times, surprised as many may be to hear it, European countries do not employ military force to convert heathens. European society is rather secular, especially compared to America, these days. It’s like having an Italian character who wants to conquer Ethiopia in the name of Fascism — makes sense in a 40s context, but it’s laughable in the present context precisely because Italy’s nothing like that anymore.

Hudlin’s Black Knight is a clumsy anachronism, because it’s easier to write a cardboard good vs. bad story using simplistic tropes of 19th-century imperialism than to write an actual story about what an African superpower nation would look like in the present world. It cheapens the story and the (perhaps interesting) point he seems to be trying to make.

I thinlk BP at present is a reality-free comic trying to pretend it’s depicting reality. It’s failing by that standard, and failing badly.

Mr. Hudlin’s real-world history doesn’t complicate the heroics so much as simplify the history and politics.
—————————–

T says: “When Marvel Knights had its launch of Captain America, it tackled terrorism and 9/11 with moral equivalency and I didn’t see this level of complaints about incorporating real villains into comics.”

You did catch the part at the end of this storyline when Cap pounds the stuffing out of the terrorist and hands him off to SHIELD, right? That doesn’t seem like moral equivalency to me. That seems like victory. Moral equivalence would have been Cap saying, “Hey, you have a point. Man, America sucks. I’m going to let you go so you can kill more people because some of what you say is right.”

Not only that, but this terrorist was blaming America for all his problems and believed that his perception of America’s faults, accurate or not, justified killing as many Americans as possible. Nobody seems to recognize that John Ney Rieber’s first Captain America story arc has ALREADY GIVEN US Cap punching out Osama bin Laden. However, despite the victory Cap ultimately gets over him, all of the “my country right or wrong” patriots view this story as a failure because Cap acknowledges that America has done some pretty crappy things in the past.

Ra’s Al Ghul is an abstraction, just as many generic Arab terrorists portrayed in comics and other media are. Abstractions are what lead to dehumanization and stereotypes, because they can represent a broad range of peoples organized by a certain trait (you should read Achebe’s analysis of Heart of Darkness).

It would seem an approach portraying a specific terrorist, like bin Laden, with a proper consideration of motivation and psychology, would actually be far less of a piece of one-dimensional propaganda than what you are citing as the “right way” villains should be handled.

In the end, it really just comes down to good writing. With all the comics on the shelves and with all the “Elseworlds” types of stories and everything else, you would think there would be room for at least one comic to give it a shot.

For the sake of sheer pedantry, it was Look magazine (not Life magazine) that the Siegel and Shuster Superman v. Hitler strip appeared in.

I generally agree with many of the sentiments in the original post. But I’ve gotta say — I want to see Batman kick bin Laden’s butt. I *want* bin Laden to be reduced to a caricature. The reality is that we now live in a world with supervillains. We live in a world where Ras al Ghul can send a task force of terrorists to destroy buildings full of real people that have never caused them any harm. This isn’t a matter of “hating America”, this is a matter of killing Americans for committing the crime of waking up on time and going to work.

Is bin Laden any less of a sociopath than the Joker? Is he more rational? On the other hand, is he any more “real” than the Batman? The most recent video is hardly conclusive, and could have easily been faked using a soundalike and archival footage. Are the people running Al Qaieda propping up a “heroic” figure (in their eyes) to rally more cannon fodder for the poorly-defined cause?

Have Batman follow the trail. Have him find a cave deep within the earth, enter bin Laden’s chamber, and spin his chair around to find bin Laden’s decaying remains. Does it *mean* anything? Maybe not. Ultimately, it’ll just be another story in the mythos.

But it could be a good read…

Re: #12- “As for the dehumanization of Arabs and others, how do you think a rape victim feels picking up a copy of pretty much anything Alan Moore writes?”

Um… what?

(Reaches for issue of SUPREME…)

Re: #19- “Um… what?”

How about reaching for the issue of Miracleman where Johnny Bates gets raped, or the issue of LOEG where Hyde rapes the Invisible Man, or Watchmen where the Comedian tries to rape Sally Jupiter, or the Killing Joke with its implied sexual assault? I can keep going…

My point is that I find Moore’s consistent use of rape as a plot device equally if not more repellent than a reliance on generic Arab terrorists as convenient villains. But I never see anyone putting Moore to task for this, like Miller for supposed “jingoism”

Interesting article.

I don’t think the issue is quite as cut-and-dried, though. To decry the old 1940′s propaganda books as misguided and tasteless is to make one of the worst mistakes a (an?) historian can…you’re judging the people of the past using today’s mores.

Those books came about out of need. Yes, they did serve the psychological function you describe…but back then it was necessary. Children needed that outlet because they had no idea how else to cope with what was going on around them. Now, could we of today teach them better methods of handling their frustrations? Probably. But back then they had no way of knowing that, and what happened came about naturalistically. It was a coping mechanism, and you can’t fault someone for a coping mechanism. (Its especially useless to criticize 60 years after the fact.) All you can do today is to teach BETTER coping mechanisms.

Which brings us to Batman vs. bin Laden. Yeah, I think it’s probably going to be terrible and tasteless. But a lot of art is, and I don’t think it’s fair to try to stifle people’s output, either. Who am I to say that there could be NO artistic value to something that hasn’t yet been produced? You make compelling arguments against it, but until the battle between Green Lantern and Pol Pot actually gets put on paper, I’m not going to say it can’t be good. Or even tasteful.

Another thought: I laughed out loud at the last page reveal that had the Joker allying himself with the Ayatollah Khomeini. It might be offensive simplification to some, but it wasn’t without value. Sometimes it’s just good absurd fun.

Why limit ourselves creatively?

“Jingoism?” Is that the word you meant to use, sodamyat? And why did you name yourself after a Moore character if you’re so offended by his work?

V, you seem to have managed to read exactly the opposite of my point. Ra’s isn’t an abstraction, he’s character who can also stand in for certain issues. He’s got a distinctive personality. He’s charismatic, committed to his eco-terrorist ideology, torn between his grand designs and a love for his often “wayward” daughter, has a mixture of genuine respect and murderous hatred for his foe the Batman, and a kind of world-weariness at times due to his immortality.

You can actually do stories about how he came to be what he is, about his having some kind of inner conflict (“I love my daughter, but she endlessly betrays me; shall I forgive her?”), in short, about his having recognizeable (if twisted) relationships to other characters.

That he can, at the same time, invoke or suggest more abstracted notions doesn’t strip the rest away, any more than the recognition of a proto-existentialism in Hamlet means that Hamlet is now merely “an abstraction” that encourages us to dehumanize indecisive Danes.

Not offended by his work as a whole. I actually think he is a good writer who relies too much on an offensive device.

Omar…your piece doesn’t address the caricaturing of real life Neocons and Republicans, which was exactly my point. It defends Europeans though and makes sure to point out that they are less likely to do a Crusade than America because they are more secular. That’s what I’m saying, these outrages only come up when people do stories addressing real groups THEY have sympathy for. If it’s a neocon or republican, the outrage seems to be considerably less. There were a lot more people around these parts giving Hudlin the benefit of the doubt as compared to Miller.

Now a lot of people are painting my comments as accusing people of hating America. Not at all. I think people are hating black-and-white patriotism.

Omar wrote “Consider also the general message one might take from such a comic: real soldiers are useless, and it would take a superhero to actually threaten these tyrants and terrorists.”

I’d argue that what the superhero provides that the regular military can’t is instant gratification. Punching Hitler NOW instead of after a long hard slog by hundreds of thousands of men across Europe to Berlin, after several years of intense industrial production.

Real soldiers aren’t useless, but they are merely human, and things they do tend to take a long time and require large numbers of people.

Remember, there would have been a lot of demand for Hitler-punching stories in the early 1940s, but real soldiers wouldn’t have been able to provide them until 1945.

T,

I don’t think you should conflate patriotism with propaganda. People can be patriots and have different viewpoints on the method of handling a problem.

“White knight depictions of America make modern progressive readers uneasy.”

That all depends on the context, doesn’t it? When Clinton was president, our involvement in the conflict in the former nation of Yugoslavia was heavily criticized in some conservative quarters because they felt that the country shouldn’t involve itself in conflicts unless it was in the “national interest” (i.e. American lives or economic interests were at stake). The defense of Clinton’s policy centered around a belief in humanitarian intervention. Conservatives disliked this policy so much that Bush II ran on a platform that advocated limited intervention and no nation building.

On the domestic front, the Republican platform for the last thirty years has been premised on a notion that America can’t be a “white knight” within its own borders, and that both deregulation and limiting national social programs was the solution.

Sometimes one side likes the “white knight”, and sometimes they don’t. You shouldn’t view progressives/liberals/Democrats exclusively through the post-Vietnam prism.

And I still think that Omar’s piece wasn’t about the unfairness of portraying any specific group in any way, but about whether propaganda has a place in superhero comic books.

T. said: I think people are hating black-and-white patriotism.

The problem is that I’m not sure what you mean when you use that phrase. Is “black-and-white patriotism” the same thing as “whatever my country does is right”? Is ita belief that America, while it may have its flaws, is the best country on Earth? Something else? I don’t know, any more than I’m sure what sorts of views youre assigning to “neoconservatives.” I mean, I’ve got a definition for the latter. but it tends to be restricted to a set of foreign policy thinkers influenced heavily by Leo Strauss’s political philosophy. What viewpoint do you consider essentially or definitionally neoconservative?

I’ve got no idea if that’s your definition of it or not, and you seem to be using the word as if its definition is self-evident. Political labels rarely are. What, for example, is the exact definition of conservative? What’s the canonical, indisputable list of conservative positions? Or the canonical list of liberal positions, for that matter? Would any such definition hold if applied to anyone who self-labeled as liberal or conservative?

When I say “black and white patriotism,” I mean viewing the world in black and white, objective good and evil, and assigning the positive values to your own country. As opposed to being patriotic, but viewing things through nuanced shades of grey.

Yet I don’t see Reggie Hudlin’s Black Panther for example getting a fraction of the vitriol of Frank Miller’s announcement.

Yes, you do. We all do. Hudlin’s Black Panther has gotten more than its fair share of vitriol.

Are you just assuming that people are out to get you, and approaching all situations with a “persecuted majority” stance now? I mean, you admit in your first post that you scanned the article, looking for key words that would set you off.

When I say “black and white patriotism,” I mean viewing the world in black and white, objective good and evil, and assigning the positive values to your own country. As opposed to being patriotic, but viewing things through nuanced shades of grey.

Err…in that case, T., yeah, I’m quite critical of expressions of black-and-white patriotism. I’m sure we can all think of the negative examples of that kind of thinking when it happens in certain countries, and the cautionary tales those examples have long since become.

“Neocons and republicans only get depicted as one dimensional demagogues who just hate everyone different for no particular reason. They get dehumanized all the time too.”

First of all, T, it is extremely difficult to dehumanize the people who are in power in the country; every time we see George Bush talk, we are remind that he is human (all too human, some might say).

Second of all, I’m not sure what you mean by “neocons”. The definition I’ve always understood (Wikipedia seems a reasonable summary, to me, of what I understand them to be) seems like a philosophy most comic book characters have. It’s just that, because they’re comic book characters, we know that they’re doing the right thing. We have no such assurances about our government. We can accept that they think they’re doing the right thing, and still think they are woefully wrong-headed.

“As for the dehumanization of Arabs and others, how do you think a rape victim feels picking up a copy of pretty much anything Alan Moore writes?”

You’re talking about one writer; I’m talking about a trend which permeates all forms of media. A rape victim who is upset by Alan Moore’s insensitive treatment of the subject can turn to “Spider-Man & Black Cat: The Evil That Men Do” for a more sympathetic portrayal, for instance. (I’m sure that other people here can chime in with numerous sympathetic portraits of rape victims in comic books; that’s one which sprung to mind.)

But there are very very few depictions of Middle Easterners who are not terrorists. I’m sure the knowledgable folks here can name a few, but i sure can’t.

“It would seem an approach portraying a specific terrorist, like bin Laden, with a proper consideration of motivation and psychology, would actually be far less of a piece of one-dimensional propaganda than what you are citing as the “right way” villains should be handled.”

I think you’re making a *big* assumption to think that any American comic book company (or movie company, or anything else) would present a fully realized and accurate description of bin Laden’s motivation and psychology.

I mean, back in the ’80′s, they did when they made him the sidekick hero in ‘Rambo III’, but nowadays? I don’t think the climate would allow it.

And I don’t have too much problem with that. If a comic book wanted to demonize bin Laden, but was willing to make the distinction that the overwhelmingly vast majority of Middle Easterners (and other Muslims) are not inhuman monsters who want to kill us, I would be comfortable with that.

“On the other hand, is [bin Laden] any more “real” than the Batman?”

I understand the point you’re going for, but you should probably try to phrase your point less stupidly.

“When I say “black and white patriotism,” I mean viewing the world in black and white, objective good and evil, and assigning the positive values to your own country.”

Yes, I’m with Omar. Assuming that your country is good just because your enemy is evil has led every country in the world down bad paths. It is never a good thing.

The assumption you seem to make here is that because Americans are good, America is good, and because America is good, its leaders are good, and because its leaders are good, every decision they make will be objectively good and, thus, not worth questioning.

I don’t even know where to start… But, okay, the word “good” in this sense is so vague as to be meaningless. I will grant you for this conversation that Bush thinks that he is doing good with every decision… but his decisions can *still* lead to evil outcomes.

“As opposed to being patriotic, but viewing things through nuanced shades of grey.”

I’m glad, at least, that you acknowledge that a person can be a patriot and still have a nuanced view. It means I can end with “I agree with you.

“Neocons and republicans only get depicted as one dimensional demagogues who just hate everyone different for no particular reason. They get dehumanized all the time too. … It’s that double standard that bugs me.”

That’s not a *real* double-standard. As soon as you can point to a location in the world where hundreds of Republicans / neocons are being killed every day, I will object just as strongly to their dehumanization as I do to the dehumanization of Middle Easterners in our culture.

Or if you can point to prisons where Republicans / neocons are held without trial because they are the same race as the Christian terrorists who blew up an abortion clinic, I will surely decry their dehumanization. Maybe we can save some of these poor Republicans from being raped and beaten by soldiers who have been led to believe that they are less than human.

Yes, you do. We all do. Hudlin’s Black Panther has gotten more than its fair share of vitriol.

Yes. And BP also gets its fair share of defenders. And not all the BP haters were united in their critiques: some gave it vitriol for misrepresenting Europeans like Omar, some because it was racist against whites, some because of poor continuity, others for poor plot and dialogue. But with the Batman anti-terror book, the response was a lot more passionate, a lot more overwhelmingly negative and pretty united in its critique: it’s an unfairly stereotypical caricature of a group of people. Unlike the Black Panther threads, it’s pretty much just me and maybe 1 or two others against a near unaninimous flood of naysayers.

That’s why I don’t buy this claim that people are against all stereotyping and real world issues in superhero comics, they are just against the stereotypes and real world issues they personally disagree with appearing in superhero books.

That’s not a *real* double-standard. As soon as you can point to a location in the world where hundreds of Republicans / neocons are being killed every day, I will object just as strongly to their dehumanization as I do to the dehumanization of Middle Easterners in our culture.

Or if you can point to prisons where Republicans / neocons are held without trial because they are the same race as the Christian terrorists who blew up an abortion clinic, I will surely decry their dehumanization. Maybe we can save some of these poor Republicans from being raped and beaten by soldiers who have been led to believe that they are less than human.

Not even going to go into your one-sided depiction of Muslims as hapless victims that people unfairly persecute left and right, that’s whole other thread.

But you basically think that tragedy and persecution exempts one from rampant stereotyping, while having privilege means another is not exempt from it. That’s a double standard.

But most of those people don’t need a clumsy cartoon to make them feel better by having pretend heroes beat up unrealistic, pretend versions of real dangers to humanity.

Actually…

I really want to see Batman punch Osama in the face. I think seeing “our” symbol beat up “their” symbol would make me feel better. I’m fine with the simplification and I’m fine with the reductive allegory – And I’m not sure it even IS all that reductive. I see terrorists as bein’ pretty damn evil.

BIFF!

KERPOW!

AARRGGHHH!!

ZZZZRRAACCKKK!!!!

(Sorry, but for a comic book thread I thought this was all getting a bit dry.)

That being said…

How about a story where Captain America isn’t actually dead but has gone back in time, to stop Donald Rumsfield and the gang from arming and training Sadam Hussein, Bin Laden, and all the others. Love to see that shield putting a new part in a young Rummie’s brylcreemed hair.

And, as a epilogue, let him go back to WWII in time to stop Prescott Bush from supporting the Third Reich. Maybe if Cap could have kicked him hard enough in just the right spot he could even have prevented George W from ever coming to be!

Or would that all be propaganda?

I’ve got a great admiration for Frank Miller’s art and his ability to tell a story, but way way back in his first Daredevil run his fascistic view was evident, and it’s gotten more and more blatant since. 300 was a mockery of history at best or vicious racism designed to dehumanize a nation and help prompt a holocaust, at worst.
Don’t think I’ll pick up his Bin Laden book.

It’s so funny. I’ve been watching comments appear on this page for a couple hours now, and nothing had quite gotten me interested enough to post (though I came close a couple of times). I was most interested in commenting on Miller and 300, but I haven’t read the actual book and felt it was unfair to judge him based on the movie (even if he was one of the creative team). In the end, there’s always going to be some overlap between the real world and comics. After all, Marvel’s stories take place in real cities, and constantly reference real events. Adding characters that reflect real people are bound to happen, especially if those people are ‘bad guys’ in U.S. terms. Will they get respectful treatment? C’mon, it’s comics! Will they be relatively one-dimensional? C’mon, it’s comics! Will one-dimensional characterizations in comic books hurt (for example in this case) real Muslims? No more than one-dimensional characterizations of any other ethnic group, sex, age, etc., have over the course of comic book history (which happened quite frequently – Ebony from the Spirit springs to mind). And the biggest question; should they stop putting those characters in the books? Well, how? In the end, this is about a mindset of a people that filters into everything we say and do. Bin Laden cartoons and other references proliferate in newspapers, magazines, and now – sigh – in Batman. Should he be in there? Well, enough people liked the idea at DC to make it happen, so it’s not up to We The Readers. All we can do is show how we feel by buying or not buying that book. And of course by discussing it on comic book message boards….

One problem, of course, is that Batman V. Bin Laden can’t be that much of a fight. Sure, getting to him would be challenging and interesting and all, but when that’s over you’re facing a pensioner with bad kidneys.

Did anybody NOT think that the Invisible Man deserved what he got from Hyde?

OK, maybe that’s a little strong…

(That’s what HE said)

Speaking of which, I wish there was a poll where I could vote for Hyde and Miss Murray, two more of my favorite characters.

A very nice piece, Omar, and I agree with most of it. Cap fighting Hitler is more inherently dishonest than, say, the Teen Titans fighting the war against drugs, and I don’t have any enthusiasm for such stories.

But while I agree with you on its lack of merit, I think you’re exaggerating its danger.

>blockquote>Such stuff provides imaginary, childish hope at the expense of practical, adult solutions.

“At the expense of”? Are you concerned that somebody is going to read a Batman vs Al Qaeda comic and think, “Okay, Batman saved us, we can stop worrying about that one”?

T-
I really don’t care to get into it here, but you’re not alone in your views.

[...] Our pal Omar wrote this up at the Comics Should Be Good forum here, but I thought it was notable enough for it to appear here, too! Nice work, Omar! … comedically ranting about how hell destroy Iron Man and crush freedom in old Tales of Suspense … with Wonder Man and Tigra. Its just, at a certain level, deeply stupid and offensive. It invariably source: Omar Karindu on Hitler vs. Comic Book Hitler; o…, Comics Should Be Good! [...]

“Such stuff provides imaginary, childish hope at the expense of practical, adult solutions.”

I suspect an amusing depiction of Hitler getting punched in the nose – and by a character created, written, and drawn by Jews – might have been a nice morale booster for the people in the Warsaw Ghetto prior to the final uprising – which was almost certainly a no-win situation.

When the options are a suicidal poorly armed uprising against overwhelming force, or a one-way ticket to the camps, I’m not sure what the practical, adult solution would be.

Human psychology is perhaps more complex and robust than you give it credit for.

T wrote: “But with the Batman anti-terror book, the response was a lot more passionate, a lot more overwhelmingly negative and pretty united in its critique”

Um, might that be because the Batman book hasn’t shipped yet so there’s very little to go on other than belligerent hype from the author, whereas the BP criticism was based on actual published work?

“But you basically think that tragedy and persecution exempts one from rampant stereotyping, while having privilege means another is not exempt from it. That’s a double standard.”

Um, the neocons are willfully responsible for the deaths of 500,000 to a million or so Iraqis. They were calling for this war since the 1990s, and many of those people became the specific bad actors most responsible for the war and it’s tragically incompetence. Today they are calling for war on Iran. It’s not a double standard to hold them responsible for positions they willingly held and actions they willingly took or supported.

It’s not stereotyping when they all sign their names to freakin’ insane militaristic pipedreams.

“But you basically think that tragedy and persecution exempts one from rampant stereotyping, while having privilege means another is not exempt from it. That’s a double standard.”

Jon H.’s response to this was far more eloquent than mine, and I agree with it as well.

The point I was going to make in response is… So what if its a double standard. When you’re in power and can do pretty much whatever you want you invite and deserve any and all criticism you may get. Its what keeps you honest and on the right track. In the US, Christianity is the establishment therefore there is more leeway when it comes to its ridicule. Same with ‘conservatives’.

Ian, I think the statement “In the US, Christianity is the establishment therefore there is more leeway when it comes to its ridicule. Same with ‘conservatives’.” oversimplifies things.

First of there are liberal Christians who don’t recognize the dogma spewed by today’s politicians. Also, your statement leaves an impression that Christian values permeates US life as Islam does with life in Iran. That is clearly not the case. As a Christian who has worked in entertainment and the arts, I have learned to “stay in the closet” so to speak, to spare myself situations where I accused of supporting the Crusades, Republicans, of anything else that was done under the guise of Christianity.

Having said that, it brings up a difference between Bin Laden and Hitler. Hitler represented a secular idea, a form of government. Bin Laden represents a form of government and a form of religion. And any responsible representation of Bin Laden would make the distinction between the actual beliefs of Islam and their use as political propaganda.

Portraying Bin Laden as a super-villain therefore risks stereotyping both Muslims and Middle-Easterners.

So I don’t recommend it.

A few days after 9/11, when it was already clear how big an effect the aftermath was going to have on the political scene and on society, I wrote some thoughts on trying to reconcile that with the reactions that didn’t happen with, say, Coast City or the various alien invasions in the DCU. I reposted it on my site last year, if anyone’s interested.

“Portraying Bin Laden as a super-villain therefore risks stereotyping both Muslims and Middle-Easterners.”

Not necessarily. If it were that simple, then depictions of Dracula risk stereotyping the Eastern Orthodox and Romanians.

Dracula stories often *do* stereotype the Romanians, as poor, simple, superstitious-yet-wise country folk, but that’s very different from the depiction of Dracula himself.

It’s not the depiction of Bin Laden that is important. It’s whether he’s the only representation of a group. If there are sympathetic figures shown as well, either as victims or as proactive allies of the hero, then Bin Laden and his faction are clearly not stereotypes of the overall population.

A story set in Gotham in which the only Muslims are the terrorists, would be a lot worse than a story in which Batman goes to a city called ‘Quotham’ in Northwest Frontier Province of Pakistan, meets up with Commissioner Hakim Al-Gordon and a moderate Muslim reformer who is then killed by Al Qaeda, providing fresh evidence which allows Batman, with some assistance from Al-Gordon, to track down Bin Laden to his lair.

Context matters. A lot.

Oh, also: “Hitler represented a secular idea, a form of government.”

I’d argue that people like Hitler, Stalin, and Mao aren’t so much secular or atheistic, but rather they present the party itself as the religion. To the extent that religion is tolerated, it’s only where it can be made to serve the purposes of the State.

Traditional religion represents a competing source of authority, which these governments can’t tolerate. But they are very adept at coopting the forms and methods of religion to serve their purposes.

Anyhow, secular/religious becomes a very hazy distinction at this level. The impulse that leads a fundamentalist Muslim to report a neighbor to the Morality Police for showing some ankle is, I think, essentially the same as the impulse that led an East German Communist to report a neighbor to the Stasi for listening to the BBC World Service. Different rules, of course, but the same drive to enforce behavior in the community.

Jon H,

“Context matters. A lot.”

I agree… to me that pretty much boils it down.

And also, “Hitler, Stalin, and Mao aren’t so much secular or atheistic, but rather they present the party itself as the religion”

I agree. That calls to mind a lot of thoughts about what can be called a religion… But perhaps we’ve digressed to far already.

Interesting discussion, overall. Thanks, guys!

funkygreenjerusalem

September 16, 2007 at 6:31 pm

I really want to see Batman punch Osama in the face. I think seeing “our” symbol beat up “their” symbol would make me feel better.

Then you’re pretty sad, and in complete denial of reality.
It’s this sort of us vs them idea that got America the joy’s of the past few years, and also doing things, no matter how silly, ‘just to feel better’.
Us vs Them led to carpet bombings in Afghanistan, which led to lots of dead innocents, and lots of guilty one’s being able to escape.
Making people feel better is what got America into Iraq, or at least why the people swallowed it so easy*, and why the there’s still enough support to stay there ‘to get the job done’, even though all independant data shows that it just keeps getting worse.

And isn’t uncle sam ‘your’ symbol, not Batman?
I can draw a pic of him beating Osama up if you want, but after that, stay out of the room when adults are talking.
That said, after all his secret toys going out of whack and trying to kill people, and his brain washing etc, maybe Batman is a good analogy for America.

I’d be more interested in a story, if there had to be one – and as Miller hadn’t started it, last I heard, and polls shows peoples opinions have changed since he announced it – wouldn’t it be better for Batman to go over to punch him, and then realise that by punching him he only helps him, and instead uses Wayne money to educate the people who are under him, to encourage them to rise up (on their own) and take power away from those who believe in such things?
Or is that a little to hard to have a wank fantasy to?

*And did nothing when your country broke from a UN ruling – I seem to remember disobeying the UN to be a sign of evil in comic books…

It’s this sort of us vs them idea that got America the joy’s of the past few years, and also doing things, no matter how silly, ‘just to feel better’.

Oh, I completely agree with you. Iraq and Hussein, no matter how evil-in-their-own-way, were not them.

Nor are any of the innocent Afghanis American troops killed. And, yeah, I think there is a moral obligation to recognize anytime my country kills civilians.

But, yeah, I do ABSOLUTELY see America vs. the Al Qaeda as us vs. them. Some big shit went down here ’bout six years ago. Like, methodically planned mass murder of innocents big. You can probably Google it.

Wow. I just read this whole thread in one sitting.

T… Like many people who share your views, you have a serious persecution complex. Please try to remember that the planet is basically being run by a guy who agrees with most of your opinions. Stop trying to paint yours conservatism as placing you within an oppressed minority.

Markandrew… Your last comment? Man. I always brace myself before reading something you’ve written, because I know that in the process of expressing what are mostly clearly thought out in, inteeligent ideas you are very likely to Bring The Dumb, but just… wow. You’ve really surpassed yourself. Way to reduce an attempt at political debate to empty emotive posturing.

FunkyGreenJerusalem

September 16, 2007 at 8:00 pm

But, yeah, I do ABSOLUTELY see America vs. the Al Qaeda as us vs. them. Some big shit went down here ’bout six years ago. Like, methodically planned mass murder of innocents big. You can probably Google it.

Yeah I came on strong in my post, but seriously dude?
That’s the exact sort of thinking I was talking about.

We shat on them, they shat on us, so we shat on them again… can you figure out what the next step will be?
Oh, and bombing Afghanistan?
Any fucking evidence it got the people involved with the 9/11 attack, or did it just remove the top row of people in charge of a dictatorship that America, and the rest of the world, funded and pushed to get in place?
Because last I saw, the pratt who runs the/represents the outfit (I would say terrorists, but a decade ago they were freedom fighters, so I’m not sure) is still running around, only now he’s seen as a hero/ally to people who already didn’t like America.

I could go on, but the situation is convoluted, and currently un-resolved, that wishing for Batman punching Osama as some sort of release is juvenile, and only plays into the Bush administrations lies that this is a winnable ‘war on terror’.

In fact, any comic that did have Batman punching Osama, would only work to satire the attitude of America that fighting this ‘war’ is the same as fighting WW2.

We shat on them, they shat on us, so we shat on them again… can you figure out what the next step will be?

As far as I can tell the next step is we continue to ignore the Al Quaeda and bomb the fuck out of Iran.

I could go on, but the situation is convoluted, and currently un-resolved, that wishing for Batman punching Osama as some sort of release is juvenile,

Well, yeah. I’m fine with that.

But superheroes are, at their core, pretty juvenile too. And I’ve still got a lot of unresolved, shocked anger caused by the 9/11 attacks. And I see the argument that this is trivializing the issue, but I don’t really buy it.

Superheroes represent our best aspects. They’re like myth: They champion, maybe even define, the morality of our culture.

And terrorists ARE, in my view, evil.

So I think superheroes are much more complex than the reductive allegory Omar proposes. And I am absolutely fine with the reductive allegory terrorists = evil.

Because it’s true.

If it makes you feel any better I’d be just fine with Batman punching several high ranking American govt. officials in the face as well.

and only plays into the Bush administrations lies that this is a winnable ‘war on terror’.

This I don’t see.

Now I dunno if the “War on Terror” is winnable or not.

I’m not saying I know how it could be won, and I certainly don’t see America doing much to win it if it is winnable.

But I don’t think anyone looks to superheroes for real world solutions. (I hope.) Their purpose is to define cultural values of good. And I have no problem – hell, actively encourage – contrasting them with terrorists. Who in my morally absoutist world have made a choice to do evil.

Bombing Iran will essentially be a declaration of war against both Russia and China.

Sure do hope Batman’s on our side in this one.

FunkyGreenJerusalem

September 16, 2007 at 11:46 pm

And I am absolutely fine with the reductive allegory terrorists = evil.

Because it’s true.

But these particular terrorists were heroes in the 80′s and 90′s, backed by our governments, back when Russia were heroes.

George Washington was a terrorist.

Micheal Collins was a terrorist.

Can you see where the problem comes in?
It’s not a black and white matter, and these things never are.

Hitler may have been evil, but not all Nazi’s were – remember, Germany was starving when he came to power, due to levies fined upon them by the other countries in WW1.
So while he may be as close to generic evil leader as the worlds ever seen, don’t forget that people followed him and committed evil in his name, because he was helping them whilst we starved them.

This simplistic approach may be caused by some system shock because on 9/11 this sort of thing finally happened in your country, and you have every right to be pissed, but to try turn it into a black and white matter is wrong.

T… Like many people who share your views, you have a serious persecution complex.

Great nonrebuttal there.

Markandrew… Your last comment? Man. I always brace myself before reading something you’ve written, because I know that in the process of expressing what are mostly clearly thought out in, inteeligent ideas you are very likely to Bring The Dumb, but just… wow. You’ve really surpassed yourself. Way to reduce an attempt at political debate to empty emotive posturing.

As opposed to reducing the debate to snide, condescending insults? Yeah, much better.

Ignoring the super-charged political aspects and focusing on the aesthetic ones, I could stand seeing real-world bad guys in superhero comics if they were done in a more sophisticated fashion. Write them as villains for the hero to clobber, but write them as people too; give them actual characterization. It’s like the earlier article by Jesse Hamm says; people like to read about creativity, so if we have to see Osama in a Batman comic, then let’s at least see a more creatively evil representations of him.

Hey! Someone fixed my weird triple post. Thanks, Cronin!

But these particular terrorists were heroes in the 80’s and 90’s, backed by our governments, back when Russia were heroes.

George Washington was a terrorist.

Micheal Collins was a terrorist.

Can you see where the problem comes in?
It’s not a black and white matter, and these things never are.

No, George Washington was a FREEDOM FIGHTER.

Or something.

But I see your point. There are shades of grey between terrorist and hero, and in many cases it’s hard to define what ends justify what means.

But in the SPECIFIC case of the Al Queda, I’m just not seeing the shades of gray.

Hitler may have been evil, but not all Nazi’s were – remember, Germany was starving when he came to power, due to levies fined upon them by the other countries in WW1.
So while he may be as close to generic evil leader as the worlds ever seen, don’t forget that people followed him and committed evil in his name, because he was helping them whilst we starved them.

And, geez, feels like I’m arguing the other side here all of a sudden, but the Al Queda are not the Nazis.

And you can certainly argue that the US was complicit in the rise to power of both organizations. (Not a major factor in either case, though.)

Do I think every specific member of the Al Queda is evil? Nah. But, like the Nazis, they’re serving an evil cause. And it’s REALLY hard for me to sympathize with folks who are serving under team evil.

Which could be a moral failing on my part.

But I’m perfectly comfortable defining them as evil in the symbolic language of superhero funnybooks.

FunkyGreenJerusalem

September 17, 2007 at 6:59 pm

No, George Washington was a FREEDOM FIGHTER.

Or something.

But I see your point. There are shades of grey between terrorist and hero, and in many cases it’s hard to define what ends justify what means.

But in the SPECIFIC case of the Al Queda, I’m just not seeing the shades of gray.

Well, the English weren’t to impressed with Washington and his tactics, and considered him to be an evil monster.
You look at Osama that way, but he’s followers, and a good chunk of the world, rightly or wrongly, see him as you see Washington – a hero sticking it to the evil empire.

I get why you personally are pissed, and hate him, however, when the response to crashing a plane into a building and killing a bunch innocents, is to bomb a country and kill a lot of innocents, you can start to see why he does have his followers, and they don’t think they’re evil.

And, geez, feels like I’m arguing the other side here all of a sudden, but the Al Queda are not the Nazis.

And you can certainly argue that the US was complicit in the rise to power of both organizations. (Not a major factor in either case, though.)

The US played a rather big part, both financially and motivationally in the rise of Al-Qaeda.

Do I think every specific member of the Al Queda is evil? Nah. But, like the Nazis, they’re serving an evil cause. And it’s REALLY hard for me to sympathize with folks who are serving under team evil.

Which could be a moral failing on my part.

Well, you pay taxes to the country bombing people in their part of the world, which you admit in the case of Iraq is probably wrong, so to them you’re a player on team evil.

Why is your point of view automatically more valid than their’s?

But I’m perfectly comfortable defining them as evil in the symbolic language of superhero funnybooks.

Yes, but if you start to do that it simplifies the whole situation on an instinctual level.
It’s just propaganda, which is a tool to stop people from thinking to hard on the subject.
If you accept them as an evil mass, instead of people – and I don’t just mean the terrorists, but their supporters as well (like all of Pakistan for instance) – then what hope is there for any kind of reconciliation or peace?
You would have to bomb the hell out of them and beat them into submission – which would in turn justify the actions of the terrorists.

You start to make a good point, but then you blow it off for your other points. So I’m going to restate it for you.

The comic books in which Captain America or Superman punch out Hitler (or take on Mussolini or Tojo or etc.) were read by a public that had very little access to any palpable information about what was going on and felt individually helpless in the face of a mythologized evil because of that lack of information.

If the modern public also lacked access to any palpable information, felt individually helpless (not frustrated but helpless), and had so little information that the vagueness had apotheosized Osama into a mythologized evil, then comic books in whcih Captain America or Superman punched him out would work just as well.

However, the American lifeworld is very different now.

Conversely, if the World War II era public had had easy access to an internet, twitter, 24 hour news (dis)information channels, wikipedia, real encyclopedias, a plethora of newspapers and magazines and books on the subject, and had felt modern anger at helplessness rather than fear, and as a result of all this had known too much to be able to mythologize Hitler or Stalin, then Captain America and Superman would have looked silly punching out their WWII baddies.

That’s really the key to this issue, and you covered that in your first third of your article here.

Leave a Comment

 

Categories

Review Copies

Comics Should Be Good accepts review copies. Anything sent to us will (for better or for worse) end up reviewed on the blog. See where to send the review copies.

Browse the Archives