A Really Open Letter to Mr. Warner Todd Huston
Dear Mr. Huston,
As I’m sure you are aware by now, the comics-reading population that resides on the internet has taken considerable umbrage with your recent opinions and behavior, and I number among them, hence the piece you now read. My intent with this letter is not to savage you, insult you, or rail against what you have written— that’s all been duly taken care of by other folks, many times over by now, and I don’t want to add any more bile to the proceedings, nor do I intend to raise your blood pressure any further. I do, however, wish to respond to several points you have made, points I feel may have been made with a lack of courtesy, misconceptions about the comic book medium, and considerable errors of judgment.
Firstly, I don’t want you to think we’re all ganging up on you; I’m acting of my own accord here. I write this because the blog entry you wrote in regards to Carla Hoffman’s piece at Robot 6 has caused me to form some strong opinions which demand I share them, just as yours seem to command you every day. I have never met nor corresponded with Carla Hoffman before, and it’s only through happenstance that the respective blogs we write for—she at Robot 6, and I at Comics Should Be Good—happen to be hosted by the same website, Comic Book Resources. I also find the initial brouhaha that arose from a background element of a single panel in a recent issue of Captain America to be laughable. We all have better things to worry about than a political furor accidentally created by a work of superhero fiction. No harm was meant, no harm was done, let’s all get over it and move on with our lives. As Stan Lee would say, “’Nuff said.”
Unfortunately, ‘nuff wasn’t said. We bloggers like to leap on things. I admit that some nefarious glee can be occasionally had by courting controversy; perhaps you have found this to be true, as well. Things have gotten out of hand, however, and more people have stepped into the ring, including myself. In so doing, I waive my right to the first tenet of journalism, because I am not a journalist; in fact, I’m barely a pundit. I am a blogger, one who makes no claims to professional status. I accept no pay for my writings; rather, I write about comics because I have a passion for comics, just as you have a passion for politics. Therefore, that tenet is right out the window—I will, however, gladly email you this missive ahead of time as a friendly two-minute warning, and I encourage you to send it to your spam folder if you so choose.
I also make no claims as to defending Carla Hoffman’s honor, as she is certainly capable of fighting her own battles. I do not, however, appreciate you insulting the woman simply because she dared to be cordial with you. You chose to find her post, in your words, “snarky and self-satisfied,” and responded in a brutish, unkind manner. As per your blog entry, you seem to regard Carla Hoffman as someone with a “warped mind,” a “self-deluded,” “uninformed” individual; you proceed to nitpick her choice of words, declaring “This poor young lady cannot tell reality from fiction, apparently.” You’ve outright declared her to be deranged and stupid, though all I see in her post is kindness—a kindness I fear you don’t deserve—and information. There is no reason to attack her.
Also, while you may be at odds with comic book readers right now, there is also no reason to attack the comic book medium itself. You claim familiarity with comics, having read them up until 1986—coincidentally, the year many historians believe comics made a great leap towards literary and artistic legitimacy. Nowadays, you’ll find comics spoken of in the same breath as what you call “real books,” those things without pictures. Comic books—or graphic novels, whichever you prefer—are now respected by teachers and librarians alike. I’m sure you know all this, however, because you know comics as well as you know the true character of those dastardly liberals.
For the sake of argument, though, I’ll continue. You say there’s nothing wrong with reading comics—great! I agree. You go on after that, though, contradicting that statement, calling comics “a childish, formulaic, lowest common denominator form of entertainment.” This statement is, by no means, universally false—comics like that do exist, just like bad television shows and films and books exist. Comic books, after all, are a storytelling medium, like any other, no better or worse than the rest of them. To say, however, that “they are nothing to be taken seriously,” or that they are “horrible even as graphic art,” disparages the medium as a whole. Comic books are not a “guilty pleasure”—they are a pleasure alone, and a healthy one, at that! You feel that shame is a necessary component of the comic reader—I refute this claim. I’ve been reading comic books since before I knew what the words in them meant. I have comics to thank for my reading comprehension skills, erudite nature, English degree, imagination, and passion for writing. My education would have greatly suffered were it not for comic books. To speak of comic books in toto as a trash medium denies comics their place in America’s great cultural heritage, and is no better than Frederic Wertham, who blamed comic books for society’s ills, rather than blame society itself. Comic books are capable of art just as much as a great novel or a film masterpiece. Would you deny Citizen Kane because of Joe Dirt, or Dostoyevsky because of Dan Brown? No, you would not, just like one must not deny Maus because of Wolverine.
You believe liberals to be idiots, and by now, you probably believe that I, too, am a liberal, and therefore, an idiot. Yes, I am registered Democrat, only because, upon turning 18, my staunch Republican father urged me to register so. I wanted to be an Independent. Politics is not my game; I find it distasteful, filled with bad humors on all sides. I can’t help but note an arrogant hypocrisy in your statements, however, that liberals are foolish because “they are sure they are smarter, more civilized, and more tolerant than those they hate and all this they assume while they name-call everyone that disagrees with them,” that “to be a liberal you must make assumptions of your enemy so that they fit neatly into your preconceived notions of the world and you must never try to ask them any questions to determine if they really do fit into the box you’ve constructed for them. You must assume you are more grown up than those you attack. You must assume that you are more intelligent.” Sir, you just described yourself.
In summation: with great power, there must also come great responsibility. Words hold great power; therefore, please exercise some responsibility. That maxim is derived from a comic book, though, and therefore you may disregard it. In that case, let me quote Samuel Johnson, as you have done at the bottom of your blog post: “The only end of writing is to enable the reader better to enjoy life, or better to endure it.”
You may or may not choose to respond to this letter, but if you do, I’m certain you will do so with the utmost civility as I have shown you. I would hate for us to fall to the level of those “venomous little whelps,” as you put it. That would be most unseemly.
The Young Bill Reed
Now let’s go back to silly posts about comics, shall we?