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Values Dissonance: Comicbooks

  • A lot of long-running heroes from both Marvel and DC Comics suffer this. The Golden Age in particular has cringe-worthy racist and sexist moments, taken Up to Eleven in the Silver Age.
    • Superman's entire history says a lot about this trope. As has been well-documented, Superman did not originate as much of a "boy scout" (thus making it ironic when people say, "there's no room for a boy scout, this isn't 1938 anymore) and was distrusted by and distrustful of authorities, while his adventures pitted him against people abusing the downtrodden. During World War II, he moved into the role of "boy scout" and was often depicted as fighting enemy spies to the point where by the end of the decade, he was frequently depicted in front of the American flag, and so-forth. Then, of course, by the fifties, everything about him seemed to change to suit the atomic age, from his powers, to his ideals. This, however, didn't stop him from occasionally tackling common prejudices of the time in which he has to battle an Expy of the KKK who are threatening a Japanese boy.
      • Values dissonance began to haunt Superman by the end of the '60s as he had not reverted to his earlier, rebellious form, but remained a symbol of the establishment, despite the youth movement moving that way. Attempts at "modernizing" Superman were often scoffed at, and between the '70s and the '00s, Superman was often used as an example of the right and virtuous old-fashioned superhero for better or worse, though besides "I don't kill," they're rarely specific about what "morals" of his are supposed to be outdated. That's not to say Superman never had any high points during this period, they just tended to be more about the overall plot or spectacle. Lately, they seem to be trying to get away from this.
    • Many Superboy note  comics had the main character, Clark Kent, being subjected to corporal punishments, usually in the form of spanking, by his adoptive father, Jonathan. However, Jonathan discovers the hard way why he would be called Man of Steel, even with a spanking machine, which it too gets destroyed. One even has it in a school! Now, think about that for a moment considering corporal punishment of any kind in school... at least state ones, would not go well with today's view.
      • School corporal punishment! Still legal in 22 states!
    • Many modern collections of Golden Age stories have taken steps to try removing content that would be deemed offensive. For instance, many of the Wonder Woman collections remove the painfully racist caricatures of black people, replacing them with more natural-looking black characters.
    • Wonder Woman from the Golden Age had a particular problem because its creator (William Marston) believed that dominance, submission, and a very bondage-oriented culture were all needed in today's world. Wonder Woman at one point extols the virtues of being a (consensual) slave. And while Marston had very progressive ideas about women's empowerment for his day, he also seemed to think that women were "naturally" prone to things like vanity and emotional outbursts.
  • J. Michael Straczynski's Marvel Comics maxiseries The Twelve contains an in-story example. Golden Age hero Dynamic Man sees a woman who's been mugged being chased by a black man. Upon grabbing the man he finds out that this is the victim's husband. He instantly loses interest in helping either one.
    • The whole series examines the dissonance between Golden Age heroes and the modern world they've found themselves in; while all of them suffer to a degree, Dynamic Man is a particularly ironic example given how he constantly stresses that he's "the Man of Tomorrow."
  • An in-story example occurs in Infinite Crisis, when 70's superhero Black Lightning meets modern black superhero Mr. Terrific. Terrific remarks that a black person actually calling himself "Black Lightning" is ridiculous.
  • Tintin in the Congo has often been criticized as having racist and colonialist views, as well as several scenes of unnecessary violence against animals. Hergé said that he was portraying the naive views of the time. When the album was redrawn in 1946, Hergé removed several references to the fact that the Congo was at that time a Belgian colony. This failed to mollify critics. Because of its controversial subject matter, the album was previously only published as a facsimile black and white edition in English. However, a color English edition was finally published in September 2005, by Egmont Publishing, with a foreword explaining the historical context (a similar move had been employed for the 1983 translation of The Blue Lotus) and a collectors'-edition banner in red covering the main image over the front cover.
    • When the album was to be published in Scandinavia, the publishers objected to a scene on page 56 of the colour album, where Tintin blows up a rhinoceros with a stick of dynamite. They asked the page to be redrawn, and Herge complied. Instead of blowing the animal to pieces, the rhino accidentally fires the gun of the sleeping Tintin, gets scared, and runs away. This page was also used in the English- and German-language translations.
    • When discussing racism in the Tintin comics series one should also mention the fact that Hergé was forced to redraw black characters in "Tintin in America" and "The Crab With The Golden Claws" and change them into Caucasian characters under pressure of American publishers. This happened way in the 1950s!
    • Hergés early albums were mostly drawn for fun, without much documentation. The Blue Lotus was the first story where Hergé actually did a lot of research. He had met a Chinese exchange student who told him a lot about Chinese culture and the Chinese-Japanese war that was going on back in 1934. This motivated Hergé to put more research into all of his stories. "The Blue Lotus" actually has a section where Tintin discusses various racist stereotypes about Chinese people to Chang, who laughs and says "people in your country must be crazy!" Hergé later lost contact with his Chinese friend and wrote arguably the most beautiful and touching album in the entire series, Tintin in Tibet, just to express how much he missed him. They finally met again two years before Hergés death.
  • In his earliest appearances, Black Panther was often called "Jungle Man" by Hawkeye and Goliath. While the name was in reference to his beast motif, calling a black man that name would justifiably be considered highly offensive in the 21st century.
  • In the introduction to Fagin the Jew (his own confrontation with the anti-Semitism in Charles Dickens' Oliver Twist), Will Eisner recollects how he created Ebony as a one-dimensional comic relief black sidekick for The Spirit because it was common practice at the time. After serving alongside other Americans of different heritage in World War II, Eisner was more enlightened and gave Ebony more depth and gravitas.
  • Not quite a comic book, but near enough: This 1815 cartoon is meant to be a funny, comic portrayal of how to deal with your wife. By strapping her into bed so that you can do whatever you want with her, using gags and thumbscrews, if necessary.
  • Ultimate Captain America is another in-story example. In order to maintain his World War II origin story for stories in the 1970s and beyond, the original Cap was said to have been frozen in an iceberg and thawed out years later. The Ultimate version goes into depth about the kind of culture shock that would happen if a man, frozen in the 1940s, actually woke up in the 2000s.
    • Unfortunately, Ultimate Cap actually doesn't feature enough values dissonance. At one point, when talking about possibly surrendering, he asks insultingly if any one thinks that the A on his forehead stands for France. Cheese-Eating Surrender Monkeys is a modern stereotype and during WWII, Cap actually fought beside dozens of French resistance fighters who regularly gave their lives to complete a mission or save Cap.
      • The Actual Captain America proved this point only a few issues later, during Civil War, when he makes a rather more intelligent and eloquent speech about the bravery of the men and women he fought besides in occupied France.
      • In Ultimate Avengers, Cap was in custody of some French soldiers, who just happened to be mentioning how brave the French Resistance was. About a page later, Cap's free and kicking ass... whilst the soldiers are cringing, giving up without a fight. That's Mark Millar for you.note 
    • Cap also got hit with that particular stick in Nextwave.
    Nextwave Cap: Close your eyes, go back to Avengers Mansion, and make my dinner.
    • The entire early run of Cap's stories from WWII fit this category, most especially the ones featuring villainous "Japs."
    • Similarly, in the '50s there was a run where Captain America and Bucky came back and fully embraced the idea of the Red Scare. This was later retconned to be a replacement Captain America and Bucky who went a bit paranoid after getting a bad batch of the Super-Soldier Serum.
    • Ultimately, the differences between original Captain America and "Ultimate" Captain America are a values dissonance between the comics industry of the 1940's and the modern day. At the time, the industry was all about big patriotism and sticking by your country in times of trouble because hey, it's your country. Nowadays, comics are more willing to stick it to the man. Thus original Cap attempted to symbolize everything best about America, while post-Silver Age Cap tries to fight everything that's worst about it.
    • Captain America's sidekick Lemar Hoskins briefly took up the mantle of Bucky, Cap's Golden Age sidekick. When it was pointed out that the term "Buck" was once used as a derogatory term for black men, Lemar changed his Code Name to Battlestar.
  • In the case of the Argentinian comic strip Mafalda, there are several examples.
  • Early X-Men comics have some inevitable casual sexism that can be jarring to the modern reader, all the males (including Xavier) spend much of their time making crude remarks about Jean Grey and in one early issue the maid is ill so it falls to Jean to make everyone dinner (nobody questions this, least of all Jean).
    • Similar to the treatment of Sue Storm throughout most of the early Fantastic Four stories. Even tales that tried to demonstrate her value to the team - like "A Visit to the Fantastic Four" in FF #11 - come out painfully sexist now. (As for the old running gag with Namor... let's not even go there...)
    • One early issue showed the team training in the Danger Room, with the male members fighting a robot while Jean - who went into combat alongside the men all the time - practiced using her telekinesis to sew.
  • This idea was played with in X-Statix Presents: Dead Girl, where the Golden Age heroine Miss America was portrayed as an unapologetic racist. Ironically, she ended up in a romantic relationship with Anarchist, a black superhero she had earlier hurled a vile slur at.
    • Miss America's racism was later used by artist Nick Dragotta as part of a justification for making the new Miss America a Latina. He pointed out the delicious irony behind making the successor of an out-of-touch bigot a woman of color.
  • The climax of an early Constantine story dealing with a serial killer who targets the hero involves the hero getting a gun. Given that the killer is a Knife Nut, the confrontation is a bit uneven. For a British audience, the pistol was presumably an unexpected and shocking twist. For any nation where pistols are perfectly legal and commonplace, this is both an Anti-Climax and a bit of a What an Idiot moment for Constantine who did not think to use a gun on many previous occasions.
  • Chick Tracts either stubbornly ignores it, or simply don't realize it in many tracts which contain outdated values (one example is in "The Little Bride", when the Christian Suzy insists that Mohammud was not a man of God because he married teenage girls and had slaves).
  • In the Gargoyles "Bad Guys" series, it's revealed that Dingo was raised by his stepfather, who showed visible shock when the teenaged Dingo came home with a mohawk. You'd think someone who'd kill his wife, lie to her son about it and raise said son to a life of crime would be more understanding.
  • Writer James Robinson talked about this when explaining some of the character changes in the New 52 reboot of the JSA. He pointed out that while the team's all-white, all-heterosexual (and mostly male) line-up was to be expected back in the Golden Age, there was no excuse for it remaining that way in 2012. To that end, he slotted in the black Mr. Terrific and the Latina Hawkgirl as founding members of the team, and made Alan Scott/Green Lantern an openly-gay man.
  • DC Comics trend of returning characters from the Legacy Character inheritors to the versions the writers grew up with has had the unintended consequence of removing/killing off dozens of minority characters from the DCU. Because back when they were reading, all the major heroes were white.
    • An odd version of this occurs with the Flash (Barry Allen). Barry was previously treated as something of an optimist and a good natured fellow, with cheerful science lessons for the readers. In the decades since his death, this almost became Flanderization, with Barry being treated something close to a saint whose only flaw was spending too much time on heroics, showing up late on dates with his wife. The problem with his return? Barry was intended to be a nerd hero, so his day job was a police scientist. In the 1950s, nobody thought much of it. In 2010, CSI, profiling, and forensics investigations are the subject of nightly television drama, so Barry's happy attitude was jarring on a character who'd retroactively seen more death than the Joker.
      • Although there is such a thing as Gallows Humor; it's common for people in jobs like Barry's to develop strong (albeit often somewhat dark) senses of humor as a psychological defense mechanism to counteract the grime and misery they're confronted with on a day-by-day basis in their careers. This tends to not make it into said dramas because angst is generally more dramatic and makes those involved seem less insensitive.
  • The typical climax to many strips in British Comics like The Beano in the '70s would involve a child doing something naughty and being given, as some stories put it, 'six of the best' - in other words, being bent across Dad's knee and whacked on the bum with a large slipper. It can be pretty surprising to a younger reader (ie. a reader not old enough to remember the time when smacking wasn't controversial) to realise that not only was that considered a moralistic plot element, you were supposed to laugh. Of course, recent (for example, 1990s-present) comics don't do that.
  • Racial stereotypes, especially black and Chinese caricatures, were also pretty frequent in British Comics back in their early days although no strip with these sort of characters were particularly longlasting. Some racial caricatures appeared in British Comics as late as the 1980s.
  • Dave Gibbons recalls encountering this trope when writing Powerman for a Nigerian audience in the 70s. In particular, he had difficulty with the idea that a fat stomach indicated success and power rather than gluttony and greed.
  • In the Mortadelo y Filemón comics by Ibañez, most non-white characters are drawn and speak as typical wartime caricatures, complete with accents, which raises more than a few eyebrows in the present day. That said, Ibañez's black characters tended to be universally more competent or at least less suicidally stupid than the white protagonists, so maybe it was just him catering to the drawing style expected at the time (Ibañez was, after all, publishing his comics during a fascist dicatorship and spent a lot of his time Getting Crap Past The Censors).
  • In Mexico, long-running comic Memín Pingüín features a blackface as the main character. And over there it is not seen as offensive at all.note  However, in 2008, when the Mexican Postal Service announced they would publish a series of postal stamps with the image of Memín, many American civil rights groups noticed the character, and criticized both the stamps, the comics, and the Mexican society as a whole as being obscenely racist, to the point it caused a minor international incident between Mexico and the United States, while the Mexican postal service was more or less left wondering why they were making so much of a fuss since these stamps weren't really intended to them. Whether it was deliberately done by the postal service or not, the stamps were sold out within days, reignited interest in the comic, and the stamps were also found on auction sites being sold at many times its face value. And for the record, the comic actually called out on the U.S. segregation issues in the 1960's, and spoke very harshly against racism.
    • It doesn't help that the titular blackface character looks more like a monkey due to the artist's drawing style, and in fact some issues have other characters think he's a talking monkey.
  • Shortly after Supergirl's introduction, there's a Superman story in which (for typically contrived Silver Age reasons) he has to pretend to be engaged. So, he spends a good part of the story making kissy-face with the mysterious new superheroine Mighty Maid. At the end of the story it's revealed she's Supergirl in disguise, and thus Supes has been making out with his 15-year-old first cousin. (A later story makes it clear that this is not Kryptonian-Earth values dissonance; first cousins couldn't marry on Krypton.)
    • Fact Note: in most US states first cousins can legally marry, doesn't lessen the squick though.
  • Superdickery (the website that chronicles the many times Superman has acted like a Jerkass) is something of a sub-trope of this, as the "humor" of the time now comes off as manipulative, abusive, and all-around in bad taste in these heavily-P.C. times.
  • One arc in Runaways has the kids travelling back 100 years to 1907. New character Klara Prast is depicted in a number of ways that are very different to the modern kids, notably her reaction to the lesbian relationship between Karolina and "Negress" Xavin (actually a shapeshifting alien, which is a whole different set of things). Not to mention Klara's rather squicky relationship with her middle-aged husband. Klara, for reference, is twelve.
    • Fortunately, Klara herself was somewhat displeased by the latter, and eventually got over the former a bit, after spending some time with Molly and her modern-day worldview.
    • Speaking of Xavin, s/he was a product of Marvel's reluctance (at the time) to put openly gay characters in a series that they had hoped to market towards teenagers, which is also why his/her first appearance created a pretense for the newly-outed Karolina being put on a spaceship, and why, after Xavin and Karolina returned, Xavin kept assuming a male form. If Marvel had tried imposing such rules in modern times, they'd probably be subject to the kind of public-relations nightmare that DC faced when it vetoed Batwoman's lesbian marriage in 2013.
  • The dissonance in comics is mocked in the videogame Comic Jumper: The Adventures of Captain Smiley. When he travels into the Silver Age, he is immediately paired with a ching chongey Chinese stereotype and put up against a feminist villain. Even Captain Smiley's sidekick Star, who is a complete Jerkass throughout the game, is offended.
    • The game also points out how The Comics Code forbade swearing, but allowed ethnic stereotypes.
  • Wilhelm Busch's 19th century stories feature corporal punishment for kids (by caning). There are also some anti-Semitic bits in (lesser known) stories.
  • Green Lantern Hal Jordan premiered in the late 1950s with a female boss/love interest who ran a military-industrialist complex air base, and an Inuit sidekick who not only knew his secret identity, but kept Jordan's power source safe and even stood in for him when Jordan was off-world. These concepts were quite progressive at the time, but to modern readers get easily overshadowed by his boss turning to supervillainy to try to force Green Lantern into marriage and his sidekick gleefully accepting a blatantly racist nickname.
  • A Donald Duck comic from 1949 called "Voodoo Hoodoo" showed, in a flashback, Scrooge McDuck hiring thugs to chase stereotypically drawn Africans out of their village so he could take their land, causing a witch doctor to send a zombie after him. Most of the sympathy of the story is reserved for Bombie the Zombie (who has had to search for Scrooge for years) and Donald (who the Zombie is currently chasing, mistaking him for a young Scrooge), with relatively little for the African tribe. When later depicted in Don Rosa's The Life and Times of Scrooge McDuck, there is no doubt that his treatment of the natives is Scrooge's Face-Heel Turn, and arguably a crossing of the Moral Event Horizon.
  • Astérix:
    • The story The Rose and The Sword had a female bard, Bravura, come to the village, and introducing feminism to its women, who cause the men to leave the village in protest of their unfeminine ways. The main plot deals with female legionaries being introduced to fight the Gauls, because Gaulish gallantry insists they can't fight women. In the end, though the women of the village are prepared to fight, Asterix suggests they defeat the female legionaries by turning the village into a combination shopping centre/spa, where the women can get mani/pedicures, get their hair done, and buy new clothes. In the end, the story ends with the men coming back and the women happily going back to their roles as housewives. Bizarrely, this comic was written in 1991, at a point where everyone should have known better. Even more bizarrely, most critical outrage was focused on a scene where Asterix punches Bravura, saying this would normalise violence against women, even though the context was completely different to domestic violence (it was in reaction to the second time Bravura had sexually harassed him publically, using her size difference to manhandle him and completely ignoring him asking her to stop - and he immediately felt horrible about hitting her, and almost all the other characters treat him like crap for the rest of the story as a result of what he did) and and the comics rely on silly violent slapstick constantly.
    • The comic also frequently presents black characters in the stereotypical blackface fashion with inky black skin and huge, red lips. Though interestingly they rarely act out negative stereotypes when they have larger roles, behaving like any other character.
    • A more cultural issue is the frequent use of gentle Alcohol-Induced Idiocy and "funny drunk" archetypes, which are considered innocent in France, acceptable but not particularly child-friendly in the UK, and a thoroughly Discredited Trope in America where heavy drinking is connected in the public consciousness primarily to alcoholism. This may have contributed to how the comics have repeatedly failed to break America.
  • The Outbursts Of Everett True depict a man with a Hair-Trigger Temper beating up anyone who angers him (or simply yelling at them if they're female). While this isn't so bad (several victims are depicted as Asshole Victims who deserve their comeuppance) one strip features a woman laden with many packages from a shopping trip politely asking Everett to give up his seat for her, which he responds to by yelling at her and accusing her of being one of those women who "gives women's rights speeches". While this may have been acceptable in Edwardian times, nowadays it just comes off as rude and unchivalrous.
  • Newspaper Comics have fallen victim of this since the 1970's, with attempts to modernize strips by the syndicates not doing much to avoid getting them Deader Than Disco.
  • Zipi y Zape: A lot of stories show the twins receiving Corporal Punishment for their pranks. Keep in mind that most of that stories were written in the Spain of the 1940s and 1950s...
  • Polish comic book Tytus Romek I Atomek was created when Poland was a comunistic country under Russian control. In order to have the books publish the creator Henryk Chmielewski was forced to include elements of communist propaganda in them as well have his heroes praising current system while being critical of much more western world.
    • In One particular story the heroes meet Fidle Castro who is shown as a very nice and sympathethic person...
  • Hob Gadling from The Sandman is another in-universe example. Being an immortal who has lived for centuries, he's done things in the past that were acceptable then but would be considered horrible in the present. He's especially ashamed of his past involvement in the slave trade.
  • Urbanus seems to have a lot of issues of this on its own.
    • One of them being that the main character in the comic book series is a peasant and that the comic book frequently mocks with the noblemen. In Flanders it's adored because in the past Flemish (who were universally condemned as peasants) had to revolt a lot against the French speaking noble mans to make sure that it was acceptable to speak Dutch in academies, politics and military. In most other European countries such revolts never happened and this kind of mockery is considered to be barbaric.
    • This comic book is also prone to having lots of blasphemy and drunken stereotypes (such as having the pope drink beer) that doesn't translate well to religious audiences and anti-alcohol ones.
    • Lots of racial stereotyping, to the point of not even caring (one of the characters is called "het Negerke", roughly translated as "The Nigga") may also be one of the reasons why it will probably stay in the BENELUX.
  • The infamous One More Day has this. The point of the story is that it's heroic to do whatever you can to save a life, which a a fine moral... Except that "whatever you can" in this case involves making a deal with the devil, so the moral becomes "do WHATEVER YOU CAN to save a life."

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