Follow TV Tropes

Following

Real Life Politics in Comics

Go To

Nikkolas Politically Confused from Texas Relationship Status: Anime is my true love
Politically Confused
Apr 17th 2017 at 10:32:48 PM

Apparently there were a lot of British writers shitting on Thatcher back in the day which is what inspired V for Vendetta, demons root for her in Hellblazer, etc.. Warren Ellis sounds like he writes a ton of overtly political works.

On the opposite side of the spectrum, Chuck Dixon made a graphic novel of "Clinton Cash." I kind of want to see just how you make a comic book out of something like that.

Also apparently in some Ditko Spiderman comic Peter yells at antiwar protesters.

VampireBuddha Hungry dinosaur from Ireland Relationship Status: Complex: I'm real, they are imaginary
Hungry dinosaur
Apr 18th 2017 at 3:28:57 AM

Yeah, British comic writers in the late 70s and the 80s really hated Thatcher. Well, so did everybody who wasn't already rich.

Steve Ditko did indeed once draw Spider-Man shaking his fist at some protesters, but when Stan Lee wrote the dialogue, he had Spidey shake his fist at whatever the hippies were protesting against.

Apr 18th 2017 at 7:55:26 AM

Ditko is an interesting guy. If you want to see his personal politics on display, read his Mr.A (his creator-owned, original version of the Question). He's an Ayn Rand-ian objectivist (which is what inspired some of the Question's characterization in the JLU, most notably his "A is A" speech to Superman).

Luminosity ahuhuhuhuhu from the mother of all drills Relationship Status: Lovey-Dovey
ahuhuhuhuhu
Apr 18th 2017 at 8:24:24 AM

I would also like to point out, for all the talk about superheroes taking the law in their own hands and disregarding authority...

What they're doing would not be illegal in real life America.

Introducing, citizen's arrest:

A citizen's arrest is an arrest made by a person who is not acting as a sworn law-enforcement official. In common law jurisdictions, the practice dates back to medieval England and the English common law, in which sheriffs encouraged ordinary citizens to help apprehend law breakers.

And specifically in the United States.

Most states have codified the common law rule that a warrantless arrest may be made by a private person for a felony, misdemeanor or "breach of peace". A breach of peace covers a multitude of crimes in which the Supreme Court has even included a misdemeanor seatbelt violation punishable only by a fine. The term historically included theft, "nightwalking", prostitution and playing card and dice games.[2]

And on the use of force:

In general, a private person is justified in using non-deadly force upon another if they reasonably believe that: such other person is committing a felony, or a misdemeanor amounting to a breach of the peace; and the force used is necessary to prevent further commission of the offense and to apprehend the offender. The force must be reasonable under the circumstances to restrain the individual arrested. This includes the nature of the offense and the amount of force required to overcome resistance.

And there we have it. If a supervillain is obviously robbing a bank, a superhero stopping him and handing him over to the police is perfectly compliant with the law, as long as the force used is reasonable and non-deadly.

Apr 18th 2017 at 9:04:28 AM

Isn't that only relevant to 'in-progress' crimes? Folks like Superman and Wonder Woman specialize in that kind of stuff, but it's thornier with Batman-type heroes who investigate murders and the like long after the crime's been committed.

One specific case I recall was from Jim Starlin's "Dumpster Killer" arc (Batman #414, 421-422), where Batman trailed a suspected serial killer to his apartment, dug up the guy's floorboards, and found a bloody knife there. Fisticuffs ensued and the guy was sent to jail, but his lawyer got him off in about three seconds because no one could prove Batman didn't plant that knife himself.

Apr 18th 2017 at 9:10:12 AM

[up] That's an odd thing to have Batman do. It's the kind of thing he'd know (or really ought to know) wouldn't hold up in court.

Apr 18th 2017 at 9:21:17 AM

[up]doesnt seem different from his usual MO. The only difference here seems to be the outcome.

Apr 18th 2017 at 9:42:58 AM

Considering Batman's general disdain for Miranda rights, destructive ordnance regulations, personal and corporate privacy, evidence handling regulations, and traffic laws, I'd say using excessive force in an actual emergency would be the least of his legal concerns.

And that's not going into bigger teams being de facto ideological private military contractors with a methodology that makes three-letter agencies look restrained.

Essentially, this is what happens when writers get a bit too invested in their pets, ignoring how this would look when viewed from any other perspective. Sure, it feels nice to have your own personal (or corporate-entrusted) Mary Sue come in and say what's what to anyone unlucky enough to be in earshot, but considering their in-universe resources, it's both grating that that's the best they can do, and more than a little creepy to have nigh-invincible behemoths ignore and often antagonize every civilized institution in existence. I wouldn't even say it's an actual political stance, but merely the result of general-purpose bad writing, only applied to characters powerful enough for even their petty temper tantrums to be frightening in-universe.

Apr 18th 2017 at 12:34:28 PM

[up] Is that how super-hero groups are generally portrayed, though, or is what you're describing a matter of implication?

Apr 18th 2017 at 1:25:10 PM

In a way, it's both. It can't be denied that superheroes go against civil institutions almost as often as they fight more overt criminals and terrorists, nor that their own usual operations involve violations of civil rights that would make a totalitarian police state cringe. The vaunted non-lethality rule is a token concession at best... while the way it's used can easily read like the capes defending the impossibly corrupt system where imprisonment is a slap on the wrist.

At the same time, I feel such stances aren't intentionally political, but rather the result of genre trappings being addressed in-story, and the consequent aesops swerving into unwholesome territory. Then there's how some superheroes are indeed prone to delivering long-winded speeches on matters well outside their in-universe areas of competence, simply because their real life status as emblems of nobility tends to leak into the stories themselves.

Apr 18th 2017 at 2:40:41 PM

Back to the original post question, I remember that stories done in the lead up to WWII frequently had heroes fighting some expy of the Nazi's or other. There was a story where Superman squared off against the "Dukalians" for instance (he describes himself as "decidedly non-Aryan" in that story). The Blackhawks did fight the Germans openly before the US entered the war, but they were excused because none of them (at first anyway) were American and they were all from nations that the Nazis had invaded. There is as well the famous cover that has Captain America punching out Hitler, which also appeared before the US was at war with Germany. Golden Age creators really didn't like the Nazis.

BigK1337 Comedic Super Troper from Detroit Relationship Status: Hoping Senpai notices me
Comedic Super Troper
Apr 18th 2017 at 8:48:30 PM

[up] Considering how most of them are Jews . . .

"Who needs sanity when you have unlimited power!" Now in (Very Active) Tumblr Form
TeChameleon Irritable Reptilian from Alberta, Canada Relationship Status: [TOP SECRET]
Irritable Reptilian
Apr 19th 2017 at 12:18:00 AM

-*chuckle*

That cover of Captain America playing a little of that sweet chin music on Hitler (after busting in through a window, no less! Jack Kirby could certainly design one hell of a cover, heh... and that was Cap's very first appearance, too!) had some interesting real-life consequences...

Apparently members of the American Nazi Party (yup, that was a thing in the pre-war days) took exception to that portrayal of der Fuerher, and stomped into the Timely offices, demanding that the artist who drew it come down so they could lynch them on a lamppost outside.

Best part was, Jack Kirby actually went down there, fully intent on handing out some beatings of his own! Sadly (or perhaps thankfully, I guess, given that things could have gone quite poorly), the Nazis had already pissed off by the time Jolly Jack got downstairs tongue

That and my general opinion (as someone who is neither American, nor, despite being Canadian and apparently considered as the next best thing to being American by a lot of the rest of the world, capable of figuring out what the hell is going on with American politics at the best of times) on 'real-life politics' in comics tends to swing back to this.

edited 19th Apr '17 12:18:37 AM by TeChameleon

Apr 19th 2017 at 11:26:08 AM

Timely Comics (who published Captain America at the time) apparently got a call, and a guarantee of police protection, from New York mayor Fiorello Laguardia, who gave them a thumbs up, saying he echoed their sentiments. That Cap cover was apparently the first time a super hero took on the Nazis and not a fictional stand-in for them.

The American Bund....few remember now (or perhaps its just that few want to) that just about all western nations had a branch of the Nazi party, or at least an affiliated fascist party of some kind.

edited 19th Apr '17 11:26:35 AM by Robbery

CharlesPhipps Author from Ashland, Ky Relationship Status: Lovey-Dovey
Author
Apr 22nd 2017 at 6:11:57 PM

I'd always argue that superheroes are inherently centrist.

They are right in the fact they smash criminals and beat up crime with violence.

They also tend to be inherently leftist because they are always practicing selfless dedication to the public good for no pay.

They also tend to be on the socially progressive scale when they are shown having any opinion.

Author of The Supervillainy Saga, Cthulhu Armageddon, The United States of Monsters, and Lucifer's Star.
Nikkolas Politically Confused from Texas Relationship Status: Anime is my true love
Politically Confused
Apr 22nd 2017 at 7:26:09 PM

[up] This article I found while researching the topic says superheroes are inherently Right Wing:

"Superheroes are, in essence, a conservative idea. The concept of embodying personal, individual responsibility, rather than relying on the state, whilst also retaining your privacy. Standing up, doing the right thing, rather than relying on some kind of collective decision making. Bearing arms even if they are your fists. Mixed in with a smattering of might makes right, hitting first, a little more action, a little less wishy washy empathy and understanding."

Also apparently Garth Ennis is hardcore anti-IRA, to the extent he had national hero Michael Collins being assaulted and screamed at in Preacher.

edited 22nd Apr '17 7:27:32 PM by Nikkolas

Apr 22nd 2017 at 11:27:16 PM

I was thinking along another line - considering the decades-long power creep and resource growth of most superheroes, while still maintaining most of their initial methodology, the modern result rings closest to the cliche of the limousine liberal - someone more enamored with highly visible token efforts than actual changes. The kind of person who takes a private jet to a fossil fuel protest.

It's not just Batman being able to all but buy Gotham and clean it up thusly rather than jump around in a gimp suit and engage in his masochistic obsessions. Nowadays, Superman has acquired enough superpowers to turn him into a one-man charity foundation, never mind having a fortress chock-full of revolutionary alien tech. So when he bemoans how difficult it is to enact lasting change and blames it on random evil people who oh-so want for suffering to continue, it's rather hard to take him seriously. Even someone like Spider-Man has only now truly taken to the company lab rather than the street in order to effect social changes that way - and that's because a supervillain built said company for him.

Again, I wouldn't say this is inherent to the characters, let alone the genre, but that it's resulted from writers wanting to have their cake and eat it too, keeping both the overblown resources of more comedic Silver Age stories, with the grim and dramatic attitude of the Dark Age. Similarities to actual political stances are incidental at best.

VampireBuddha Hungry dinosaur from Ireland Relationship Status: Complex: I'm real, they are imaginary
Hungry dinosaur
Apr 22nd 2017 at 11:59:48 PM

A blog I used to like which unfortunately has since been deleted made another case that superheroes are inherently conservative. Not right-wing, necessarily, but definitely conservative (the writer is British, so the term has a somewhat different meaning to him).

Superheroes, at the base level, want to maintain the status quo. The premise is that things are pretty good, and the state is working as it should. Problems arise because of a few bad people trying to cause trouble, and if only those negative elements were removed, things would be fine.

Batman is a perfect example of this, as instead of trying to make any real change, he simply trusts in the existing justice system to do its job. Even anti-heroes like the Punisher are, in the end, predicated on the idea that removing some finite amount of aberrant humans from power and influence will allow the state to attain the optimum results if left to its own devices.

Apr 23rd 2017 at 12:30:00 AM

I'd say this used to be the case, and it's definitely a functional framework, but nowadays the usual spiel is that the status quo sucks, and the capes are bravely striving for change... that never really comes, adaptations notwithstanding.

(As much as it can be a valid outside observation, I generally call bullshit whenever the capes themselves get on a high horse about the existing justice system - after all, if they actually believed in it, they'd be wearing badges, not masks.)

TeChameleon Irritable Reptilian from Alberta, Canada Relationship Status: [TOP SECRET]
Irritable Reptilian
Apr 23rd 2017 at 3:47:02 AM

Y'know, it's a bit weird that superheroes are considered fundamentally leftist, right-wing, and centrist, all at the same time, depending on who you ask.

If I was feeling snarky, I'd say it was almost as if the concept of putting on a funny outfit and beating up unpleasant people was largely apoliitical.

Slightly more seriously, I'd say that no matter what your political affiliation (possibly barring certain extremist forms of Socail Darwinism, I guess..?), you are pretty much forced to agree that there are people in the world that need to be prevented from excercising their will on others, and that there will be times that the extant system cannot be counted on to protect others from them. In such cases, protecting others from harm (while wearing brightly-coloured tights or not) is generally seen as a noble act; ergo, superhero. Politics really doesn't enter into it, except as a secondary concern.

... granted, I suspect that I really don't have to worry too much about my country's politics being misrepresented in comics, since Canada basically doesn't exist in DC (except for one instance of Batman heading into the Great White North to... promote literacy..? Oooookay, then...), and is apparently run by a secret cabal of mad scientists so horrifically evil that they'd make Mengele blush in Marvel.

Apr 23rd 2017 at 6:11:41 AM

I'd say the perceived political leanings depend more on which aspect one chooses to focus on.

Superheroes are right-wing in terms of methodology, as the notion of individuals picking up the slack from an incompetent government is mostly in line with the conservative ideas of self-reliance rather than waiting for government assistance... but this would extend to personally dealing out punishment rather than simply wrapping crooks for the corrupt court to pick up.

Superheroes are leftist in terms of usually expressed attitudes (mirroring those of their writers), and the supervillain rosters also rely on liberal bogeymen like evil corporate executives, tech tycoons and fascist terrorists; and never mind the minority metaphors surrounding groups like mutants... however, superheroes are just as hostile toward government oversight of their own resources and operations, which goes against the idea of equality, apart from the old commie cliche of some people being more equal than others.

Superheroes are also often explicitly compared to mythical figures, which isn't really on the modern political spectrum, but rings closest to the notion of feudal nobility where a handful of elites are deemed inherently above the law, regardless of their faults and failings... and the political implications of that sort of attitude will have, I dunno, about four to eight more years to reveal their fineries to the general public.evil grin

CharlesPhipps Author from Ashland, Ky Relationship Status: Lovey-Dovey
Author
Apr 23rd 2017 at 10:06:41 AM

Left and Right also vary on where you are in the world.

For example, America is rather unique in the fact that it's Right-Wing political spectrum includes the idea the government is evil and shouldn't in any way shape or form hold much in the way of power. It's just in America that benefits megacorporations and businesses via deregulation.

Where most countries' rights are inherently authoritarian.

It's weird world where V for Vendetta is Right Wing but plenty of Libertarians love him.

Only America can have Right Wing anarchists. Because it doens't make any sense anywhere else.

edited 23rd Apr '17 11:55:36 AM by CharlesPhipps

Author of The Supervillainy Saga, Cthulhu Armageddon, The United States of Monsters, and Lucifer's Star.
Apr 23rd 2017 at 11:02:05 AM

It gets even weirder seen from this side of the curtain - socialism is the conservative policy around here. Regarding fiction, this has resulted in a weird sort of admiration for the ultra-manly action stars of the Reagan era and the respective gritty anti-heroes like the Punisher, by the same people reminiscing about the good old commie days. It's like a real life version of Red Heat. So when these same action stars come over here to shoot their movies, you get a sizeable amount of promoted fanboys in the local film crews.

CharlesPhipps Author from Ashland, Ky Relationship Status: Lovey-Dovey
Author
Apr 23rd 2017 at 12:00:32 PM

But yes, there's a certain element of attacking superheroes as a conservative idea being dramatic irony.

Because Superman, the First Superhero, was a socialist parable.

It's just later he became viewed as the Ultimate Establishment Figure.

Captain America had his "Nomad" years.

Wonder Woman was founded on feminist ideals.

Batman is parodied as a fascist Frank Miller wet dream but he's also routinely portrayed in his civilian identity as a Bill Gates-esque philanthropist.

Comics are simply too big to pigeonhole.

edited 23rd Apr '17 12:01:12 PM by CharlesPhipps

Author of The Supervillainy Saga, Cthulhu Armageddon, The United States of Monsters, and Lucifer's Star.
Apr 23rd 2017 at 12:17:30 PM

Like I said, I find it to be mostly a result of in-universe power and status growth. Superman could have easily played the part of a socialist revolutionary back when he was just a burly dude who could jump real high. Nowadays, he's treated as all but a physical god, and so gets burdened with a ton of excuses as to why he's unable to change anything... while still heading an NGO superpower that regularly violates half the UN charter. Being an establishment stooge is among the nicer things that can be said about that. Ditto Batman growing from a low-profile millionaire who can still act like a rich idiot with no day job while clandestinely sabotaging criminal consortiums that actually have more resources than him, to a guy wealthy enough to solve Gotham's problems legitimately, yet who focuses mostly on street-level criminals and mentally-challenged fetishists. Pretty hard not to see him as an arch-conservative beating up scapegoats.


Total posts: 338
Top

Example of:

/

Feedback