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Batman did actually fight realistic social ills like organized crime and police corruption in his early years. It's just when the supervillains moved in those mundane groups lost a lot of power. So yes, those "scapegoats" are legitimately worse.
Morrison, notably, made the Black Glove society and Court of Owls to give Bruce some similarly rich opponents.
The Court of Owls were created by Scott Snyder
When Bob Kane retired and Batman received his first revamp under editor Julius Schwartz (at the hands of writers Frank Robbins and Dennis O'Neill) he took on quite a number of social ills. Bruce Wayne spent his days working with his Victim's Inc Program (VIP) which provided aid to the victims of crime, and the Wayne Foundation (formerly the Alfred Foundation) worked to improve conditions in Gotham. For several years in the early 70's, Batman didn't fight much in the way of super villains, focusing more on regular style crime and corruption. Dennis O'Neill apparently lobbied to have Bruce Wayne run for Congress (which is teased in one story, but never goes anywhere) — just as Elliott S.Maggin wanted to have Oliver Queen run for mayor of Star City.
Super heroes, and what threats they face, have been approached from pretty much every angle you can imagine over their nearly 80 years of existence. They've covered most areas of the political spectrum, but do not inherently embody any politics in particular. It's up to the writers, and to the tone of the times in which they're published.
I wouldn't expect super heroes to make any significant political or cultural changes in their stories, as the mandate for the the writers is usually to keep their world as similar to the real one as can be reasonably managed. That's the real reason, regardless of how irritating some of us may find it, why super technology doesn't get shared with the masses. Most of the shape of the fictional reality these characters live in exists as it does for narrative reasons (and a narrative that, from the perspective of the editors, needs to be able to continue indefinitely) rather than any political ideas on the part of anyone involved in their creation.
edited 23rd Apr '17 1:54:47 PM by Robbery
I'd say this is a functional framework when the basic idea is that the status quo is generally good, and superheroes endeavor to keep it that way, rather than the now fashionable notion that the status quo is bad and superheroes are on a perpetual crusade to change it, without ever making a dent. As much as writers get off on doom and gloom, and superhero writers in particular often let industry problems leak into the attitude of the stories themselves, this is one road best not taken, since it's contractually obligated to never pay off.
The idea of superheroes as an establishment status-quo angle is a claim a lot of people seem to accept offhand.
Not sure I agree with it at all.
It's more likely that modern genre trappings have forced them into it. By itself, the superhero concept is fundamentally anti-establishment - going outside the law to enforce one's vision of justice should be a dead giveaway in that regard. However, their eventual popularity, not to mention the Comics Code, necessitated a more family-friendly image, so they were rebuilt in the style of the other then-popular hero - the pulp adventurer fighting monsters and larger-than-life caricatures. Once the Code was loosened and/or abandoned, superheroes were free to again present a more subversive viewpoint... only now they had a cash-cow money mill to worry about, with enemies just as popular as themselves. Thus the modern stalemate where a prim and proper superhero is pretty much a rule abiding rebel doing everything to maintain the status quo, complaining about it all the while.
In short, you might say they sold out and now have to live with it.
I think that would have happened regardless of the Comics Code.
DC's and Marvel's titles are, for the most part, designed to run indefinitely and also to form single, interlinked, sprawling continuities (which DC has reset a few times). They are also intended to be like reality unless noted, so culture, politics, fashion, and technology have to be similar to what we have today bar unique superweapons and occasionally small-scale gadgets like Parker Industries' non-terrible smart watches.
This need to resemble the real world inherently limits what a superhero can accomplish. This makes sense in a universe where most heroes are badass normals who would generally have to restrict themselves to one town, or even a single neighourhood. It's also acceptable in a universe where there is only one, or at most a handful, of superheroes, since even Superman can't be everywhere at once.
Issues arise when you have hundreds of individuals of mass destruction running around. Consider that the longest-running storyline in the DCAU was about the US government feeling threatened by the Justice League (not unreasonably, since the Justice Lords literally took over the world and only the League was able to defeat them), and in the MCU, the UN passes legislation specifically to rein in the Avengers (which also happened in the comics, but let's leave that flamebait alone). If the superheroes are that powerful, and are as left-wing as Charles and Indiana observe, one has to genuinely wonder why the Houses of Saud and Kim are still in power.
(I have more to say but I need to get to work)
I welcome your further insight when you have the time.
Another forum I frequent is having a heated discussion about Nick Spencer's Captain America. I have no interest in Cap but I figured I should try to figure out what the deal was.
The politics are transparent but I have no idea what he's trying to say.
So let's continue my last post.
Once again, comic book time is a culprit here. I said earlier that the fridge logic really arises when you have hundreds of people in existence who could reasonably challenge a small army. Abolishing the sliding timescale allows this to be easily removed. Either the stories take place in a fixed timeframe, allowing us to assume that there will be major repurcussions down the line, hopefully good; or if you want to keep up a continuity going back to before World War II, allowing the characters to age and eventually retire and pass on their secret identiteis means there are fewer active superpeople at any given time, so it's again more believable that the sheer number of superpowered individuals have less of an impact on history as a whole (Reed Richards notwithstanding).
Another thought, and this again comes back to Batman. In keeping up decades of continuity and ever-escalating power creep, the superhero genre must ultimately buy in to the conservative idea that it's bad to rock the boat too much. In America, this is fetishised as 'individual responsibility', a reasonable-sounding idea that at once justifies extreme wealth ("Bill Gates worked hard for his money!") and also provides a counter to large-scale attempts to address genuine inequality ("If black people don't want to go to prison, all they have to do is not commit crimes!"). Elsewhere, it's more often presented in a guise such as 'respect for tradition' or tall poppy syndrome, but the underlying idea is the same - bad people are individual aberrations, and it's wrong to blame the system as it exists; or, if the system is at fault, it's because it has deviated too far from the good old days and we need to get back to a more moral time.
Thus we get the notion that if someone commits a crime, they need to be penalised in some way. What do superheroes spend all their time doing? Penalising criminals. Occasionally a writer will try to muddy the waters by showing that a villain grew up poor, in an abusive home, and was turned to crime by circumstance. Back in the Bronze Age, this might have caused the hero to reflect on how, ultimately, society needs to change. Nowadays, we're more likely to get "Yeah, well that still doesn't excuse eating people while they're still alive!", and if we're lucky the hero won't mock the villain for having a tragic background. And in the end the villain escapes/dies/goes to prison, and the hero doesn't feel any need to address the conditions that led to them.
People keep pointing out Batman's hypocrisy here, to which the fans, quite reasonably, point out that Bruce Wayne does lots of charity work and even works to rehabilitate crimnals. The trouble is that stuff is only mentioned, while the a normal issue is about Batman picking fights with criminals. Thus, while Batman pays lip service to the idea of rehabilitation, it dwells on retribution in all its gory allure. The natural rejoinder here is that Batman fighting the Joker is more interesting to read about than Former Drug Dealer 237-B working in a Wayne Enterprises factory, to which I say "no" since recent Spider-Man issues have managed to spin stories out of just that situation. Heck, for all Dan Slott seems to be an absolute penis in person, he's good at actually showing Peter using his company's resources to try and improve things.
Speaking of Peter Parker as CEO, it's interesting that in order for him to get a company, he had to inherit it from Doctor Octopus. This is a recurring thing in superhero stories, where billionaire supervillains are born into wealth (Batman, Iron Man, Blue Beetle II, Asami Sato), while billionaire supervillains start at the bottom and work their way up (Lex Luthor, Veronica Cale, JR Ewing, Hiroshi Sato). When I point this out, I see it criticised from all over the economic spectrum; capitalists object that it associates business skill and ambition with villainy, while socialists claim it supports the monarchical idea that people shouldn't try to rise above their stations. Make of that what you will.
Of course, the sympathetic to crime view is a Left wing issue as well as addressing societal issues of crime but if we just run into that we also get to the point that organized crime is very often preying on the masses themselves. Karl Marx was a guy who viewed organized crime as part of the parasitic forces of which preyed on workers and we're not righting him anytime soon.
We rarely see Bruce Wayne as Rich White Guy punching poor people. Usually, Bruce Wayne is rich guy punching mafia types from the 1940s. Then there's the fact Spiderman was a Blue Collar Hero-Poor as **** college student as early as 1960. Certainly, there's very little political about the fact Superman punches Darkseid more often than he punches gangbangers.
Ironically, the superheroes who most often punched gangbangers in comics were Falcon, Luke Cage, the Milestone comics protagonists, Black Lightning, and Steel—which, of course, points out the majority of anti-gang superheroes were disproportionately black activists. Which given Spike Lee's opinion on gangs, doesn't in any way take a white narrative.
Which comes back to the original point, of course, that punching bad guys is inherently apolitical.
Actually, most often we see Batman punching 40's era mafia types and perennial supervillains. It's hard to fault someone for trying to stop a guy who wants to hold a whole city hostage with Joker toxin in order to prove how brilliant he is. This last is a separate issue, of course, and it's only real-world equivalent is an anarchic terrorist (not even a regular ol' idealogical terrorist, but just an anarchic one).
And most often, we don't see heroes penalizing villians so much as just subduing them, apprehending them, and turning them over to the authorities (i'll admit, I haven't read a Batman comic in awhile, so I suppose things might have changed). Going back to, for instance, the Spirit, you'd frequently get the backstories of the various people the Spirit apprehended, usually to quite poignant emotional effect. You occasionally got that with Batman as well, but not much in recent years.
One of the things I really liked about early Spider-Man comics was how they'd frequently take time out to give you an origin for a respective villain (the Looter, the Shocker, etc) where it was revealed that they were generally power-drunk, jumped up thugs. Not, though, generally what made them thugs or career criminals in the first place.
edited 24th Apr '17 1:05:13 PM by Robbery
Basically, the "right wingedness" of superheroes have been noted by many people and lots of artists have tried to change it.
So in reality, I suppose comics are simply too large to make any judgements.
Kinda surprised The Punisher hasn't been brought up here once.
I don't think anyone really considers him a 'superhero', regardless of whether they like him. He's more of a general action (anti)hero like Nick Fury or James Bond.
He also started as a villain. Ironically showing how stories can change across genres.
"Hey, what if Mack Bolan was a Spiderman foe?"
As far as social movements of the times, I'd say super-heroes tend most often to be apolitical. Still, especially during the late 60's and early 70's, comics writers seemed fairly sympathetic towards the youth movements of the era. They often seemed at pains to show both sides of the issue. I'm thinking of specifically early Spider-Man, and even the Robin back-up stories from Batman and Detective Comics. The Robin stories in particular seemed less concerned with the ideology of either side so much as they were concerned that both sides listened to each other, and worked together towards solutions. Still, it feels a bit odd to go back and see Flash Thompson cheerfully going off to fight in Vietnam.
''Hard Travelling Heroes" is an interesting beast. It was revolutionary for the time, but it straw-mans Green Lantern like mad. He often seems like he's mostly there for Ollie to yell at.
The Punisher, as an anti-hero anyhow, is mostly a thing that came out of the 80's, and there were a lot of characters like him in the 80's. I remember he was written quite frequently by Chuck Dixon, who's pretty conservative in his leanings. I wouldn't speculate on Frank Miller's personal beliefs, but much of his output feels so right-wing that it's practically spinning in a circle.
You don't really need to speculate on Miller's politics given he said this:
"The "Occupy" movement, whether displaying itself on Wall Street or in the streets of Oakland (which has, with unspeakable cowardice, embraced it) is anything but an exercise of our blessed First Amendment. "Occupy" is nothing but a pack of louts, thieves, and rapists, an unruly mob, fed by Woodstock-era nostalgia and putrid false righteousness. These clowns can do nothing but harm America. 'Occupy' is nothing short of a clumsy, poorly-expressed attempt at anarchy, to the extent that the "movement" – HAH! Some "movement", except if the word "bowel" is attached – is anything more than an ugly fashion statement by a bunch of iPhone, iPad wielding spoiled brats who should stop getting in the way of working people and find jobs for themselves.
This is no popular uprising. This is garbage. And goodness knows they're spewing their garbage – both politically and physically – every which way they can find. Wake up, pond scum. America is at war against a ruthless enemy. Maybe, between bouts of self-pity and all the other tasty tidbits of narcissism you've been served up in your sheltered, comfy little worlds, you've heard terms like al-Qaida and Islamicism."
Miller's probably the farthest-right major comic writer, yeah, though I've heard Willingham's pretty conservative as well. Millar I don't know if he's a right-wing nutjob or just a nonpartisan asshole.
Oh, and I'd feel remiss if I didn't mention EC Comics. A lot of their stuff tackled social and political issues, as, for that matter, did Mad Magazine.
My problem with politics in media such as comics, and tv shows is how one sided they are.
Personally I consider myself an independent. There are some ideas on the left that I agree with and some ideas on the right that I agree with.
I think that comics, tv, and movies need to be more well rounded with the political views.
No offense, but superhero comics are really the last place one should be looking for nuance. There is perhaps no other genre that relies more heavily on Protagonist-Centered Morality, which means that sooner or later, everyone who disagrees with Our Hero will probably be aiding the bad guys in some form or another.
No genre has more Protagonist-Centered Morality? I think that can't be right. I mean, '80s Cowboy Cop movies exist.
To be fair to myself, I did say perhaps.
Also, I haven't watched too many '80s Cowboy Cop movies, but don't many of them take a Black and Grey Morality-like, "everyone in this world is an asshole, but our "hero" is the most exciting asshole!" approach?
Sounds about right. Though as far as those Cowboy Cop movies/shows go they are blatant Protagonist Center Morality, especially when Da Chief chews them out for their blatant disregards for following police procedures and uncooperative attitude. I get they are trying to use any means necessary to fight crime, but in the real world this kind of behavior is harmful to actual police work and paints a negative picture that all cops are trigger happy sociopath who would disregard rules and misuse their power to get what they want.
Now nuance in super hero comics, all I can think of is Valiant Comics. For the most part, they did a good job in averting Protagonist Center Morality and doesn't shy away in showing that the hero is wrong in what they are doing, whether that be Aric taking over a portion of land in Rome for his Visigoth tribe creating an international incident that would of initiated a nuclear strike or Peter brainwashing Kris to love him and have her sleep with him for the night.
For politics, well, they are pretty much in the middle of the road regarding that. Often the heroes in the universe do work for the government and showcase the benefits in having government assistance aid the heroes in their goals like stoping alien invasions, preventing anchiant evil from taking over, and preventing terrorist attack from spreading; however said government organization/military have often done some shady shit including black mailing the heroes, using lethal means to attain their goals and performing illegal experimentations to create their own super soldiers.
And their lampoon on current politics is even neutral as for example the whole reference to the Not My President protests in Harbingers Renegade. No sides were taken in the scene, as all it is serve as a justification for the arc's Big Bad reasoning to want to use his Psiot powers to maintain order in this chaotic world; which is similar to his master Harada whole entire goals in wanting an absolute order.
And though the comedy stories seems to be a bit more left leaning in their ideas, they also seem to be rather neutral in the end. Like Archer & Armstrong have these villains called the One Percenters who are exactly what the name implies; but given how the series is meant to be a comedy center around showing all conspiracy theories as true and the Sect are the Illuminati in that world, the One Percenters seem more like a parody on the theory that the elite controls everything rather than a satire on the rich. And in an arc in Quantum and Woody, it involves a barrage of hilarious charictures of the right from the corrupt billionaire warmonger who wants to profit on Wars to the inbred Second Amendment anti government racist hicks who are very trigger happy. It really comes off as a surprise that Quantum, who is by far the Only Sane Man in the entire arc as per his Straight Man character, turns out to be Conservative himself; guess it is a reminder that for all the idiotic and psychotic members of a group, there are sane reasonable members that don't fit that mold at all.
So, yeah. Valiant Comics hardly goes to the extreme in their politics compare to other super hero comics.
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