Right wingers continue to rage against DC's 'Batman' for teaming up with an Algerian Muslim, and Marvel's 'Thor' for the use of a black man in a "white role." Now conservative blogger Warner Todd Huston has brought the gays into the mix. Can no hero stop the spread of "comic derangement syndrome?"
Comic books have been coming under a lot of conservative fire lately. First, last February, the right claimed Marvel icon Captain America and black hero Falcon denigrated the Tea Party movement as an "anti-tax thing" filled with "angry white folk."
Though that particular debate eventually simmered down, the culture war gained new steam this month with two fresh protests: first, the Council of Conservative Citizens' boycott of the 'Thor' movie, which had to gall to cast black actor Idris Elba as a Norse god, and then an Anti-Islamic stink over Batman's collaboration with an Algerian Muslim hero, Nightrunner.
Now a blogger named Warner Todd Huston, one of the leaders in the battle against Captain America, has taken up the Batman cause, which he promptly uses to launch a meta-attack on the comic industry's "political correctness," including the inclusion of a gay man in 'Archie.'
"It's PCism run amuck [sic], for sure," Huston gripes, citing the Captain American and Batman disputes. "These few examples aren't the only ones, either. Among many other instances, last April the venerable Archie Comics announced they were adding a gay character... It all adds up to a PCing of the American comic book industry that has been going on for far too long." Seriously? You're going to take on a goody two-shoes like Archie? He's as American as apple pie.
Archie's so damn affable and adored he can bring Barack Obama and Sarah Palin together for a milkshake, and Huston's going to deride him? That's utterly insane. If you have to be offended over gay people, at least go for something juicy, like Rictor and Shatterstar's sexy gay love in 'X-Factor.'
During the Bush administration, conservative columnist Charles Krauthammer coined a new phrase, "Bush Derangement Syndrome," an ailment born from the left's blind hatred for the former President. Dubya could do no right. "[It is] the acute onset of paranoia in otherwise normal people in reaction to the policies, the presidency -- nay -- the very existence of George W. Bush" he wrote in a satirical piece.
Press and pundits were quick to adopt the phrase "Bush Derangement Syndrome" as their own, and Huston once enthusiastically deployed the term when he attacked the AP for saying Jenna Bush wouldn't answer questions about her father's political policy. "This is just another example of the APs Bush Derangement Syndrome," Huston wrote.
Queerly enough, Huston and his ilk are now stricken by a cousin cootie, "Comic Derangement Syndrome." They knee-jerk over any development that doesn't fit their exclusionary worldview: whether it be a gay man living in Archie's Riverdale, or a Muslim -- Heavens to Betsy! -- acting heroically, they are so blinded by their conservatism that they can't see they're fighting a self-defeating battle.
Gays and Muslims aren't the only elements tainting comics, says Huston. He claims DC character Larfleeze, one of many heroes and villains who embody human emotions, champions "corporate greed." [Nightrunner] isn't surprising for DC, a comic book company that has a character whose creator based it on 'corporate greed.'"
Well, as Brett Schenker from Graphic Policy points out, Larfleeze, who's often portrayed as a bumbling fool, wasn't powered by "corporate greed," just the general sentiment, something that the Bible explicitly warns against. "Is that PC now, too?" asks Schenker.
Behind all the bloodshed, tights and publicity-seeking plot twists, comic books are about the eternal battle between good and evil. Heroes are honorable, living by a universal moral code, leaving the sin for villains. In fact, Marvel's upcoming "Fear Itself" story line revolves in part around a villainess named Sin.
Comic heroes may not be inspired by the Bible, but their missions often follow the archetypal pattern: good triumphs over evil. One would think extreme conservatives, the majority of whom are Christian, would support such narratives, rather than focusing their energies on knocking inclusion, a value inherent in the American culture they claim to defend.
Huston and his allies' self-destructive trajectory becomes more stark when one considers Marvel Comics' latest philanthropic effort: the company will give Iraq and Afghanistan veterans free online subscriptions for a year. It's a small token, yes, but still meaningful, and clearly the company's trying to support those who risked life and limb for our nation, a population Huston claims to "protect" from "liberal media smears." Huston's CDS makes it impossible for him to see his and Marvel's shared interest.
As our culture becomes more inclusive, so too will the fictional worlds in which heroes reside. If extreme conservatives like Huston continue to cling to their myopic view of "the hero," they will find themselves on the wrong side of history, forced to make a decision: join the fight for what's right, a world free of hatred and discrimination, or allow their common sense to be eclipsed by their devotion to injustice.
[Note: This piece also appeared at Death and Taxes Magazine.]