Hello again, Kate here to get into the fun stuff that happened in comics last week. Spoiler: It was not fun. Some cool things were announced, and you can hear about them later, but first: Monday started off with the counter for a comics creator saying something offensive on social media and digging themselves deeper with every subsequent tweet was reset to zero for the second week in a row.
Marvel writer Dan Slott, apparently feeling like he needed to fill the vacuum left behind by Chelsea Cain’s abrupt twitter departure, declared that Spider-Man is too universal to be Jewish, and furthermore that he has taken this stance because he’s heard from different fans from different religious backgrounds who want Peter Parker to be their religion because they feel an affinity for him. To which many, many people responded with logic calling him out on not only that extremely weird logic but the anti-Semitism inherent within it, since apparently Peter being Jewish de-universalizes him to people who aren’t Jewish. No word from Mr. Slott on whether Peter being a cis white male from Forest Hills also de-universalizes him, but since he quickly deleted not only his own tweet but his comments on other people’s tweets about it, I guess we’ll never know.
I want to give Slott the benefit of the doubt and take him at his word that his tweet is coming from a place of not wanting to alienate fans instead of being an anti-Semitic justification for why Peter Parker can’t be Jewish—but his statement is still rooted in the idea that being a white man is universal, whereas being a Jewish man would not be. It’s likely that’s simply something he didn’t consider when making the statement, but it still opens the door for antisemitism, and gives bigots a flash point for their rhetoric. Coming out with a statement like that emboldens them in their justification, since a writer of Peter Parker agreed with them. Slott used the fact that he’d written over 200 issues of Spider-Man as a justification for Why His Opinion Mattered, which isn’t actually relevant to the point, but will nevertheless give those using his points for bad-faith arguments even more to work with.
Fast forward to Friday, when a four-year-old commissioned collaboration between Kevin Wada and Kris Anka depicting Thor and Loki was dug up by a Twitter user for some quote-tweet-shaming, which led to Wada apologizing for posting the commission—and then further apologized for the apology (after realizing he was publicly shaming the person who had paid for it in the first place) and deleting the first apology tweet. The commission in question featured the adopted brothers standing near one another, scantily clad. There were no illicit acts, nothing of questionable morality; they were standing.
In regard to my misstep today, I’ve deleted the tweet and have reached out to the commissioner I left high and dry to make amends. I acted without tact – major apologies to all who had to witness that.
— Kevin Wada (@kevinwada) June 14, 2019
These two events—with Wada and Slott—may seem to be unrelated but from they’re indicative of the same problem. Namely, fans misusing a social media platform to shame creators, and creators listening to those fans when they shouldn’t.
We’re living in a weird age for fans and creators thanks to social media. And in comics that line seems to blur even more, since many comics creators grew up as fans themselves, so I’m willing to cut creators some slack in not wanting to upset fans. It’s pretty clear that’s what happened with Wada–a fan retweeting the art with their objection on it for the artist to see. What really bothers me, though, is that this fan seems to never have learned the old fandom maxim, ”your kink is not my kink and that’s okay.” It’s not that this particular fan’s objection was wrong; everyone is allowed their own tastes. It’s that this individual decided to launch a very public attack over what was a piece of privately commissioned work. This wasn’t an official piece of Marvel art, it didn’t grace a cover or a page anywhere, it was something someone paid for, to personally own. It wasn’t even art that was inherently harmful to any of the characters depicted; it was, again, two men standing near one another.
The lesson to take away from this week is that you have to be mindful of the power you have, so as to not inadvertently give a platform to those seeking to misuse it. I seem to recall a certain comic book character having a personal code strongly tied to power and responsibility, if you’re looking for a nice, universal example to use.
On the subject of anti-Semitism, The New York Times announced they were no longer going to publish any more political cartoons ever after publishing an anti-Semitic cartoon, an extreme reaction. While it’s true that political cartoons can be and have been misused to make bigoted attacks in the past, they nonetheless remain an important means of commenting on and criticizing politicians in a concise and effective way. When they do so well, it’s worthy of celebration: The New York Times itself won a Pulitzer Prize last year for that very thing. To cease output entirely instead of punishing the individual responsible harms the entire medium, and reflects a widening attitude of limiting criticism—it has not quite been a year since Rob Rogers was fired from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette after twenty years of political cartooning there, when that paper was taken over by new owners who didn’t like Rogers’ anti-Trump stance.
All right–let’s wrap up this week’s Previously with some (mostly good!) Good News/Bad News.
Good News: Arledge Comics has put a call out for queer creator-owned all-ages submissions
Bad News: Sparkler Monthly is shutting down.
Good News: InfoWars settled to pay $15,000 for stealing Pepe the Frog and turning him into an alt-right symbol.
Good News: Chris Claremont and Bill Sienkiewicz are doing a New Mutants one-shot.
Good News: Stjepan Šejić is going to do a new Harley Quinn origin comic for DC/Black Label.
Related Good News (?): Harley and her girlfriend Ivy have a new series by not one, but TWO women! However, as WWAC contributor Kat Overland points out, Ivy looks like a Titan from Attack on Titan, so that’s a no from me.
— Katsian Andor (@dogunderwater) June 13, 2019
And I’m out. I’m going on retreat next week, so nothing better happen while I’m gone.