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Brubaker Gets Bagged

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Like many of you, I’m disappointed by the reactions of Ed Brubaker and Marvel to this whole teabagger controversy. The fact that artists and writers--the flag-bearers of free speech--can be scared witless by a movement named after an extracurricular sex act says a lot about the state of this country. The fact that an “unbiased” news corporation gets to dictate who is and is not patriotic says even more. We’re living in topsy turvy land: conservatives have staked out kink as their psychological home turf, and artists are falling over themselves to appear straight-laced and respectable.

What a farce. Wake me when it’s over.

Ed, mon frere, a few observations: one, your tweets are very public. I follow them myself, along with a gazillion other people. When you make your views known in the kind of forceful language you used during the election, it’s a safe bet you won’t have a fig leaf to hide behind when someone takes issue with your work on political grounds. So you might as well stand up for your beliefs. Welcome to hardball, no pun intended.

When you flinch like this, all you’re doing is teaching your opponent that aggression works. He’s not going to retreat. He’s going to come back over and over, because he knows how easily he can back you into a corner. Mr. Brubaker and Mr. Quesada have shown us exactly what not to do in this situation: distance yourself from your work and pass the buck to some poor letterer. Nobody respects that. It is a disappointment even to the people who disliked you to begin with--and a lot of teabaggers probably fit that description.

I have been very, very fortunate to work with editors who’ve stood by me even when supporting a Muslim writer has been inconvenient. Those of you who follow Standard Attrition might remember the attack made on me and on AIR shortly after the series began: a prominent ultraconservative blogger accused me (and by extension DC) of publishing Islamist propaganda, and said all sorts of choice things that proved nothing beyond the fact that she hadn’t read a single issue of AIR. (This is something ultraconservatives of all stripes seem to have in common: they’re perfectly happy denouncing art they’ve never seen and books they’ve never read. I was reminded of nothing so much as the conservative Muslim response to The Satanic Verses, irony of ironies.) During the brief brouhaha that followed, an editor I’d worked with previously sent an encouraging email that said “no matter what happens, remember that you are not the problem.”

That is what moral courage looks like. We see it so rarely these days that it’s easy to forget.

Here is the bottom line: the people who attack comics for political gain are not comics fans. Most of them have probably never been to an LCS in their lives, and are not likely to start. When you stand up to them, you are in no danger of losing readers. Rather, you are defending the rights of the readers you already have. When you rush to censor your work, you are not only gagging yourself, you are gagging your audience. (It should be noted that I can find no evidence of the teabaggers calling for CAPTAIN AMERICA to be censored--in what I’ve read, they merely register their dissent.) You’re taking away their right to decide for themselves whether they agree with you or not. Ultimately, books belong to their readers, not to their authors. And readers deserve better.

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  • Bart Croonenborghs

    Bart Croonenborghs Feb 17, 2010 at 8:08am

    Indeed. Marvel could have made some nice statements there but choose to explain in excruciating detail how it exactly went wrong until everyone just got plain bored with it. hey, maybe that was their exit strategy :p

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