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Marvel’s Editor-in-Chief Says Comics Shouldn’t Get Too Political, Ignoring the Company’s Legacy

Dude, have you ever even read one of your own comics?

Captain America punches Hitler

Marvel Editor-in-Chief C.B. Cebulski was questioned about the political nature of comics during a Q&A panel at TerrifiCon in Connecticut. The question is nearly as old as the art form itself: Should comics be political, and if so, to what degree?

When an audience member asked Cebulski about the message (political or not) that comics should be sending to readers, Cebulski replied, “Marvel has always been, as Stan [Lee] always said, ‘the world outside our window.’ It’s the reflection of the modern times that we live in. Marvel has never shied away from that, around what happened with 9/11 or what we were doing with Secret Empire.”

Cebulski continued by saying,

“One of the things I want to make sure is when we do tell these stories—I don’t know how to put this in the right way—they still have to be entertainment. If we want to see the real world, we can turn on CNN, we can turn on the TV, we can pick up a newspaper and see what’s going on there. And yes, it’s our responsibility as a comic book publisher, especially Marvel, given the history that we have, to reflect those times, but they still have to be fun.

We can’t get too deep into the politics. And the characters can take sides, choose sides, turn evil, turn back to good, but they still have to entertain.”

This feels like the cop out to end all cop outs. First, it ignores the illustrious political history of comics, like Captain America’s origins. Cap was the brainchild of two Jewish creators (Joe Simon and Jack Kirby) who created Captain America as a direct response to the rise of Nazism in Germany. Cap’s first comic appearance features him punching Nazis in the face. It doesn’t get much more political than that.

And what about the X-Men, whose legacy of mutant ostracism and persecution is applicable to literally any marginalized group, from immigrants to POC to the LGBTQIA+ community? The very foundations of the X-Men are inextricably linked with the political, and isn’t that what makes them so powerful, so relatable? The political underpinnings of these characters aren’t a negative. They’re a touchpoint of recognition and reflection.

This also gets to the larger question of what is and isn’t “political,” where the word can be twisted and misappropriated. In this context, “political” feels like a dog whistle for liberalism and diversity, as it has so often be used lately, with those saying it believing anything that aligns with their own personal beliefs to be neutral, while anything else is “political.”

It’s about the appearance of neutrality, which only serves to uphold a lopsided status quo: by veering away from the “political,” Marvel is not coming down on one side or the other, so it can remain pleasing to readers across the political spectrum. Ironically, it’s basically being “politically correct” so as not to offend the very crowd that usually complains about political correctness.

Perhaps this wouldn’t be so upsetting if the country were not in the midst of a political crisis, where the president says that white supremacist rallies have “good people on both sides”, and Nazi rhetoric is being rebranded as alt-right or alt-light or white nationalism. And maybe it would be less upsetting if it came from an editor who wasn’t caught impersonating someone of another race to further his career with the company that eventually promoted him to this position of power.

Regardless, it seems like now is the time to be more political than ever, both in our comics and in our real life.

(via Daily Dot, image: Marvel)

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Chelsea was born and raised in New Orleans, which explains her affinity for cheesy grits and Britney Spears. She currently lives in sunny Los Angeles, with her husband, son, and one poorly behaved rescue dog. She is a former roller derby girl and a black belt in Judo, so she is not to be trifled with. She loves the word “Jewess” and wishes more people used it to describe her.