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Marvel Rejects Art Spiegelman’s Essay After He Refers to Trump as “Orange Skull”

Marvel chairman and former CEO Isaac Perlmutter is a close friend and supporter of Donald Trump.

captain america punches nazis.

Iconic comics creator Art Spiegelman says he was asked to remove a reference to Donald Trump from an introduction he wrote for Marvel’s upcoming collection, Marvel: The Golden Age 1939-1949. In the essay, which was printed in The Guardian, Spiegelman refers to Trump as “Orange Skull”, a reference to Captain America’s nazi villain Red Skull. Marvel then requested that Spiegelman remove the sentence, as they wanted to remain “apolitical”.

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In response, Spiegelman pulled the entire essay, and it’s easy to see why. The Golden Age of comics, largely written and illustrated by Jewish immigrants, were a direct response to the rise of fascism and Hitler’s ascent to power. It was that very political response that made characters like Captain America (who famously punched nazis) such iconic and instantly beloved superheroes and turned comics into a legitimate pop culture medium. To write an introduction that ignores the historical context of these comics is ridiculous.

Spiegelman writes,

“The young Jewish creators of the first superheroes conjured up mythic – almost god-like – secular saviours to deal with the threatening economic dislocations that surrounded them in the great depression and gave shape to their premonitions of impending global war. Comics allowed readers to escape into fantasy by projecting themselves on to invulnerable heroes.”

Spiegelman delves into the rise of superhero comics, from Superman in Action Comics #1 to America’s resounding response to Captain America, not all of which was positive:

“No wonder Simon and Kirby’s comic book became an enormous hit, selling close to a million copies a month throughout the war. But not everyone was a fan in 1941 – according to Simon, the German American Bund and America Firsters bombarded the publisher’s offices with hate mail and obscene phone calls that screamed “Death to the Jews!” Mayor Fiorello La Guardia, a real-life superhero, called to reassure him, saying: “The city of New York will see that no harm comes to you.”

In his final paragraph, Spiegelman relates the rise of Hitler to the current and disturbing rising fascism trend across the globe, which includes our vile Commander-in-Chief.

“In today’s all too real world, Captain America’s most nefarious villain, the Red Skull, is alive on screen and an Orange Skull haunts America. International fascism again looms large (how quickly we humans forget – study these golden age comics hard, boys and girls!) and the dislocations that have followed the global economic meltdown of 2008 helped bring us to a point where the planet itself seems likely to melt down. Armageddon seems somehow plausible and we’re all turned into helpless children scared of forces grander than we can imagine, looking for respite and answers in superheroes flying across screens in our chapel of dreams.”

In response to publisher The Folio Society’s request for him to remove the Trump reference and keep the essay “apolitical”, Spiegelman chose to pull the essay entirely, saying “I didn’t think of myself as especially political compared with some of my fellow travellers, but when asked to kill a relatively anodyne reference to an Orange Skull I realised that perhaps it had been irresponsible to be playful about the dire existential threat we now live with, and I withdrew my introduction.”

This political take is hardly unexpected from Spiegelman, whose devastating Holocaust series Maus became the first graphic novel to ever win a Pulitzer Prize in 1992. Maus is based on Spiegelman’s interviews with his father, a Polish Jew and Holocaust survivor, as he details the rise of fascism and the atrocities of the Holocaust. Maus changed the way the world read and analyzed comics, and is still taught in high schools and colleges today.

Spiegelman also refers to Marvel chairman and former CEO Isaac “Ike” Perlmutter, who is a close friend and associate of Donald Trump, and has (along with his wife) donated $360,000 each to Trump’s re-election fund.

It’s a bad look for Marvel that has been previously criticized by comics artists and celebrities alike. It’s also wildly shortsighted and baffling that the Folio Society would expect anything apolitical from Spiegelman.

Maybe Marvel and the Folio Society should take a page from their own comic book and be little bit more like Steve Rogers than Armin Zola.

(via The Guardian, image: Marvel)

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Chelsea Steiner
Chelsea was born and raised in New Orleans, which explains her affinity for cheesy grits and Britney Spears. An pop culture journalist since 2012, her work has appeared on Autostraddle, AfterEllen, and more. Her beats include queer popular culture, film, television, republican clownery, and the unwavering belief that 'The Long Kiss Goodnight' is the greatest movie ever made. She currently resides in sunny Los Angeles, with her husband, 2 sons, 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.

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