Willingham calls for an end to “Superhero Decadence”

200901120402 Willingham calls for an end to Superhero Decadence
Thank God, a NEW controversy! Last week, Bill Willingham penned a piece for Big Hollywood, a newish website dedicated to presenting a more conservative view of the entertainment industry. The piece was entitled: Superheroes: Still Plenty of Super, But Losing Some of the Hero. While admitting his own part in superhero deconstruction back in the day with THE ELEMENTALS (remember Willingham’s fine art for that series?), he feels the right way to go is with a more heroic model of the superhero:

Borrowing some wisdom from the famous parable of the mote in one fellow’s eye, and the whole beam in another’s, it would be the height of hypocrisy for me to make any call for our industry to clean up its act, until I’ve first cleaned up my own. I’ve already made some progress down that road. In my run writing the Robin series (of Batman fame), I made sure both Batman and Robin were portrayed as good, steadfast heroes, with unshakable personal codes and a firm grasp of their mission. I even got to do a story where Robin parachuted into Afghanistan with a group of very patriotic military superheroes on a full-scale, C130 gunship-supported combat mission. And in my short run on the Shadowpact series I kept to the same standard (but with less success as several story details were editorially imposed).

But ’some’ progress isn’t enough. It’s time to make public a decision I’ve already made in private. I’m going to shamelessly steal a line from Rush Limbaugh, who said, concerning a different matter, “Go ahead and have your recession if you insist, but you’ll have to pardon me if I choose not to participate.” And from now on that’s my position on superhero comics. Go ahead and have your Age of Superhero Decadence, if you insist, but you’ll have to pardon me if I no longer choose to participate.


The post brings about a pretty healthy response, but nothing like the comments section at Robot 6 which erupts into an all-out culture war that we hardly dared wade into, although Kurt Busiek seemed all too eager.

After reading the piece, we got the impression that Willingham, being one of the better “Big Two” comics writers out there, is still more interested in telling good stories than trying to serve some absolutist political viewpoint. Or maybe he’s just on the cutting edge, because “grim and gritty” is getting old. Apparently Willingham will be a regular at the site — can you say, boon to blog-kind?

Comments

  1. I made sure both Batman and Robin were portrayed as good, steadfast heroes, with unshakable personal codes and a firm grasp of their mission. I even got to do a story where Robin parachuted into Afghanistan with a group of very patriotic military superheroes on a full-scale, C130 gunship-supported combat mission.

    And… that was the sentence when he lost me. So the firm grasp of their “mission” (which I thought was to battle crime these days, maybe Darkseid or the Joker, but well, who knows?) is detailed by “parachuting into Afghanistan”, together with “patriotic military superheroes”

    Ohhhhkay, then. Thought the age of propaganda comic books had passed (although I do realise they were a big part throughout US comic book history), but…

    … apparently not.

  2. Comic books are like newspapers in so many ways. Catchy headlines will get you readers. Gimmicks is what gets new readers in comic books. With over 70 years under their belts, everything has been tried under the sun. Kill characters, bring them back. Go rogue then go back as a hero. There is no accountability. With a wave a hand of Mephisto, all can be erased. There is only one person who can stop all of that. You the reader. If you don’t like it, don’t buy it and write to the publisher why you hate it. It is a business and a very big one at that. With Hollywood grabbing more properties, things will get worse. It’s a reality of our world. You cannot trust anybody today. Priests molest kids, kids strapped with bombs, parents killing kids, and the list could go on forever. The innocence has been taken out of our youth. More than 20 years ago it was taken out of comic books too. Comics are not for kids anymore. How long do you think Superman will be married to Lois Lane? Will Wonder Woman or some other woman break them up. As long as it’s not Felix Faust or Mr. Mxyzptlk who will wipe out the marriage. Will we come back full circle and go back to the halcyon books of the 40’s? Doubt it very much.

  3. likefunbutnot says:

    The fact that Willingham readily quotes Rush Limbaugh is reason enough for me to remove Fables from my pull list.

  4. R. Maheras says:

    I agree with Willingham. I think Stan Lee’s 1960s anti-hero has been subverted, twisted, mutilated and discarded, replaced by new characters (or old characters with new personae) who are amoral, morally indifferent, or reject outright the traditional definitions of right and wrong.

    Now I’m about to enter a rant here, so let me hitch up my pants way above the waist, adjust my false teeth, and get on my old fart’s high horse. Here’s a post I made elsewhere a few days ago, same subject, with only some minor changes for clarity:

    “Marvel set the stage for this radical shift (in superhero behavior) when it pioneered the “anti-hero” trend in comics during the 1960s — a period of general social discontent that was ripe the introduction of “flawed” superheroes. From 1960 to 1970, Marvel went from an insignificant comic book company just barely hanging on to its existence, to the company with the largest market share – in the process, storming past the then much more conservative industry leader, DC Comics. DC is still playing catch-up nearly 40 years later.

    At first, the anti-hero was still heroic. By the late 1970s, however, every company had switched to the anti-hero formula, so in an effort to be “more realistic” and reach the next level of fan titillation, anti-heroes started to morph into uglier and uglier characters. Former superheroes with high ideals were transformed into psychopathic killers, or developed a wide variety of “realistic” social ills. This was the start of the Dark Age of comics, full of gloom and doom, and later, an “anything goes” mindset. The more naïve and unrealistic readers (such as me), began pining for “the good old days” when heroes where noble, proud, strong-willed and, most of all, had some positive trait worth emulating.”

  5. kwaku says:

    likefunbutnot Says:
    “The fact that Willingham readily quotes Rush Limbaugh is reason enough for me to remove Fables from my pull list.”

    Pot, meet kettle.

  6. I think I’m going to have to file this one under “Things I really wish I hadn’t read.”

  7. Willingham’s commentary about the lack of heroism in current mainsteam superheroes is a legitimate point, and one I’m actually inclined to agree with. The fact that Marvel “heroes” fought each other was one of the reasons I was a DC kid, back in the day.

    But his attempt to tie this sentiment to some kind of America-only militant conservativist agenda is just Nationalist hogwash.

  8. Alexa says:

    All in all, I don’t disagree with what he wants for superheroes, but I object on the strongest possible terms to the idea that heroism is inherently “conservative” Heroism is ultimately about Goodness, and neither side of the political spectrum has a monopoly on Good people. Also, it irks me that Willingham appears to fall into the trap of thinking that “moral gray areas” is the same thing as moral relativism. Moral relativism is the (imho) very flawed concept that abstract morality depends on cultural circumstances, e.g. female genital mutilation is okay, because it’s an honored cultural practice (to oversimplify). Moral gray areas, on the other hand, accept abstract morality, but acknowledge that ethical dilemmas often require immoral action be taken for the greater good, e.g. killing in self-defense– it’s still killing, but with better intentions.

    Also, it makes me furious to the extent that I can’t see straight that Willingham implies that Cap must be a conservative because he enlisted to fight the Nazis. As if liberals wanted to hand over all the Jews and let Hitler take over the world. I could go into the number of liberal politicians, organizations, and publications that called for US entrance into WWII long before Pearl Harbor, but I wouldn’t want to be accused of calling liberals the “real heroes” of WWII, because I don’t actually believe that. WWII, like heroism itself, was about Goodness. GOOD people from all over the political spectrum recognized a tyrant and a profound threat to liberty and joined forces to fight it. Pure and simple.

    Is it unpatriotic or unheroic for someone to acknowledge that their country has made mistakes that had a profoundly negative impact all over the world? And ignoring or defending those mistakes is patriotic and heroic? To me, the mark of a real hero is that they can face ethical dilemmas and make mistakes, BUT can learn from those mistakes and still keep fighting for the higher ideals and the greater good.

  9. Kenny says:

    Honestly? Who cares? So, Willingham likes flat 50’s writing with clear black and white. OK, why does anyone care? I mean, if his bosses are okay with him writing those kinds of stories, then yay him.

  10. likefunbutnot says:

    kwaku: “Pot, meet kettle.”

    There are some ideologies that deserve absolutely no commercial support. Limbaugh specifically, and more generally the wider grouping of shock-conservative commentators (Coulter, Savage, Hannity et al) certainly belong to that group. They are hate-filled bigots who deliberately ignore or misrepresent information in order to incite ever-greater levels of outrage in their generally ignorant audience.

    As a matter of principle, I do not want my money to be passed even indirectly to someone who supports him or his ideals.

  11. Ah.l.. the first Zeitgeist of the year! (Planted last year with Chuck Dixon leaving DC.) Conservatism (heroes should be ideals) versus Liberalism (heroes should have flaws but strive for idealism).

    Now, I’m going to pick the pragmatic approach (pragmatic… “the glass is too big”) and say, write good comics and I’ll read them. What writers consider “good” is ambiguous, but so long as do what they feel is best, then things will generally turn out for the better.

    Curiously, while this is going on, the New York Times profiles/analyzes the “Wimpy Kid” phenomenon, where the popular title character acts like a regular boy, much to the chagrin of many parents. How popular? The third book, which ships the 13th, is #5 on the BN.com Top 100 list. (Behind the Twilight books and a self-help health book.) One Million copies have been printed. The first book continues to be a bestseller.

  12. He actually quoted that racist Rush Limbaugh, what a loser!

  13. jimmy palmiotti says:

    We tried it in the TERRA series…and the fans liked it.

    I’m an adult though , as are most comic readers and I like my comics dark and light, sexy and clean, insane and sane…and yes, I enjoy “r” rated movies. Its so easy when you are young to think things are all black and white, but as you get older , you learn that there is more to it than that and the characters have to reflect these gray areas, I think, because there are positive messages in there as well.

    That said, lease enjoy our UNCLE SAM collections out now. lol

    jimmy p

  14. Edward Liu says:

    I bet the over-politicizing of everything in American comics is the real reason why all the kids are reading manga these days. I have yet to hear anybody anywhere complain about the liberal/conservative bias to Naruto or Bleach or whatever.

    Not that I’ve been looking, or that I want such commentary. But I’m making a nice, big, broad generalization based on bone-stupid dichotomies with absolutely no proof for any of it, which seems to be the order of the day whenever anybody says anything about political commentary in comics.

  15. From Rush Limbaugh to even PW, it’s all about advertising. The buck stops here. Without it bills can’t be paid. Even if Bill Willingham is living in the past, it pays his bills, he is better for it. We are all reciprocal in all this entertainment business from the art table to the reader. There are many hands waiting to be paid before it gets printed. As many of you know if there is failure at some level after you read your books, the guy at the art table gets the short end all the time. Even after everybody was paid. Decadence is a matter of opinion depending from where you come. If it makes more money at the end of the day that’s where they go. I don’t think Sexless and the City or Faithful Housewives would catch on as TV series. There is a hunger for the shock value. Show me something I have not seen yet. The days of Opie Taylor and the Beaver are long gone.

  16. R. Maheras says:

    Saying Willingham’s fundamental point of view is automatically wrong because he quoted from Rush Limbaugh is like saying Obama’s fundamental point of view is automatically wrong because he quoted from Rev. Jeremiah Wright.

    Rush and Limbaugh are extremists, but I don’t think Willingham or Obama are.

  17. R. Maheras says:

    Oops… I meant Limbaugh and Wright, of course…

  18. Naveen says:

    This is just sad.

    I’ve noticed that when writers decide to take a clear ideological stance, the writing suffers (David Mamet comes to mind).

  19. It isn’t inherently patriotic to stand with your government, right or wrong, something Cap seems more aware of than Willingham.

    While reading this I couldn’t help but wonder if all those people who said that, in times of crisis we need to shut up and stand with the president, will remember their words now that the president isn’t a Republican.

  20. Didn’t Steven Colbert say something to the effect that facts are liberal?

    So, yeah.

    Like The Turner Diaries. Racism. Wingnuttery.

    Brilliant.

  21. Quoting Limbaugh? That lost me. He may make fine comics but I won’t be reading his op-eds, and try to forget this one. I’ll enjoy his books more that way.

  22. mark coale says:

    Bill (and Matt Sturges) will soon be writing the Justice Society book.

  23. Tom Spurgeon says:

    I always thought the bigger problem with Mamet’s run on Captain America is that he insisted Rebecca Pidgeon draw it.

  24. John Dominguez says:

    Damnit! Why did he have to quote Limbaugh, possibly the biggest douche in the world? I like Fables well enough, but now I’m going to have this rattling in the back of my mind…

  25. Okay… I want to see a nice, clean, moderated debate between Bill Willingham and Kurt Busiek (or a suitable replacement). I would pay $20, proceeds to benefit the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund, to witness this.

  26. alex cox says:

    I think superheroes should be chubbier, and wear more glasses. And play board games and drink beer. And have a fondness for hooded sweatshirts and bike rides through New York.

    Or maybe I could just enjoy fun stories and not expect Daredevil to mirror my life.

  27. Hello peeps, if you’ve been enjoying Fables and had no idea it’s author was a right winger, maybe, just maybe…it doesn’t matter.

    I’ve no fan of Limbaugh’s, but Willingham is just someone who has different political views than me. Remember when everyone used to just laugh about that stuff over martinis?

    That said it is popular on the right to equate liberalism with fascism. Make of it what you will.

  28. Willingham’s politics have played into Fables a couple of times… Bigby’s defense of Israel’s military policy in issue #50 comes to mind.

  29. Kurt Busiek says:

    >> I want to see a nice, clean, moderated debate between Bill Willingham and Kurt Busiek (or a suitable replacement).>>

    You’ll have to find someone who disagrees strongly with Bill, I guess. I don’t agree with his politics, but I don’t see anything wrong with him wanting to write morally-confident heroes. I tend to do that myself.

    I think the people falling all over themselves to declare that Bill wants to write 1950s comics or make heroes all-white or all American or spout their political stances all the time are being silly. Bill thinks superhero comics have gotten too dark, and he wants to write the superheroes he writes as brighter. Good for him — he should write what he’s passionate about, and if he’s found he doesn’t like being involved in stories where young girls get tortured and killed, and principled doctors deliberately let people die, then he shouldn’t do that sort of thing any more. A lot of people, all over the internet, left-leaning, right-leaning, libertarian, centrist, whatever — think superheroes have gotten too dark and wish more people would write them as brighter, more admirable characters. And have been saying so.

    This uproar about it — often coming from people who didn’t like the same bits of SUPERMAN RETURNS that he didn’t like, or inveighed against Captain America’s capitulation at the end of CIVIL WAR, or thought killing off spoiler was a bad idea — these people actually seem to agree with Bill on the specifics, they just can’t stand that he’s coming to this decision in part because of his political beliefs. If he came to exactly the same decision from a liberal stance, and phrased the very same thoughts in a leftier way, the people who are jumping on his head now would be praising him and there’d be a bunch of conservatives demonizing him. Because the fight isn’t about whether it’s a bad idea to write morally-confident heroes (indeed, when I started writing Superman, this was the single most requested element — make Superman a confident hero again), it’s about whether quoting Limbaugh makes you a bad person.

    Apparently, when Bill talks about “the American Way,” it’s jingoistic, but when Barack Obama talks about living up to our finest principles and values and being the nation we know we can be, he’s merely being inspirational. Neither man is claiming exclusivity on values — they’re describing American ideals, not claiming that nobody else has any.

    Bill’s writing has been influenced by his beliefs all along, and readers have loved FABLES and a lot of the other stuff he’s done. There’s no reason to assume that Bill’s suddenly going to begin writing like someone’s idea of a cartoon evil Republican; he’s simply going to be writing the superheroes he writes in a way he finds heroic. That’s not a bad thing.

    Bill would bring back “…and the American Way”? I guess that makes him a bad guy, because he’s a conservative who wants to bring it back. I’m a liberal who _already_ brought it back, both overtly (in TRINITY) and as fuel for exactly the kind of heroic values Bill’s talking about in my SUPERMAN run, and it went over pretty well. But I didn’t say “conservative” on the internet, so I’m a good guy when I write heroic heroes, and Bill’s not.

    Go figure.

    Anyway, you don’t want me debating Bill. It’d be terribly dull to see us complimenting each other’s work back and forth for 90 minutes, even though we vote differently in elections.

    kdb

  30. Bottom line: Tell good stories.

    I still love Heinlein despite his, er, idiosyncrasies.

  31. Kirk Boxleitner, a.k.a. K-Box says:

    I love seeing Kurt Busiek PWN everyone with logic and good manners.

  32. C’mon, Busiek… do it for the CBLDF.
    Just put on a “show” — much like the newsheads and TV host personalities.
    Rush, Stern, Hannity, et al., they admit in one form or another that it’s mostly just theatrics.

  33. Kurt,

    You are much too sane and reasoned to be posting on the internet. ;)

  34. Kate Fitzsimons says:

    I don’t know. I buy comics for the *comics* content. Each to their own, but as a swing-state person, I’m really very okay with Republicans existing, and I’m perfectly happy to read their comics if the comics are good. Do we honestly need to cut ourselves off from all art by people who don’t share our own ideologies?

  35. Kurt Busiek says:

    >> Just put on a “show” — much like the newsheads and TV host personalities.
    Rush, Stern, Hannity, et al., they admit in one form or another that it’s mostly just theatrics.>>

    Here’s my big political stance:

    I think making theatrics out of polarizing America is destructive. We need to cut that shit out, and work together on the many things we have common ground on, instead of deepening the divide simply in the name of partisanship.

    kdb

  36. God, I hate Rebecca Pigeon’s artwork. She’s awful.

  37. Mike Imboden says:

    Hey, if people want a superhero that isn’t “dark”, just pick up “Fist of Justice” published by Digital Webbing. It’s a swell book and I hear the writer is a pretty nice guy. :)

  38. Now digressing from the topic a bit…
    The one thing that bothers me about superheroes is who are their tailors. Most men can’t even get a thread through a needle? Is there a super-tailor at both Marvel and DC making costumes for these guys? Besides Alfred making Batman’s costume, are all these guys talented or what? Imagine most guys trying to put a costume together. Larry Niven should write something about this. Man of Thread, Pants of Kleenex would be a cool name. I remember Black Lightning having a tailor at some point. If this were reality most guys would create costumes like Ragman.

  39. Kurt Busiek says:

    Black Lightning’s tailor, as I recall, was Paul Gambi, who had been introduced years earlier in FLASH. He was a tailor to both heroes and villains, and a tip of the hat to comics fan Paul Gambiaccini.

    Invincible when to a super-costume tailor, too.

    And there was a memorable super-tailor in SUPERFOLKS, who kept calling the hero “Zuckerman.”

    At Marvel, a lot of the costumes seem to have been designed by the Wasp, though Sue Storm designed the FF’s costumes way back when, and I think Jean Grey designed the X-Men’s first non-uniform outfits. Professor X got into the game, though, designing Storm, Colossus and Thunderbird’s outfits.

    kdb

  40. Sphinx Magoo says:

    Well, if it gets us away from that total derailing of the train that brought us stuff like…
    – morally ambiguous Charles Xavier
    – mopey, morally ambiguous Cyclops
    – grumpy, antisocial, morally ambiguous Batman
    – Hal Jordan goes crazy and becomes Parallax
    …then that’s ok. I’m down with that.

    I had no problems with what Mr. Willingham had to say. And it wasn’t like he picked an inflammatory statement of Mr. Limbaugh to quote, so he was kinda ok there. It’s just that after 8 years or so of a certain tenor of discourse, there are certain hair-trigger responses that people on the left might be used to having that won’t go away easily. (Especially after one popular best-selling author from the right went on the CBS Morning Show to defend how she equates liberalism with fascism. Whew. I never want to be woken up in the morning like that again!)

    So, everyone please take a deep breath.

    Oh, yeah, remember to let it go too.

  41. I’m with Brad. Whenever I read something like this from the writer of one of my all-time favorite series, my eyes well up with Pokemon tears. I’m not going to tear apart what he said, because part of it is fine or at least 100% his right as a storyteller, and I’ll decide if I like how he uses it. But there are many cues to his worldview (which I had a clue about already), and no matter how hard I try I won’t be able to forget about it completely when I’m reading.

    Ironically, my biggest complaint about Fables lately was the amnesty for Geppetto, so what’s a hippy to make of that. Grey areas indeed.

  42. I should read through all the comments before knee-jerking. KDB’s points are extremely well taken, naturally. But I still think Willingham was a bleeding-heart pinko with that amnesty thing.

  43. Wraith says:

    I agree with both Willingham and Busiek.

  44. I’ll try not to be surprised that nearly everyone here is far too busy being outraged, OUTRAGED by Willingham’s particular political opinions (and who he dares quote, even!) to bother discussing whether or not his main point is right.

  45. The Beat says:

    Franklin — isn’t that what the internet has done to us all?

    Harder and harder to think in longer than 140 character bursts any more.

  46. Listen to Bill and Kurt says:

    I just want to say that Willingham is right and Busiek is right. All of you losers who are crying about his political views need to get a life. Who the **** cares if a comic book writer is a liberal or a conservative? If it’s good writing, it’s good writing. It’s hatemongers like you people that are ruining both the comics industry and the world in general. Let people have their own opinions, and quit being a-holes about it.

  47. Scott says:

    I have no problem with upbeat heroes like the Lone Ranger who had his creed and personal code that he lived by. He served to teach a generation of kids on TV with how he lived and fought for justice and breaking the fourth wall on TV and telling kids he wouldn’t kill and that it was the law’s job to punish the guilty. It was so powerful that Clayton Moore even lived his own personal life like that. In today’s world, the LR creed sounds cheesy and ridiculous but that’s only because humanity as a whole is in the shitter.

    I think we need some positive heroes and not the angst-ridden, anti-hero, grim and gritty crap we are spoonfed all the time. They cancelled the Shazam movie cause he was too positive and some things you can’t make dark and gritty like Batman. Thankfully, we have the Brave and the Bold cartoon for a lighter Batman.

  48. R. Maheras says:

    Kurt B. wrote: “I think making theatrics out of polarizing America is destructive. We need to cut that shit out, and work together on the many things we have common ground on, instead of deepening the divide simply in the name of partisanship.”

    Yay! A voice of reason!

  49. The Beat says:

    R and Kurt…agreed. I remember a time not so long ago when friends who had different political views just kidded each other about their differing views instead of attacking each other like rabid badgers during a full moon every chance they got.

    Or to put it another way, there are a lot of Republicans and conservatives I respect and like. George W. Bush is not one of them. Some of my best friends have views 180 degrees from mine, politically and THANK GOD. What a boring world where everyone thought the same.

    And yeah it’s a little easier for me to say now that someone who reflects more of my veiws is in office, but it’s important to draw the line between all Republicans and GWB. You guys got saddled with a lemon there, and you’re gonna be drinking a lot of leftover lemonade for a long time.

    There is only one kind of person who must be utterly trampled and despised here at Stately Beat Manor and that is people who didn’t like WALL*E. They must be hunted down and shot like the dirty dogs that they are. *

    *Yes that was a joke.

  50. Mark Coale says:

    “There is only one kind of person who must be utterly trampled and despised here at Stately Beat Manor and that is people who didn’t like WALL*E.”

    I thought you would say Birmingham City fans.

  51. JupiterPluvius says:

    Kurt B. wrote: “I think making theatrics out of polarizing America is destructive. We need to cut that shit out, and work together on the many things we have common ground on, instead of deepening the divide simply in the name of partisanship.”

    I could not agree more.

    Which is why it was a total dick move for Willingham to quote Limbaugh.

  52. TopJack says:

    Bill Willingham – the comic book industry’s own Sarah Palin.

  53. TopJack says:

    Bill Willingham – the Sarah Palin of comic books.

  54. I hear that Bill is much hotter in person.

  55. ~chris says:

    Since I’m a libertarian, if I refused to buy anything made by someone whose politics differ from mine… well I’d not only miss out on some amazing works of art, but I’d be homeless, naked, and dead. Thank goodness for those with different opinions! Intelligent challenges to my beliefs force me to reconsider them, leading me to either decide that I was wrong or that a belief is further verified.

    If someone disagrees with your politics, it doesn’t mean that they must therefore be wrong, and it doesn’t mean that they didn’t arrive at their conclusions with logic and compassion. Nor does it mean that they must be unpatriotic, selfish, apologist, racist, nor any of the many other ad hominem labels people throw at each other.

    BTW, if you really can’t stand someone’s POV, choosing not to purchase their products is, of course, a libertarian thing to do. ;)

    BTW2, I don’t know of a single Republican family member, friend, nor acquaintance who liked GWB nor his policies (other than his tax cut); they voted for what they thought was the “lesser of two evils.” Of course, any suggestions to vote for a third party are met with cries of “wasting your vote!” :rolleyes

    Anyway, continue your discussion of superhero politics. I’ll be reading the new Blue Monday comic…. :)

  56. Chris Noble says:

    If I avoided all work by people who’s political views I disagreed with, I would have never read “Hyperion”, or read “Space Cadet”… and I guess it wouldn’t end there, I mean, I have to agree with you 100%, you know? So then there’s Michael Moorcock, that Andra Dworkin supporter, can’t read him anymore… and there’s Ursula LeGuin, that anarchist… and Harlan Ellison must’ve said something wrong, so he’s out… bah. I’d never read anything.
    And anyway, Willingham’s right- I’ve hated most of DC’s mainstream grim and gritty output since “Identity Crisis”. So says the liberal.

  57. Mariah says:

    I’m not even sure why they’re controversy, other than some clearly deliberate nudging by Bill at some of the more knee-jerk among us who hear “Rush Limbaugh” and see red. I know Bill quite well and there is no way that wasn’t deliberately meant to “stir folks up”. He’s a charming, helluva guy who loves a bit of drama. Doesn’t anyone remember his jab at young Republicans during the march of the Wooden Soldiers in Fables? Bill likes to rile people up. Because it’s fun.

    Personally, I think there’s more than enough room for both kinds of stories. I like your gray area, dark, brooding, morally complicated heroes and anti-heroes because I find them more interesting in a general sense. But I like a good “good” guy, too. It all depends on what the story is, how it’s told, and what the writer chooses to explore via that character and story. So I’ll look forward to Bill’s take on this, as he clearly knows how to tell a good yarn.

    As for his personal politics, I’m sure we’d disagree if we ever talked about them. But since I’m relatively sure Bill wouldn’t hold my child-of-hippies, leftist politics against me…I don’t hold his conservative views against him. And I’d much rather listen to him tell a story anywa. More fun. Just ask about the hedgehog sometime. You’ll be glad you did.

  58. Wraith says:

    I’m willing to bet that if Marvel and DC suddenly moved away from the played out grim and gritty morally bankrupt “mature” superhero comics and made all of their superhero comics, without announcing it, suitable for ALL AGES (no cussing,strong sexual innuendos,and/or graphic violence) and had their heroes actually acting like heroes, the same people buying the books will continue to buy the books.

    And for the record, when I say “all ages”, I’m not talking about putting out books like the Marvel Adventures line that talk down to the readers. I’m talking about putting out all ages code approved superhero comics similar to the ones that Marvel used to publish before Jemas and Quesada started running the show.

  59. Xenos says:

    Political views aside, on the actual issue, Willingham has a damn good point. Especially with Dark Knight and Watchmen in theaters, it should be a hot button issue again. Like after ’86, imitators are going to think the key is deconstructionism and grim and gritty heroes. Without good storytelling and the original heroics, those stories are worthless. People think imitating Watchmen means just making heroes ‘grim and critty’ ™. Watchmen and DKR was so much more than that. Hell, the 90s was full of that stuff and the 00s didn’t really change the trend too much.

    As for the Rush quote, I’d think Bill should have been more careful considering how polarizing a figure he is. It detracts from the point he was making. Personally, I’m not a fan, but I do sometimes listen.. mainly if I’m in the car back home with my dad who listens to his station. I gotta admit, the guy’s not wrong all the time. If I can listen to NPR or read ‘left wing’ sources, I should listen to the right too. Even if I don’t think i agree with someone, I should listen to see how or why I do. Sometimes we may even agree on some issue.

    Meanwhile, as much as I love Fables, Willingham’s Robin run didn’t do much for me. Though I guess a good deal of that was where the character was where he was given the reigns.

    Also.. yeah.. what’s with Kurt Busiek doing. Being sensible, open minded, and logical in an internet debate? It’s like bringing a gun to a knife fight. Bad form, sir. Bad form.

  60. Kurt Busiek is the Chuck Norris of Internet debates.

    Anyways, I don’t care what Bill’s politics are. If his comics are good I’ll enjoy them, if not I’ll find something else to read. Doing anything else is really a waste of energy.

  61. Jim Engel says:

    I agree with Willingham, and my good friend Russ Maheras. However, Russ’ calling Lee’s ’60s characters”anti-heroes” (as they have been calledby nearly everybody for years) bugged me the way that term has always bugged me. Webster defines “anti-hero” thusly:

    Main Entry:
    an·ti·he·ro
    Pronunciation:
    ˈan-tē-ˌhē-(ˌ)rō, ˈan-ˌtī-, -ˌhir-(ˌ)ō
    Function:
    noun
    Date:
    1714
    : a protagonist or notable figure who is conspicuously lacking in heroic qualities
    — an·ti·he·ro·ic ˌan-tē-hi-ˈrō-ik, ˌan-ˌtī- adjective

    That’s how I’ve always understood the term. Lee’s characters are not, and never were ANTI-heroes. They’re heroes. They’re just more realistic (in their self-doubt, failings, fears) than comic book heroes were prior to ’60s Marvel, but they’re heroes. Unfortunately Lee’s versions died long ago, and there haven’t been real heroes in comic books for decades.

    Anyway, I’m all for a return to comic books with real heroes, ’cause that’d mean I could return to reading them.

  62. Jim Engel says:

    I agree with Willingham, and my good friend Russ Maheras. However, Russ’ calling Lee’s ’60s characters”anti-heroes” (as they have been calledby nearly everybody for years) bugged me the way that term has always bugged me. Webster defines “anti-hero” thusly:

    Main Entry:
    an·ti·he·ro
    Pronunciation:
    ˈan-tē-ˌhē-(ˌ)rō, ˈan-ˌtī-, -ˌhir-(ˌ)ō
    Function:
    noun
    Date:
    1714
    : a protagonist or notable figure who is conspicuously lacking in heroic qualities
    — an·ti·he·ro·ic ˌan-tē-hi-ˈrō-ik, ˌan-ˌtī- adjective

    That’s how I’ve always understood the term. Lee’s characters are not, and never were ANTI-heroes. They’re heroes. They’re just more realistic (in their self-doubt, failings, fears) than comic book heroes were prior to ’60s Marvel, but they’re heroes. Unfortunately Lee’s versions died long ago, and there haven’t been real heroes in comic books for decades.

    Anyway, I’m all for a return to comic books with real heroes, ’cause that’d mean I could return to reading them.

  63. Alan Coil says:

    Yeah, Willingham, let’s take comics back to the 50s, the best era in history, where women and minorities knew their place and all superheroes were white.

    Right.

  64. Alan Coil says:

    “Bill thinks superhero comics have gotten too dark, and he wants to write the superheroes he writes as brighter.”

    Perhaps, then, he should be working for Archie Comics.

  65. Alan Coil says:

    “Kurt Busiek is the Chuck Norris of Internet debates. ”

    Not true. Busiek is not old, wrinkly, and going senile.

  66. Kurt Busiek says:

    I’m getting there.

    kdb

  67. I have a headache.

  68. When is Willingham going to reprint Ironwood?

  69. May I ask a question, then, to the round table? Can we please define what – in Mr. Willingham’s mind – makes a superhero “good” and “bright”. No, seriously.

    All is not completely dire in the comic book industry. For the most part superhero stories still involve the good guys battling the bad guys for identifiably good causes. And even in that story mentioned above where Captain America participates in the sinister cover-up, under the pen of the same writer, a few issues later he resurrects a shade of his former self (summons his inner John Wayne if you will) and tells an evil alien invader he’s fighting, “Surrender? Surrender??? You think this letter on my forehead stands for France?” (The letter is an ‘A’ for America, of course.) Good one, Cap.

    Together with the comment previously in his piece, about his rather doubtful pride in sending a kid hero to a war zone accompanied by “PATRIOTIC MILITARY superheroes”, we are talking apples and oranges here.

    1) could the industry need some positive, more cheerful examples again? Sure. Even Alan Moore said that… years ago, at the time he began his TOM STRONG comic books, which harkened back to older days. The LONE RANGER is another example, the old one at least (I cannot comment on the new rendition)

    2) Is GOOD inherently AMERICAN MILITARISM? Uh, no. That is just grim’n’gritty with a political mask on. There ARE people in the rest of the world as well, you know. I’m one of them. And if Superman stands for something, then he should stand for the best in all of us, and not merely Kansas. Spider-Man should stand for all the nerds who understood that with “great power comes great responsibility”

    And if Mr. Willingham lauds a line in a comic book that essentially says “you think you are talking to the frog-f**kers here, you are sorely mistaken”, then it doesn’t show he is INTERESTED in “brighter, more cheerful” superheroes…

    … what he apparently is interested in is to say “Either you are with us or against us.”

    Now, where have I heard that before?

    Will there be a MISSION ACCOMPLISHED banner, too?

    And so, I can only do a quote, too, but this one from Grant Morrison, directed at Frank Miller over the proposed BATMAN: HOLY TERROR.

    And while we’re on that subject…Batman vs. Al Qaeda! It might as well be Bin Laden vs. King Kong! … I’d be so much more impressed if Frank Miller gave up all this graphic novel nonsense, joined the Army and, with a howl of undying hate, rushed headlong onto the front lines with the young soldiers who are actually risking life and limb ‘vs’ Al Qaeda.

    http://web.archive.org/web/20070705190553/http%3A//www.newsarama.com/dcnew/Batman/Morrison/Morrison_Batman.html

  70. R. Maheras says:

    Alan Coil wrote: “Yeah, Willingham, let’s take comics back to the 50s, the best era in history, where women and minorities knew their place and all superheroes were white.”

    Willingham didn’t say bring back the comics of the 1950s — just like Al Gore never said he created the Internet. As a matter of fact, Willingham did not cite 1950s comics at all in any of his examples, nor did he even mention 1950s comics.

    Why do political opposites feel compelled to make up quotes for someone from the other party, and then attack or ridicule the made-up quotes?

  71. Steven R. Stahl says:

    The biggest problem I have with Willingham’s piece is that it’s based on the premise that the superhero genre is kid stuff. His sentence, “But for me at least the superhero genre should be different, better, with higher standards, loftier ideals and a more virtuous — more American — point of view.”, combined with “I made sure both Batman and Robin were portrayed as good, steadfast heroes, with unshakable personal codes and a firm grasp of their mission.” and a story that had Robin parachuting into Afghanistan with military superheroes (?) on a combat mission make that clear.

    The subtext I see in the piece is that Willingham is ashamed of having written morally ambiguous, potentially damaging material in children’s magazines and so to make amends and improve his public image, he’s announced, via an avowedly conservative media platform, that from now on, he is only going to write good, morally unambiguous, politically correct (for Republicans) superhero stories.

    Why should intelligent adults want to read such stories? They don’t need morality lectures from either the right or the left, or superheroics mixed, unbelievably, with real-world challenges. What they want is entertainment.

    The problem with “grim and gritty” is less the direction itself than the fact that (at Marvel, specifically) Bendis & co. are woefully incompetent storytellers. It’s perfectly possible for superheroes to have personal rivalries, feuds, and attitudes that color then in shades of gray, but to do so, they need to have realistic aspects to their lives that haven’t been provided by Bendis or anyone else. What readers have gotten, instead, is a chain of failed (from a critical standpoint) events that have degraded the Marvel Universe so much that Marvel should, arguably, scrap everything and start over. But, with the current crew, there would be no improvement.

    Quesada had a similar focus on children as the audience when he was forced to comment publicly on “One More Day.” One would have thought, from Quesada’s CBR interview, that no one older than 14 or 15 read Spider-Man stories.

    Whether Willingham, Quesada, and others depict children as the readership because they think that’s what the public at large believe or for other reasons, the results are the same: harm to the public image of superhero comics and thwarting of whatever potential for growth the genre has.

    From a purely political standpoint, Willingham’s piece is tiresomely routine, produced by a political convert who has seen the light and is publicly vowing to change his ways. What’s noteworthy is his attempt to turn a genre into a mass of formulaic junk.

    SRS

  72. John Tebbel says:

    “The days of Opie Taylor and the Beaver are long gone.”

    I’d buy Opie vs. The Beaver. Mostly to find out who would win the climactic throwdown.

  73. Bill Willingham says:

    Let me start off by apologizing for not being able to directly comment on and/or debate or refute every comment above on an individual basis. So many discussions like this have sprung up over my recent Mission Statement at the Big Hollywood site, that it would be impossible to participate in every one of them — or even a good fragment of them — and still have time to get work done and such.

    So perhaps just a single general post might be enough. First, thank you for your interest, positive and negative.

    To those of you who said you’d be dropping Fables and other books of mine because of any combination of: My public statement; my politics; my temerity of actually quoting Rush Limbaugh; or whatever other reason, I hope you’ll reconsider, but as always, it’s entirely up to you. This is entertainment, not homework, so you aren’t required to buy and enjoy my work. Of course, if they ever do make me king of the world, that may change.

    To those, here and on other boards, who opined some variation of: “Willingham wants to turn the clock back to the 50’s complete with (insert list of 50’s crimes cultural problems here),” that just isn’t the case. I don’t need to turn the clock back to find countless examples of people living lives of duty, honor and service to very good and decent causes greater than themselves. I’m surrounded by such people today, and can draw my inspiration from them without conjuring some idealized cardboard example from decades past. They still exist in America (and elsewhere of course) in abundance, in every town and city in the country. And these folks are anything but one-note, two-dimensional people. They are men and women in full, with as many intriguing nuances and complexities as anyone else. Great stories can and will be told about people such as this.

    For those who think I desire a strictly black and white depiction of superheroes and the world in which they (fictionally) live: no, not at all. Far from it. I understand things are every shade of gray. But that doesn’t mean one shouldn’t still strive for the white, or light end of the spectrum. (And I use ‘white’ here without any racial secondary meanings — so maybe I’ll use good and evil, rather than black and white). And, in my mind, the fact that the true good end of the dial can’t be achieved even makes the struggle to do so more ennobling and more worthy as the subject matter for my future work in the superhero corner of the funnybook business.

    As far as any call to change all of comics, or all of superhero comics to my preferred template — well, I didn’t make such a call, so there we are.

    What I did say was this is what I plan to do — all the while heavily implying that this is the kind of superhero comics I would like to see more of. But I never said and don’t believe that all other ‘takes’ on superheroes need to go away in favor of my preferred vision. By all means, let’s continue to have antiheroes and dark heroes and every other sort. I don’t even want to get rid of the type of books, like The Boys, for example, that I personally find objectionable. I’m pretty much an absolutist where freedom of speech and of the press is concerned. But I would like to see a better mix — a stronger showing, if you will, of the type of superhero books I prefer. I also think that would make good business sense, for far too many reasons to list here.

    What about this American Way business? That’s simple. I believe the American Way is an ideal that still exists and is still worth pursuing and promoting. Call it the American ‘Ideal’ if the other word sounds too much like I am calling for America (the political entity) to go out a-conquering. I believe America, for all of its faults, is still the greatest force for good in the world, now and in all of history. Some of you believe otherwise. That’s allowable. In my mind the American Way is an ideal that doesn’t stop short of the US border.

    As far as Captain America’s line about “Do you think this letter on my forehead stands for France?” There’s two things I really like about that line. First, it was funny. I do like funny, especially when it comes as a surprise as a counterpoint to drama. Is France’s reputation as a surrender-prone country (whether deserved or not) a suitable subject for comedy? Absolutely. Comedy isn’t a good environment for the thin skinned, too-easily-insulted, or other forms of delicate flowers. The line made me laugh. It still does. Second, it was the most recent example (in my memory — I am probably not as current on my funnybook reading as I should be) where Cap is unapologetic about his identification with America.

    Finally, why did I think it was necessary to make this decision a public one (as opposed to simply keeping my decision private): that’s easy. In a very imperfect and flawed world, I am an excellent example of the flawed person. A private vow can easily be compromised or even ignored if keeping it proves too tough in the harsh real world comics production market. A public vow is less easy to mitigate or go back on. I suppose that’s why every culture has adopted varying practices of making important vows in public — marriage ceremonies come to mind as a good example. So it’s a matter of helping keep myself honest.

    There. I’m certain I haven’t addressed every criticism above, but I think I’ve dealt with the bulk of them, and clarified a few things. Enjoy the rest of this discussion. I really should get back to work now.

    BW

  74. The Beat says:

    Bill: Many thanks for posting and your expansions on your thoughts.

  75. Mariah says:

    Steven: No, that’s not the premise. That’s your interpretation of it. I don’t think he mentions children once, nor is there any reason the kind of superhero story he’s talking about would only be for children. Or even for children at all. Noble heroes are not something that, thematically, is only intended or appealing to children. It just doesn’t exclude them the way more explicit or mature subject matter does.

    Besides, I’ve read lots of stories that were intended for children that are complex, dark, and otherwise not somehow subpar stories as you seem to be implying.

    I don’t very much that Bill is ashamed of anything he’s written, including Ironwood. He’s simply making a statement about what kinds of superhero stories he’ll be pursuing. That’s hardly a call for a wholesale change of the genre, as he pointed out above.

    Also, it’s ridiculous to say that the audience doesn’t want their superheroes or comics mixed with real world events. Spider-man exists in NYC, as do many others like the X-Men. It hasn’t hurt them. I mean, stories often parallel real world events or seek to explore them in that context. Why should we do away with that?

    I mean, don’t read any of Bill’s work if you don’t want to. But don’t misrepresent what he’s saying just because you want to view it a particular way.

  76. AERose says:

    holycrapholycrapholycrap the guy who wrote “War Games” thinks that superheroes should be more heroic.

    Bill Willingham, you are truly the poor man’s Dave Sim. (Talented writer-artists known for their long running creator-owned series and outspoken right wing politics. Sure it’s tenuous, but it works.)

  77. AERose says:

    (For the record I just got finished reading Cerebus and think about one half to two thirds of it were brilliant and the entire series was finely illustrated, and my only opinion on Bill Willingham is that his superhero work is about as hacky as it gets. So what I’m saying here is that, as comic book creators with outspoken right wing politics go, I’d rather read one of Sim’s screeds than Willingham’s and would rather read Cerebus than Shadowpact.)

  78. Alan Coil says:

    R. Maheras said:

    “Why do political opposites feel compelled to make up quotes for someone from the other party, and then attack or ridicule the made-up quotes? ”

    I don’t know, Russ. Maybe you have some insights?

  79. Well. As a progressive, I know I prefer having a conservative/right-wing/reactionary write about funnybooks and talking animals on blogs for the Net-ertati to discuss rather than, say, having him write about politics and possibly effect National policy…

    I’ll take Bill W. and Dirk D. over Bill Kristol and David Horowitz ANYTIME!

  80. Steven R. Stahl says:

    Mariah, you apparently need more experience reading op-ed pieces, wherever they might appear. Andrew Breitbart’s “Big Hollywood” site was evidently set up to counter the Huffington Post website and to demonstrate to the public that there are political conservatives in Hollywood. The appearance of Willingham’s piece on Breitbart’s site instead of a nonpartisan blog wasn’t accidental and quoting Rush Limbaugh was hardly accidental. Willingham’s “For now, I invite others in my business to follow suit, as their own consciences dictate. We’ll talk more about this later.” was an explicit call to action.

    If Willingham’s going to venture into politics, he needs to understand that he’ll face opposition as he airs his views and that if he advocates, say, social changes or legislation that will impact lives substantially, the negative reaction will be far more vitriolic than anything he encountered on this site.

    SRS

  81. “All of you losers who are crying about his political views need to get a life.”

    Well, there you go … top that, Busiek!

  82. I don’t know if I have any special insight here, but as a former housemate of Bill’s and as a political liberal, I want to say, what is the big deal? The opinions Bill expressed in his editorial hardly seemed extreme. Certainly not enough to make me want to not read his comics. If they’re comics that might appeal to you, read ‘em. If you find they don’t appeal to you, or if his political views intrude too heavily into his storytelling, drop ‘em. (I haven’t noticed Bill’s comics becoming more political, personally.) I do think people are reading a lot into what he wrote that just isn’t there. That, to me, is just not fair, just as it wasn’t fair to say that Obama was some kind of Maoist because he knew Bill Ayers, or that he was some kind of Islamic terrorist sympathizer because of his middle name. If it’s not fair for people on the right to make up things about people on the left, it is likewise not fair to ascribe to Bill opinions that he hasn’t stated.

    (By the way, I like the notion of Goldilocks as a communist revolutionary. It’s the kind of absurdity that makes comics fun.)

  83. Christ people, the man is talking about Right and Wrong – not Right or Left. He is talking about heroes with a sense of duty – willing to stand up and do the job while all others just talk about it or sit back and let it happen.
    He is talking about guys like the chinese student standing up in front of the tanks – heroes. Not caring whether that guy was a republican or democrat – which I don’t think anyone every asked him.
    Just another two cents.

  84. Sven_Mascarenhas says:

    Bill,

    Go read “The Post-American World” by Fareed Zakaria. Your view of America as a dominant player in the world, or as a “great, virtuous nation” is rapidly coming to an end.

  85. Sven_Mascarenhas says:

    “What about this American Way business? That’s simple. I believe the American Way is an ideal that still exists and is still worth pursuing and promoting. Call it the American ‘Ideal’ if the other word sounds too much like I am calling for America (the political entity) to go out a-conquering. ”

    That’s great. Let’s completely ignore the needs and desires of other peoples and force them to embrace the American Way, even if it isn’t the ideal scenario for them.

    The people of Somalia are more concerned with ensuring that they experience ‘The American Way’ instead of, you know, getting enough food to survive the day.

  86. Sven_Mascarenhas says:

    “I made sure both Batman and Robin were portrayed as good, steadfast heroes, with unshakable personal codes and a firm grasp of their mission. I even got to do a story where Robin parachuted into Afghanistan with a group of very patriotic military superheroes on a full-scale, C130 gunship-supported combat mission.”

    I like where he boasts about that storyline even though it got crucified by most ‘Bat bloggers as being terrible, and it ended with 16-year old Tim Drake pondering having a fling with a female Marine in her mid-20s and he was involved with two different girls in Robin at the time and was still grieving over Spoiler’s supposed death.

  87. Thanks to Bill for taking the time to respond. Personally, what has made superhero comics more interesting for me as an adult is the notion that many of the villains believe they are doing good. IMO, this is how the world really works. Even Bin Laden, even Hitler, thought they were doing something worthwhile – which is what makes them dangerous. They are idealists, same as the good guys: their senses of honor, their dedication to their cause, their willingness to fight rather than compromise – all in many ways the same, or at least mirror-opposite. They don’t see themselves as evil: like their adversaries, they often see themselves as the only thing standing between us and total chaos. Whether they are heroes or villains depends entirely on what you think of their ideas and methods, not their characters.

    Once comic book villains started acting this way, the stories became much richer. I’m more interested in Magneto as someone who wants to liberate mutants than someone who heads a group that self-identifies as the Brotherhood of EVIL Mutants. In The Boys, which I read and enjoy despite its excesses, the idea that the JLA-like group of superheroes are irresponsible cowards and perverts, while the shady “Boys” are slightly more heroic in character, tells more truth about the world than some fantasy that life is black and white. There are more story possibilities and more opportunities for unexpected twists, rather than the same boring slugfests.

    That’s my opinion, anyway. But honestly, at the end of the day, I’d rather read a good comic than a bad one, and Bill Willingham generally produces good ones. If he can make his ideas work creatively and tell good stories, I don’t really care if they reflect my personal philosophy of the world or not. If I notice that I’m being hit over the head with someone’s message, then clearly the creator isn’t really doing their job, and whether I happen to agree with the message or not isn’t going to improve my enjoyment.

  88. Scott Rowland says:

    Kurt Busiek is wrong! Wrong, I say.

    Black Lightning’s tailor was Peter Gambi, not Paul Gambi. I believe, but I’m not sure that Tony Isabella intended Peter to be Paul’s brother.

    Speaking of characters that reflect positive values, I’d sure appreciate it if Mr. Willingham and Mr. Busiek would push DC to put out a collected edition of Tony Isabella’s Black Lightning stories. In both series, the character exemplified someone striving to do the right thing for the right reasons. It would be nice to see it back in print.

    As someone who was appalled to read the story where Mr. Willingham made longtime Batman supporting character Leslie Thompson a cold-blooded murderer, I’m glad to read that he’s changed his mind about such things. Who knows, I may even give his superhero writing another chance, if he can follow through with his intentions.

    Fables, as his own creation, I’ve always been fine with.

    Finally, I’d just like to say “Kurt Busiek is wrong” again. I don’t get many opportunities to say that.

  89. I dunno, “the American Way/Ideal” still sounds a bit too much like “American uber alles” nationalism to me. I think this country has a lot of ideals to be proud of, but so do other countries. The implication that America is The Best, Period, belies a bullying arrogance that gets us into difficult situations time and again with the rest of the world. We are not, we cannot be, above the rest of the world, but a PART of the world. Our shining beacon of ideals is only as good as our deeds and actions, not our boastful words. Let’s hope our incoming Secretary of State doesn’t reflect an arrogant stance; judging by her responses to questions in her confirmation hearing, she doesn’t seem to.

  90. AERose says:

    “Go read “The Post-American World” by Fareed Zakaria. Your view of America as a dominant player in the world, or as a “great, virtuous nation” is rapidly coming to an end.”

    Hahahahahahahaha, if you need Fareed Zakaria to tell you that the United States doesn’t go a full presidency without instituting or maintaining some program of genocide or mass murder then you deserve to debate with someone who thinks “superhero decadence” is an issue worth writing about.

  91. Look, when Bill is talking about the “American Way,” I think he’s really saying that you should be proud about your own country. If you’re Australian, for example, you should believe in the “Australian Way,” or if you’re Canadian, you should believe in the “Canadian Way.”

    A blanket statement like “every country has its problems” or “believing in a country is fascist” is just not going to cut it. Because when you factor in those two, then there’s nothing to believe in. What shall we strive for, general humanity? You can apply the same criticisms: “humanity is great, but what about all this time we kill each other? Clearly we should not believe in humanity.”

    A nation is something that we work together to push forward in order to better everyone living under it. When Bill is talking about the “American Way,” he’s talking about the spirit of the community, how we’re always trying to overcome racism, discrimination, and making the world a better place.

    Australians, Canadians, French, Brits, Swedes — whether you call it the “Australian Way,” “Canadian Way,” “French Way,” “British Way,” or “Swedish Way” — you gotta be proud for what you’re doing for society.

  92. AERose says:

    Assuming you’re doing something for society, and not just trying to shore up your own personal external comfort and self esteem. S’what I do.

    Like this: The notion that you can attach motives to heterogeneous groups consisting of millions or billions of independently acting individuals (ex: “Americans”, “the French”, “Muslims”, “humans”) is the height of asininity. (Exposing mistaken notions of unity and singularity among vast aggregates while using the word “asininity” never harms my self regard.)

  93. Mariah says:

    Steven,

    And you apparently need better reading comprehension skills. You have no idea how many op ed pieces I read, how I interpret them, or any of the rest of what you stated. If you can’t handle valid criticism of your views then I suggest not posting them. All you’ve managed to do is continue being cranky on the internet and insist on your own interpretation as THE interpretations, regardless of facts or examples. Your responses say more about you than Bill, or even conservatives. They have as much right to express their opinions as the Huffington Post. Whatever agenda you glean from this particular piece is your own. I believe Bill stated his intent quite clearly.

    In fact, I will direct you to Bill’s response in this very thread. He invited people, not demanded, that they join him. And, as I stated before, of COURSE the Limbaugh quote was deliberate. You choose to see it as some kind of radical conservative issue. I see it as an intentional poke by a social conservative to see how many knee-jerk liberals he could get in a huff. It worked.

    Maybe it’s because I know Bill quite well, but you’re insisting on a view that is very limited and partisan. If you don’t like the kinds of comics Bill is proposing to write, don’t read them.

    But if you’re arguing that his perspective is invalid because you don’t agree with his politics, or that there’s no room for “heroic” super-hero stories along with the grim and gritty, then I just have to wonder if your problem is with Bill or with stories in general. Such a limited idea of what is “allowed” seems kind of sad to me.

  94. I was a repeat responder on the Robot 6 ‘blog, and I found that the debate was interesting.

    I think it was interesting that the debate ended up as a kind of political referendum, even though there wasn’t an explicitly or directly overt political statement being made.

    Willingham did not seem to make any overt political references to either the politics he believed the creators of the comics to have, or the politics he believed the creators to be imbuing their stories with.

    Having said that, the issues he highlighted ARE political issues, especially in the context of how governments use moralistic, or values based, rhetoric to explain and/or justify their particular policies.

    Willingham adopted a rhetoric that alluded to, at least IMHO, the rhetoric that has been adopted by the outgoing political establishment.

    I would also point out that the incoming President is himself a user of values-based rhetoric, but he marshaled a different constellation of rhetorical flourishes, and so in many ways, appears to be adopting a different ethical/political position… in many ways I am skeptical of both styles.

    The issue for me is not so much a political one from the perspective of who supports whom, but the matter of what is disguised by the rhetoric of what is said. I think Willingham is savvy enough to know that there are people who will see the aspect of his contention as it relates to his own personal politics, and I also think that he is not making his statement in an ‘innocent’ fashion.

    The rhetoric of ‘values’ and the moral ideals behind it are inherently divisive, as the way one chooses to enact or support such a rhetoric is what is really at stake. To simply accept his definition of his values within the rhetoric of being, or possessing the quality of being, American is a very socially chauvinistic thing to do.

    It sets up a situation where allegiance to those ideals is implicitly encoded as an allegiance to the idea of the nation he presumes them to be an inherent quality of… I’m not saying that the ideals he argues for are not of value, but by making them explicitly American ideals, automatically establishes a limit to who can ‘truly’ participate in them. As a non-American this makes it feel like my own participation in the medium, and that of others who fall into this selfsame category, is being white-washed out at best, or somehow made into being the pathological condition that resulted in the current decadence he seems to be decrying.

    Whilst I am fully aware he includes himself in the process of this shift, it seems to me to be less of a “I stand by my convictions and support what I did” stance and more of a “I once was lost and have found my way” proclamation, which I think still allows he to stand by my contention that he doesn’t leave me much room within his rhetoric to find where I “fit in” to his mission statement.

    I feel I have been left out, in my capacity as a non-American, by the wayside, despite the vast degree to which I think the values he supports are important and necessary components of the superhero genre.

  95. On one side there is patriotism: Where you love your country enough to be able to tell when its gone wrong and want to fix it to better support the rest of the international community.

    On the other side there is nationalism: where baffoons like Willigham believe that ‘heroism’ is your country invading another and bettering your own country at the expense of others.

    I am done with Willingham, he is a racist sexist homophobic imbecile who injects these views in his comics.

  96. Kurt, you like Bill fail at anything the moment you imply america was ever a good country

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