Today’s Woke Superheroes Have Conservative Roots
'Nexus' author shares some hard truths about comic books then and now
Many superheroes have conservative beginnings.
If men were benign there would be no need for superheroes. Life was simpler in 1939 when Bob Kane and Bill Finger created Batman. Batman’s motivation, like that of so many comic book good guys, was to right a wrong, in this case the murder of his parents.
Batman’s mission expanded to serving the cause of justice, which has always been a conservative idea. We are a nation of laws. Creators may not have consciously realized their characters had a conservative agenda, and in many cases, subsequent writers have expanded that agenda to embrace more liberal concerns such as intolerance and inequality.
That is not to say conservatives are not concerned about such things. As always, it’s a matter of degree.
When John Wagner created the British character Judge Dredd, he made him an American. In 1977 Britain seemed relatively law-abiding compared to the American Wild West. Judge Dredd addressed conservative frustration with a society and legal system that seemed to grant endless exemptions, caveats, and mitigating circumstances to horrendous acts.
One need only look at the description of Jihadist Major Nidal Hassan’s deadly attack as “workplace violence” to appreciate the frustrating and malicious nature of political correctness.
Judge Dredd cuts through all that by being judge, jury, and executioner. “I am the Law,” he declares, much like John Wayne before him.
Today political correctness runs rampant throughout the comic industry as it does in every branch of entertainment. Denny O’Neil, who reinvented Batman for the modern world, got the ball rolling during the 1970s with his famous Green Lantern/Green Arrow run in which the embattled superheroes addressed drug addiction, corporate pollution and the Trial of the Chicago Seven.
O’Neil also told me, “I sometimes wonder if sixties liberals didn’t create the atmosphere for today’s extreme politics and name calling.”
DC has since introduced Simon Baz, a Muslim Green Lantern. Marvel has recast Ms. Marvel as the daughter of a loving but strict Muslim family. It’s all good--Muslims have just as much right to their fantasies as conservatives and apolitical nerds and geeks.
When Steve Rude and I created Nexus we had one imperative: to entertain.
Nexus #1 signed copy by Mike Baron and Steve Rude…latest addition to my comic book collection … @BloodyRedBaron @steverudeart 1st appearance of #Nexus pic.twitter.com/pvwvR0IN8h
— Rare Comic Books (@MakeMyComicRare) September 25, 2018
We are not political creatures although we are both conservative by nature. We have no message we’re trying to spread. Our protagonist is conservative by nature. When we created Nexus in the eighties the Soviets were the bad guys.
When the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, my friends kidded me about my skills as an oracle. Are not Futurists supposed to predict the future? Well no. They are to imagine the future, but let’s not lose the thread here.
The immutability of human nature is a bedrock of conservative belief. You can legislate until you’re blue in the face. You can impose draconian measures. But nothing will change human nature.
The Soviet Union may be gone, but what’s taken its place? Same old, same old. They just changed the name back to Russia.
Throughout the eighties I snatched stories from the headlines. Our condemnation of Islamic fundamentalism could not be plainer in the thinly disguised Cousin Lathe/Elvonic story lines. We did a two-part God-Con series which declared Christianity good. I wonder at my hubris in writing that. I wish I could take it back but I can’t. It’s out there.
I conceived Nexus as a reluctant executioner of mass murderers. Every time he entered the room someone was going to die. That is an inherently dramatic situation. That is the reason there are so many doctor, police, and military shows.
Justice is a common sense concept. In recent years, the left’s assault on the language had led to labeling concepts most people would regard as common sense, such as, there ain’t no such thing as a free lunch, “far right.”
Nexus deals with real life situations in a way most comics can’t, because their writers are more committed to the agenda and the narrative.
The writer’s first duty is to entertain. Jerry McNeely said, “You make ’em laugh a little bit, you make ’em cry a little bit, you scare the hell out of them, and that’s entertainment.”
Mike Baron is a two-time Eisner and Inkpot winner and creator of “Nexus” and “Badger.” He previously wrote for “Punisher,” “Flash” and “Star Wars.” He’s currently behind a Kickstarter project to bring us new adventures of Nexus in novel form.
I think the late Mark Gruenwald’s “Mark’s Remarks” should be collected as a trade paperback, if they haven’t already. Even today, more than thirty years later, they’re invaluable advice to the aspiring comics professional.
Here’s the truth no woke liberal wants to face– superpowers are guns. They are plot tools given to heroes in order to deal with criminal elements that the ordinary citizen can’t, while fiction realizes that the police can’t be everywhere at once. Worse, it is left to these heroic individuals’ judgement as to who needs stopping and who doesn’t, as well as how much force is applied to stop them. Readers world wide applaud when the super hero with his impossible super powers beats a supervillain, but fail to make this critical connection. Worse, big comic labels act like the two concepts aren’y intrinsically connected– One person has the power to top an act of violence for reasons others cannot. That is quite literally a firearm in the hand of a law biding citizen.
I recall reading comic stories that definitely made it clear there was a social/political angle e.g. “Watchmen”, V for Victory”. I draw the line when I pick up a comic book expecting something entertaining and instead you get a lecture about all the evils of the world.
Youtuber Fourth Age discusses the Western concept of a hero spanning several centuries and he returns to the four virtues: Prudence (or wisdom), courage, temperance, and justice. To remove one is to allow the others to fall but they all center around self-improvement, maturity, good decision making. A woke “hero” sees only skin color and social status, moving the goal post by replacing justice with social justice In other words, classic superheroes work on improving themselves but the new generation wants to change everyone else to suit *their* needs. It also belittles humanity overall. Classic Batman and other superheroes would defend humanity, warts and all. The new generation preaches to us how evil we are and all we need is a little correct thinking to fix us.
BTW, I’ve read a few of the Simon Baz comics. They’re….not bad. But they could be better. His face mask is a terrible design and looks like a mugger’s ski mask. It wouldn’t look good on any Green Lantern, Muslim or not. Frankly, I think he is an attractive character so why cover up the face? His fear of being discriminated against is something I can empathize with, but again, fingerpointing elsewhere because he was locked up in Guantanamo Bay for a crime he didn’t commit reads like a cliche to me.
I don’t know why he doesn’t have a positive male role model in his life. His mother and sister have to lecture him; his best friend is a jerk. When Baz does shine, it’s when he gets away from everyday issues (like having the word “terrorist” painted on the wall) and into the fun Green Lantern stuff: fighting monsters, joking with his partner Jessica, being a fanboy over Batman. Y’know, superhero stuff! And he loves cars with a passion, which is something that I, as a woman, find appealing in a character.
I was always more partial to Badger.
Why does this article have no author credit at the top? (I am on mobile.)
Judge Dredd is SATIRE, specifically treating Fascism AS Justice. Dredd did not ‘address conservative frustration’. It RIDICULED that frustration and the desire to return to “conservative” justice. It ATTACKED the “conservative” American view of justice as grossly UNJUST.
Judge Dredd is the OPPOSITE of “John Wayne” – and our author here SMEARS Wayne (and Justice) by his comparison. To *obscenely* BRAND Wayne as being in the *same* mold as Judge Dredd is the author’s ACCEPTANCE of the “liberal” CARICATURE of ‘conservative justice’. He is saying to “liberals”: ‘YUP, you are EXACTLY correct about us “conservatives”. We ARE unjust!”.
With “friends” like this author, the Right doesn’t NEED enemies.