Thursday, July 05, 2007

My Bush/DC Years
I started working at DC Comics around the same time George W. Bush was elected. At that time, I knew little-to-nothing about the man had had no opinion of him. Perhaps I should have been more up on my politics, but I wasn't. I don't even remember the election very much, or feeling particularly cheesed-off that Gore lost. I was just happy to get my weekly DC comps.

I watched the Twin Towers go down in the DC Comics conference room. After they fell, everyone scattered. I ended up going to the home of a co-worker from Production that I only tangentially knew. We ran, hand-in-hand, twenty blocks to her house, past the masses of confused and upset people. In my co-worker's other hand was a Bible. The further Downtown we got, the weirder the smell in the air.

I took a week off after 911 to stay in my mother's beach house and absorb what had just happened and was continuing to happen to my country. On the drive there, my Mom said over and over again that they were not going to draft my brother if we went to war, that she'd find a loophole. American flags, both store-bought and hastily-improvised, were on every car window and in front of every home from New York to Massachusetts.

When I came back to DC, I noted that the "Destruction of Metropolis" motif in the 7th Floor was in the process of being painted over. During an editorial meeting, we debated the tastefulness of continuing to run the "Our Worlds At War" mega-crossover series. "Adventures of Superman" #596, which ran one day after the attacks, featured a shot of LexTowers massively damaged by the alien invasion.

In March of 2003, the United States entered the Iraq War. I remember the swell of anti-war protests right before we officially went in, but still I had no real political stance. I didn't even feel much animosity towards George W. At work, we gathered a bunch of comics to send overseas to the troops. By the end of the Spring, the editor who I had very much enjoyed working for was suddenly fired, one of three dismissals on the same day. Soon after, we began brainstorming a new direction for the company.
By the summer of 2004, I was out of DC. At this point, George W. was being called to the carpet for a whole bunch of things -- the war, the scandal at Gitmo, domestic spying, etc.

For the first time, I began to think that there were serious problems with this particular president and his administration, problems that went beyond partisan politics, problems that were rather self-evident. By November of 2004, taking account my own personal situation, the re-election of Bush filled me with a level of dread, sadness, and a sense of futility that you may or may not be able to imagine. I watched his re-election in horror. It would now take at least four years for things to get better; four years to slog through a presidency where mistakes were never admitted to and compromise & diplomacy the stuff of "wimps."But as the scandals in Washington popped up one-by-one, and the blood continued to flow in Iraq, a new consciousness seemed to emerge in this country -- a new voice of sanity, a new patriotism built not from slavish obedience but questioning authority. And I think the inciting incident of this new phase in American life was not Iraq but Hurricane Katrina.

A couple of days after Katrina hit, when the news footage of the devastation and death started to hit the media, I was standing in a large metropolitan comic book store during "new comic day." Contrasting what was happening in New Orleans and the other affected areas with the self-absorbed comic fans clucking over one new comic or another, one new toy or another, I began to feel light-headed, stepped out of the store, and vomited a little onto the sidewalk.
By this point I was trying to reestablish myself in the comic world as a blogger. A series of scandals/outrages were hitting the comics blogosphere in regards to the treatment of women within the industry and on the pages of the books. I immediately linked in my mind the "awakening" of the American people to the shenanigans that had been going on for the last six years in Washington DC to the new awareness of these women's issues in my own field. I was incredibly encouraged.

Somewhere, in a number of DC Crossover events I was not following, characters were turning evil, or getting shot in the head, or a number of things, all in the name of a much-alluded to "endpoint" on the horizon where all the "multiple earths" and errant continuities could be rectified, leading to a golden age of peace and "fun comics again." All the violence, betrayal, and carnage of "Identity Crisis," "Infinite Crisis," and the other books were leading somewhere, to somewhere Good. Years before, when we were considering our "new direction," it was mentioned that, after all the grim and grit, after the sales were boosted, we could return to the way things were.
In November 2006 the Democrats got Congress. In contrast to my earlier political apathy, I stayed up all night to hear the results, and cheered in front of my TV set. A few weeks later, as Rumsfeld was, as they say, "thrown under the bus" by George W., I wrote "Goodbye To Comics."

It's Summer of '07 now, and the prospect of an African-American or female president is now a very real possibility. Here were two groups that traditionally got the glass-ceiling treatment in the comics industry. But we are maturing as a nation, and keeping one group or another out of positions of authority -- whether it be due to gender, race, nationality, or sexual orientation -- is becoming a thing of the past. And if not a thing of the past in all cases, then, well, something socially distasteful, like farting in public.

Of course, the comic book industry, like the nation, will keep up. Right?

But whomever gets elected in '08, I feel confident that the reign of lies, scandal, and out-and-out dastardly doings will end. We are getting smarter. I am getting smarter. I started out not even caring who my Congressperson was. I couldn't be bothered. Now I'd go door-to-door to campaign for Obama. I feel passionate about it. On this July 4th, I'm feeling passionate about things like Universal Healthcare, equality, ending the war.

MSNBC's Keith Olbermann called for the resignation of Bush & Cheney a couple of days ago. I find it significant. It's why I wrote this.

And comics, how are they going to change during the Clinton Years, or the Obama Years, or the (dare I say it) Gore years?

Comics will have to keep up. If they don't, they will become socially irrelevant. I mean, I like pro wrestling and all, but the comics industry will be somewhere behind the WWE in terms of status and respect unless it grows with the times.

The multiple deaths in the DC crossovers, "Civil War," the end of Captain America, even "Marvel Zombies" -- they are all emblematic of the ending of this chapter in the history of the American comic book, and this chapter of American life. It's like admitting it.

And I think, after the betrayals, the deaths, the destruction, the lies -- there is a new "golden age" coming, one of fairness, equality, quality, and inclusiveness. And I sit here by my computer, waiting to write about it, seizing each story as it comes down.


  1. Yeah, I felt very optimistic about comics following Infinite Crisis. I continue to be optimistic since it's my philosophy, but sadly things haven't turned out the way I thought or hoped they would.

    But then again, I'm a conservative and someone who thinks that while President Bush may have made many mistakes over the course of his presidency, he's not responsible for most of the things people claim that he is "criminally" responsible for, nor are things as bad as people would have me believe. Frankly, I'm voting for Fred Thompson.

  2. Oh, and one more thing - I'd like to think that entering the Diamond Age of Comics can happen without a change in the Presidency - it's just a matter of convincing the people at DC and Marvel to do the right thing.

    ...Or, for that matter, taking direct action to get things going, ourselves. ^_~ *Resumes working on his planned submission to Dark Horse.*

  3. I'm typically a lurker and loyal to no-one (well, except Slashdot), but I'm really liking what I see and read here. I also agree with everything you've said, and believe that George W. Bush is a war criminal and the worst US president in the history of the country.

    Full disclosure: I am Canadian, and I can say us Canuck's love the American people but fear and loathe your government and political system (I mean, come on, two parties represent the diversity and will of 280 million people)?

    We hope you get your democracy back soon.

  4. Anonymous11:38 AM

    "But whomever gets elected in '08, I feel confident that the reign of lies, scandal, and out-and-out dastardly doings will end."

    I hate to break it to you, but it probably won' matter who occupies the the office of Pinata of the United States. I've been reading an excellent history of the United States text, and one thing comes through loud and clear: It's always the "End of Days" with a Golden Age just around the corner...if only the right person was elected.

  5. I really enjoyed your posts on Identity Crisis. I loathed the the Sue Dibny rape scene, and it is nice to know that there were principled people like yourself against it, and how small the people making the decision and involved in implementing it actually were.

    Moving on to your current post, it would be nice to see DC be less like Marvel and learn from it's successes in the Silver Age. I pick up DC comic books because they are an alternative to what Marvel does - I don't think they can outbadass Marvel, so they might as well focus on whatever it is they do best.

    Rinkjustice: I'm a former Canuck currently living very happily in the USA. I suggest people who live in glass houses shouldn't throw stones. One party (the Liberals) in Canada basically ruled the country for 80-90 years of the last century. How is an essentially one party state an improvement over a two party state?

    I'm currently living in the south and it's actually better integrated than any town I've seen in Saskatchewan or Manitoba. If I ever want to show my kids like what the south was like before integration, I'll take them across the border and show them Saskatchewan and Manitoba.

  6. Thanks for writing this, Val. I've been grasping for hope a lot this past week, and I really needed someone to point out that it's all around.

  7. Frankly, I think that it doesn't matter which party our representatives and next chief executive come from; most of them will succumb to the lure of power and be just as corrupt as their predecessors. Bush is no criminal; he's just been an average president in a very difficult time in our history. If Gore or Kerry had been elected, I doubt things would be much different than they are now. The details would be different, of course, but the substance would be the same. There would still be abuse of power, multiple scandals, and yeah, I think we'd still be in Iraq.

    We need leaders of integrity, honorable men and women who, regardless of party, vote their conscience and deal with one another respectfully. In many ways, the presence of those qualities in our leadership is far more important than their actual agenda. There are some candidates who *might* fulfill this ideal; I find men like the aforementioned Thompson and Obama worthy of interest, as well as a couple of others.

    Oh, and note to "Rinkjustice," while I also wish we had a viable third party on the national level, (instead of dozens of small ones) we're not really a democracy. We're a constitutional republic. ;-)

  8. very well said. i actually started a personal thing i'm calling 'my america' which touches on some of what you wrote. of course i'm bound to piss people off but i feel it's my duty to show what its like in the trenches..i will not die quietly in a gutter. i'm a bit of the bitter casulty of the comic industry. i'm acyually not allowed to vote...thanks to a situation i'd explain if you asked. i feel as an american i have been stripped of everything i held dear. all i have left is my spirit which grows weary but never faltering. if you're at all interested i'll link you when i have my rambling yet somehow coherant essay up.

    i'm up for a new person being captain america...the idea was cap was a regular everyday army washout. one of us. to me thats who cap of us. so just throwing bucky or falcon in the mantle is like putting a bandaid on a bullethole. it doesn't sit well with me. so i opt for a new person in the role. for new readers there isn't alot to weed through and for old readers they aren't totally betraying the spirit of the character. isn't bucky a killer?

  9. On that note, I agree on having a new character in the Captain America role as opposed to an established one. The question really is, then, what sort of character? A super-patriot? A disillusioned anti-hero seeing the light? Another average joe? A basic clone of Steve Rogers? I like the idea of a woman taking up the mantle, but not if her sole-defining characteristic is "woman." ^_~

  10. You use excellent illustrations! Could you please start captioning them so we less well-versed kids can know where they're from? Thanks, dude :-)

  11. Not that I want to start a back-and-forth here, but anyone who believes Bush has "just been an average president in a very difficult time in our history" hasn't been paying attention to the news and doesn't know much about history.

  12. Not that I want to start a back-and-forth here, but anyone who believes Bush has "just been an average president in a very difficult time in our history" hasn't been paying attention to the news and doesn't know much about history.

    I'm 41 years old and pay more than enough attention to the news. I also hold a master's degree. I know quite a bit about history, especially American history, and that knowledge is what compels me to make the statement I did. In fact, I'd say that the large number of people on the left who vilify Bush as "the worst in history" are just as uninformed about American history as those on the right who said the same about Clinton were. There have been far worse presidents than both men, and I believe that, for the most part, both tried to do the best job they could in a rapidly-changing world.

    And if you truly did not want to "start a back and forth," then you shouldn't have quoted me directly and made such a statement about me. It's all well and good to hold your own opinions and espouse them whenever you wish. Debate or challenge my ideas and opinions all you want, but there's no need to be personally insulting. In fact, your debating teacher would take off points for that. ;-)

  13. Clearly many in the "worst president ever" camp are over the top. But it was obvious well before 911 that Bush had little patience for information, valued loyalty over competence, was easily manipulated by the people he surrounded himself with, and would not let ethical concerns get in the way of advancement. If that doesn't make him at least below average, then what would exactly?

  14. So far all you've done is state your opinion, with nothing factual to support it. (You did, however, drop the personal attack, for which I thank you.)

    Look, it's obvious that neither of us is going to change the other's mind, so why not just "agree to disagree" and drop it? If we're going to argue over something, it needs to be something important; like whether Batman or Captain America would win in a fight. :-)

  15. I prefer the average joe taking up the mantle of cap. someone we can relate to. a more realistic person with ideal and hopes and dreams and a feeling of wanting to make a difference for the greater good. some anti-heroness is good as long as he's doing it for the people and not bowing down to politics. he/she has to be above politics. it's the cap i would write if i was over at marvel.

  16. Anyone who believes Batman could lose to Captain America hasn't been paying attention to comics and doesn't know much about history.


  17. Shoot. We can't argue about that because I agree with you!

    Any Marvel Zombies wanna take us on and produce their feeble reasons why Cap would win?

  18. Any Marvel Zombies wanna take us on and produce their feeble reasons why Cap would win?

    Batman wins because Cap is dead.

  19. I hope you are right. But I have to remember that when Bush 43 took office, despite the controversey in Florida, there were people who hoped that he would bring in a new era that would sweep away the negatives of the Clinton years. Well, here we are, and here ain't so grand. I really hope you're right that we're getting smarter. I hope we don't fall for the easy fancy that getting Somebody Not Bush into the White House will fix things. It won't. We can't let up. We can't let our guard down. These people, donkeys and elephants both, are not our friends and barely wish us well on their best days. I would like to believe that Obama (or SOMEbody, practically ANYbody) was different and honestly wanted to represent the people, but I'm afraid that he (and all the rest) are too far into the machine. They've been to too many fund-raising dinners, taken too many free rides on corporate jets, been courted and cooed by too many lobbyists already. The material rewards for selling out are so very large, while the rewards for doing the right thing are merely moral. Your enthusiasm is refreshing, but I've been let down by these people too many times to share it. Until we the people stop looking to these ersatz saviors to Fix Everything and start taking charge of ourselves and our communities, the machine will keep chugging along.