Now that the first presidential debate has happened, it looks like politics will be more and more on our minds as we head to the big presidential election in about 15 months or so.

Social media is a great place to disagree over political candidates and issues, but what about comics? Should we be reading specific points of view or avoiding them?

ISSUES VERSUS POLITICS

Superman, comics, politics, issues, Star Trek, Gene Roddenberry, Democrat, Republican, NBC, Captain America, MarvelI like to refer to Star Trek when I talk about politics in comics or other sci-fi avenues. Let me tell you why.

During all the hours of Trek ever aired, I challenge anyone to find the word “Democrat” or “Republican” in them. I’ve watched them all, most of them several times, and I never heard them mentioned. At all. Ever.

On the other hand, did Star Trek deal with issues? Absolutely! Racism (See right), health care, women’s concerns, computers, the environment, you name it … you’ll find a lot of discussion about subjects that we’re interested in there.

The question is, why did the Trek folks do that?

One reason why the original Star Trek followed this pattern was to avoid being censored by the NBC executives back in the 1960s. If someone was deemed too controversial, it wouldn’t be allowed on the small tube.

So Gene Roddenberry instead dealt with issues instead. He was able to communicate his point that way. Now, understand that some folks don’t differentiate between them. If you stand in a particular way on a specific issue, that means you’re of one party or another, I keep hearing some folks say.

Personally, I don’t buy that argument. I’ve known way too many people who are either “red” or “blue” who don’t follow the “party line” when it comes to issues. I honestly think that’s a good thing because, as the old saying goes, “thinking people disagree.” If someone is completely up or down the way a specific political party thinks, I think that’s political correctness gone amok on one hand, lack of thought on the other.

If a company wants to produce comics about politicians, then please at least be fair and just present facts! We can make our own decisions about them, after all

POLITICS AND COMICS

Superman, comics, politics, issues, Star Trek, Gene Roddenberry, Democrat, Republican, NBC, Captain America, MarvelIt used to be an event when Superman would fly into the Oval Office to speak with whoever was president. I put forward the notion that this wasn’t politics since it took place after the election was over. “Rally around the president” and all that good stuff!

Over the years, I’ve seen comics choose sides, and I don’t think that’s a smart thing. For example, in a Captain America book several decades back, President Ronald Reagan turned into a large snake and was the villain of the issue. Then just a few years ago, in that same title there was a sequence where some folks were out of New York City and into a more rural area. They disparaged the “country” people there when they met them and couldn’t understand anyone who thought the way they did.

Just imagine if Captain America fought President Obama after he had turned into a snake! Yikes!

Maybe the notion is that only Democrats buy comics, but if you hold that point of view, you’re going to be very surprised. Granted, a lot of comics creators are Democrats (and many are also Republicans), but what concerns me is if you denigrate one “side” or another, you just might cause a devoted reader or three to leave your comic behind.

Consider this: You’re selling sneakers, so you release a campaign that is offensive to one “side” or the other. (And no, you don’t get to intentionally offend one position and think they’ll still buy your product. These days, it rarely works that way.)

You want as many people to buy your sneakers as possible so you can make a profit. In my opinion, if you drive a significant number of potential buyers away, you’ll regret it because you won’t make nearly as much money as you could have.

If you don’t care about that and feel it’s critical to stand up for your beliefs, then that’s certainly up to you. I used to know a person who ran an advertising company who would only take on clients he believed in. Sadly, he’s no longer in business any more.

Of course, comics are different than sneakers, but I recommend the Star Trek approach, especially as we draw nearer to November elections. If a writer or artist wants to talk about racism, then do that without naming names or taking aim at a specific party or politician. That way you’re likely to attract as many customers as possible. And you just might cause intelligent discussion that could wind up influencing people’s opinions.

PEOPLE DO CHANGE THEIR MINDS

Superman, comics, politics, issues, Star Trek, Gene Roddenberry, Democrat, Republican, NBC, Captain America, MarvelI was driving from Florida to Maryland on a bus when I struck up a conversation with the driver about abortion, of all things. Our discussion got pretty heated for a while there until we realized that we agreed on every point but one – notification of parents. If we left that out, we were in complete agreement. Since that time, both of us have seen shifts in our opinions on the subject, so I was glad we left our discussion as cordial as possible.

Maybe I’m just getting older, but it used to be that people who didn’t see eye to eye  on certain issues or political parties simply disagreed. Now, it’s that EVERY election is the most important in our lifetimes. Also, if we disagree, that’s often taken to mean I’m right and you’re wrong by many. I miss the days when civil discourse took place much more often. When one party won an election, the other would say, “Oh, well … there’s always next time.” Now, it’s life or death!

My brother once came across a comic that espoused a specific political point of view he disagreed with (See above, right). It was part of his subscription/pull list, so when he had paid for it, he asked, “This is mine now, right?” When he was told it was, he ceremoniously ripped it into shreds in front of the other folks there at the store and asked that the comic be removed from his list in the future. How much influence he had on others, I don’t know, but in my mind, it represents how often politics can shoo away readers.

I know it’s my own perspective, and I’m sure I’ll come across comics in the months ahead who will do unheard of things to characters who resemble politicians from one party or another, but I’m asking now that we stay away from that kind of writing. Please stick with issues, not politics. I think we can all learn from each other when we’re civil … can’t we?

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The Author

Wayne Hall

Wayne Hall

Wayne Hall creates the Wayne's Comics Podcast. He’s interviewed Scott Snyder, Greg Capullo, John Layman, Kyle Higgins, Phil Hester, Jimmy Palmiotti & Justin Gray, David Petersen, Christos Gage, Mike Grell, and Matt Kindt. Each episode also includes reviews, news and previews. On this site each week, he writes his "Comics Portal" column (general comics comments and previews) and reviews comics.

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