Comics Are Trying to Break Your Heart #21 by Drew Barth
Make Mine Not
Let’s talk about Marvel. If you’ve been following this article over the past few months, you’ll likely have noticed a few things: a focus on monthly comics, an undying love for the works of Kieron Gillen and Warren Ellis, Saga, a weird relationship with shonen, and a distinct lack of Marvel comics. I’ve mentioned Marvel briefly here and there, but not to any major extent. I’ve talked about DC, Image, Dark Horse, Uncivilized Books, Oni Press, and a host of others at great length, but Marvel has always stayed out of my articles. Why? Well, for the most part, I’ve been boycotting Marvel for a couple years now. Why boycott a whole publisher? Simple: Ike Perlmutter.
If you’re not familiar with the name, that’s okay, I wasn’t either until a few years ago. But he is the current Chairperson of Marvel Entertainment, which handles Marvel comics, animation, and television production. Perlmutter is also known for his outspoken support of the current president and Marco Rubio as well as his role as one of the shadow rulers of the Department of Veterans Affairs. Despite being in charge during a time of massive growth for Marvel comics, Perlmutter has more or less become the reason I refuse to buy anything from Marvel.
To have someone like Perlmutter as the Chairperson is insulting to Marvel’s legacy. At times I think we forget just how radical Marvel was in the past and to see it being run by someone who is fine with endorsing policies that are homophobic, xenophobic, anti-Semitic, racist, misogynistic, and downright vile is horrendous. To see Marvel, a publisher literally built by Jewish creators who made sure to put Captain America punching Hitler in the face in his debut comic and nearly in real life when Jack Kirby himself rolled up his sleeves to deck a Nazi who had come to the Marvel office threatening him with bodily harm; a publisher that looked at how issues like racism and genocide played out in America with the X-Men; and a publisher that featured its most prominent black hero in Black Panther fighting klansmen across an entire story arc. These are the stories and heroes that built the Marvel legacy and that made people love them as a publisher.
I do know that the people creating the comics very rarely, if ever, have a say in who is running the publishing machine, but it has to be disheartening. Some of the best creators are putting out brilliant work through Marvel right now—people like Chip Zdarsky, Kelly Thompson, Greg Pak, Saladin Ahmed, etc.—that is incredibly inclusive and diverse. But with someone like Perlmutter as the chair, we can only wonder how long those stories will stay around.
The last series I read from Marvel was America, by Gabby Rivera and Joe Quinones, which wrapped up over a year ago. It was in the middle of the series when I discovered who Ike Perlmutter was, but I needed to at least finish this series as a way to cap my time with Marvel. For the most part, America is nearly everything you would want from a great superhero story: solid characters, interesting plot, detailed setting, and a tone that, while light at times, wasn’t afraid to tackle heavy issues. Rivera and Quinones created a series so good I had to keep my ethics aside just so I could finish it. But after the finale, I was out.
I was done.
And I haven’t broken my boycott since.
Honestly, I want to break the boycott. Every single time I read about a new Marvel series that seems fun, I want to check out the first issue and see how it is. But I can’t. I won’t. And this intersection of wanting great stories and holding to this boycott is where all of these weird internal issues lie. I want to support these creators and the work they’re doing. But on the other hand, I don’t want that support to be interpreted by the Marvel board as a generalized, broad support of the company as a whole.
Even if I selectively buy just those series that celebrate what I want to see in comics, that money still goes toward paying people like Perlmutter or the editors that decided to make Captain America a Hydra agent (even if it was just an evil version of himself, it’s still in poor taste) and I don’t want to do that. Comics are, and always will be, inherently political. As a piece of popular culture, they can’t ever exist in a cultural vacuum. The creators even less so. And as someone who wants to support stories in the comic medium, I have to say “no” when I know that my support is also supporting something I hate.
And goddamn, this boycotting is difficult.
Get excited. Comics will break your heart.
Drew Barth (Episode 331) is a writer residing in Winter Park, FL. He received his MFA from the University of Central Florida. Right now, he’s worrying about his cat.