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Just to be clear…

There’s an awful lot of un-American shitting on each other’s parades lately.

Hypermasculine man-boys on the energized right are affronted by women and the heretofore sexually marginalized, not to mention people of a broad spectrum of color, who want a piece of the comic book action. As if, just as an example, the homoerotic nature of superhero drawing is some sort of well-kept secret.

Just imagine for a moment what a Tom of Finland Superman cover would look like, right?

The gender fluid/friendly/curious/etc. gatekeepers of the regressive left seek out outrage, deeming anything that doesn’t treat its sacred cows with anything but reverence, as unacceptable to the modern “woke” audience. As if the nature of popular fiction wasn’t intrinsically bound to confound, surprise — and occasionally dismay. The depiction of an act is no more the act than Rene Magritte’s painting is a pipe.

Both sides operate from a perspective which boils down to, in sum, “The way I feel is the right way to feel, because it’s the way I feel.” This kind of entitlement is unacceptable from a child…and utterly insufferable in an adult. I have no right to tell you you have no right to publish work I find offensive/insulting/awful/inane. So, who are you to tell me, or anyone else, what they can publish?

And of course, that goes for both sides of the aisle in this benighted and divided era.

The right is in no position to deny the left their piece of the comics action, in the name of some misguided terror of loss of agency.

The left has no right to deny the right to publish their side of the story with tactics that better served Stalin and his censors.
Diversity goes both ways — and it’s about fucking time we had more comics with actual diverse — and, yes, opposing — points of view.

Well written, well drawn comics with a left wing, progressive bent.

Well written, well drawn comics with a right wing, conservative perspective.

Let’s face it — at their core, superhero comic books are and always have been about liberal ends achieved by fascist means.

What could be more diverse than that, right?

Furthermore, both sides of this divide completely buy into the hero/villain, good guy/bad guy dynamic sensibility of mainstream comics — which, when you think of it, is comical in its potential and possibilities — assuming the talent on these actually diverse comics are up to the challenge.

So, it’s time to scuttle all this bullshit name calling — this “libtard” and “nazi” stuff — and grow the fuck up.

And finally, just to be clear, or maybe to gild the lily, it would be worth noting that “CONTROVERSIAL” is not an absolute, nor is it an identifiable, inviolable, quantifiable idea. It is entirely subjective, based on the perceptions and perspectives of the person, persons or culture reacting to whatever is thus depicted, delineated or described.

This is, needless to say, further dependent on so many cultural factors and markers as to make such a description ultimately meaningless in any general sense…applicable only by one identitarian in describing another’s cultural bent which transgresses from its own.

The same applies to “PROBLEMATIC.”

Trust me.

“MANIPULATIVE” and “EXPLOITATIVE” are also not inviolable absolutes, and should never be regarded as necessarily pejorative descriptions. If this were the case, we wouldn’t have the work of John Waters, or Judy Chicago, or Leni Riefenstahl or Russ Meyer, to name only a few.

And of course, there are those among you who are or might be offended to one degree or another by these four, and others of their ilk, who operate outside of the boxes proscribed by culture, and presume by your offended sensibilities that you have the right to shut them down and shut them out, eliminating them from the public eye and thus protecting others of your cohort who might be equally offended.

No. Sorry, but no. That’s not how this democracy works.

Next time someone says something, does something, writes something, draws something…something you just fucking hate…you’re more than welcome to tell the world all about it.

This is, of course thanks, in no small part, to the freedom of speech which so many of you apparently feel needs to be applied selectively — in order to avoid hurting your feelings or the feelings of those you like and agree with — and fuck everybody else.

But expressing that opinion is all you’re entitled to do. With apologies to the authoritarian gatekeepers on both sides, this is still the United States of America — despite the depredations of the current administration. None of us are entitled to tell anyone else what can or cannot be published, or can or cannot read — certainly not in our tiny and insular world of comics.

We live in a plural society…in which diversity serves every aspect of the American experience — and that includes people, ideas and institutions you loathe. You don’t like it, talk shit about it all you like. Certainly don’t buy it.

But you’re way the fuck out of line when you start presuming you’ve got a higher moral ground from which to fuck with anyone else’s right to publish — not to mention the obvious fact that you’re putting your own right to publish whatever you damned well please in peril.

Never forget that what you’ve got to say is no more than your opinion of that thing that just pissed you off.

And no matter how much you believe otherwise, feelings aren’t facts.

Comics enthusiasts have a longstanding tendency to conflate “favorite” with “best.” And to make that point even more emphatically, just remember that loving something doesn’t make it good, and just hating something doesn’t make it bad…

…Or controversial, or problematic, or manipulative, or exploitative, either.

As ever, I remain,

Howard Victor Chaykin — a prince.


Howard Chaykin’s latest book, HEY KIDS! COMICS! #2
arrives today in stores and via digital.

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