The presence of politics is not new to comic books. The X-Men have always been an allegory for discrimination and the Holocaust, Wonder Woman has been an icon of female empowerment for decades, and Captain America and Superman have been at the forefront of promoting American values, unity, and goodwill since World War II.
When you think of American politics and the culture war, the comic industry likely isn’t the first arena that comes to mind. Popular among imaginative youth (and reclusive adults), it has become more than a billion-dollar industry in North America alone and an inseparable part of our pop culture. Every Halloween you’ll see children running about dressed as Superman or Iron Man, and every time you walk into a movie theater you’ll see the names of inspired movies plastered across the walls. However, this long-standing industry has become dominated by progressive dogma, with the political agendas of the authors going from establishing relatable, moving themes to serve as a substitute for actual talent and storytelling.
When Stan Lee and Jack Kirby introduced Black Panther in 1966, it didn’t exist strictly as a symbol against racism and colonization but was beloved for the character’s rich background and unique traits. The themes maintained a level of nuance, and always permitted the character and story to stand on their own. Black Panther stood out, not because of the agendas of its writers, but because of the unbreakable stoicism and problem-solving of the titular character, along with the dynamic world-building of the fictional nation of Wakanda. This is why the Black Panther became the household name it is today. Now, characters and stories are becoming increasingly defined by contemporary progressive agendas and the personal whims of new authors.
Progressive messaging has been imposed by activist writers and executives to such a degree that the fictional worlds which once captivated generations of America’s youth are deteriorating into bullhorns for political organizers. Marvel Comics, the inspiration for the $22.5 billion Marvel Cinematic Universe, is perhaps most guilty of this. Recently, Marvel decided to remake the villain the Red Skull, a Nazi, into a near-verbatim replica of Jordan B. Peterson, complete with clear references to Peterson’s beliefs, including a book titled 10 Rules for Life, parodying Peterson’s 12 Rules for Life. Meanwhile, Captain America is rendered a mouthpiece for writer Ta-Nehisi Coates’ critiques of Peterson’s philosophy. Other examples include Marvel’s decision to sidetrack the plot of “The Immortal Hulk,” then among the most popular new series in the comics world, to explore the Jade Giant as a grassroots organizer smashing capitalism.
Along with the politically motivated bastardization of longstanding and beloved characters, these comic giants have attempted to make all-new characters while aiming to influence younger audiences. Perhaps Marvel’s most shamelessly transparent attempt at this is 2020’s “New New Warriors,” a Gen-Z fantasy headlined by riveting characters such as “Snowflake” and “Safespace.”
Despite the abysmal receptions and financial failures of these projects from Marvel and others—be it the progressive salad that is the “New New Warriors,” the anti-gun series “Ignited,” the attempted rebooting of G.I. Joe as an LGBTQ+ fantasy, the race and gender-bent “zoomer” spinoff of the X-Men in “Children of the Atom,” or any one of countless other examples—these pet projects have been churned out like butter with growing frequency. Like Hydra, if you cut off one head, two more grow in its place.
So, what are the consequences of this? Most obviously, the degradation of the industry. With uninspired characters and transparently dogmatic dialogue and themes, recent authors intent on imposing their progressive ideologies have done away with nearly every creative element that has captivated readers for generations.
Beyond the loss of writing quality comes the alienation of any remotely conservative readers, along with those who are apolitical—not an inconsequential portion of their consumer base. Rabid progressivism becoming the status quo within American cultural institutions is hardly an unheard-of phenomenon; it has already happened in Hollywood. With the digitization of our era and growing competition from separate genres, leaning on woke writers to placate political mobs that don’t even consume their content may prove financially untenable for even the biggest comic giants. However, on the superhero industry’s way out the door, it will take advantage of the impressionable minds of its several million readers, shaping and molding the next generation as it sees fit.
The views expressed in this article are the opinion of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Lone Conservative staff.