Clash of the Comic Greats

It’s the clash of the comic greats of the 1980s: Alan Moore takes on Frank Miller over Frank Miller’s dismissal of the Occupy movement as “louts, rapists and thieves”.

I don’t want to dignify Miller’s rant with a link, but here’s a summary from the Guardian complete with some bonus islamophobia from Miller. Though after 300, are we honestly surprised?

Meanwhile, in the Guardian literary novelist Rick Moody views Frank Miller’s work and political views in the larger context of the conservative values prevailing in Hollywood which in his view basically produces nothing but rightwing propaganda films.

I wanted to like Moody’s essay, I really did. But there is so much wrong with it beginning with the assertion that comic books are “so politically dim-witted, so pie-in-the-sky idealistic as to be hard to take seriously” and “made expressly to engage the attentions of pre- and just post-pubescent boys”. What is more, Rick Moody apparently isn’t aware that Frank Miller got his start working on just such comic books. Yes, Moody mentions the quasi-respectable 300 and Sin City, but Frank Miller did Batman, Daredevil and Wolverine for goodness’ sake.

As for Rick Moody needing until Under Siege to realize that many action films have some extremely problematic politics and that some of them are rightwing propaganda – what rock (or which arthouse cinema) has he been hiding under? Because I realized the exact same truth as a teen in the 1980s, when all villains were Russians (unless they were Nazis) and every second action film was winning the Vietnam war for the US. Besides, Under Siege isn’t even all that bad (and I love Under Siege 2 for its over-the-top bizarreness). For real horror, try Red Dawn, Rocky IV, Rambo II and III and the Missing in Action, Delta Force and American Fighter series. Though for the record, I love Missing in Action III, even though it’s politics are appalling.

Besides, Moody calling Hollywood “cryptofascist” reminds me of those German pop culture critics of the 1970s. These critics were all very leftwing and had the tendency to call each and everything “fascistoid” at the drop of a hat. Sometimes, the only thing “fascistoid” about their target du jour was that the protagonist had blond hair and blue eyes. Bonus points if the protagonist actually isn’t blond at all, the critic just mistakenly assumes that he is. Those 1970s critics have alternately amused me and were the bane of my existence, because those people were completely clueless and yet often the only critics to study certain pop cultural phenomena at all. So if you wanted to work on German pop culture, you couldn’t get around those guys.

But back to comics: I have never been a huge Frank Miller fan, though I read some of the Daredevil comics that made his name and the Wolverine in Japan miniseries he did years ago. I’m cursorily familiar with his latter work, but I’ve never actually read most of it. In fact, I hadn’t even heard of Holy Terror, Miller’s latest “not-quite Batman fights Al Quaeda” epic, but then I’ve been out of the comic world for five years now.

Almost exactly five years, come to think of it, I bought my last American style comic ever shortly before Christmas 2006. It was the first installment of a Pete Wisdom miniseries written by Paul Cornell. I’d been looking forward to the series, because I had always liked the Pete Wisdom character, but the first part pissed me off, because the plot was largely identical to that of a Torchwood episode that had aired barely a month before. In retrospect the story idea wasn’t all that original and Torchwood certainly didn’t invent it. Still, I said to myself, “Screw all that, I’m through with comics” and never went back. I also bought a Deathblow comic that day. I don’t think I ever read it.

The actual interview with Alan Moore on which the Guardian article draws is here, by the way.

I particularly love this quote from Alan Moore:

It’s a completely justified howl of moral outrage and it seems to be handled in a very intelligent, non-violent way, which is probably another reason why Frank Miller would be less than pleased with it. I’m sure if it had been a bunch of young, sociopathic vigilantes with Batman make-up on their faces, he’d be more in favour of it.

That’s the rub of it, isn’t it? That the protesters are wearing V for Vendetta masks rather than Batman/Dark Knight or Sin City Marv masks?

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4 Responses to Clash of the Comic Greats

  1. Estara says:

    Cora, with LJ’s DDoS attack woes the feeds seem to have troubles, I can’t get you or the Booksmugglers, but I thought you might be interested in winning a Meljean Brook steampunk book – if you haven’t bought it already in English.

    • Cora says:

      I thought that the LJ issues would improve with the Russian elections behind us, but apparently not.

      And thanks for the heads up regarding the Meljean Brook books. I do have The Iron Duke in English (and Heart of Steel is on my Christmas list), but I just entered to win one for my Mom (after first asking her whether she was interested, of course).

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