Comics & the Alt-Right: A Response to "Kill All Normies" Pt. 2

Part 2: Batman Is Not Realistic

Moore shared his status as a central figure in the 1980's maturation of mainstream comics another controversial figure. If we're calling the film version of V for Vendetta a founding document for the conservative free speech "movement," it is fair to call the film adaptation of Frank Miller’s 300 the guiding point for almost every other point of their politics. It's reactionary to its bones, and not only features but glorifies the cultural organization that is often described by alt-right leaders as the perfect end-state of society.

Moore and Miller are often considered the two major components of “legitimizing” comics for the mainstream in the 80’s. By working in superhero comics rather than the “alt comics” idiom of the 1970’s, they enjoyed greater creative and commercial success than many of the creators who worked to set a precedent for more mature stories in comics. While they’re inexorably related in the history of comics, Moore had open contempt for Miller's work. He often took it upon himself to point out how reactionary and misogynistic it was. This aspect of Miller's politics only became more accelerated as time went on, and while 300 is the popular culmination of his Islamophobia, he has always been one to outdo himself and published Holy Terror, wherein a Batman-like character mass murders "Islamic terrorists." This was originally intended to be an actual Batman book until DC cancelled it for being extremely fucking racist.

This is the only panel I could find where you could actually tell what the fuck was happening.

This is the only panel I could find where you could actually tell what the fuck was happening.

He is also responsible for Sin City, the film adaptation of which is partly responsible for studios' look at less broadly known comics properties to adapt, hence V for Vendetta.

Miller himself was considered a genius of satire and parody until he got old and started speaking publicly about his Objectivist sympathies and extreme racism, at which point his audience began to realize that what had been read as satire was, in fact, sincere. By this point, he had already been inducted into the canon of major figures. If you had a passing interest in comics and "liked Batman" (I've literally heard someone say "well I like Batman" more times that any human should hear any combination of words) you would first be handed either Miller's Batman: Year One or Dark Knight Returns. Both of these books were considered satire until Miller showed his hand in regard to his politics. Turns out they are not. He was a sort-of pre-generator of the alt-right, already convinced of many of its characterizing issues before it even really existed. It should not be surprising that this keyboard fascism has deep roots in the nerdy pursuits of comics and video games, and this is reinforced by figures like Miller, horrifically relevant to what were considered the more respectable and palatable movements in the medium. His work is often described as "realistic," taking the fantastical and grounding it in some kind of recognizable permutation of the reality in which we live. Nevermind the idiocy of desiring realism in superhero comics, it's a mal-appropriation to describe anything about Miller's cynical racism as "realistic."

It's notable here that the adapter of 300 was none other than Zack Snyder, whose filmography is a list of failed comic book adaptations. Ironically, 300 is probably his most sufferable adaptation because it's at least consistent with the source material; his adaptation of Watchmen is humiliatingly stupid, broad, and one-dimensional, only moreso when compared with the tometic source material; and his recent misappropriations of Superman and Batman are turgid, dower, cynical, and most of all boring. His personal politics are like an Ayn Rand discussion group at a crossfit gym, resulting in an interpretation of classically altruistic morality as being incompatible with his self-anointed "realistic" sensibilities. His is the most absurd finality of the "realism" which is often ascribed to Miller's iterations of Daredevil and Batman: an offensively fictional moral world which mistakes blandness for seriousness.

Superman's pal Jimmy Olsen moments before he's shot in the face by terrorists.

Superman's pal Jimmy Olsen moments before he's shot in the face by terrorists.

This has all informed a rather hostile environment for women in the comics industry. "Gamergate" has gotten press, but multiple women including author Chelsea Cain have quit comics entirely over the harassment they've received, often egged on by other comics professionals. Green Lantern artist and walking canker sore Ethan Van Sciver is a vocal Trump supporter who spends an inordinate amount of time directing his fan base to troll, harass, dox, DDoS, and otherwise terrorize his “political enemies,” often for the apparently unforgivable crime of “looking gay.” For awhile in 2015 and 2016, women were barred from entering the Superman office at DC because editor Eddie Berganza repeatedly sexually harassed women. He was eventually demoted, but still works at DC. Ethan Van Sciver has become a fucking monster of online harassment, including running a podcast singularly devoted to keeping his fan base appraised of who to ruthlessly abuse online. Marvel Comics editor Heather Antos recently posted a picture of her and four of her female colleagues getting milkshakes, which has been met with literally endless verbal assault online. This targeting is only worse for women of color.

I believe the question that remains pertains as to what impulse creates this need for keyboard Nazis to appoint themselves as the cultural custodians of gender and race. At first, it is merely the unearned confidence of cis male privilege. But the more insidious and motivating reason is as simple as it is disgusting: they are the janitors of rape culture.