I was at a Fourth of July fireworks display this year at a minor league baseball stadium in Sacramento (God, I know), and saw a generic looking man between the ages of 16 and 75, who for some reason had frosted tips and a t-shirt that said VETERANS BEFORE REFUGEES printed on an American flag.
I thought to myself, Well, hell yeah veterans, but then also refugees at some point. I agreed with his shirt on a core level but had no idea why this was a statement someone had seen fit to screen print. I mean, who could possible be pushing the refugees over veterans agenda and why do they have to be mutually exclusive? Answers: no one is and they don’t. It’s a false equivocation, and, really, if you want to help veterans in the most sweeping sense, you’d do so by ensuring they never exist because nobody ever has to go to war...ever, and you’d do that by helping refugees, both by taking them in and by diplomatically facilitating solutions to crises.
Or, you can just put on that shirt and walk around with your insanely broad age range self, supremely confident that you’re right because being right is what’s always important and there’s no way to fuck with VETERANS BEFORE REFUGEES because it’s unfuckably right, no matter what...always.
This is all a way to segue, of course, into a brief discussion about the Marvel Universe, specifically about how fandom is so eager to pit it against DC. Now, there’s a few likely reactions to that:
A. Wait, people waste time on that argument?
B. How dare you put Marvel first, are you one of those people on that side?
C. I hope this article isn’t long, but, then again, if I’m in such a big hurry, why did I even start reading?
Anyway, my point is arguing Marvel versus DC is not only pointless, it’s also uninspired and automatic and mundane and a waste of time. Allow me to submit two items as truth now before we go further:
- We as humans are conditioned to always want two sides, two camps, right and wrong, cold and hot, God and the devil, the Romans and the barbarians at the gate, us and them, Cubs and White Sox, on and on from ‘93 until infinity.
- Other, savvier humans know this first truth, don’t give a shit what is even being argued about, and are working hard to turn it into money money money.
Now, I don’t believe anyone at Marvel or DC falls in that second camp. There’s just not much money in comics. A world-breaking issue sells 250,000 copies for $4 a pop like twice a year. It’s a fading industry with a mostly old fan base, partially kept alive by movie rights, which is also a fleeting income source when you extrapolate it over a long enough timeline. No, I think Marvel versus DC is a perfect example of all we have to lose by only seeing things two ways, the ways we can diminish mediums and institutions by wanting to fight all the time.
My point is our world and the art created in it should instead have infinite perspectives, and by locking onto my side versus yours dichotomies, we give ourselves myopic vision to our own detriment. It’s a simple point, and I’m sure you’ve heard it before. So, why then, is basically every single argument framed this way?
Maybe it’s evolutionary, maybe nobody would have banded together to pool primitive resources if they weren’t motivated to do so out of hatred for other guys different huts, yurts or caves. It’s definitely the simplest and easiest thing to do, our first reaction, one that does not implicate self examination, which everyone hates because it’s hard. This is all well and good, a source of interesting discussion...until now it’s poisoning the world and for some reason Donald Trump is president. Yikes.
Comics have always been a forward-thinking industry, concerned with future timelines as well as being a progressive force in society. There are some fans working hard to forget this, to take ownership of comics and pull it onto their side of the good old days, which is just a means of saying days when one could easily avoid newness. Comics are also a window into a world where there are more answers.
The industry is still (for now) defined by the big two, which capture right around 60 percent of the market share week in and week out, every damn Wednesday. The thing is they only capture 60 percent, down from somewhere up around 95 or so in the '90s (when, admittedly, comics were far more financially viable). Just imagine for a second any election anywhere where the voting broke down like comics: 31 percent for Dems, 30 percent for Republicans, 12 percent for Image, 8 percent for Dark Horse, 6 percent for the super under-rated Boom candidate, 5 percent each for Valiant, Lion Forge and Vault Comics. It’d be historic.
There’s never been a breadth of stories as wide as we have now each week in the comic book industry thanks to the (super minor) ongoing successes of so many great indie publishers, just like there’s never been so many different experiences, perspectives, feelings, cultures, etc. in the United States. But we’re still breaking it down into outmoded big two debates, VETERANS BEFORE REFUGEES at Fourth of July fireworks shows at minor league baseball stadiums in Sacramento (the grand finale was surprisingly well-done, btw). The ideological forces at work here have been at odds since the industrial revolution or so, as unlikely to change as Image is to top Marvel or DC.