Politics in Comic Books

Okay, this is going to be part essay, part rant. Feel free to disagree, and tell me I’m wrong; this is just my opinion.

I’ve heard a lot of people tell me they don’t like it when modern comic writers/artists/creators put political undertones into their works. I completely disagree. A comic (or any other work of art, for that matter) can never transcend pure entertainment without a statement, and particularly with comics released on a month-to-month basis, politics are an extremely fertile ground.

Green Lantern/Green Arrow was really the first time where it was overt; where the heroes tackled the issues themselves, as opposed to some analogy made into a tangible villain. But the ‘50s and the ‘60s has comics FULL of politics, trying vainly to hide themselves behind a veil of metaphor. Do you think Steve Ditko would have created the Question if not for him to serve as a megaphone for his Randian philosophies? Do you think Joe Simon wrote Prez for any other reason than to expose readers of the time to his views on then-current topics of debate? Heck, to veer into manga for a second, Astro Boy (or Mighty Atom, if you prefer) was all about politics. Robots were stand-ins for minorities (much like Marvel’s contemporary heroes, the X-Men) struggling for rights in a world that had designated them to be used merely as cogs in a grander machine. I agree that there are times when integrating politics into a fictional narrative can be ruinous, if it is done too overtly, or, by contrast, not overtly enough, but in a scenario like that it isn’t the existence of politics that is the problem, but the way they’re being handled.

There has never been a time where comics weren’t political. This isn’t new. It’s not “forced diversity”, or “liberal agenda pushing”, it’s simply creators expressing their views on society through the work they create, like they always have. If you don’t agree with the philosophy, don’t read the book. Find a different series. Find a different author. Or artist. Or creator. I guarantee there’s one out there. In the meantime, I’ll be reading Mark Russell’s new Riddler one-shot.


Thank you! If you hadn’t have said it, I most certainly would have (and I wouldn’t have been as polite about it, either).
And superheroes have been political beings since the creation of Superman in the Golden Age, when the character was less “I have to stop Brainiac!” and more “and now to trap that business owner in a mineshaft until he agrees to pay his workers a fair wage and provide safer labor practices!” Shuster and Siegel’s Superman or Cap punching Hitler was just as politically charged as anything you’ll find in comics today.


It goes way further back than Green Lantern/Green Arrow. Further back still than Captain America. Check out all of the first year of Superman stories in Action Comics. Corrupt politicians, exploitation of the working class, for-profit warmongering, gun violence, and even unsafe driving are all tackled head on by Superman. From the very birth of the genre, comics have been political.


And there’s really no such thing as “apolitical,” anyway. Choosing not to say something says something.


Yeah, the Golden Age Superman is my favorite take on the character because he was fighting a never-ending battle for truth and social justice. (Meanwhile, that good-for-nothing Batman was just sitting around smoking with Commissioner Gordon, stopping the Joker from extorting his fellow millionaires, crushing ethnic minorities under giant statues of their religious icons, or abducting a small child and convincing the boy to help him exterminate criminals.)


Have comics always been political???


But, modern writers are using comics to express their own political views and not the characters. They aren’t exploring how the character would think and feel about a situation, rather they are changing the character to fit the writers views.

Also, I just think writing about politics is lazy writing in general.


I think there are two grounds for legitimate criticism about the way politics have been integrated into comic books.

First, there’s the escapism argument. Sure, some comic books can be written as excellent social and political commentary like Watchmen, but let’s be honest, most comics are escapist power fantasies not high art. I absolutely love the medium, but let’s not pretend the goal of most comics is to be profoundly deep. As escapist fantasy, it ruins the escapist element for at least half the audience when you use the medium as a political tract. American society has become so divided that pop music, sports brands, and fast food are all seen as political statements. Wouldn’t it be nice if we had some common ground, like a heroic ideal to protect innocent lives, to unite us or would the world be better if this was also a place where we have to take sides against our fellow Americans?

Second, the political perspectives found in comics are overwhelmingly leftist. If we had a wide variety of political viewpoints being expressed through different characters and writers, then that would make for an interesting and balanced take to the medium, but what we have is a near universal expression of leftist politics demonizing the other side. You might enjoy this, but as a small government guy, I can testify that it gets old pretty quickly having my political perspective constantly trashed in every entertainment medium. Imagine if your favorite character started talking about the corruption of the Clintons or the economic insanity of Bernie Sanders. Imagine if a group of thugs started yelling about income inequality and then started to beat up the hero’s best friend. Imagine if Darkside took over the Earth and declared socialism would be the order of the day, and in celebration of Darkside’s new order, Democrats started putting, “I’m with him,” bumper stickers on their cars. This is the kind of crap that conservatives see frequently when they are demonized by their own superheroes, and it gets real old real quick.


I agree that comics have always had a political element to them. However, I would say that some writers have blundered in their attempts at it a few times.

For example, in Fables, during one of the big arcs where the denizens of Fabletown finally face off against the Adversary, Bigby Wolf takes at least two pages to start talking about Isreal. Like…WHY?! Even if it was accurate (which it isn’t), it doesn’t have anything to do with the story here on any allegorical level.

On the other side, there was an issue of G. Willow Wilson’s Ms. Marvel which was all about the '16 election. The book always had a twinge of “Kamala inspires her generation to do good” in it, but this was kind of the banal and overwrought “get up and vote” messages that even the Stand Up and Vote people would find too cheesy. The worst part of it, though, was that it was released in January 2017, two months after the election. I suppose Civil War 2 messed up her plans on that one, but at that point it just felt completely pointless.


On the other hand, I think of the current writers out there, the guy who does the political elements best is Tom King. Part of what made his Omega Men so unique and special was that it was basically a sci-fi allegory of all the iterations of the Iraq War. Oddly enough, City of Bane also has some interesting allegories there about police violence in the United States.


Comics are historically political.

As for “left leaning”, that really comes down to who works at it to become proficient enough to do the job. Conservatives on the whole are not well known as an artistic group, as they are more interested in jobs that pat better money and/or more secure than being a writer or artist. Perhaps if those with a “right leaning” POV are willfully nag to sacrifice fiscal security for artistic creation, this wouldn’t be such an issue.


I think the proper terms are comics to some degree have been political. Not Every single comic in the history of mankind.

That said, that Green Arrow and Green Lantern comic is a shining example of presenting different sides of the playing field. Let’s see DC release something like that in 2019.

If anything, we need more political diversity. I don’t have to agree with a message but I can at least try to understand it and the why’s behind it.

I may not be a leftist and the Green Arrow is by far that but I can still enjoy the hell out of his comic.

Same way that I’m not religious at all but I enjoy Daredevil a whole lot despite Matt being Catholic on and off.


I agree with BatWatch. Some subjects are not as cut-and-dry, “only one right answer” as some people think. I won’t say what it is, but there’s at least one subject, popularized as being viewed a certain, positive way, that those proporting haven’t always seemed informed about, in my experience. If they support something because of misunderstandings/misinformation, then what value is their perspective? Why should we listen to them, and why should they have any sway on the matter, especially if facts determine that they’re wrong? There may be some perspectives we can avoid at all cost, and nothing is lost as a result (Nazis, White Supremacists, blatant racism in general), but there are other valid points that get left out when you only let a single side speak.

Some writers can do well with some characters or stories, and poorly with others. Likewise not all writers, no matter how popular or well-intentioned, are capable of delivering a story with that is as profound or influential as the want/think it is. But boy, do they still try. The problem, in certain cases, may stem from them not so much trying to have a conversation about this subject or that, but telling the reader what their perspective is, as if it were fact–even if it’s not. This is assuming they’re not being petty and trying to agitate anyone that disagrees with them. It doesn’t help that some authors, as Dan Slott parlayed on Twitter some weeks ago, that “writers know what the reader needs”, which may further feed an “I know best” mentality, then you have their politicizing placed above more important things like story, characterization, and consistency. Supergirl’s had this problem since season 2, and while I’ve taken his reviews with a grain of salt, JustSomeGuy noted a lot of this with stories he’s looked at.


I don’t think writers should be expected to present topics of interest in a passive way in order to promote conversation. People perceive injustice and naturally are compelled to speak out about it. And I don’t think it should come as any surprise that so many writers lean left; right-leaning people just don’t go into the arts as much as leftists do, and many even scorn the arts as a matter of principle. It’s just another of the many differences between liberals and conservatives.


I can argue that some of it may be forced diversity. Like when Marvel replaced all the Avengers with hand-me-downs. Fans of Marvel were asking for more diversity and the best they could do is take the easy way out and replace all the characters they know and love and expect them to automatically embrace it. Then the writers getting upset when there’s any negative criticism was insane. Yes some fans pushed too far but why can’t any writers take any constructive criticism of any kind?

Shit, at least Scott Snyder and Tom King at DC handle criticism(positive and negative) well. Best of all, they at least hear their fans out.

I wrote to TK about my feelings on Heroes In Crisis and he wrote back with his thoughts on my criticism. He responded very professionally and the convo ended. Better that than the ongoing “you need to agree with me” babbling that people love to use nowadays.

Back to topic on diversity:

Despite how any of us feel about the New Age of Heroes from DC last year, at least they gave creating new characters a shot. Silencer was cool and hopefully she will have longevity in the DCU.

Also DC has had a much better handling on legacy characters passing the mantle down to the younger generation and it doesn’t feel forced at all and it feels earned.

I’m worried the next Batman won’t feel that way but hey I am open to being proven wrong


Excellent thread here. Agree with OP myself. Stories can be challenging amd emgaging for political reasons, right or left leaning. Will add that the only book I stopped reading for political reasons was Cerebus, but feel as though it got particularly toxic and misogynist. Otherwise, usually doesn’t bother me at all. Artists and writers should express themselves, express life. Politics is part of life. To remove politics completely would sanitize stories to the point where there’s few stories left to tell.


Some stories don’t have politics and it works
and others do and it works. It can work both ways. Our world is all the better for it.


I don’t mind politics or putting a spotlight on an issue in comics if it is done with some nuance and is not hamfisted. That is what Marvel’s problem has been the last 8 years. That Nick Spencer Cap run was basically unreadable by how much preaching of his personal politics that the writer did in the run.

I’m also completely over replacing existing characters. It’s happened so often in the last 10-15 years that I just don’t see the point. If this Batman rumor happens and isn’t in some alternate universe or future story, we all know Bruce will be back in about 12 issues if not less. They just did this with Gordon. It just seems like lazy writing to me at this point. I even got bored with the “Rick” Grayson story, it just seems like change for changes sake regardless of quality or thought put into it.

I’m sure some people will enjoy it, but I’ve seen so much of it from Marvel and DC recently that I’ll just wait until Batman is back and then pick the book back up.

I’m sure that is an unpopular opinion, but I’m just trying to keep it 100% real here.


I think good stories are the ones that have something to say and make the readers think, no matter the message. I think when people yell “We don’t want politics in our comic books” it’s really people who have a issue with the messages being pushed.


All art is political by nature – whether consciously or unconsciously, overtly or not overtly.

What people often forget is that so-called apolitical writing (and what many comics readers call “good, old-fashioned escapism”) embodies its own set of politics. In superhero comics, specifically, that politics is one that chooses not to question the legality or ethics of characters who dispense violent, extralegal justice on people they perceive to be criminals.

Is that political philosophy more or less disturbing than that of comics that earnestly (if sometimes clumsily) strive to show that women and nonwhite people are as mentally and physically capable as white men? Some people seem to think so, which reveals more about them than it does about the kinds of storytelling they often want to suppress.


@maximilian or maybe they are tired of the message being beaten to death.

Hey i find orange man stupid too but saying that again and again is so played out.

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