Anyone who claims a medium is “apolitical” is lying

Art Spiegelman, author of Maus, withdrew a foreword to a Marvel comic collection because he was asked to edit out a political reference. Don’t you know that Marvel Comics is “apolitical”? What a crock. Marvel Comics lies.

Everything is political. Abstaining from comment on the deepest political crisis of our time is a rabidly political act that takes an offensive stand on racism, corruption, and misogyny. They wanted to remove a disparaging reference to Donald Trump, because, apparently, Marvel Comics never ever took a stance against fascism.

Too political, I guess.

Meanwhile, the chair of Marvel Entertainment, Isaac Perlmutter, is a close confidant and supporter of Donald Trump.

Not at all political.

Fortunately, Spiegelman’s essay will be even more widely read now, since it’s been published in the Guardian, where you can read it for free.

Auschwitz and Hiroshima make more sense as dark comic book cataclysms than as events in our real world. In today’s all too real world, Captain America’s most nefarious villain, the Red Skull, is alive on screen and an Orange Skull haunts America. International fascism again looms large (how quickly we humans forget – study these golden age comics hard, boys and girls!) and the dislocations that have followed the global economic meltdown of 2008 helped bring us to a point where the planet itself seems likely to melt down. Armageddon seems somehow plausible and we’re all turned into helpless children scared of forces grander than we can imagine, looking for respite and answers in superheroes flying across screens in our chapel of dreams.

He has also expanded it a bit, since this closing story was irresistible.

I turned the essay in at the end of June, substantially the same as what appears here. A regretful Folio Society editor told me that Marvel Comics (evidently the co-publisher of the book) is trying to now stay “apolitical”, and is not allowing its publications to take a political stance. I was asked to alter or remove the sentence that refers to the Red Skull or the intro could not be published. I didn’t think of myself as especially political compared with some of my fellow travellers, but when asked to kill a relatively anodyne reference to an Orange Skull I realised that perhaps it had been irresponsible to be playful about the dire existential threat we now live with, and I withdrew my introduction.

A revealing story serendipitously showed up in my news feed this week. I learned that the billionaire chairman and former CEO of Marvel Entertainment, Isaac “Ike” Perlmutter, is a longtime friend of Donald Trump’s, an unofficial and influential adviser and a member of the president’s elite Mar-a-Lago club in Palm Beach, Florida. And Perlmutter and his wife have each recently donated $360,000 (the maximum allowed) to the Orange Skull’s “Trump Victory Joint Fundraising Committee” for 2020. I’ve also had to learn, yet again, that everything is political… just like Captain America socking Hitler on the jaw.

Hail Hydra, Ike.


  1. Matt G says

    “When fascism comes to America, it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying the cross.” -Sinclair Lewis

  2. hemidactylus says

    As I coopted Sharpton vis a vis Kaepernick (snark, snark Jay Z now) as a rationalization to avoid seeing the Super Bowl, I guess I now have a better reason to avoid the Marvel-verse movie onslaught (though it was mainly Iron Man’s rendition).

    Bale’s Batman reeled me into DC (conflicted on Affleck). Just recently watched Wonder Woman on TV and her literally “over the top” scene here mowed me over:

    Actually not a comic or graphic novel fan and am about as committed to DC vs Marvel as I am Star Wars vs Star Trek (“Denny Crane”). Ironically Kirk 2.0 is in the Wonder Woman scene.

  3. fledanow says

    When you wrote “Anyone who claims a medium is ‘apolitical’ is lying”, I thought you were referring to someone who claims to communicate with the dead, and I thought you were being a wee bit dogmatic…

  4. brain says

    apparently, Marvel Comics never ever took a stance against fascism.

    Yup. The German guy with funny mustaches and a swastika on the arm was a nazist, not a fascist. We were the fascists -aka wannabe nazi but without the genuine skill for it.

  5. says

    @#1, Matt G.

    That quotation has always seemed to me to be kind of redundant, since that’s how fascism appeared in both Germany and Italy, and the only reason it didn’t appear that way in Japan is because the state religion wasn’t Christianity. It’s like saying “when rain falls in America it will be wet” or “when grass grows in America it will be green”.

  6. Rob Grigjanis says

    A year or two after Captain America was “born”, there was a Cukor film Keeper of the Flame (with Tracy and Hepburn), about the exposure of a populist who was planning, with the support of the wealthy, to turn the USA into a fascist state, using racism and fear-mongering. Needless to say, Republicans (and rich folk) of the time were deeply offended, and demanded that leftist propaganda be banned.

    Not a great film, but worth a look.

  7. blf says

    Another work of fiction from the same time — albeit neither Marvel nor a comic, and arguably better but less well-known — is Bertolt Brecht’s The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui. Interestingly, the linked-to Ye Pffft! of All Knowledge article suggests it wasn’t staged until the 1950s, despite being written c.1941. (I myself saw a production by the RSC(?) in London in the early(?) 1990s.)

  8. Hoosier X says

    Spigelman needs to be more politically correct so as not to upset the thin-skinned snowflake corporatists at Marvel.
    Oh, I forgot! It’s not politically correct to call it “political correctness” when conservatives are offended!

  9. aramad says

    A person claiming “I am not political” is really saying “I am fine with things as they are.”

  10. Rob Grigjanis says

    lucifersbike @13: He didn’t get where he is today (well, was, many days ago) by not playing Arturo Ui.

    Hard to believe Rossiter’s been gone for 35 years. I’m old.

  11. says

    We lie about politics just because we lie about sex and gender. Many of us pretend that we aren’t all political creatures to varying degrees just because some of us do politics as a job and because we have political structures.

    I see people like Isaac Perlmutter talk like politics is a bad thing with politics they don’t like. At the the athiest experience show facebook group I’ve seen more than one person complain of politics like it was a universal bad, I won’t pretend that the assumption of politics being a bad thing is something to respect. We need to talk about politics more.

    I bet the things they find apolitical to be fascinating,

  12. says

    The first sentence should “we lie about politics like we lie about sex and gender”.

    The last sentence should read “I bet the things they find apolitical are fascinating.”

    Symmetrical and annoying. Does anyone know of a good forcing strategy for editing on a phone? I’m literally battling two forms of impulsive behavior.

  13. gijoel says

    Thankfully the new fascists have been as comically inept as their cartoon counterparts.

  14. unclefrogy says

    that really does put the corporate identity on marvel being so tone def as to ask Art Spiegelman to be less political. Who do they think he is anyway?
    uncle frogy

  15. microraptor says

    The Vicar @7: The point of the quote is that people have long deluded themselves that fascism would not take root in America and thus if it did arrive it would be from a hostile military invasion. Sinclair was pointing out that it would not.

  16. chrislawson says

    It staggers belief that Marvel would ask Spiegelman to write an “apolitical” foreword. It’s not just about whether art can be truly apolitical or not (short answer: it can’t), but that Spiegelman has been overtly political for his whole career.

  17. wzrd1 says

    Ignoring some sociological issues, I do want to make a statement.

    First off, punch a Nazi in the face is cool with me, frankly, the punch would go to a more vital area, causing a skull fracture.
    Yes, that part of me still remains alive, but well covered, normally.
    But, those fascists are a poison upon our society and nation and do require elimination and they’re entirely refraining from departing the field.
    Meanwhile, we have multiple hostile nations eroding our press, our social media and information sources. Some being such public speakers.
    Destroy the harm, before the harm attacks the populace.
    That all said, I am retired from things military and am chafed over civilian non-response to threats to the homeland and well, planet.

    Still, if I were confronted with Midge McConnell, well, he’d get basic bayonet drills, using my cane. If it lasted three seconds, excuse me, I am aging.

    I estimate me meeting McConnell at one of three chances, which I’m efforting avoiding, slim chance, fat chance and no chance of meeting him.
    Obviously, I prefer to avoid him as much as my wife and I wish to avoid meeting Trump, who we met in the Y2K panic period and regret that entire experience.
    Chamber of Commerce function for the tristate area, everything was him, him, him. Total boor of the party, enough that the Chamber lost around 80% attendance the following year.

    Leaving me with a great desire and nobody authorizing me to do so, might someone authorize me to tie his shoelaces together? Double knot, of course.

    A fool may come into office, said fool is incapable of behaving in a way expected. A fool that is swift enough to play the politics into stasis isn’t wise enough to avoid the shoelaces being tied together.
    Everything is short term.

  18. lanir says

    Sure, the company that recently had the iconic Captain America actually being a fascist is suddenly apolitical.