Marvel Comics continues to drum up controversy.
The Hollywood Reporter revealed today that early preview copies sent to retailers of the 80th-anniversary collection, Marvel Comics #1000, included an essay by Mark Waid that accompanied an image of Captain America by John Cassaday and Laura Martin.
However, in the issue set to hit stands tomorrow, the essay â€” seen by comics retailers in issues sent out as previews â€” was replaced with what THR describes as a â€œless critical piece, also credited to Waid, that is more directly tied to Captain America, and notably less critical of the United States.â€
The original Waid essay sounded highly critical of the American political system, saying â€œthis isnâ€™t the land of opportunity for everyoneâ€ and calling for people to take action and â€œforce those in power to listen.â€ Gizmodo has also seen evidence of the alterations to Marvel Comics #1000.
Marvel Comics Editor in Chief C.B. Cebulski did not respond to Gizmodo’s request for comment, but someone close to Marvel told us the reason Waidâ€™s essay was changed was that the anniversary collection was designed to be a celebration of the publisherâ€™s history.
They added that the team thought Waidâ€™s original essay felt out of place â€” while mentioning that the first draft of the collection wasnâ€™t for publication â€” and that each essay is meant to be from a Marvel characterâ€™s point of view. They didnâ€™t comment on whether the essayâ€™s political message factored into the decision.
We also reached out to Waid for comment. He has yet to reply, but in a statement to Newsarama he called the framing of the changes a misrepresentation of events: â€œThe only comment Iâ€™ll offer is that the abridged version thatâ€™s being circulated by news outlets severely mischaracterises what was actually written,â€ Waid said.
Hereâ€™s a section from the original essay as shared by THR:
â€œThe system isnâ€™t just. Weâ€™ve treated some of our own abominably,â€ he wrote. â€œWorse, weâ€™ve perpetuated the myth that any American can become anything, can achieve anything, through sheer force of will. And thatâ€™s not always true. This isnâ€™t the land of opportunity for everyone. The American ideals arenâ€™t always shared fairly. Yet without them, we have nothing.â€
He went on to write, â€œAmericaâ€™s systems are flawed, but theyâ€™re our only mechanism with which to remedy inequality on a meaningful scale. Yes, itâ€™s hard and bloody work. But history has shown us that we can, bit by bit, right that system when enough of us get angry. When enough of us take to the streets and force those in power to listen. When enough of us call for revolution and say, â€˜Injustice will not stand.â€™â€
The final issue hitting stores tomorrow includes a replacement essay which focuses on Captain Americaâ€™s mask as a symbol of the American ideal, instead of him as just a person. Hereâ€™s a section from the new piece, one that THR says is as political as the new essay gets:
Itâ€™s a commitment to fight every day for justice, for acceptance and equality, and for the rights of everyone in this nation. At its best, this is a good country filled with people who recognise that those â€” not hatred, not bigotry, not exclusion â€” are the values of true patriotism.
This alteration comes just two weeks after Pulitzer Prize-winning comics creator Art Spiegelman pulled his introduction to a comics collection because Marvel wanted him to take out an indirect, albeit pointed, Donald Trump reference (when asked, the source close to Marvel said they they didnâ€™t feel there was a connection between the two incidents).
After pulling his essay, Spiegelman wrote in the Guardian of the interaction, â€œA regretful Folio Society editor told me that Marvel Comics (evidently the co-publisher of the book) is trying to now stay â€˜apolitical,â€™ and is not allowing its publications to take a political stance.â€
The situation with the Marvel Comics #1000 essay appears to be another example of Marvel Comics censoring its creators in an attempt to be apolitical, to the detriment of the company and its audience. You may recall EiC Cebulski going on record on the subject almost one year to the day: â€œWe canâ€™t get too deep into the politics,â€ he said of Marvel storylines.
Trying to remain â€œapoliticalâ€ is an effort in futility in 2019. Art is inherently political. Saying youâ€™re â€œnot politicalâ€ serves to uphold the status quo and hold back diverse voices who might open up the audienceâ€™s perspective to other points of view. Like, for example, how America isnâ€™t perfect, and how fighting injustice is the American Way.
Insulating your audience from the larger problems of the world, instead choosing to gloss over it all with vague messages about Captain Americaâ€™s mask as a symbol, doesnâ€™t do anyone any favours â€” especially in a world where the creatives behind Captain America, whether itâ€™s Sam Wilson, are using Captain Americaâ€™s status as a symbol of what America should be to actually question the nobility and ideals of what the nation and its people have become.
The source close to Marvel said they didnâ€™t agree with the idea that Marvel Comics is shying away from discussing political issues in its comics, citing the recent Captain America series by Ta-Nahisi Coates, and said they believe the work speaks for itself.
Whether Marvelâ€™s higher-ups want to admit it publicly or not, Captain America is inherently a political figure. The character is clad in armour in the colours of the stars and stripes, and was explicitly created not just to become a supersoldier in Americaâ€™s name in a time of global conflict, but because the man being transformed deeply held the country’s best ideals in his moral core.
You cannot have your creative cake and eat it too, and say that Captain America can exist without also acknowledging the characterâ€™s place as a commentary on American politics and values at large.
The fact that Marvel Entertainment CEO and chairman Ike Perlmutter is a longtime Trump supporter (and donor) and reportedly a power player behind the scenes at the Department of Veterans Affairs is, weâ€™re sure, just a coincidence.