The Future of Comics in Donald Trump’s America

So let’s get a few things straight. This article reflects my own personal opinions and doesn’t speak for CC’s website, owners, sponsors, partners, contributors, or anyone else. These are my thoughts.

I am not a political science major. I am not even a college graduate, so you’ll have to bear with me as I go over the facts (as I see them) in my own “Aw shucks”  common man bravado.

In full disclosure I did NOT vote for Donald Trump in the 2016 election. This is an Op-Ed piece and shouldn’t be treated like the gospel by… well… anyone.

Now that I have all of my caveats covered let’s dive in!

As of the time of this writing Donald Trump will be sworn in as President of the United States in less than 7 weeks. His election was one of the biggest surprises in American political history, and has given many Americans a shock by the groundswell of support that he received from across rural, white America. (I can get away with talking about White people as I happen to be one. My heritage is Irish/German/British/ Native American … So I’m as white as Moon Knight’s cape)

For those that voted for Trump this was a message to career politicians in Washington. “We’re tired of you and we’re tired of the status quo”. With Trump running on a platform that has seemingly disgraced all other minorities and ethnic groups the days ahead in America are certainly uncertain.

The current political climate is hostile. You don’t have to have a sociology degree from Harvard to see that the attitude nationwide is borderline incendiary. With issues of race, sexuality, religion all being pushed to the forefront –the outlook for the next four years is anything but cheerful.

So what does all this have to do with comics? Good question. Comics have often been the mirror that society uses to gauge where we are on particular issues. Looking back at Superman comics from the 60’s and 70’s there were comics dedicated to race and civil rights. Denny O’ Neil’s run on Green Arrow/ Green Lantern tackled drug abuse and a wide array of social issues.

In times of social uncertainty the medium of comics seems to shift more than other art forms to reflect the bias and morals of the general public. Works like Watchmen and Dark Knight Returns were created at the height of the cold war 80’s, the bombastic launch of Image came about during the alternative movement and grunge centric 90’s. Comics have been the ruler which America uses to measure its tastes.

The question now becomes, as we enter a new era of uncertainty, where are comics going to fall into the pop culture landscape?

One of Trump’s famous platform promises was to build a wall along the Mexican border, while also stating that he wanted to kick out nearly 3 million illegal immigrants.

If this actually comes to pass how will it affect not only the creators of comics, some of whom may have friends and family that are directly affected by this, but how will companies like Marvel and DC portray this in their respective universes? How do you write a character like Superman; who has always been for truth, justice and the American way; if he has to fly over a wall that is designed to keep out people who have been politically deemed to be no better than your average rapist or thief? How do you even begin to explain this to younger readers who may witness members of their own communities rounded up and shipped out?

The impact on traditional patriotic characters will be immense. How can Captain America continue to be a figurehead of the United States if the country at large is so divided? Unlike Superman, who can avoid social topics by simply flying off into space and ignoring real world events, Cap is stuck having to find his footing in a country that is struggling to find its own identity.

Then there is Trump’s stance on Muslims and the Muslim faith. How demonizing an entire religion has become socially acceptable — by a candidate … or anyone really… is beyond me, but Trump did it. Calling for a ban on all Muslims entering the country and even talking about removing those that claim the Muslim faith as a way to reduce the risk of terrorism … EW! I just felt my skin crawl.

How will Marvel handle this growing social issue in the pages of Ms. Marvel? The company has lauded its own work as a being a beacon for diversity in comics, featuring a Muslim main character, Kamala Khan and her family. How will Marvel handle this real world issue if bans and anti-Muslim rhetoric continue to rise?

Then there is the issue  of how Trump treats women…

…and the LGBT community…

…and his involvement with Russia…

…and his personal business and financial dealings…

And on…and on… and on…and on.

There are so many social topics that were brought to the forefront by the 2016 election that it’s impossible for any entertainment outlet, comics or otherwise, to completely ignore the shift in its audience. While it may not be morally correct to cater to such knee-jerk separatists view points; it’s never been beyond the shadier business practices in entertainment to go after a large portion of the audience by creating low brow art in hopes of capturing the lowest common denominator.

Reality TV springs to mind. It’s not much of a leap considering the soon-to-be president that we’re talking about. Trump played his reality TV role on a national stage, being the bully, making shocking and inaccurate statements. He played the villain to traditional politics and walked away with the White House! Is it really that much of stretch to think that he is not custom-built to be parodied in the medium of comics?

The comedy and the tragedy write themselves. We are watching the rise of a modern-day Doctor Doom. (Sans the metal mask of course) He speaks in the third person, he puts his name on everything he builds, he wants the world to fall at his feet, he is grossly disfigured… OK, that last one is not true, but it’s a bone to the left-wing that is still feeling the burn of the post-election.

The point is that nothing will be the same in this new America. We have now elected a leader who has openly stated that P.C. culture should die. Political correctness has no room in Trump’s America. Let’s make America great again by bringing back all those racial epitaphs that we have tried so hard over the last six decades to bury. (I can’t wait to see how Batman handles being called a Honkey)  Let’s go back to objectifying women like filthy objects. (Get back in the kitchen Wonder Woman! Make me some pancakes!) Let’s just throw out all the progress that we have made as a culture over the last sixty years and just go back to the way things were in the 1960’s. Let’s do it! Let’s go there because that was the last time that comics mattered…

Whoa! What?!?

Did I really just write that?

OH MY GOD! IT’S TRUE!

We do need to approach this current day disaster like comics did in the 1960’s. The answer has been right in front of me the whole time! Donald Trump’s America will lead to one thing and one thing only; an element that has been severely lacking in American comics for years. How could I miss this? It’s perfect!

Trump’s America will lead to the rebirth (NOT a DC comic’s rebirth, but a return) of counterculture comics!

In the 1960’s Marvel comics was born out of the counterculture. Stan Lee and Jack Kirby were not as well-loved, back in the day, as they are now. Telling stories that made the hero a fallible common-man with everyday problems, who was socially aware and less than the cookie cutter stereotype of what a hero was “supposed to be”, it was this brand of storytelling that was  a shock to a country who was stuck in the ideals of a perfect America that the 1950’s had provided.

Gone were the days of the square-jawed hero and the “Gee Golly” mentality. Marvel ushered in a movement of heroes that were deeply flawed, both on the inside and the outside. They moved away from the chiseled model of physical perfection and introduced characters like the Hulk, the Thing, Daredevil, and so many more.

It was this trend to go where the competition wasn’t willing to go that built the house of ideas into a power player within just a few short years. Today you can’t even mention the industry of comics without someone bringing up a Marvel Property.

BUT! (There is always a but)

Marvel has become the industry standard over the last five plus decades. They are now owned by Disney. They are publicly traded on the Dow Jones. The same can be said with DC and Time Warner. The two biggest heavyweights in the business now have their hands tied when it comes to pushing the creative envelope. The social commentary that is really going to have an impact in the coming years is not going to come from a creator that is chained to editorial from the big two or the whims of a boardroom of shareholders. Comics are going to have to look to the future in the world of independent and small press.

We could be sitting in an era that will give birth to the next Marvel! Now that’s not something anyone expected as a result of this political cluster junk.

As readers demand a more honest and leveled look at the world around them the mainstream is going to be viewed as passé and out dated. When the top-selling books can no longer stay in touch with their socially aware audience, fans will begin hunting the ranks of the independents to find a title worthy of rising up as the medium’s next champion that reflects their values and morals.

We could be standing on the verge of a boom period in independent comics unlike anything we have seen in decades. The right mix of writing that is able to deftly handle sensitive issues, paired with an ambitious and technically savvy artist, the future could run right through the Indy scene.

Comics have lacked the same punk rock, spit-in-the-face of authority attitude that made titles like Heavy Metal and companies like EC comics so “dangerous” in the eyes of the public. There was a time that you had to hide your love for comics. People secretly handed each other copies of more mature titles and those comics were kept out of sight of parents and authority figures alike. There was a fringe element to the hobby that only those “in the know” were aware of.

Is it time for the underground to return? Is it time for comic fans, who have been riding high on the wave of pop culture popularity to return back to the basements and comic shops from which we emerged? Maybe the answer is to go back to the hobby’s roots. Comics and political cartoons are not that different… maybe the next big seller will be the artist or creator that can find a way to walk that tightrope.

Will Trump’s America give rise to a company like Image, Dark Horse, IDW, Boom, Valiant, or one of the numerous other small publishers to take their place as a market mainstay? One thing is true; as we move through this time of uncertainty; the world and the industry of comics will be very different at the end of this social experiment than it was at the beginning.

I could delve into another twenty campaign promises that Donald Trump spouted over the course of the election, but it all boils down to this; the world around us is going to rapidly change and the industries tastes in what they consider to be entertainment will have to evolve quickly to catch up and stay ahead of a very raw and vocal and divided audience. Change has come and the landscape will not remain the same. Good luck to those that are about to enter the fray; you’re going to need it.

Thanks for reading and don’t forget to like and share this article with your friends and fellow comic fans. You can leave a comment here or you can reach me on Twitter @dangerdusty . As always be sure to check out the rest of the great content here on the Comic Crusaders website!

Blessings and good fortune to you.

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