My Fandom Weighs A Ton
I am a Marvel fan. Cut and dry, plain and simple. No shade, but not like a “Since I saw Iron Man in 2008” Marvel fan. Not an “I loved watching X-Men on Saturday morning cartoons” Marvel fan. Admirable, but nah. I read Captain America tackling the war on drugs and then transitioning to whatever the hell Nomad was. Read Chuck Dixon put NYC street-level icon The Punisher through the grinder for shits and giggles in War Journal. I’m not dropping names for clout; I am shouting my Marvel fandom from the mountaintop because it runs deep as all hell.
Magneto was my entry into comprehending Malcolm X, a whole year before Denzel got robbed for that Oscar. Storm was the second crush I ever had (Yahira from sixth-grade homeroom only edged Ororo out because she was a real person). I really grew up loving Marvel Comics everything. I lived for the trading cards, especially the Tim and Greg Hildebrandt painted ones! By the time the Saturday cartoons came around, I was schooling my whole family on Marvel lore and I made no friends at home for it.
Don’t get me wrong, I actively read DC comics, Image, and a slew of indie publishers. Be that as it may, my nerd identity was formed by my youthful experiences with Marvel properties…
I was moments from losing all hope in humanity and the arts when a litany of questions crossed my mind. How does a company that funnels money to support a campaign that institutes a Muslim ban also employ a white Muslim writer in G. Willow Wilson and launch an extremely popular Pakistani Muslim character in Ms. Marvel? The same company that filmed Black Panther? That gave the world Brie Larson’s ‘Becky With The Good Hands’ Captain Marvel? Is it a stubborn cognitive dissonance? A marketing ploy? The answer was far more simple: a cold war – within Marvel itself.
Symbolically, so much of the work coming out of Marvel is counter to fundamentalist right-wing politics. Unless it’s Nick Spencer. That guy’s Hydra. On the other hand, Ta-Nehisi Coates and Roxane Gay’s work on the Black Panther mythos was brilliant and instrumental in anchoring Wakanda in the popular consciousness. Eve Ewing’s Ironheart run with Nnedi Okorafor’s Shuri redefined Black women heroes – one of the most marginalized character bases in comics. Saladin Ahmed’s work on Miles Morales: Spider Man and Magnificent Ms. Marvel have provided a PoC view of a PoC hero in a PoC community as written by a PoC writer. Some of Miles’ Blackest moments since his creation have occurred in this book. Suffice to say, it is bewildering that a company capable of this level of cultural competency can also play a role is the rise of modern Nazism.
Beef Is Not What Jay Said To Nas
The artists at Marvel have not been silent about this ethical discrepancy. G. Willow Wilson has written a book-filling amount of Twitter and Tumblr threads on the issue. Most relevant is this gem regarding Perlmutter’s donation:
“…was this really a donation to benefit veterans? Or was it a donation to benefit Donald Trump? And if it was the latter, what does that mean for fans of Marvel comics? Did the money come out of Perlmutter’s private fortune, or did some portion of what you spent on your Marvel pull list support a political candidate who wants to deport millions of immigrants, build a wall along the Mexican border and require religious minorities to carry ID badges?”
Marvel went so far as to edit an essay penned by Maus creator and comics legend Art Spiegelman this past August where he says:
“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.”
Ta-Nehisi Coates’ Captain America run (out now!) is a clear and strong allusion to the perils of the Trump presidency and the world that has created. It plays no games and pulls no punches. This all leaves me at a strange understanding: we’re all so bought in, that no one on either side of the politics has the slightest idea how to differentiate what empowers us from what hurts us.
Black Nerd Paradox
I do not want to support Trump financially (in any shape or form, really). Divesting from Marvel makes a statement (maybe), but it also means divesting away from the artistic labor of those reshaping comic culture (for the better) from within. I didn’t write this because I had a solution. I wrote this because it hurts to be a consumer in this position. To consume what I am interested in, against my own self-interest. A true Black Nerd Problem, escalating to an existential Black nerd paradox.
Photo in Cover Image Collage Credit: CREDIT: Evan Vucci/AP/Shutterstock