Marvel
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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.

Wayment…

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…

Which is why it breaks my heart that Marvel Entertainment gives so much money to Donald Trump’s campaign.
For clarity, Marvel Entertainment is the wing of the corporation that deals with licensing for toys and games (or the maddening intersection of Lego Marvel everything). Marvel Studios is the movie giant wing of the corporation we can’t help but Stan (Lee) for since DC’s movies have been so uniformly nowhere near as awesome. That said, there’s a civil war in my soul about this. Marvel Entertainment chairman Issac Perlmutter and his wife have shelled out $600,000 to 45th’s campaign in 2019 ALONE. Also back in 2016, there is the issue of the million dollar donation…Do you have any idea how much Marvel stuff I have on my bedside table?!? The news shook me to my core. It forced me to consider whether the nerd culture I love directly funds the policies devastating Black and Brown communities.

Schism

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

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  • Poet, MC, Nerd, All-Around Problem. Lover of words, verse, and geek media from The Bronx, NYC.

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  • mark

    I am embarrassed that I knew none of this. thank you.

  • Owen

    YES! I have been struggling with this as well. Saladin Ahmed’s Miles Morales has been one of my favorite books. Period.

    And my daughters and I have been singing the praises of Ironheart, Black Panther, Captain America, and Shuri.

    But we also feel so torn about the fact that we might be helping finance what we fight so hard against.

    Thank you for at least showing we are not alone in our conflict.

  • Christina

    Thank you for this.

    Someone once told me there’s no completely ethical consumption in capitalism, and I’m beginning to agree.

  • Natasha

    At first my reaction was well Perlmutter is just an employee of Marvel, not the owner. Like it or not he’s allowed to have different political views and spend his money as he sees fit. But consuming Marvel products does help line his pockets unfortunately, and as old rich white men commonly do, he uses those lined pockets to support Trump. He draws a paycheck, he has many stocks and corporate holdings (Including parent company Disney) through his position with Marvel. It’s a conundrum for sure. It’s much harder to divest from and boycott brands and products the way our elders did. Corporate America has it’s hands in everything and sometimes its so intertwined you can’t even get to the root source.

  • Demetrius A Campbell

    It’s a dilemma for sure. Without knowing whether it’s a personal donation or a company donation, it’s hard to say what to do. If personal, we as the public have no say but as a company, we could at least make our voice heard. I’ve never agreed with companies being “people too” but unfortunately, that’s the world we live in. Public opinion does hold some sway, so I guess the question is, “who dunnit?”

  • Amy Buck

    I HAVE SUCH A HARD TIME WITH THIS. G. Willow Wilson, Saladin Ahmed, and and Eve Ewing are some of my favourite writers for Marvel of all time. The first Iron Man movie still gives me so much hope, being one of the first movies to showcase that the first victims of “Islamic” extremists, who really have nothing to do with Islam, are always actual Muslim People, is honestly my life. Black Panther is still one of my favourite movies of all time, and as is Thor Ragnorak, Into The Spiderverse, and Captain Marvel. But knowing, knowing they donate to trump… UGH SO HARD. I stand by buying the good artists, continuing to support the good stuff… but also being really vocal about the problems?

  • Donald Thomas

    Aloha,
    Full disclosure. I was a Marvel stockholder in the 1990’s (Quincy Jones was on their board of directors at the time). Marvel filed for bankruptcy in that era. I then went on to invest in Marvel during the ’00s. As a stockholder, I voted on whether they should go over to Disney or not. I voted in the affirmative because I always felt that animation was the best format for comics and who better than Disney for animation? I could have had my Marvel stock roll over to Disney, I did not. I cashed out. As much as I felt the Disney move was a good one. I knew of the corporate culture. ANY Billion dollar business has people who contribute to conservative politics.30% of Black men voted for Trump. I’m much more concerned with that than any Fortune 500 company that has SOME people who donate to conservatives. Some Fortune 500 companies hedge their bets and donate to both Dems and Repubs.There are soo many businesses that Black people patronize that are doing a lot more damage to our commuity than Marvel comics. A true Black nerd studies ALL OF THESE COMPANIES and picks which ones they will NEVER patronize in life again! I need #1 to own the complete Amazing Spider-Man comic book collection(including all tie in titles) I own the complete Black Panther starting with FF#52. Spidey rules-Long Live the King of Wakanda

  • Cindy Bistoury

    There are many times in life that the humans behind what we love are ugly human beings. That’s life and we should not throw away the beauty that marvel has become because of one ugly stain..

  • Melchor Sahagun

    This has plagued me for a while now. I stopped buying Marvel a bit ago, in large part for the reason mentioned here, but doing so has caused me to miss out on some of the stuff also mentioned in this article–that powerful stuff that is totally reshaping the medium and just changin the game, in general–and I’m torn.

    I don’t even know what this comment is meant to convey, similarly to how you wrote this article without knowing precisely what you should do, it’s just something we all need to vent about because shit is fucked up out there and our childhood passions are suffering for it.

    Also, so much props for the Malcolm/Magneto parallel.

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