When I read Captain America #602 a couple of weeks ago, I appreciated the real-world political and social elements that writer Ed Brubaker incorporated into the story. By including the Tea Party movement (or an analogy of it), Brubaker’s script becomes all the more relevant and interesting. Mind you, as much as I enjoyed seeing such poignant and thought-provoking elements in the super-hero story, I was much more disappointed when Brubaker and Marvel editor-in-chief Joe Quesada apologized for that content, claiming it was unintentional and explaining it away as a lettering gaffe. I’m at a loss as to why they were quick to cow-tow to a political movement that probably boasted very few members that are also Marvel readers, and I was thoroughly disappointed that Marvel plans to alter select elements from Cap #602 for eventual collected editions.
So the Tea Party folks saw everything from insults to conspiracies. Marvel apparently saw a PR problem. And I saw much ado about nothing, not to mention corporate interests usurping the integrity of art.
Fortunately, the folks at comics publisher Boom! Studios saw something else: an opportunity.
With this right wingers-versus-comics folk controversy still fresh in people’s minds (both in the world of comics and in the general public), Boom! issued the following news release Monday:
February 15th, 2010 – BOOM! Town, a new imprint of BOOM! Studios, announced today a book of monstrous hilarity, Repuglicans!
If you’re a card-carrying Republican, stop reading now. If not, you must get this book. Pete Von Sholly and Steve Tatham bring you a completely unfair and not balanced take on Republican Party leaders and apparatchiks. Sarah Palin, John McCain, Glenn Beck and others all unveiled as vampires, freaks and zombies. These guys put the “ugli” in Repuglicans.
“This book shows the true face of the right, and it’s not pretty.” says Pete Von Sholly.
“You’ll cringe when you see these creatures of the right!” says Steve Tatham.
Repuglicans comes in a 6” x 9” softcover format, with 128 Pages, priced at $14.99. The Diamond Code for this item is FEB100764.
While I’d argue that Marvel bungled its public-relations reaction to the Cap/Tea Party issue, Boom! Studios capitalized on it, not only promoting an upcoming release but its new underground/indy art-comics imprint, Boom! Town.
Though brief, the news release is deliciously unapologetic, hyperbolic and effective. It boosts the profile of what would’ve likely been an under-the-radar book and takes a political stand even if it’s something of a low-brow approach to satire. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. Mad Magazine‘s often been infantile in its lampoons of political and cultural figures over the years, as have any other number of expressions of pop culture. David E. Kelley used his TV shows as a soapbox, and never was it more obvious than with the outrageous and riotous Boston Legal.
The whole situation brings a number of questions to mind. Why did Marvel retreat so quickly from a political stance in one story by one creative team? Yes, including such political content means it runs the risk of alienating some readers, but it also offers the opportunity to attract others. And this time around, it also clearly offered a PR platform to make a wider audience aware of intelligently crafted storytelling in a genre often dismissed by the masses as kiddie fare.
Why was a media company with a history as long as Marvel’s and with resources as extensive as Marvel’s so easily outshone, at least from a PR perspective, by a smaller, younger company?
And most important of all, why do the Tea Party protesters and their supporters ironically try to silence their critics? Here we have people protesting their government — a pure expression of free speech in a democracy — trying to shut down others’ expression of free speech rather than simply debating the issues at hand.
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