Comics over the last thirty or so years have produced quite a few superstars. Okay, maybe they’re not particularly well known outside the industry, with the exception of Neil Gaiman and possibly a couple of others, but if you’re a fan of comic books then chances are you have something by Grant Morrison on your shelves. Or Alan Moore. Or Frank Miller.
Frank Miller is probably the most influential Batman writer of recent decades, mainly down to two works – Batman: Year One and The Dark Knight Returns. If you’re not a comic fan, then you may have seen the movies 300 or Sin City – same guy. Well, Frank kicked up a bit of a stir over the weekend with his blog post on the Occupy movement.
Now, it’s pretty clear that Frank doesn’t altogether have the strongest grasp on current affairs – heck, he gets World of Warcraft’s name wrong, and that’s before conflating Occupy’s protests against corporate corruption with, I guess, the anti-war movement (I’d imagine there’s a reasonable crossover, but they’re hardly the same thing).
It’d be easy to take the blog post apart, especially when he gets on to suggesting that the protestors join the military so they can fight ‘Islamicism’ (which is interesting because Miller has never been in the armed forces while injured Occupy protestor Scott Olsen served with the Marines in Iraq before getting his skull fractured by police in Oakland, California). There’s really no point, because it’s an uninformed screed. However, it comes on the back of recent attention given to the abuse suffered by female bloggers, as well as racist comments relating to the news that the new Spider-Man would be half-black, half-hispanic. The question somehow becomes why, in a medium where most of the characters would probably support Occupy, or at the very least respect their right to protest, and where treating people with respect and compassion is a pretty standard subject for speeches from the likes of Superman and Captain America, does the audience reaction get so ugly sometimes?
(Of course, the flipside of that question is why wouldn’t it – after all, comics are still pretty white, pretty violent and female characters are more sexualised than the men… Just playing devil’s advocate…!)
I guess it’s an issue all of us who engage in online community have to face – the internet can be a harsh, nasty and unforgiving place at times. Miller’s blog post proves that, so do countless comments threatening to rape female writers, and while the majority of us no doubt find this abhorrent, the fact is those attitudes vocally exist. And while maybe the question should be “How can we bring civility back to the internet?”, the darker question is why does such behaviour happen in the first place?
PS. 3.12.2011 – And now Alan Moore has responded to Frank’s comments. Needless to say, he disagrees.