Celebrating the Unpopular Arts

If I might be the one to ask a question … what’s the dumbest comics take?

This is a tough call because there are many stupid takes on comic books. I think the worst one, for me, is “superheroes are fascists.”

Some superheroes are fascists, of course. Captain Nazi, Iron Cross, Master Man and other WW II German villains probably do see themselves as superheroes fighting for their country. But I’m talking about the clever people who talk loudly in restaurants (as Monty Python’s Flying Circus put it) and claim all superheroes are fascists — jackbooted thugs enforcing the status quo by extralegal violence.

This is some grade-A gibberish. First, fascism is a political designation considerably more complicated than just “uses violence.” No question, Hitler’s SS beat up lots of people for challenging Nazi dominance; it doesn’t follow that everyone who uses violence, legal or extralegal, is a fascist.

Second, superheroes do a great deal more than just beating people up. They save lives: rescuing people from fires, preventing floods and volcanic eruptions. stopping school buses from going off bridges, getting people to hospital for life-saving treatment. In other venues I’d provide examples but I doubt anyone here needs ’em. They’ve saved their countries and also the world. Fascists, of course, believe they’re saving their country, but they’re wrong. Superheroes are right.

I’m guessing some of y’all have a few ideas in this vein, so let fly!

#SFWApro. Cover by Alan Lee Weiss.


  1. humanbelly

    I. . . don’t recall coming across the “all superheroes are Fascists” opinion before, so I’m probably not the most qualified person to comment on that one specifically. I’ve no doubt it exists out there, and probably has some shrill proponents, but it surely has to be a deep-fringe take— not a mainstream one at all, yeah? And as you say– what it mostly does is reveal the ignorance of the individual spouting such utter nonsense— the fact that they have utterly NO IDEA what Fascism really is. (Much like the Boofus-Heads who are now screech-posting, “These high gas prices?? That-there is the very DEFINITION of Socialism!!!”)(Like, no— it is in fact the exact opposite of Socialism. . . the Counter-Earth of Socialism. . . the MIRROR, MIRROR, if you will. . . )

    I don’t know if I have a least-favorite specific Take On Comics, though. It would probably have to shift from era to era. “Comics are silly kids’ stuff.”; “Comics are morally degenerate (i.e. Seduction of the Innocent)” ; “Comics glorify violence” ; “Comics promote a homosexual/gay agenda” (Cripes—); “Comics are too Liberal/too Conservative/ anti-Semitic (THAT’S certainly a head-scratcher–)/ anti-Christian/etc, etc.— All of this with what seems to be a long-lingering assumption that comics are still being read by kids— which, for what- the past 50 years?– surely has not been demographically true. And ABSOLUTELY not true for the last 20 to 25 years. . .


  2. Der

    The dumbest takes are the ones about Batman and Superman. You all know the ones:

    -“Superman is boring because it’s sooo powerful”
    -“Batman is cool and can beat anyone because he has no powers!”
    -“Batman should be an angst r filled dude to be effective and can’t ever ever start to heal his traumas or he will suck!”

    I dislike all of those and it seems that a lot of comic writers even are into these takes themselves

  3. My friend Jon Maki on FB suggests “Bruce Wayne should stop being Batman and spend money to fix social problems.” Though personally I think it’s a brilliant take — think how much good Bruce could accomplish if, say, he started a charitable foundation that spent millions of — oh. Wait.

      1. Back when Bruce first went more street at the end of the 1960s, he ran a charity called Victims Incorporated, dedicated to finding people who’d been shattered by crime and helping them recover/gain justice. Bruce was much more hands-on than with the foundation because it was personal. I quite liked that.

        1. Peter

          I do recall that era fondly. I also enjoyed how in Morrison’s Batman run, there were a lot of background moments that showed Bruce was quite involved with philanthropy – we just didn’t always see it because Batman is foremost an action/adventure comic!

  4. Peter

    I think the dumbest take is when a mainstream critic or publication praises a comic for being a cut above the usual spandex fare by saying that either it’s “cinematic” or that it’s truly a “graphic novel.” I get that this is meant to be a compliment, but at their best – comics are neither movies nor novels. At their best, comics will not ape other media but will play to their own unique strengths that can’t be replicated in prose or on film (just as those media have their own unique strengths, too).

    (To be really extreme, I might argue that something like “Fun Home,” while certainly possessing some very interesting themes, displaying rich usage of the English language, and having well-rendered illustrations, is still not as impressive as Fantastic Four #352 because the latter actually does something that you can only do in comics.)

    1. The idea that thought bubbles are cheating because movies don’t have them (which is how I’ve usually seen it expressed) is very strange to me. Ditto similar declarations about novels (don’t tell the reader anything about the character’s thoughts! Just show the surface!).

  5. Jeff Nettleton

    Howard Chaykin has used the fascist critique, though he used it more for Blackhawk, who he called “fascists for our side!” However, he was talking more the uniforms, which quite heavily evoked the Nazi uniform, with the black jackets and jackboots, plus the peaked caps.

    There is a certain fascism to vigilante justice, as it acts as a law unto itself, which was a major element of both the Nazis and the Italian Fascists. It was the SA who busted heads, not the SS, so much. The SA were the “stormtroopers,” who fought the street battles with the Socialists and Communists, in berlin and elsewhere in Weimar Germany. The SS were Hitler’s personal bodyguard, at first, until the Night of the Long Knives took out Ernst Rohm, the leader of the SA, and many of his subordinate officers, which put the SS at the top of the Nazi Party. You can make the argument that many vigilante superheroes display fascist or, at least Right Wing sympathies. The Punisher aped the rather reactionary nature of the Executioner and his ilk, whose exploits in men’s adventure pulp novels were largely sold to a conservative audience, as an antidote to anti-Vietnam War protests and hippie culture. It is reflected in vigilante-themed entertainment, like Death Wish and Dirty Harry, where the “hero’s” righteous anger and knowledge that they alone can do what the “corrupt system” cannot trample over every civil right and law under the Constitution, in pursuit of “Justice.” It’s not that hard an argument to make.

    By the same token, the superheroes who have stood the test of time have demonstrated acts and beliefs that covered both ends of the political spectrum, reflecting the views and beliefs of their creators. Jerry Siegal’s Superman fought robber barons, war profiteers, slumlords and wife beaters, while Mort Weisinger soon had him as the Big Blue Boy Scout, upholding authority, without question. By the same token, that Superman also did his best to help anyone in trouble and stayed out of politics, as the editors knew that too much crusading could bring unwanted attention. The heroes of the 50s and 60s were pretty Middle of the Road. it took a few angry young men to push a select few into more rabble rousing territory, in the 70s, but the 80s saw a swing back to the Center and even to the Right, depending on the character and book.

    The really great archetypes tend to get interpreted according to the viewer, reading their own prejudices and beliefs into the characters, which is why Superman and Captain America are trotted out as heroes to both ends of the political spectrum.

  6. Doctor Trousers

    the dumbest take for me?
    when the story has a beginning, middle and end, it’s a graphic novel.
    bullshit, you’re just trying to justify your utterly wrong insistence on referring to watchmen as a graphic novel.

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