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Diamond Comics Asks "Are Superheroes Fascist?"

Diamond Comic Distributors' Previewsworld launched a video yesterday asking the question "are superheroes fascist?" To which I want to refer to Woody Allen's response to the question "is sex dirty? Only when it's being done right."

Now, of course, this all comes in the wake of recent criticism of the overwhelming amount of police and law enforcement fictional television shows, and the nature of the shows when compared to how the police have been seen in the news of late, with major criticism of how they relate to race, and how their actions are enforced.

Superhero comic books have been addressed as well, as they are seen by many as, basically, supercops. Idealised versions of people who maintain the status quo with extreme use of powers, unaccountably and at their whim. The origins of superhero stories go back through detective, police and cowboy comic books, and pulp fiction, with a sidebar from the Comics Code to keep them wholesome and morally pure. With the distribution system doing its best to keep them white as well.

But part of the appeal of the superhero can be seen as a fascistic one. The great and the good, doing what they believe is morally correct, keeping law and order (rather than addressing any underlying issues) with might making right, and the idealised human body on display in as skintight a costume as possible.

It's one of the reasons I never quite got the fuss with Captain America being temporarily reinvented for Secret Empire as a fascist Hydra sleeper agent, and taking over the USA through utterly legal and constitutional means, while still wrapped in the flag. Because that's what fascism does. Superheroes, especially those wrapped in nationalist symbols, should probably invite that kind of questioning.

And with the release of The Boys Season 2 on Amazon Prime, this has all kicked off again. The Previewsworld hosts Troy-Jeffrey Allen and Ani-Mia took to social media where all folks had a lot to say, and everyone seemed to agree that Batman was as fascist as they come. The creation of Superman, Captain America and Wonder Woman during World War II as being anti-fascist was brought up, as well as the idea that superheroes "put on a costume and punch people rather than using their influence to enact a greater social change" means that "if they are not fascists they are the very least complicit in fascism."

They also mentioned however that during the Black Lives Matter protests that "quite a few time I saw people dressed as Black Panther, I saw people dressed as superman, I thought I saw people dressed as Batman, I saw people dressed as Spider-Man showing up to these protests and at first, I was kind of like, oh my god, come on, really guys? But then in retrospect, what does it tell you about what these characters mean to people, they symbolize this fight against overreaching authority so that itself is anti-fascist."

It's just that this might also apply to Judge Dredd and, well, you know…

You can watch the video here.


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Rich JohnstonAbout Rich Johnston

Founder of Bleeding Cool. The longest-serving digital news reporter in the world, since 1992. Author of The Flying Friar, Holed Up, The Avengefuls, Doctor Who: Room With A Deja Vu, The Many Murders Of Miss Cranbourne, Chase Variant. Lives in South-West London, works from Blacks on Dean Street, shops at Piranha Comics. Father of two. Political cartoonist.
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