Next week sees the publication of Superman: Son Of Kal-El #4 written by Tom Taylor, drawn by John Timms, and coloured by Gabe Eltaeb. Superman: Son Of Kal-El #5 will see the kiss between Jon Kent, the new Superman of Earth, and his new boyfriend, the journalist Jay Nakamura, as the comic reveals that Jon Kent is a bisexual young Kryptonian/human hybrid.
There has naturally been a lot of mocking of this storyline and accompanying imagery by the Comicsgate crew on social media. Comicsgate is… how should I say this? Let's just cut and paste from Wikipedia.
Comicsgate is a campaign in opposition to diversity and progressivism in the North American superhero comic book industry, targeting the creators hired, the characters depicted, and the stories told, which proponents allege has led to a decline in both quality and sales. Its members present it as a consumer protest, primarily advocating their views on social media; some have produced books intended to reflect the group's values. It is part of the alt-right movement, and has been described by commentators as a harassment campaign which "targets women, people of color, and LGBT folk in the comic book industry". It has also been blamed by critics for the vandalism of one store and threats of violence.
And one supporter of Comicsgate and contributor to Comicsgate titles is the colourist Gabe Eltaeb. And he went on a recent four-and-a-half-hour Livestream with other prominent Comicsgate-related creators who were castigating the bisexual Superman move, spending much of those hours making… well… gay jokes. Dan Fraga asked that after having gay characters had run their course, what was next? Jon Malin predicted that they would make them pedophiles next, "mark my words Batman will be f-cking Robin." Art Thibert even decided to announce that I was gay as part of the discussion, though to paraphrase Charlie Chaplin, I don't have that honour. There was also the observation made that an increase in gay superheroes was to "reprogram readers" and "ultimately win elections".
But as part of it, Gabe Eltaeb, colourist on the very comic they were discussing, criticised DC Comics and the work of his fellow creators on the book, stating, "I'm finishing out my contract with DC. I'm tired of this sh-t, I'm tired of them ruining these characters; they don't have a right to do this. At Comic-Con in 2009, I was pushing Jerry Robinson's wheelchair around. That's the man who invented the Joker. I would work the DC booth back then. I remember bending down to his face and telling him, thank you for creating these characters, so people like me can waltz in and get a job. It's not about gay or anything else. What really pissed me off was saying truth, justice, and a better world, f-ck that it was Truth, Justice, and the American way. My Grandpa almost died in World War II; we don't have a right to destroy sh-t that people died for to give us. It's a bunch of f-cking nonsense. They call us bigots and racist and sh-t, I would ask them, find me in the f-cking mainstream, not on the fringes, one f-cking book, one f-cking t-shirt, one movie that says that leftism is bad, and conservatism is good, find it for me, they f-cking won't they're not letting people have a voice, they're the f-cking bigots. Sorry, that's been bottled up for five years."
This statement does seem to be at odds with Gabe's previous support for the series, saying "This book could not be more relevant to the current epoch. The importance of Fathers and sons, the issue of our times. @theartofjohntimms @tomtaylormade @DCComics". And Gabe's line about truth and justice refers to an earlier scene from the series that Eltaeb coloured, with Jon Kent talking about his frustrations about the expected role of Superman, defining his role as fighting for "truth, justice, and a better world". At the time, I thought that rang true — Clark Kent, as the illegal immigrant refugee, would be so grateful to the country that took him in that he would support and defend it, despite any flaws. While Jon Kent, American-born and what is colloquially known as a "young adult," may have different, less grateful, and more rebellious views. Which also may have consequences to come, taking a more interventionist approach with the danger he may present to the world. Indeed, the Comicsgate live stream brought up the issue that introducing characters to provide representation gives them "plot armour," making them untouchable in terms of danger, grief, or bad things happening to them.
That really doesn't seem what Superman: Son of Kal-El as a comic book is heading towards; they are setting up all sorts of consequences for the character's activist actions and interventionist approach. This feels like the story Tom Taylor, John Timm, and Gabe Eltaeb were telling, but maybe Gabe may not have been all-in on that. As for conservatism, pretty much every superhero story is about one man doing the right thing out of duty, not waiting for some big nanny state to intervene, or becoming part of some collective response, just doing what is right, preserving the status quo, and punching the bad guys, which is all pretty conservative right there. There may be occasional twists and turns for narrative purposes, but it always goes back to its core. At DC Fandome, DC Comics' publisher Jim Lee stated that Superman's new motto would be "Truth, Justice And A Better Tomorrow," but that's just as much an ideal — there is no guarantee that a better tomorrow is coming for anyone. Still, it's a good thing to strive for. Even if it really annoys proponents of the Oxford Comma.
Comicsgaters were also the first to prominently claim that Jon Kent would be gay. Though it was Bleeding Cool, who stated that was false, that he would be bisexual or pansexual instead and that the corporate reasons given for the move didn't stack up with the reality of the situation. Gabe continued on the live stream, saying of DC Comics, "I'm CG, I've got to finish my contract, got to be a gentleman, and I'm with you guys. Catch me, don't let me fall."
A few days after this live stream, Shelly Lopresti, wife of well-known comic creator Aaron Lopresti and recent friend of Comicsgate, tweeted out the following observation. "As if we needed another reason to boycott DC Comics…..they are now threatening their freelancers that if they do any work for anyone associated with ComicsGate that they will never work for DC again. They are not on contract, and DC should have no say. Woke business model". She then added, "It's amazing how they resort to name-calling and attack and call CG a hate group. How can they judge a colorist work and say it does not meet the values? They should be hired by merit, nor whether they are SJW's or not. If they dictate terms, creators should be on contract." Before adding that regarding this supposed policy, that she was "Just saying what I have heard."
And that's the thing. The best way to get blacklisted from a publisher, no matter what your politics, is to criticise the company, the characters, and the work of your fellow creators. Whether that's Chris Roberson fired by DC from Fairest, Dwayne McDuffie, fired by DC from Justice League Of America, or Al Milgrom, fired from Earth X for adding an insulting note about Bob Harras, it's rarely to do with your politics. Colourist Gabe Eltaeb has expressed all manner of conservative views online without causing an issue for the publisher, as well as working on a number of Comicsgate projects while continuing to work on DC, Image, and Valiant titles such as Aquaman, Green Lantern, Red Lanterns, Star Wars, Green Arrow, Young Justice, Invincible Universe, Batman: Arkham Unhinged, Martian Manhunter, Quantum And Woody, Green Lantern Corps. Justice League, Harley Quinn, and much more. But now, he has criticised DC Comics, its employee's work, says that they are all destroying the characters, and announces that he is leaving DC anyway. Superman: Son Of Kal-El #4 is in stores for sale this Tuesday. But it's possible he won't be colouring Superman: Son Of Kal-El #5 anymore. We reached out to Gabe earlier today without response, we are happy to update if we hear from him.
DC Comics doesn't really care if its creators are conservatives or not — as the return of Bill Willingham to Batman and Fables shows. It may not even care if you are Comicsgate or not – though individual creators who might be working with you may have a different opinion. But what DC Comics really cares about is if you insult and embarrass the company, its work, and its staffers publicly. That seems to really… colour their view of you.