Marvel recently revealed that its marketing plan for the Secret Empire super-mega-crossover event will include a Hydra takeover of popular websites. Though the websites aren't named (Bleeding Cool is not one them), the revelation has sparked discussion on Twitter about the merits of expanding the already-controversial Hydra takeover theme to real life, as the organization's historical ties with Nazis has been viewed as troublesome even when applied to fictional characters. Considering that Marvel Chairman Ike Perlmutter is himself both a financial supporter and policy advisor to Donald Trump himself adds an additional layer of complication.
One such discussion involved Bleeding Cool's own Editor-in-Chief, Rich Johnston, talking to Women Write About Comics Editor Megan Purdy, who unfortunately quoted Newsarama's article instead of ours, though, to be fair, while ours came first, Newsarama's had less typos.
In the course of a discussion about the marketing campaign, and about the difference between fascism and Nazi fascism, Johnston offered the following thoughts on writer Nick Spencer:
Nick Spencer's former career in politics is no secret. Bleeding Cool, in fact, covered it in depth back in 2010, when Johnston wrote:
At the Image Writers Panel at NYCC he talked about working in politics, and when pressed by Robert Kirkman, that he'd worked for a Democrat politician previously. But the full story is even more intriguing. Because, prior to his move to New York, Nick Spencer was rather a polarising figure in Cincinnati society.
It's such a different story compared to the current Nick Spencer that we know that I had to get confirmation in person that these two Nick Spencers are one and the same. And they are.
Cincinnati is one of the few places in the US that runs a real three party system. And Spencer was a member of the Charterite Party. He stood unsuccessfully for the City Council as their representative. His election blog has been taken by domain snatchers, but can still be recovered by the Wayback Machine.
Nick talks at length about crime, local businesses and his connection with the area. He also ran the bar, alchemize in Cincinnati that failed eventually, but any observer could see just how much Spencer put into his business. He also launched the Desdemona music festival in 2006, that was popular but ultimately too expensive. The website gone but there's plenty of reference online.
He left Cincinnati after a wave of court judgments against him for debts. Evicted and frozen out. Even his advertising billboard went unpaid. And ended up on the street of New York, pitching comics to Image… and the rest is history.
But with the topic coming back up in public discussion, and in the new context of Secret Empire and Johnston's praise of Spencer as a politician who has stood for office against fascists, comics journalists are finding a renewed interest in the story, and it's likely to be a topic of discussion in the Twittersphere over the coming weeks.
Hearing through the grapevine that other news agencies may be looking at this same story thanks to Johnston's tweets, we took a look back at Johnston's previous report, which is a great entry point for delving into Nick Spencer's political career. An obvious takeaway is that, even his previous life, Spencer found himself the subject of online controversy, as a feud with Black Cincinnati blogger Nate Livingston illustrates. In a blog post titled Spencer Spanking from 2004, Livingston dedicates a long self-described rant to a takedown of Spencer, prompting what appears to be a response from Spencer in the comments:
Consider me over it, although I don't really think any of it upset me in the first place. I disagree with you on a great number of points, though, here are a few:
1) I am a Republican– not a secret. And yes, while you can make a semantic argument over it, I did work for John Ashcroft in 2000. I never tried to hide that, its always been on my resume'. I didn't put that I worked for George Voinovich on my campaign lit, it doesn't mean I'm hiding it. You have a limited amount of space, and you choose to highlight certain aspects of your career. That's politcs. Bobby Kennedy didn't talk about working for McCarthy during the blacklisting, Hillary Clinton doesn't talk about campaigning for Goldwater. I was honestly surprised anybody tried to make a big deal out of it. Oh, and I really like Pat DeWine, we've always gotten along well. I don't agree with him on everything to be sure, but I think on balance he's done a good job on Council. And Charter is not a "liberal" organization. We're a committe of independents, all with different political views. Take Jim Tarbell and Christopher Smitherman for example.
2) I guess I'd disagree with your view that I haven't done much. While I certainly haven't accomplished everything I set out to, I think on the whole I've done some good things for the city, whether its forming Cincinnati Tomorrow, helping to stop the hiring of John Elkington on Main Street (which certainly would have caused some displacement), etc. I think you and I differ in our approaches, and as a result define success differently. I can totally understand that.
3) I think you underestimate the campaign we ran last year– though you certainly got the results right. I knocked on about 15,000 doors in this city, and lit dropped for 12 hours a day for 3 months. Then we'd head over to the campaign office, where we'd phone bank for 4 hours a night. I attended practically every candidate forum, every church Festival, and pretty much anywhere else that would let me in the door. I stood up for that Collaborative Agreement you talked about at Westwood Concern and got booed off the stage when I mentioned the NAACP.
4) I hear the arrogant, condescending, self-absorbed stuff all the time. Hey, maybe there's some truth to it. I'm certainly not out campaigning that I'm the world's most perfect person. All I know is I wake up in the morning trying to make this a better city for everybody, including young Black people, whether you believe that or not. Like you, I feel very strongly about our city, and like you, I'm trying to get a point of view across.
So those are my thoughts. I don't want to get in an argument, or start a fight, or whatever. I was just wondering why you made the comment you made earlier today. I don't consider myself superior or mean to condescend in any way– I have enjoyed the blog. I will stress again that you could accomplish more if you worked in partnership with others more. But my advice is only worth as much as you think it is.
Again, thanks for the thoughts.
It might be surprising to learn that Spencer, an ardent supporter of Hillary Clinton throughout the Democratic primary and general election, was once a self-identified Republican, but that was over thirteen years ago, and a lot has changed over that much time, in the world as well as in Spencer's political affiliation.
But for 2005 Nick Spencer, his campaign website provides an efficient summary of Spencer's stance on the issues, at least as they stood at that time, since it includes a page for that exact purpose titled "On the Issues:"
On the economy, in favor of diversity in community, minority-owned businesses, new technology, community planning, reduced spending, and lower taxes. And also, seemingly, quite tough on crime. Individual posts from the blog expand on these stances, such as an account of Spencer's own actions as a concerned citizen, calling the police to report a drug deal:
On eminent domain:
And on the ethical use of tasers:
Some of these posts, particularly the ones on crime, give the impression Spencer was running for the position of street judge in Mega-City One, rather than a spot on the city council of Cincinnati. And then there's this CityBeat profile on Spencer's vigilante efforts, such as:
Nick Spencer lay on his horn, trying to scare the johns away from a set of barely pubescent girls and their pimp while waiting for police to arrive.
Already his constant calls to Cincinnati Police hadn't done much to endear him to neighborhood hustlers. So when the pimp reached into a corner trash can, Spencer thought he was going for a stashed gun. He drove off before seeing what came up in the man's hand.
Spencer says he's tried the Hamilton County Sheriff, but the calls go unanswered. But the crux of the crime problem, Spencer says, is absentee landlords and disinterested business owners.
"I can get six dealers and prostitutes arrested at that building per day," he says. "They're going to be back out in 48 hours."
In any case, Spencer's blog is there to explore further, for those interested.
Of course, Nick Spencer doesn't have a campaign blog to describe where he stands on the issues today. The Charterite Party, under which Spencer ran in Cincinnati, has a Wikipedia page, which speaks briefly on their values:
Over the years, Charterites pursued a number of liberal and progressive causes, including reducing pollution and establishing cost-of-living wage increases for municipal employees. The Charterites instituted the now-common requirement of maintaining a public inventory of municipal property. Another Charterite initiative that has spread throughout the country requires private employers to inform employees of the risks of handling hazardous materials, known as a right-to-know law.
And the Charter Committee of Greater Cincinnati lists their vision and values on their current website. On their Wikipedia page, Spencer remains listed as a well-known Charterite, though it's not clear how accurate that is, as Spencer talks Democratic party strategy frequently on Twitter, which would lead many to believe that his current affiliation is Democrat. Of course, the Charter party is exclusive to Cincinnati Ohio, which may make membership outside that city a moot point.
Secret Empire #1 will be in shops on May 3. During the first week of June, some of your favorite websites will take part in a Marvel marketing campaign that will see them "taken over" by Hydra. Bleeding Cool, your most favorite website of all, was not asked to take part.