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Is The Support For Hillary Clinton In Faith #5 Too Political For Comic Shops?

stl022910Phil Boyle, of the Floridan comic store chain Coliseum Of Comics wrote on a private retailer message board regarding his problems with the upcoming comic book Faith #5 from Valiant Entertainment. a special election issue of the popular superhero comic book that, for this issue, seems to demonstrably and obviously favour one political candidate in. Here's the solicits for the issue in question.

On November 2nd, just day,s before Election Day 2016, legendary writer Louise Simonson and Harvey Award-nominated artist Pere Perez present history in the making with a presidential milestone like no other! Faith Herbert, star of the highest selling independent superhero debut of 2016, is a shining beacon of optimism in a challenging world. Her day job as a blogger and journalist is about to bring Faith face to face with Democratic Presidential nominee Hillary Clinton…but its her daring alter ego as Los Angeles' leading superhero that will have to save the day when a new threat emerges to imperil a pivotal moment that has all of America watching!

Plus, also coming in the oversized, 48-page FAITH #5 election special: Faith's adventures continue with an all-new lead story by the ongoing creative team of writer Jody Houser (Orphan Black) and new series artist Meghan Hetrick (Red Thorn), as well an exclusive prelude to HARBINGER RENEGADES #1 – featuring the long-awaited return of Faith's beloved superteam -by writer Rafer Roberts (A&A: THE ADVENTURES OF ARCHER & ARMSTRONG) and artist TBD!
In Shops: Nov 02, 2016
SRP: $3.99

Phil has, as a result, chosen not to stock the comic book on the shelf of his stores, selling it behind the counter. It's an act of censorship not uncommon in comic stores, though in the past that was usually in relation to the portrayal of sex and nudity. But we saw a similar move by bookstores in a different political direction, choosing not to stock the works of Bill Willingham.

Regarding Faith #5, Phil has allowed Bleeding Cool to run his comments on the boards in full. He writes,

To be very clear, this is not a political rant, it's a comic & comic store rant though for full disclaimer, I am not a Clinton supporter.

When newly-elected President Obama appeared on the cover of Spider-Man I saw it as an opportunity to sell to people who weren't predisposed to buying comics. It worked well. We sold 3000 copies of the book and frankly, made a killing doing it. Now Valiant is jumping on that bandwagon but lo, not so fast. Obama appeared AFTER the election. The book had a street date that fell right after the inauguration. In short, ASM was jumping into a piece of history and regardless of political stance, Spidey was interacting with the President of the United States, not a candidate for the job in a very contentious election season.

Now it's 2016 and we're in the maelstrom of what is probably the most vitriolic and divisive election we've seen in history; there's been some doozies but violence and protest rallies of the sort that have accompanied this election season are unprecedented (with a nod to 1968 for trying really hard). Previously rational friends on both sides of the crazy equation have become rabid lunatics. The outright nasty name calling and debasement via comments of "If you vote for (fill in the blank) then you're stupid/a moron/a racist/a supporter of organized crime/unfriend me now" have made Facebook and chatrooms a wasteland of broken relationships. Last night's debate was pretty hateful with both sides declaring firm victory from the hate storm.

Unlike 2008 when Obama was entering the White House and the election was a part of history, a publisher has opted to basically endorse a candidate by featuring said candidate in their best-selling book days before the election. I've had personal conversations with the fine (and generally rational) folks at Valiant about the detrimental effect this can have in our stores. They seem to disagree. I don't see anyone picking up an issue of Faith #5 and gaining a sudden epiphany and pulling the handle to vote for Clinton so that's not my concern. Comics can have quite a reach but have you had one conversation this election season where someone could be swayed one way or another? So how can a candidate appearing in a comic be detrimental to comic stores? Either polarizing candidate, by mere mention, elicits reaction from the detractors. Clinton supporters will praise the team-up in the name supporting women and body-positive empowerment. Trump supporters will be happy Faith is addressing Clinton's corruption in Washington. Did either of those statements raise your personal hackles or blood pressure even a bit? Tip of the iceberg, folks. Most retailers have a business-oriented filter and wisely keep their political and religious views out of customer consumption – no sense polarizing your customer base right out the door. But here's the kicker: your customers don't have that filter. They're free to say what they like and though you can ask for restraint, we're dealing with the public and the public doesn't always think things through. This could incite disagreements (shouting matches) in our stores and that's something, common sense being what it is, that I've always tried to avoid.

I suggested to Valiant off the cuff that to keep it from looking like an outright endorsement that they feature Trump in another book. But that's just as bad – or twice as bad — an idea as featuring either bile-inducing candidate singly. I can fully see their rationale as wanting to have a book on the stands featuring Clinton should the election sway her way. That does not excuse the timing for an outright endorsement and yes, putting a candidate in any print or online format in a positive manner is endorsement. Valiant has promoted Faith to the tune of 100,000 free 2nd print copies of #1 after it was already the top-selling (300,000 copies!) independent title of the year. Follow the money.

Lastly, for the retailers out there who are opposed to Hillary, this is a forced endorsement. Clinton doesn't pay for my shelf space and it's not for sale for political advancement of any party. We went down that road with Obama v. Romney and the comments the two books side-by-side elicited were not what I wanted in my store. That election was about a 10th as contentious as this one.

Unlike ASM, the Black community will not pour into stores for Clinton like they did for Obama. I don't see feminists rushing to buy these comics though there will be people wanting them. As for my stores, we will likely have people who want this book. My stores are in a 50/50 split state, which makes it more controversial. We'll have it behind the counter for those who ask. We won't be giving this book display space. If we sell out, I'm okay with that.

Sad thing is, this undermines my ability or desire to promote Faith any further. For a company striving for even a spark-in-a-bottle this was folly.

Cliff Biggers of Georgia's Dr No's Comics And Games added,

I expressed my concerns about this book to Valiant as soon as I saw the solicitations. Now, several of my customers have made the decision for me: all but two of my Faith subscribers have asked me to quit pulling the book. Five specifically mentioned political advocacy as the reason why. In a state that is about 60% Republican, Valiant put us in an awkward position; I prefer my store remained a politically neutral site. And as I told Valiant, I don't believe that they will get those readers back in my store. DC is offering superhero fans lots of great books for a dollar less; once customers decide to break their Faith run, they're not coming back an issue later. And I will not be gambling my money on shelf copies of future issues of this title in hopes that lapsed readers return; I'll put my extra Valiant money into Savage or Divinity III instead. As always, my goal is to sell customers books they enjoy reading.

Should I discover that I'm wrong and some of those customers return, you can be sure I'll be upping my Faith orders. My philosophy of comics sales perfection is defined as selling all but one copy of every book I carry; that means that I totally satisfied my market's demand for the book. I place four direct-ship orders a week for that very reason; I want to restock as quickly as possible and not make my customers wait an extra week or three. So should I be proven wrong and people come in asking for Faith #5, then I will certainly place a reorder Wednesday night (provided the book is in stock).

I expect the comments on this may run far and wide… but as for now, Valiant did not comment to Bleeding Cool on this story.

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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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