When Milo Yiannopoulos Talked To Chuck Dixon About Stephanie Brown

milo-yiannanopolis-image-by-dan-taylor-danheisenbergmedia_com-26Milo Yiannopoulos, technology editor for Breitbart, and Twitter-banned online bullier of Leslie Jones, invited comic book writer Chuck Dixon onto his podcast the other week to talk about the successful release of his new graphic novel, Clinton Cash.

And he was very much a fan of Chuck Dixon on this book, an adaptation of the text that aims to expose corrupt financial Clinton dealings and their political campaigns.And he gave Chuck the opportunity to tell everyone what is wrong with the comics industry, indeed Milo started by asking

how has is the social justice handwringing lunacy in the comic book industry?"

with Chuck replying

"It's as bad as it can get. Political correctness is the first consideration and making the newsfeeds is the second consideration. And that's no way to run a comic book company."

I might argue that that second consideration is a way to run a comic company but Milo had other concerns. He saw this the approach by Marvel and DC Comics to diversify the character spread of their big names by introducing female, LGBTQ and POC versions of characters as having harmful ramifications across culture and art elsewhere, given the influence of comics. But also that he was concerned for the health of the industry

"the numbers for the reboots when they make someone black,or latina, or lesbian or whatever and they don't seem to perform very well after issue two."

All comics, whatever their political or social leaning gain second issue drops. But some continue and prosper better than before, and recently Ms Marvel, Moon Girl And Devil Dinosaur, Totally Awesome Hulk and Mighty Thor have been solid examples of that. But Chuck analysed thus,

"they'll make someone gay or latino or Aborigine or Armenian and that's all the character is, there's no character beneath it, if they created a good character, they might last a while."

Chuck Dixon compares Black Lightning at DC who he describes as being nothing but a black character to Luke Cage, who he saw as someone who "happened to be black", that he was "awesome" and the ultimate accolade "going to have his new televison show." Chuck complaining that Marvel and DC were

"putting their identity and politics first and pitting good comics second. Horrible idea."

But Milo had unsolicited opinions about dialogue, saying

"what wit there is in the dialogue is thin mean vindictive twitter style feminism, you know beating up the bad guys, they're always men, that kind of stuff"

before asking what's the worst offence Chuck had seen comic companies made in this regard. Chuck replied,

"I can't think of anything they haven't vandalised. They've either changed gender, changed the nationality, changed the racial makeup or killed or crippled every single hero at some point, ultimately, it's not outrageous anymore it's boring, we're tired of it, dammit, leave Superman alone, leave Spider-Man alone."

"I can't think of anything they haven't vandalised. They've either changed gender, changed the nationality, changed the racial makeup or killed or crippled every single hero at some point, ultimately, it's not outrageous anymore it's boring, we're tired of it, dammit, leave Superman alone, leave Spider-Man alone."

Milo asked

"why do you think they are doing this to existing characters? Why not just invent a new characters…. It feels to me like a deliberate middle finger, triumphalism, look what we can do to your beloved childhood hero" says that it "seems mean and unpleasant, almost sociopathic… what's going on?" echoing Trump's own expressed puzzlement "they're making Ghostbusters with only women, what's going on?"

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=clGuYPcim-g

That's the one. What's going on? Chuck replied

"For the most part they lack the imagination to create a new character, they're using crutch of character who ate 50s 60s 75 years old, it's also cynical, if you create new character, no one's going to care, and they don't have faith in their abilities to make a brand new character work."

Except it's also arguable that the superhero audience and retailers are innately conservative, are not ones to take a chance on the new and such characters have to be introduced in this fashion. It's not a lack of faith in ability, but a lack of faith in the market, but a knowledge that change is necessary for long-term survival.

Milo asked Chuck if comics had lost its talent, but Chuck dismissed that saying,

"you have gatekeepers of editors and publishers who basically, this is want, we want a lesbian Batwoman and if you can't write that go to hell…. That is literally how it works…. They're following this Hollywood model now. It used to be in comics, they used to throw stuff against the wall and if it stuck, it stuck… now it's complicated, there's a pre-production process, reviews, turnaround. Spider-Man created in an afternoon by two guys who desperately wanted to sell some comics."

However, Chuck did want to highlight what he saw as "islands of sanity" amongst "grasping cynical idiots" citing publisher…

"Ted Adams at IDW is for me a paragon of virtue, and paragon of sanity and reasonableness. He makes money as a comic book publisher not relying  on licensing. He's also the only guy I'll trust on a handshake,,, He's a smart guerilla marketer, he's never forgotten what comics are. If I got a great idea for a comic, I'll go to Ted first."

I'm not sure it Chuck knows that IDW make most of their comics revenue on licensed work, and they are focussing on TV as well now. Or that they commissioned me to write a trading card set for them called Weapons Of Mass Distraction a few years ago, aimed at mocking conservative politicians in the USA. But still. Chuck also had woe stories of his own in the industry.

"Once they realise I'm a conservative,  lots of assumptions are made, of course,I'm a homophobe and a bigot and a racist and  I hate women. You've got to get past those assumptions only way to do good work-for-hire, I don't put my politics in the work, they don't want to be lectured. My personal politics are my personal politics. You used to be you could argue with your editors at lunch over global warning, but now it's all personal and thin skinned, you don't belong in the clubhouse…"

It may also be pointed out that outspoken conservatives like Ethan Van Sciver and downright openly homophobic creators like Mike S Miller are both in regular work at DC Comics. The greater critique of Dixon I recall was what was seen as hypocrisy, being opposed to any character in a Marvel superhero comic being gay because that was inappropriate for kids, "€œI don't want to expect to be able to shield my kids from the subject of homosexuality as the media seems intent on bringing into my home and nothing short of cutting the electricity and boarding the windows will stop it. But I DON'T want my kids reading about it in comics" when in his own comics he at one point has a superhero having fully heterosexual sex with a ghost.

But anyway. We got a little history.

"Marvel and DC are literally run by guys who went to the same comic book shop in Brooklyn. And if you're not in that clique its hard to get really good work and if your politics aren't right it;s impossible to get any work."

Bill Willingham's Fables at DC Comics did quite well, didn't it?

"All if my work now is with the independent companies, they don't care about politics, they care is the story funny, is it  exciting, and did you hand it in on time… as Larry Hama once told me, your characters are likeable, your stories make sense and you hand your work in on time. So they'll never forgive you. This was at Marvel."

Milo was asked if Chuck was worried about his legacy as a creator? Giving the fictitious example of The Punisher being turned into into black lives matter activist.

"I've seen my characters morphed into PC ciphers, but once I've done with them, it's like watching your kids go off with another guy, the new daddy is here,  I don't pay attention to it, or I'd be crying myself to sleep every night"

And then he talked about Stephenie Brown. He doesn't say Stephanie Brown. But he means Stephanie Brown.

 "I mean I had a character that I had created that I really liked and had an affinity for and DC, they had her raped, tortured and murdered in the most gruesome fashion and I'm like what the hell. And then even more cynically they brought her back a couple of years later, so… It's hard not to take it personally."

And he has a point, of course. Especially when he follows that with

"I did a book called Nightwing for years, when I left it they killed every single on of the supporting characters in the book and nuked the city in case they missed any… I'm sure there was a lot of giggling at the editorial meeting."

But aren't most of the people who did complain about the treatment of the Stephanie Brown character and have campaigned for her return to her rightful position in the DC Universe that was denied her… exactly the kind of people that Milo would dismiss as SJWs? Isn't Stephanie Brown the kind of spinoff character that Chuck Dixon decries? Isn't this the moment that Milo and Chuck could realise that actually they share some of the concerns of the people they criticise, and find some kind of common empathy and humanity of purpose in this moment?

No.

Chuck and Milo talked about his graphic novel Clinton Cash, with Milo stating he'd read and enjoyed the likes of V For Vendetta, Preacher and Sandman and he was impressed by the achievement, and how funny it was, much funnier than those "twitter feminist micro-aggressions" he referred to at the beginning of the show. And both saw the Clintons as the evil supervillain bad guys outstripping the likes of Hydra.

Seems comics fell to the social justice invasion, now policed from within. Video games fans stood up to this stuff… why didn't that happen in comics? Chuck answered,

"Because they've chased so much of the readership away. People simply stopped reading comics when they voluntarily pulled comics off the newsstands in the 1990s and became a boutique industry exclusive to comic shops."

"And there is already noise at both major companies, because they're owned by international conglomerates, 'Why are you doing new comics? You have all this stuff that on your own you could just reprint?' And because the comics aren't profitable publications, the parent companies have every right to question that and say, 'Why aren't you more popular?' Everyone knows who Thor and Iron Man and Batman are. Why don't the comics sell more? Because they're crap. That's why they don't sell more."

You can enjoy the whole discussion right here and buy the book here.

 

About 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.