Monday, August 6, 2018


My secret that five years ago, I sent money to Richard C. Meyer, notorious guru/leader/poster child of Comicsgate. Born from the more repugnant Gamergate, this is a gathering of anti-diversity comic-book fans (alleged) who have gotten all butt-hurt because not every comic is tailored to their narrow preferences and prejudices.

Some of them go on and on about how terribly misunderstood they are, and perhaps some of them are fans who still expect comic books to be just as they were when said fans were twelve, but, basically, the majority of these fans are racist, bigoted, misogynist, white supremacists. When I posted this sentiment on Twitter, I included “GOP-loving zombies,” which was unfair of me. As shocking as it is for me to say, even Republicans deserve better than to be lumped in with the collection of creeps, phonies and trolls who came after me on Twitter and got even more butt-hurt when I blocked them. I will get back to them in a bit.

When I initially conceived this “secret shame” bloggy thing, I was going to do this whole satirical thing about my past sin and how I was mortified by it, how it wasn’t reflective of my character and so on and so on. It would have been so good I would have received the support of the entire Guardians of the Galaxy cast. That’s just a joke, by the way. Count me among director James Gunn’s fans and supporters. I’m a big believer in redemption.

The more I fiddled around with my original bloggy thing, the more I blocked Comicsgate members from my Twitter feed, the more I felt something akin to pity for them. Even for Mayer and, Lord knows, he is not someone I’d ever want to hang out with.

Here’s what happened:

I was going through one of the countless boxes that hold my noted Vast Accumulation of Stuff and came across two different editions of Meyer’s No Enemy, But Peace. This was a 28-page comic book with one version in color, signed and numbered, and the other in black-and-white. The color comic was published in 2013. Flipping through the comic, I realized how I came to own these comics when I saw my name on the inside back-cover list of backers in the color version. I had donated to a Kickstarter campaign.

In 2013, I was having a pretty good year. I was making some decent money ghosting for several syndicated newspaper comic strips. So I donated to worthy organizations like the ACLU, the NAACP, the SPLC, Planned Parenthood and others. I also donated to many Kickstarter campaigns, some of which have still not delivered on what they were supposed to deliver. To his credit, Meyer did send me what he was supposed to send me. Okay, he falsely characterized a 24-page story as a “graphic novel,” but other than that...

I looked up Meyer’s successful Kickstarter campaign online. I can see why I backed it. It was a comic book written and published by a Iraq War veteran. I have a lot of friends and readers who have served or still serve in the military, some of them holding high rank. I’ve sometimes joked that I could hold my own coup with all the military friends I have.

Here is Meyer’s short synopsis of the comics:

The true story of Sgt. Marco Martinez, a former gang-banger who joined the Marines and earned the Navy Cross in Iraq. 
My regular readers know I love a good redemption story. Which was another reason to back the project.

Meyer, who says he served in the same unit as Martinez, claims this is the first comic book produced by Iraq War veterans about the war itself. I’m not sure that’s an accurate statement, but that wasn’t a selling point for me.

There was nothing in the Kickstarter campaign to indicate Meyer’s  future vileness. Which is why I have no actual shame about backing it. That was just my lead-in to the satirical bloggy thing that I’d originally planned.

As happens with too many comics and books that find their way into  my Vast Accumulation of Stuff, I didn’t read the comic book until I found it in the aforementioned box. Since Meyer seems to claim it’s his politics that keep him from being a success in the comics field, I thought I should read the book.

If I had received this script as an editor, I would have thought it was a good basic idea that wasn’t well developed. I would have sent it back to Meyer with a few notes.

He needed to develop Martinez and the other characters better. They didn’t come to life in this comic book.

He should have included more on Martinez’s life as a gang-banger. The redemption of this criminal turned hero would be an emotional, powerful core for the story.

He should have dropped the tedious “Rifleman’s Creed” that takes up several pages of voice over captions during the action. It was long and pretentious.

The writing wasn’t even up to journeyman quality, but a good editor could’ve worked with Meyer to give his script more heart and style. The basic bones of the story were good.

Yeah, I know what you’re thinking. I would be asking him to rewrite his script from start to finish. Something no writer wants to do. But, if he rewrote it in accordance with my notes and showing his determination to make his story the best story he could, I would have bought it.

The art? It was okay, but the human figures often seem stunted. It was a complaint I had about Pete Costanza’s art on Jimmy Olsen back in the 1970s. Everyone in those issues looked like they were four or five feet tall. You would think that would be a positive to a short fellow like myself, but it wasn’t.

Did Meyer’s apparent lack of success in the comics field lead him to his current state? I have no way of knowing. I will say that it is no small thing to produce a comic book, even one such as this. Anyone who does so earns some props from me.

Which brings us back to Comicsgate. My mistake was in responding at all to the Twitter trolls. They have their own hateful agenda and any time I spent with them took me away from my own writing. Which is a key difference between me and most of them.

I am a working writer. I have been for almost half a century. Over the past decade or so, I have never been without a paying gig on my desk for more than a day or two...and I always had my own projects to work on during those few days off. I might not always have the assignments I would prefer, but I always have work in the industry I have devoted my life to.

I’m used to comics fans of good character being upset because their old favorites don’t appeal to them anymore. I get that. But I also realize two other things.

Comics have to adapt to changing times. I don’t write the comics I write today the same way I wrote the ones I did in the 1970s, the 1980s, the 1990s and so on. I would lose interest in writing them if I had to do the same thing over and over again. It’s why I did a reboot on Black Lightning. I wanted reader who weren’t born when I created him to be able to relate to him and his world.

There is more variety in the comics industry right now than there has even been before. If you don’t like modern super-hero comics, you can find hundreds of reprints of super-hero comics more to your liking. You can find thousands of public domain super-hero comics online. You can even find new super-hero comics written and drawn in the styles of the past.

One more note before I put Comicsgate out of my mind. Some members of that grouping claim they object to the politics in comic books written by the likes of me. What they really mean is they object to politics that are not theirs. They object to the inclusive nature of many of today’s mainstream super-hero titles. But, even if one wishes to assume their complaints are not based on their prejudice against “the others,” they are wrong.

They should study their comic-book history. Comics have always been political. Superman ran crooked businessmen and politicians out of town, giving a beat down to at least one spouse abuser. The Justice Society brought food to starving patriots in Europe. A later story attempted to raise awareness of people with disabilities and that they were capable of accomplishing great things.

Captain America punched Nazis in his first issue and was far from alone. Comics heroes were fighting battles against the Axis powers well before the United States entered the war.

Even in the conservative 1950s and 1960s, Superman and Batman and others spoke out for tolerance and inclusion. That’s the American way. The comic books of today carry on the proud traditions of our best comics of the past.

I came to the realization that I love comic books more today that I have ever loved them in the past. I love the variety available to today’s readers. I love the diverse viewpoints that come from our diverse characters and creators.

As an expression of my love, I’m creating a new comics universe in between my paying gigs. I have come up with what I think is a novel approach to universe-building. My plan is to write the first issues of the first three titles in my universe, structuring the scripts so that the first eight pages of each offer a satisfying chunk of story. Then I’ll take those 24 pages and preface them with a two-page comics feature introducing my new universe. I’ll self-publish this comic book and see where it goes from there.

One thing I’m sure of is that I will do my best to include diverse characters in my new comics. Some will be challenging, such as my intention of including a positive conservative hero in at least one of the initial three titles.

[Note: I make a distinction between actual conservatives, a sadly diminished group, and the hate-mongers who have usurped that title for themselves.]

I own part of my renewed love of comics to the venom ejected onto the art form and industry by the likes of Meyer and his followers. The future does not belong to them.

I do feel some small pity toward them. I pity them that they cannot accept the terrific comic books being published today. Great comics from the past. Great comics from the present. Great comics from all over the world. Great comics by voices we haven’t heard from until recently. Their bigotry robs them of so much.

This is the true Golden Age of Comics. I’m more proud to be working in the industry now than at any other time in my long career. There is much to look forward to. Indeed, cribbed from the amazing Luke Cage series on Netflix, I have a mission statement:

Always forward.

I’ll be back tomorrow with more stuff.

© 2018 Tony Isabella

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