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Uncanny Avengers, X-Men, Rick Remender, and Oppression Comix

March 29th, 2013 by | Tags: ,

Here’s an image from the latest issue of Uncanny Avengers 5, drawn by Olivier Coipel, inked by Mark Morales, written by Rick Remender, and colored by either Laura Martin, Larry Molinar, or both:

uncanny-aven

I saw this excerpted on The Beat and I thought it was pretty funny. I disagree with what Alex is saying, but lots of comics characters say things I disagree with, and I’m not reading this comic anyway, so that’s a double dose of “who cares.” But I’ve also seen similar sentiments expressed elsewhere — by actual, non-fictional people, I mean, not other cartoon characters — and that always secretly bugs me, so whoops I do care a whole lot and my jaded exterior is a false face.

I have two problems with this, but they come more from a theoretical perspective than a “I don’t like this story” perspective. For the phrase “the m-word” to be viable as a concept, Alex’s speech can’t be about “mutant,” which has been the accepted way to refer to the X-Men for basically ever. Professor X does it, Magneto does it, and I figure basically every X-writer has approached it as a neutral way to refer to m-words nine times out of ten. It has been used in negative ways, but so have the pretty much neutral words black, Jew, gay, and probably everything else. The offensive part of “black bastard” isn’t “black.” It’s “bastard.”

Alex’s speech, to make the metaphor work, has to be about “mutie,” which is about as close as mutant-oriented slurs get to “nigger.” Alex’s speech is the equivalent of a black dude saying “Don’t call me black,” which is a thing that definitely gets expressed that I don’t think holds up under scrutiny at all. It prizes blind assimilation over actual acceptance. It’s not “I’m just like you” so much as “I’m just like you because I don’t mention this part where we’re different that makes you uncomfortable.”

(Yes, I’ve seen the Morgan Freeman video, people who are rushing to post it in the comments as some type of counterpoint. “Stop talking about it” is the stupidest advice anyone ever gave for solving any problem in the entire world. Nothing fixes itself.)

Luckily that’s my other point: this is naive in a way that I appreciate (honest!) but will never, ever believe in. I get what Alex is saying, but it also depends on the entire world magically changing their points of view to one that doesn’t view you as a threat. It’ll work on some people, especially if you’re a pretty mutant, but it will have less than zero effect on everyone else. “Don’t look at me like a black guy,” said the black guy who somehow forgot that racism is a system that doesn’t magically go away if you personally ignore our differences. There are years — centuries in real life, decades in comic books — of momentum that don’t just stop because you make a semantic change. This is the opposite of realpolitik. It’s tumblrpolitik. As far as workable philosophies go, it makes a nice image macro or touching edit of A Softer World.

But! Who cares? I’ve disagreed with stuff in comics before, and in X-Men comics in particular, pretty much ever since I first saw one of those idiotic “Professor X is Martin Luther King and Magneto is Malcolm X!” comparisons. (They aren’t, not even close, and you can’t support that position without being real ignorant of like… anything about everyone involved.) I’ll somehow limp along and live my life without holding a grudge over Alex “Havok” Summers believing something different from me in a comic book I ain’t reading.

BUT! I do think doing this sort of story with the X-Men is a mistake. The X-Men are, in the eyes of both Marvel and the vast majority of fans, an oppression metaphor. Mutants-as-blacks, mutants-as-gays, mutants-as-outcasts. You can fill in the blank with your preferred marginalized group, up to and including white dudes. It’s a tremendous asset to the franchise, because everyone feels alone and like an outcast sometimes. The X-Men are feared and hated by a world they are sworn to protect, which sets them up as underdogs.

BUT!!! This is an example of the franchise flying too close to the sun and getting too specific, which is usually a mistake. The metaphor has worked for so long because it’s amazingly broad and they rarely ever address the actual factual parts of being marginalized within the text. The X-Men franchise is a soap opera about pretty people having sex and fighting evil and sometimes disfigured bad guys, but somehow they’re still underdogs and we love them for it. They’ll borrow specific things here and there, but fictionalize them to the point that they have a taste of real life, rather than a full bite.

There are a few good and recent examples of the franchise going specific. The Fraction/Land run on Uncanny X-Men had an anti-mutant take on Prop 8 I think, and I’m pretty sure that Bendis is mining black nationalist language and tactics for his take on Cyclops but don’t know for certain. Peter David and Larry Stroman kinda explored this years ago in X-Factor with the term “genetically-challenged,” which used humor to kill the tension and keep you into it.

Nailing this kind of specificity is a tough row to hoe, and if you tilt too far toward realism — toward acknowledging the actual oppression that provides fodder for X-Men stories — the balance gets entirely upset. In this case, “the m-word” is clearly, clearly, trading on “the n-word,” a censored version of the word “nigger.” That pulls Alex’s argument from being the kind of pie-in-the-sky optimism that is common to the franchise (my favorite example is Professor X’s speech during X-Cutioner’s Song, I think) to something that we look at with real world eyes. It reminds us that people still get called niggers for no reason at all, and that makes the metaphor that’s central to the X-Men seem cheap.

So in as much as I am upset with or at this scene, my problem is basically that, as a dude who is familiar with the X-Men and aware of how race is treated in my culture, I can’t buy it. It doesn’t work from a marginalized perspective, and it doesn’t necessarily do the X-Men franchise any favors, either. That’s a suspension of disbelief thing, so it ain’t a big deal. I though this was funny, tweeted about it, read other people talking about it, and then I saw this:


Which is kind of a bummer, and by kind of a bummer, I mean ughhhhhhhh. It’s a dumb response when “sorry it didn’t work for you, I hope you stick around” or dead silence will do. (“Kill yourself” in any form is a pretty bad look in a situation like this.) That was when I realized that this was a whole thing already, and I thought about tweeting Remender about it, but I’m blocked for whatever reason (I honestly don’t know why) so I didn’t.

While talking to Joe Hughes, my editor at ComicsAlliance and fellow Black Dude In Comics, Remender said that the story/scene “has nothing to do with black people. It’s about imaginary mutants.” and that “the n-word doesn’t own the concept.” Which is crazy. I mean, kids still do the s-word, b-word, d-word thing, but adults? In 2013? About an X-Men comic? You can’t tell me that “the n-word” has no influence on “the m-word.” That’s crazy. That’s like… I can’t even think of a good comparison. “The m-word” is related to “the n-word” because it’s a euphemism for a hurtful word introduced with the idea of decreasing the power of the original word. Arguing that it isn’t related at all requires some pretty amazing mental gymnastics. And if you honestly believe there’s no relation between the two… I don’t know, dude. I don’t have any jokes or anything to soften the blow — this is like ground level stuff.

Later, Jason Aaron sent these perfectly reasonable messages (among others) as a way of defending Remender:


Which is true! It doesn’t match up all the time. But what I think is very relevant here is that the X-Men are a lot of things to a lot of people, but one of the most important things they are — I’m talking top two, right after “sexy people with cool powers” — is an oppression metaphor. You cannot escape this. It is built into the X-Men’s DNA. It wasn’t there at the beginning, but by the time Claremont got through with them? It was in there. It’s indelible, like Gwen Stacy for Spidey or Batman not murdering dudes. The oppression metaphor is a vital piece of the engine that makes the X-Men work.

It’s part of the incredible tapestry that is the X-Men, and it’s a big part, so you can’t really blame people for looking at it through that lens by default. And you especially can’t blame them for doing it in a story that specifically invokes that metaphor. I understand that the X-Men are a lot of things, but going by this page, the oppression metaphor is explicitly invoked. So of course people are going to look at it through the lens of real life oppression. It’s childish but… “he started it” is pretty apt here.

This isn’t even some kind of tough guy “if you can’t handle the heat, get out of the kitchen” thing. Remender cranked the heat up, put a quart of water on to boil, walked away, and came back like “Wow this boiling water should totally go drown itself in hobo piss, who does this water think it is?”

My biggest problem with this is Remender’s response. Scott Summers’s weird brother saying things is pretty immaterial to me, except as a way to start a conversation. But telling people who are participating in a discussion that you invited to drown in hobo piss is aggravating. It’s contemptuous. This guy is writing Oppression Comix and when questioned on a fine point, he goes to “kill yourself?” And obviously it’s metaphorical and he doesn’t think dissenters should actually kill themselves, but if I led this piece with “if all these straight white dudes keep acting out and then telling me how offended I get to be over something they did I swear I’ma hit somebody with a hammer, whoo lawdy this racism is killing me inside” you’d probably get upset at me, and with good reason.

I’m sure the usual gang of idiots crawled up his butt with idiotic harassment, but cripes dude maybe there is a better way to handle that than blanket-shaming everyone who doesn’t agree with you. It’s not hard to not be a dick. Ignore the trolls. Talk to the people with actual concerns. Ignore the people with actual concerns. Deflect. Pretend like nothing is going on. Do anything but sit there and tell a bunch of people who are dead in the center of the X-Men target audience and whose day-to-day life often provides fodder for X-Men stories to shut their yaps because mutants aren’t actually black/gay/whatever and your story has absolutely no basis in real life, even though your story is quoting an actual real life argument.

Instead:


which I guess is some kind of sarcastic ironic supergenius double bluff I’m not smart enough to get or something, because it just looks another stupid and tone deaf message after a day full of them from where I’m sitting here on my ivory throne. Besides, that finger of mine that’s wagging? At this point, it’s far from the pious one, hoss.

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69 comments to “Uncanny Avengers, X-Men, Rick Remender, and Oppression Comix”

  1. I don’t think Alex’s speech is anything to get all worked up about. It may be deserving of the gas face, but not much else. But Rememder’s tweet definitely do not make him look good. Is it that hard to be a classy comic professional on twitter? Is it? Cause I mean, damn.


  2. Based on conversations that Wolverine had with Cap in issue 1 and on what Wanda said earlier in the issue to Cap about Alex, up until the twitter trolling, I really believed that it might be part of a sneaky conversation about different approaches to assimilation. That all went out the window with “kill yourself” and the realization that Remender wrote Bulletstorm.


  3. In no particular order and without having read the article in its entirety due to time and energy restrictions (re: I am lazy, right now):

    Sometimes people with whom I strongly disagree say something that pierces my forcefield’s weak spot and I must guffaw. “Joyless Goober” is some funny sh!t.

    I think the Prof X/Magneto comparison to MLK/Malcolm X is useful, just not flawless.

    I do think that Alex’s past actions and statements contradict his current ones.

    I agree that “mutie” would have fit into his speech better than “mutant.”

    One-time for drowning oneself in “hobo piss.” That’s an insane response but still pretty frickin’ hilarious.

    I also think it’s ridiculous having Alex, of all people (although I’m sure they think otherwise), say that an oppressed minority should shed the term that describes or defines them. But I think it’s ridiculous, either way.

    Going on any further will lead me down an x-rabbit hole that I assume you’d rather avoid.


  4. Wow, thank you. The entirety of my thoughts and opinions and some stuff I didn’t even think of spelled out quite eloquently. I saw this page floating around some comics sites and I didn’t like the idea that they were trying to get rid of the the most neutral way to discern between somebody born with superpowers and someone who is not. I mean seriously, is it so offensive, even in the imaginary marvel world, to have a verbal way of expressing the difference between the normal dude and the dude who can shoot lasers from his face? I came to 4thletter hoping to hear your opinion on this and more importantly your opinion on Remender’s tweets, which definitely went a long way in altering my opinion of him. Great work David.


  5. Bros linking that Morgan Freeman video as a defense is probably one of the quickest indicators that they don’t have anything to say on the subject.


  6. My main take away here is that this is probably a good reason why these companies should have more diversity in their creative talent. Someone who can pipe up in meetings and say “hey, that’s not really how that works”.

    But oh well. At least this way we get the wonderfully weird geometry of one straight white writer, defending another straight white writer to black readers–in explaining that they are wrong to think that using the phrase “m-word” could at all be whatsoever, misconstrued with the “n-word”.

    That context for that NOFX is alarming. I remember listening to it in high school and thought it was more about the being ashamed of being the oppressive group–which is y’know…the exact opposite of what Havok is saying. oh well.

    Like you said. Not reading this book. Had no plans to read this book. Not being exactly sold that it’s something that I’m missing here.


  7. I was wondering what you thought of this David. It is from Universe X: Beasts one shot and I think it does a good job at pointing out the flaws of directly comparing them from a pure plot perspective.

    http://i50.tinypic.com/xm4osn.jpg


  8. Once again, you crush it. Five steps ahead of everyone else in the conversation. Thank you.

    At the end of the day, this wasn’t a very good comic, was it? For a book that’s supposedly at the heart of the modern Marvel lineup, why isn’t this a better book? Alex’s speech stood out to me as a weak moment in a weak book.

    It’s rather pretty, though.


  9. Good article David. I would add that Remender is the son of an alcoholic (he has talked about it being an inspiration for parts of Fear Agent). Many people from that type of environment go into “combat mode” quickly and strongly when feeling antagonized, without regard to the perceptive or proportion to that antagonism. His comments are more an example of him working through that pain than anything else. It’s a flaw but it’s a flaw someone deserves love for, or those that are fans of his should at least be patient with. I know that sounds weird but…living with addiction and being from families with addiction are weird things. You hold on to the love to get through it.


  10. pretty much ever since I first saw one of those idiotic “Professor X is Martin Luther King and Magneto is Malcolm X!” comparisons. (They aren’t, not even close, and you can’t support that position without being real ignorant of like… anything about everyone involved.)

    :damn:

    I’d be interested in reading more about this. The Xavier:King::Magneto:Malcolm comparison is so ingrained in comics discussion that I’ve never seriously unpacked it, so it’d be great to see a critique.

    (In full transparency, it’s an analogy that we’ve touched on in the past on the OTI podcast, so we could definitely stand to be corrected)


  11. I can get behind the logic of the original page to a degree–I mean, who wants to be called a “mutant”?–but Remender had to go be a huge dick about it.


  12. Great article, David. Beyond Remender showing his ass on Twitter (which surprises me, given my previous perception of him based on his other writing), I thought it was a strange choice to put this speech in the mouth of blond Aryan superman Alex Summers. But then again, when your other choices from the cast include Captain America and Thor…


  13. This reminds me of the Ben Marra thing from a few months back. Creators wanting to play with racism symbolically to give their narrative a certain real word oomph. Then when someone who actually has to deal with this shit in the real world calls it into question, they fall back on the “its just comics, man” defense.

    I remeber thinking Remender sounded like an ass back when he was on War Rocket Ajax years ago, and this just confirmed it.


  14. Damn, this is perfect. I do hope that this backlash against Remender gives him pause to reflect on WHY people are mad, instead of his default comebacks, but who knows. It’s really silly to think that, as a straight white male, dude came up with the perfect answer to end racism forever, haters can leave.


  15. @doctor T: I don’t think getting mad at people on the internet is a trait solely owned by the children of alcoholics. I think it is a natural human reaction when you feel attacked to lash out. I don’t even see anything wrong with what he said. It seems overly sensitive given the climate of most online interactions to get too up in arms about basically his word choice in telling someone to fuck off. The criticism that is valid is the one that David brought up, which is that it’s a bit weak to start a passionate conversation and then jump ship on said conversation soon after. That’s basically how trolling works. And again, I don’t think that’s something that needs a great deal of psychoanalysis, or to have Rememender’s personal life drug into it–to understand.


  16. “I can call you Stevey . . . and Stevey when you call me, you can caaaaaallllll meeeeeeee Allllll. Ex.”


  17. I actually think Havok, Remender, and NOFX were all making pretty salient points about how being forced into a label/group that one doesn’t agree with robs one of their personhood. Remender’s tweets were a little crass, and Havok’s dialogue was a little goofy, but it doesn’t seem that offensive to me, but as a disclaimer, I’m a white middle-class straight cisgendered male, so maybe I just don’t get it.


  18. ‘Recently that world saw my brother Scott infused with the power of a God.

    And while he tried to make a lasting change to fix what he saw as broken, no man should ever unilateraly take action or choose for so many.’ Says Havok unironically, standing near the Scarlet Witch.

    Noticed the issue on ScansDaily and when I saw the comments were brimming with distaste for the minority cultural integration bias in Havok’s speech I knew the next stop in my browser would be 4th Letter.

    Another great article David. Keeping Twitter fuelled with the rage of Marvel writers/editors.


  19. Yup. Won’t be buying anything from him again any time soon. And now Uncanny Avengers is even more weird, a bunch of mostly white people talking about racism, by a writer who doesn’t get it.


  20. @ltkenfrankenstein: Isn’t Havok basically saying though: “Don’t call me a mutant, call me white”? It would actually be interesting I suppose if Remender wants to rock out on some Nella Larsen Passing or something–but I think for the most part, when you abandon an oppressed group to join the oppressing group…well, then I think Django is well within his rights to shoot your ass dead in the end.

    I think about it more in terms of gender/queer dynamics–and how in the closet queer folk will oftentimes use their privilege hidden within the oppressor group to shoot at their own kind in ways far more harsh than those who aren’t trying to pass in the oppressor group. I mean we are seeing this here as well–Havok wants to join the non-mutant side of things, so he can freely shit on his brother and other mutants–like if he hates on his brother hard enough, then he’ll earn the approval of Captain America–which is really pretty disturbing. But not without precedence. Precedents that I would imagine judging from Remender’s reaction, we’re probably not going to really see consciously engaged–so much as unconsciously floundered into.


  21. My problem with that page isn’t that Havok has a dumb opinion — it’s actually pretty realistic that there’s someone with “Tumblrpolitik” ideas in the X-Men world. It’s just that he’s presented as enlightened, with the right answer (instead of the grayness of no answers), and I doubt he’s going to get challenged on it. I hope I’m wrong, but the tone doesn’t seem like it’s aware that there are challenges to his philosophy that he can’t blast with a beam.

    @LtKenFrankenstein That’s a false imagination of how labels work — everyone has many, endless labels whether it’s “Black,” “Gay,” “Comics Fan,” or “American” and these are all things that we should accept. Saying a label robs one of personhood and therefore we shouldn’t use them is actually advocating the removal of one of the labels we use that shape our lives and personalities whether we like it or not.


  22. Nice article. Yeah, bottom line is, Remender was working with mutancy as a prejudice metaphor here, and the sentiment “don’t call me a mutant” is nonsensical. It is the equivalent of “don’t call me [my race/gender/sexuality]”. It’s dumb. Combating prejudice is not about ignoring identities, but embracing them. Having Havok refer to “mutant” as though it were a slur, like “mutie”, is also very muddled. “Don’t call me mutie” would make sense, it’s intentionally offensive, “don’t call me Homo Superior” would also make sense, it could be seen as segregationist because of the whole “superior” part. But “don’t call me mutant” is silly – how can you discuss prejudice when you remove the operative words from said discussion?


  23. I’d be interested in reading more about this. The Xavier:King::Magneto:Malcolm comparison is so ingrained in comics discussion that I’ve never seriously unpacked it, so it’d be great to see a critique.

    Can’t speak to David’s specific problems with that, but it’s fairly reductive to equate Malcolm X’s politics with the views of a terrorist and mutant supremacist, even a fictional one. It also ignores the ways Malcolm’s views changed over the years, particularly after leaving the Nation of Islam. Basically it’s a comparison rooted in the white narrative of MLK as a peaceful hero of civil rights and Malcolm X as a scary black boogeyman that just wanted to kill whitey.

    I do see the Xavier-Magneto dynamic as based (really broadly) in the tensions surrounding cultural assimilation in minority/subaltern groups, so it’s not surprising to me that people can draw more specific comparisons to particular historical situations and particular people that come to embody those conflicting values. That said, you can drill down to how Professor X is really Booker T. Washington and Magneto is really W.E.B. DuBois, but that’s not really very productive in terms of exploring the broader questions being asked. And anyone with a sense of political/historical context could tell you how the comparison doesn’t hold up beyond that basic philosophical level.

    It’s why the m-word comment grated to me; the mutant oppression metaphor isn’t one that withstands any serious scrutiny, so it’s easy to come across as a little on-the-nose. And there are ways to talk about that that shouldn’t require one to drown oneself in hobo piss.


  24. @sarah horrocks: I should emphasize that I haven’t been really keeping up with Uncanny Avengers. I read the first issue, thought it was meh, and then skimmed this issue to see what the fuss was about.

    Anyway, that being said, the way I saw it was essentially Havok does not want to be “the mutant” among superheroes. He just wants to be a superhero. The same way someone might not like being referred to as “the black one” or “the gay one” within a group. That’s just a part of who he is, it’s not all he is. Sure, those labels might be accurate, but it still might not feel so great to be referred to like that, especially since we’ve been shown that in the marvel universe, “mutant” has a tendency to trump other labels.

    To tie it in to the NOFX thing, if I’m remembering right from interviews I read back in my high school days, Fat Mike wrote that song not to complain about how hard it is being white (which would, of course, be wicked stupid), but to point out that he considers his primary identity not white, but Jewish, so to be referred to as just a white dude kinda robbed him of a part of his identity he felt was important (keep in mind that this is also a self-confessed drug addict who wrote a song called “My Vagina” and tricked a bunch of people at SXSW into drinking his piss, so we’re not exactly talking Noam Chomsky levels of discourse).

    Also, from the two issues I’ve read, it doesn’t seem like Havok is being portrayed as having all the answers so much as being a dude forced into a position of very high prominence compared to his place in the superhero community in the past. He’s still kind of a dweeb (a well intentioned dweeb, but still a bit of a dweeb) who doesn’t really know how to navigate his new station.


  25. “Anyway, that being said, the way I saw it was essentially Havok does not want to be “the mutant” among superheroes. He just wants to be a superhero. The same way someone might not like being referred to as “the black one” or “the gay one” within a group. That’s just a part of who he is, it’s not all he is.”

    That’s a nice idea, that works fine, but Remender had the character refer to “mutant” as “the m-word” and say that it “represents everything [he] hates”, which completely messes that up. Looking at the lyrics of the NOFX song, it appears he borrowed directly from them. I wish he was listening to Kendrick Lamar’s “Fuck Your Ethnicity” instead!


  26. Yeah, I’ve seen Remender be a huge asshole across Twitter before. You probably got blocked for something he took the wrong way (or the right way). Loved his UXF, but he acts like a damn child.


  27. @Antisam: That said, you can drill down to how Professor X is really Booker T.

    I’m picturing a wheelchair spinaroonie and I can’t stop laughing. Sorry.


  28. It’s pretty convenient that the story, structurally, was laid out so that the entire segment under debate fit on one page despite the very heavy word count, easily scanned and distributed for attention on every web site. Clearly the press conference went on before and after – did it in the book, as well? It feels as though Remender wanted this page passed around, either to laud it or to argue over it, I really don’t know the guy, but when the heat came he wilted right up.

    David, you said everything that needed to be said on this, but speaking on a comics reader-specific scale, separate from the actual grossness inherent here, nothing gets my bile up like demanding to be taken seriously until the criticism comes, then shitting on the medium when it does. It doesn’t work in movies, it doesn’t work in video games, and it doesn’t work here. Own your shit, or get out and don’t come back.

    It’s the same weasel-willed nonsense that leads to comics people (say) holding up Nolan’s films as being in the same tier as various storytelling classics and then falling back on “It’s a superhero film, don’t read so much into it” when they start firebombing movie critic e-mail addresses…

    …Except now it’s about a subject that actually matters, and adults are talking. It tells me, personally, that what you want is to sound clever, not to actually say something about anything. If it was the latter, you’d take up the challenge, either defending your position like a grown-up, or backing down because you made a mistake.

    When people talk about writers coming in to cape comics to “play with toys,” this is what it really means, to me. Like it’s about scoring points tracked by internet conversations, and if you start to lose, you ragequit. Obviously not everyone. But enough to pollute the water.

    Anyway.

    “This is the opposite of realpolitik. It’s tumblrpolitik.” That’s the most perfect turn of phrase I’m going to hear all month.


  29. @Gavok: So does that make Cassandra Nova or Juggernaut the Stevie Ray in this analogy?

    When I first read that Avengers page, I thought it was kind of dumb and cringeworthy. But then I wondered if it was maybe intended to be? I haven’t read many comics with Alex Summers in them, so maybe he’s supposed to be a silly blowhard. Then I looked at Remender’s responses on Twitter and it seemed like a whole lot of hatred for anyone critical of the comic. It looks like he’s since deleted some of the “kill yourself” comments, but he still has a link to that Morgan Freeman interview. Posting a link to that video is the new version of the “how come there’s no White Entertainment Television?” argument.


  30. @Patchworkearth: “what you want is to sound clever, not to actually say something about anything.” That’s exactly it – you can tell he hadn’t thought about it any further than “ooh, the m-word

    As David and everyone has said, the idea that this is not about real-world identity politics is laughable, but just to hammer it home – after RTing all Jason Aaron’s thoughtful-but-irrelevant tweets, Remender RTs the Morgan Freeman video. So: “no one should be mad, because Alex’s speech wasn’t about race… but I do hold the exact views on race everyone who got mad is assuming. Hobo piss.”

    You have to go some to have me be grossed out by an Olivier Coipel comic, but Marvel actually have a pretty good streak going in that regard.


  31. More evidence that no good can come from superhero comics where the ostensible superheroes spend their time standing around giving speeches to other people standing around. Is it really worth four dollars to that many people to watch a guy like Remender light himself on fire by such boring proxy?


  32. I guess I am not the smart person here . . . I read the issue and quite liked the fact that, despite the gimmick premise, it’s the one Avengers book on the stands that appears to actually be written by someone who likes the Avengers. Havok has always been a little dim – that’s actually always been one of his personalty traits, he was a dork in the 60s and he was most definitely a dork when Claremont wrote him back into the book in the 80s (his defining trait in the 80s was cluelessness, actually, even going so far as losing his memory and working for the Genoshian military).

    But screw him, who cares, it’s all about the fact that we’ve got Wonder Man and the Wasp on an Avengers team again. I can forgive a lot just so long as the Wasp stays in the picture.


  33. And now, this: http://rickremender.com/?p=758


  34. I know he’s always been temperamental, but Rick Remender finally pulled the trick that would make Steve Wacker say “Too far, motherfucker, too far”

    And if Remender was on the recieving end he wouldn’t put up with this shit.


  35. I’m surprised more writers don’t occasionally go off. I’ve seen the X-Men CBR forums, those guys are crazy, and crazy vindictive.

    Not saying he is in anyway justified in his response, he most certainly isn’t, but he is a guy dealing with a boat load of fandumb especially post AvX which feels like it has cranked up the crazy in some circles. A dude can only get slammed so much before he loses his cool.


  36. *sigh* ….and Remender was doing so well before this too…

    My reaction to this is akin to Synch’s first appearance during Phalanx Covenant/ Birth of Generation X:

    Arms crossed looking at cops… then when first meeting Banshee, giving him the look of “Finally! Took you X-Men a LONG time to visit the ‘hood!”

    People can say Mutie is a metaphor but aren’t we in a medium that could have ACTUAL characters instead of allusions?

    He tried to do right here but it comes off forced and besides, how many characters are going to have this same moment? Off the top of my head I can think of 10 mutant characters over the last 20 years who have all given speeches/statements like this in front of cameras and NOTHING’S CHANGED.

    Magneto Was Right!


  37. I am glad someone else is noticing this disturbing trend with The X-Men. Here is a letter I sent to Marvel after reading the latest All New X-Men:

    The X-Men continually talk about the coming mutant genocide that is going to be caused by Cyclops. Is this the inverse of Cyclops continually talking about the coming mutant “revolution”? These terms are being tossed around as if either is something that is decided upon before they happen.

    First of all, why would Beast & Wolverine’s X-Men blame Cyclops for any “coming genocide” (as if it is something scheduled)? Secondly and once again, it doesn’t make a lot of sense when Beast talks about how bad it is for mutants but every time Cyclops shows up, everyone loves mutants as if it is the cool thing to do.

    Here is where it really makes me uncomfortable. Beast goes as far as to detail, to young Warren, how this genocide will be sparked by Cyclops calling for mutants to revolt against the people Beast just said hate/fear and oppress them. Beast is supposed to be smart but what he just did was internalize mutant hatred and ask mutants to ignore their oppression.

    Perhaps, the language could become a bit more nuanced and the issue of “good guy” mutants policing the oppression of other mutants could be addressed.


  38. @Greg: If Juggernaut started calling people “fruit booty”, he’d go from being one of my favorite characters to simply my favorite character.

    “Suckas gots to know that nothing stops the Juggernaut!”


  39. @Doctor Timebomb: Son of an alcoholic, step-son of another alcoholic (yeah, great taste in men, my mum) and former drug addict talking over here: that is in no way an excuse or even viable reason for the way Remender is behaving. If he were a teenager, or in his early twenties, fine- but this is a grown man we’re talking about. He should be past that stuff by now, and if he can’t- or refuses to- grow through it and learn to be a decent person, that’s his own fault. We all have baggage, we aren’t all dicks. Simple as that.

    To the rest of this– I never had a problem with the original page because A: what a character says does not necessarily reflect the views of the author, and B: I could not give less of a shit about this particular comic, so didn’t actually read it. The problem is, of course, Remender’s behaviour when asked to consider that he might have offended people he probably did not intend to offend. But all that is covered fully in this piece, no point me rehashing.

    What I DID want to add, though, is that a little while ago (maybe a month or so?) there was a piece online about how none of Remender’s Marvel books up to that point had any black people / people of colour in them; even the team books. The only reaction I saw to this was Remender tweeting about it to say that this wasn’t true- because he had, in fact, written Doctor Voodoo. Because nothing says “progressive racial politics” like a black superhero with “voodoo” in his name. So, yeah, his thick-headedness about all this isn’t as surprising as it could have been.


  40. […] “[T]he X-Men are a lot of things to a lot of people, but one of the most important things they are—I’m talking top two, right after “sexy people with cool powers”—is an oppression metaphor. You cannot escape this. It is built into the X-Men’s DNA….The oppression metaphor is a vital piece of the engine that makes the X-Men work. It’s part of the incredible tapestry that is the X-Men, and it’s a big part, so you can’t really blame people for looking at it through that lens by default. And you especially can’t blame them for doing it in a story that specifically invokes that metaphor.” David Brothers has more on 4th Letter. […]


  41. @David Wynne: Uncanny X-Force had Psylocke, to be fair.


  42. @Rick Vance: There’s an old issue of X-Factor, from the Lobdell era I think, early to mid 90s. They get to discussing Magneto and his agenda, and Xavier and his agenda, and Quicksilver interjects that there are basically two key questions to ask (and also provides the answers):

    1) Do mutants pose a threat to normal humans? Yes they do.

    2) Do normal humans have a right to protect themselves from mutants? Yes they do.

    I thought it was a surprisingly candid look at the realities of the situation as viewed by 99% of humanity, especially when expressed by a mutant. (If memory serves, Pietro used those observations to springboard into why Magneto is likewise right to do what he’s doing, but I may be misremembering that.)


  43. that’s actually a fairly standard response from remender over people not liking his stuff. i remember when he said that the new cap book he’s writing was “going to get weirder from here on out” and some poor person made the mistake of putting his username in a tweet stating (after he’d made his tweet) that the book was “too wacky weird” for him, to receive a reply from remender where, while polite, told the guy he didn’t want to read about people “shitting on [his] hard work”.

    this is a guy who can’t take even the remotest negative comment on his work, even if it’s just echoing something he said about the work himself, so it’s no wonder he’s reacted so charmingly in reply to this.


  44. Someone needs to coin the term “hobo piss” both in noun and verb forms to refer to a creator humiliating himself on social media.

    Example: “Hey, did you see Mark Millar hobo pissing all over Twitter this morning?”

    Example: “Liefeld’s exit from DC was a lot of hobo piss. Gallons of hobo piss!”


  45. @Chunky Style: If we agree that normal humans have valid paranoia of mutants that should carry over to all super powered beings. If not that’s like saying people should only be afraid of blacks with guns as opposed to anyone with a gun. Even so either viewpoint assumes opportunity equals motive. If I’m born with a skill that doesn’t necessarily mean I will use it.


  46. Remender’s apologized for his Twitter comments:
    http://rickremender.com/?p=758

    It’s a difficult issue. I can see Havok’s/Rick Remender’s point, but the counterarguments made by David, Andrew Wheeler, Steve Morris, et al. are also pretty spot on. Is Havok merely asking people not to fine him purely by his “mutantness”? Or is he asking people to ignore it altogether? I lean towards the former, but it also sounds like the latter. In a way, I think the ambiguous nature of the speech gives it more weight: Remender may have tried to sway the reader into agreeing with Havok, but the speech’s nature also invites us to dissect, question and even disagree with it. From what I’ve seen, there are just about as many fans online rooting for Havok as there are people chiding him.

    Which is good. For years, Marvel has tried to sell us on the moral ambiguity of its heroic characters’ recent actions, but without a lot of success (“is Tony Stark right?” they asked in Civil War while Iron Man was hunting down and imprisoning fellow superheroes without trial and with a tenacity he usually doesn’t even reserve for most of his supervillains). This time, though, I think Marvel’s finally pulled it off. Didn’t even need a seven-issue mini-series to do it, either.


  47. Ah, apologies: didn’t realize someone had posted up the link to the Remender post earlier.


  48. It was a great speech. I was honestly moved by it.


  49. @Darin: Absolutely agreed. That said, the Ben Grimms are outnumbered, what, a hundred to one by mutants, so they’re at most a side issue (albeit one that should be handled the same as mutants).

    It always struck me that the inhabitants of Earth-616 should be more worried about Iron Man style technology than anything else, since it makes it possible for anyone to gain superpowers (effectively), and it’s something criminals are going to have inordinate interest in. I even wrote a suggestion letter to Mark Gruenwald back in the day, but it never went anywhere.


  50. The more I think about it I think the issue is rooted in how he used the “M word” to draw parallels to the “N word”. I don’t think most white people understand the history and significance of how that word was intended and how it is used now by those who identify as black.

    I, as a white guy, have a theory as to what the deal is with the “N word” but am not comfortable vocalizing it because I don’t think anyone really wants to be educated on white-caused racial issues by white guys! That might also be a point to be taken when you think about drawing a pretty Aryan boy saying words about how people should see racism that were written by another pretty Aryan boy.


  51. […] side); and THAT page from Uncanny Avengers #5, which generated a deluge of commentary, of which David Brothers’s is certainly near the best (though the ultimate best, of course, comes from Cyclops). Oh, and I […]


  52. […] huh? I’m sure by now you all know about the whole Remender Hobo Piss Debacle, but if not, David Brothers and Andrew Wheeler had some excellent posts about the problematic speech in the comic. Personally, […]


  53. […] § In case you missed David Brothers’ take on Alex Summers and “The M Word” here it is. […]


  54. The only thing worth getting offended over is that Cap is in that awful Ultimates/Movie-verse uniform.


  55. Well, in the early-90s Fabian Nicieza, Scott Lobdell, Bob Harras, and Stan Lee were all really pushing the “Charlie X is MLKjr and Magneto is Malcolm X” thing. So the trope of mutants as minorities is not that new, or at least it’s older than what Jason Aaron (or Remender for that matter)has bothered to research.


  56. Yes, I’ve seen the Morgan Freeman video, people who are rushing to post it in the comments as some type of counterpoint. “Stop talking about it” is the stupidest advice anyone ever gave for solving any problem in the entire world. Nothing fixes itself.

    I think this is unfairly dismissive. If you think it’s dumb, give a good in-depth reason. If you can’t be bothered to give a well-reasoned argument for why the Freeman video is dumb, don’t even bother bringing it up. But to just bring it up to summarily dismiss it without even bothering to engage it is just is a waste in my opinion. I may not agree with the Freeman comment in its entirety but it does make some valid points.


  57. My problem with that page isn’t that Havok has a dumb opinion — it’s actually pretty realistic that there’s someone with “Tumblrpolitik” ideas in the X-Men world.

    I thought the real-world backlash to Havok’s opinion was more an example of Tumblrpolitik. The speech itself is as anti-Tumblr as it gets.


  58. @T.: I explained why it’s stupid in that exact sentence you quoted. Like… I don’t know how to put it any simpler than “‘stop talking about it’ is terrible advice.” But:

    Morgan Freeman: “Stop talking about it. I’m going to stop calling you a white man. And I’m going to ask you to stop calling me a black man. I know you as Mike Wallace. You know me as Morgan Freeman.”

    This is stupid and short-sighted because it assumes that as soon as he stops thinking in terms of black and white, everybody else will, too. This solution Freeman came up with requires hundreds of years of ingrained attitudes to not just suddenly evaporate, but entirely reverse themselves. And this solution does nothing for the people who have been consistently held back and/or destroyed by the predatory practices that America has encouraged, created, tolerated, or turned a blind eye to over the past however many years.

    The problem with racism isn’t the words “black” or “white.” It’s the system. It’s always been the system. It always will be the system. Being a black man is wonderful. Being a white man is wonderful. It’s nice to be theoretical equals. But that doesn’t mean that racism will go away just because we start talking to each other different. It will take work to fix, and “stop mentioning it” is the opposite of work. It’s just another way for the oppressor to keep oppressing.

    But honestly? Some things aren’t worth engaging. This is the kind of argument that you can debunk with a stray jab instead of a dense essay no one’s going to read. A child could point out the fundamental flaw in Freeman’s argument.

    “Why are you crying?”

    “I bumped my toe!”

    “What if you stopped crying? Would it stop hurting?”

    “No, I’m crying because it hurts, it doesn’t hurt because I’m crying.”

    The only valid point Freeman has is that Black History Month should be integrated into the rest of the year and into history classes in general.


  59. I thought this was a really thoughtful response, and I’m glad you wrote it. Thanks. I also like your ridiculous emoticon options.


  60. Thanks for this. I’m surprised at how much this whole scenario has upset me, and keeps upsetting me. I think I’m freaked by the fact that so many people don’t even understand that it’s a problem. Breevort is eye-rolling the whole thing on his Tumblr, and the rest of the comic world has either come out in support of the statement, denied the metaphor that they spent so long building, or ignored it. I also think “hobo piss” is offensive in another way, its almost skinhead-like disregard for homeless people. It showed Remender’s character in more ways than one. But people laugh at me when I say that too.


  61. ” “Stop talking about it” is the stupidest advice anyone ever gave for solving any problem in the entire world. ”
    agreed. you have also occasionally written similar things in the comments section.
    just saying.


  62. @fictionalcharacter: There’s a huge difference between “Shut up, idiot” and “This problem will go away if you just stop talking about it.” I’ve never said the latter because I don’t believe it is true. I’m saying the former right now.

    Shut up, idiot.


  63. @James:

    Breevort is eye-rolling the whole thing on his Tumblr

    That’s the issue for me.

    Remender’s quick response demonstrates, to me, that he says stuff like this all the time among his peers and it either gets no pushback or gets reinforced – that where he comes from, issues of race and comics regularly get conflated with the nitpicky criticisms of character-obsessive fans and dismissed immediately. That sort of POV never comes out of a vacuum.

    There is apparently no black person in the room during most of this script stuff, no conscious white person, no one to discuss the issues behind oppression when the entire point of the script is metaphor for oppression.

    That’s no good – and it suggests that the harsher criticisms of the Big Two on racial representation, the ones that get the most eye-rolling from Brevoort and co., have real merit.

    I do want to point out for the third or so time on this thread that Remender has at least attempted to apologize for his response to the feedback and that might suggest some soul-searching on his part.


  64. Don Druid,

    Soul-searching or damage control? I hope it’s the former, but I think it’s the latter.


  65. […] As David Brothers puts it, “You can’t tell me that ‘the n-word’ has no influence on ‘the m-word.’ That’s crazy… ‘The m-word’ is related to ‘the n-word’ because it’s a euphemism for a hurtful word introduced with the idea of decreasing the power of the original word. Arguing that it isn’t related at all requires some pretty amazing mental gymnastics.” […]


  66. David, the problem is, that’s a terrible oversimplification of Morgan Freeman’s point.

    First, I don’t think he literally meant never, ever, ever, talk about racism. I took what he meant to be that if we talk about racism EXCESSIVELY, we never can move past it. By making a black history month, you implicitly make it excusable to ignore black history the other 11 months. By bringing up race excessively, you make someone’s race their defining feature.

    Like, if race was brought up in a relevant context or if the conversation was specifically about racism, I’m sure Freeman would be fine with bringing up race. In that interview, he was talking about the practice of making his race the focal point when discussing a topic where it wasn’t necessary. If it was a white guy, Wallace wouldn’t feel the need to pigeonhole the topic of his race in there but when it’s a black guy, white Americans treat the topic like it’s obligatory and will shoe it in at some point always.

    By saying that Morgan Freeman’s point was to never, ever talk about racism, rather than not talk about it excessively or obsess over it, it’s as gross an oversimplification as if I took your point about the idea that race needs to be addressed and then said David Brothers thinks that race and racism should be discussed incessantly and constantly.

    Second, even if you were right about your characterization and Freeman actually was as extreme as you say, dismissing the whole thing out of hand is still unfair. You’re throwing out the baby with the bathwater. Just because the extreme he uses is too far, that doesn’t mean there isn’t the germ of a good point in there and that the whole sentiment has to be thrown out as “stupid” or “ridiculous.” He does have a point about how Mike Wallace and other whites can just be “American” but black Americans will always be treated as some special, distinct anomalous group is detrimental, serves to keep blacks “otherized” and exoticized, and plays a big role in keeping stereotypes alive. So even if he actually was taking the extreme viewpoint you said, it would still be more productive in my opinion to parse it and see what good points there may be while removing the bad parts. It doesn’t have to just be “all good” or “all bad.”


  67. Okay, for example, look at what Freeman said in a later interview:

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/09/23/morgan-freeman-tea-party-racist_n_978123.html

    On Piers Morgan, he gave an interview where he called the Tea Party racism and said that their hatred of Obama was race-motivated.

    So clearly he does not think that racism should never be discussed ever, under no circumstances. He just thinks that it should be context-appropriate, not the defining aspect of a person, something to be brought up and harped on with all black ppl regardless of context.


  68. @T.: How am I oversimplifying Morgan Freeman’s argument when he literally says “Stop talking about it. I’m going to stop calling you a white man. And I’m going to ask you to stop calling me a black man. I know you as Mike Wallace. You know me as Morgan Freeman.” when Mike Wallace asks him how to end racism? That is his actual argument.

    The Piers Morgan thing is nice, but I’m not talking about that. I’m talking specifically about an interview where Freeman said that we should stop talking about racism in order to solve it, because whenever you talk about race online these days, some dude pops up like “Um actually Morgan Freeman says” and then you have to explain to them why Morgan Freeman is utterly, objectively wrong by pretty much every single non-Pollyanna standard instead of having the conversation at hand.

    Kind of like this thread.

    I stand by what I said. I didn’t exaggerate or misrepresent a single solitary thing he said. End of.


  69. […] think Remender’s choice of words was entirely worthy of discussion, and actually led to a lot of more nuanced understandings of the issue than I had even thought about. But it’s off-base to the creator to suddenly append racist […]