Conservatives Should Be More Like Comic Book Icons
March 1st, 2021 | JH
“One thing 2020 has told me is that we have to be exceptionally judicious with how we spend our time. We have to be very, very careful that we are not being manipulated into narratives one after the other…In January of 2020 we were meant to be in a climate emergency…and then we had a pandemic and the people who had been doing climate emergency went on to pandemic emergency. Then after May we had the racism emergency…climate, Covid, racism. I’m not up for this. I’m not up for spending my life doing this in whatever order you tell me to do it. I’d rather read Tolstoy.” – Douglas Murray on The Portal podcast, October 23rd, 2020.
I was listening to Eric Weinstein’s excellent podcast, The Portal, recently and his guest, Douglas Murray, talked at great length about the state of modernity. The podcast was over 4 hours long, so if you’ve got a long drive to make, this will keep you some company.
Both of these guys are on the cutting edge of our cultural madness. Murray has a new book called, The Madness of the Crowds and, from the lament and dismay of the podcast, he may be nearing the end of his tenure of cultural critic. I suspect we may be getting to a point where many people are on the verge of dropping out of keeping up. Trying to critique every progressive development in hopes of countering the madness is not working for our side and new strategies are required.
Conservatives have always placed themselves as the voice of reason and moderation and restraint and tradition. Meanwhile the progressives continually hack their way forward creating the future. People used to view conservatism and progressivism as two sides of the same coin… balancing out two separate instincts in order to arrive at the best solutions. Conservativism has always applied the brakes to progressivism while progressivism stomps on the gas. Nevertheless, civilization keeps ratcheting forward, with today’s progressive fad becoming tomorrow’s long held conservative principle.
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Thus, we are arriving at today’s great divide. The polarization of conservatives and progressives is becoming insurmountable. Our starting points are so far apart that we find it difficult to even begin a dialogue anymore. The ascendency of progressives over time has created enough institutional power and cultural hegemony that conservative activism over the past twenty years has been reduced to just impotently reacting against each new and ever escalating progressive advance.
A whole cottage industry has been built around conservatives wailing and venting about progressive developments. Ben Shapiro's fast-talking rebuttals against what are now almost daily progressive advances, is a microcosm of the entire conservative ecosystem. As things escalate, however, even Ben Shapiro isn’t going to be able to talk fast enough to address all the incursions into what is left of our shared culture.
It’s for this reason that conservatives need to give up on chasing what was and focus more strongly on building something new. I’ve advocated for The Benedict Option for conservatives on this site in the past and the more time that passes the more certain I feel about this approach. It’s the only way to be productive and make your mark. Endlessly griping about your opponents and trying vainly to reform systems that resist at all costs isn’t a good use of time and energy.
Coincidentally, I was listening to another podcast around this time called, Robservations, with comic-book artist Rob Liefeld. Completely different content and I hope drawing a connection here isn’t too much of a non-sequitur for the reader, but I couldn’t help noticing the similarities of themes and the concrete solutions offered.
In the late-80s a cadre of young and talented comic-book artists arrived on the scene with new styles and great ambitions. Rob Liefeld was one of the youngest and earliest to make waves with his dynamic and exaggerated art style that turned a stale low selling book called, The New Mutants into a powerhouse of sales. He created new characters like Deadpool and Cable, seen recently depicted on the big screen by Ryan Reynolds and Josh Brolin. He transformed the title into a new team of heroes called “X-Force” and it became the best-selling comic-book of all time.
Recently, Liefeld started his podcast detailing inside stories from that era of comic-book making and it is enlightening regarding the circumstances of one of the pivotal moments during that time. A pivotal moment that directly relates to addressing the sort of malaise conservatives have regarding Douglas Murray’s warnings above.
These young artists were transforming comic-books under the corporate umbrella of Marvel. They became minor celebrities revitalizing books like Spiderman and X-Men, but they were still employees in a company and still had to fight the corporate structures that constantly tried to keep them controlled. It wasn’t without its rewards and it wasn’t unamicable, but the artists were always at the mercy of the corporate bosses. The creatives were always adjusting to or against the powers that be. Just as conservatives have fallen into the trap of always reacting, the superstar artists of Marvel spent too much of their time working within someone else’s frame and getting creatively frustrated as a result.
"Derek Sloan isn’t a fringe wingnut, he’s just not a progressive leftist."
So they left.
This was one of the biggest events in comic-book history. Rob Liefeld (X-Force), Jim Valentino (Guardians of the Galaxy), Todd McFarlane (Spiderman), Erik Larsen (The Amazing Spiderman), and the X-Men trio of Jim Lee, Marc Silvestri and Whilce Portacio all announced that they were starting their own company called Image Comics and they’d be publishing their original creator-owned projects moving forward.
It was an immediate and resounding success. Liefeld was the first one to publish his new super team book called, Youngblood. The other creators followed with: Jim Lee doing WildC.A.T.s, Jim Valentino doing, Shadowhawk, Erik Larsen doing, The Savage Dragon, Marc Silvestri doing Cyberforce, Whilce Portacio doing WetWorks and most notably, Todd MacFarlane doing, Spawn.
Two things are notable here.
First, it’s obvious that the cultural impact of the first section of Marvel comic-books is greater than the second section from Image. You’ve probably heard of Spiderman and X-Men, but not Cyberforce or WildC.A.T.s but that’s okay! As Liefeld noted on his podcast, his father thought he was crazy to give up the relatively good royalties and paychecks to strike out on his own. Liefeld explained to his Dad that 100% of his own thing would be better than 10% of someone else’s thing, even if it sold way less and best of all… he would have total creative control. This gamble paid off as Liefeld claims to have earned a million dollars of the first issue of Youngblood alone. These guys all made fortunes for themselves and although outcomes varied in the long run, many of the books and characters still exist and their creative and business influence was far and wide.
Secondly, the impact of Image Comics had consequences that went far beyond those initial book releases. As time went on, Image Comics became the third biggest publisher of comics and an open door for creator controlled and owned projects of all sorts and types.
Have you ever seen an episode of The Walking Dead? It started as a comic-book that Image published when they were approached by creator Robert Kirkman. Kirkman was just a kid when he walked into a comic-book shop in the early 90’s and was blown away by a poster for Youngblood hanging on the wall. He was a fan of what Image was doing then, and today he is a full-fledged partner at the publisher.
Walking Dead wouldn’t have happened the way it did if not for those seven guys striking out on their own thirty years ago. There are many other examples of the long tail effect of those creators taking that initiative thirty years ago and conservatives need some of that same moxie and initiative today.
Reacting with indignation to every development on the left is a waste of time. Fighting against the progressive tide is a waste of energy. Attempting reform is pointless. Arguing with idiots is futile.
Instead, create your own things. Produce your own content. Strike out on your own and build something positive and new and meaningful. Just by taking action you might create something that becomes much bigger than you ever imagined and even if it doesn’t, it still beats the alternative of dancing to your enemies tunes and hating every minute of it.
Poletical itself is an example of this sort of entrepreneurial moxie. There is nothing quite like it in the Canadian political eco-system and it shows. We’ve got hundreds of thousands of readers that seek us out for providing takes they are never going to get from The National Post or even our fellow travellers in the alt-media scene like Western Standard, The Rebel and True North.
In other words, as observant and intelligent as Douglas Murray is, conservatives would do better to follow the example of the ever optimistic and positive Rob Liefeld. Instead of recounting all the latest progressive fads with black-pilled laments, stay optimistic, get active and build something new and positive of your own.
You never know where such ambition will lead.
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