How moral relativism ruined comic books

The 1990s brought a change. The industry weakened and eventually threw out the CCA, and editors began to resist hiring conservative artists. One of us, Chuck, expressed the opinion that a frank story line about AIDS was not right for comics marketed to children. His editors rejected the idea and asked him to apologize to colleagues for even expressing it. Soon enough, Chuck got less work.

The superheroes also changed. Batman became dark and ambiguous, a kind of brooding monster. Superman became less patriotic, culminating in his decision to renounce his citizenship so he wouldn’t be seen as an extension of U.S. foreign policy. A new code, less explicit but far stronger, replaced the old: a code of political correctness and moral ambiguity. If you disagreed with mostly left-leaning editors, you stayed silent.

The political-correctness problem stretches beyond traditional comics into graphic novels. These works, despite the genre title, are not all fiction. For years a graphic novel of “A People’s History of American Empire” by Howard Zinn has been taught in U.S. schools. There’s even a cartoon version of “Working” by Studs Terkel. Che Guevara, the Marxist Cuban revolutionary, is the subject of several graphic novels, as is the anarchist Emma Goldman.