A lot of people causally dismiss comic books as "just for kids" but that's because they've never bothered to read them. Aside from the bulging muscles and alien invasions, comics have been tackling social issues long before the internet cranked the volume up to 11. A large part of the reason for this social activism is no less than Stan "The Man" Lee.
For more than 50 years, his "liberal bias" has influenced Marvel Comics and he's never been shy about it. One of his most famous creations, the X-Men, created in 1963, was a thinly veiled metaphor for the rampant racism infecting America at the time. But Lee also used his monthly column "Stan's Soapbox" to directly address what he saw as the greatest evil of the time. And 49 year later, one of his columns might as well have written directly in answer to the atrocity that is the Trump presidency:
Let’s lay it right on the line. Bigotry and racism are among the deadliest social ills plaguing the world today. But, unlike a team of costumed super-villains, they can’t be halted with a punch in the snoot, or a zap from a ray gun. The only way to destroy them is to expose them — to reveal them for the insidious evils they really are. The bigot is an unreasoning hater — one who hates blindly, fanatically, indiscriminately. If his hang-up is black men, he hates ALL black men. If a redhead once offended him, he hates ALL redheads. If some foreigner beat him to a job, he’s down on ALL foreigners. He hates people he’s never seen — people he’s never known — with equal intensity — with equal venom.
Now, we’re not trying to say it’s unreasonable for one human being to bug another. But, although anyone has the right to dislike another individual, it’s totally irrational, patently insane to condemn an entire race — to despise an entire nation — to vilify an entire religion. Sooner or later, we must learn to judge each other on our own merits. Sooner or later, if man is ever to be worthy of his destiny, we must fill out hearts with tolerance. For then, and only then, will we be truly worthy of the concept that man was created in the image of God – a God who calls us ALL — His children.
Pax et Justitia,
Of particular note are the lines about vilifying entire religions and immigrants getting a job instead of someone else. Sound familiar? In the 1960s, the religion being publicly demonized was Catholicism instead of Islam but the hate is exactly the same now as it was then. Right wing bigots have been using the same playbook for centuries. The targets change but little else.
Even though bigotry and racism are on the rise today, Stan Lee's influence will outlast Donald Trump's in the long run. White nationalism comes and goes but Marvel Comics and its message of tolerance is forever. Excelsior!
- This article kills fascists
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