The New Yorker pays lip service to G. Willow Wilson
Wilson’s “Ms. Marvel” is part of a long-delayed demographic shift in the world of comic books. Thor is now a woman; the Hulk is a Korean teen-ager. The “Black Panther” franchise has been remade by Ta-Nehisi Coates, who has recruited other prominent black writers—recently, Roxane Gay and Yona Harvey became the first two black women to write comics for the company. Kamala Khan is the first Muslim superhero at Marvel to have her own series, and though the character has been greeted with enthusiasm—the first issue reached a rare seventh printing—there has also been a backlash, which Wilson addressed on her Web site in a blog post titled “So About That Whole Thing.” “If you’re going to write a smug thunk-piece about the ‘failure’ of ‘diversity’ in comics, maybe don’t use the cover image of a book that’s had 4 collections on the NYT graphic books bestseller list, won a Hugo and cleaned up at Angouleme,” she wrote. She also argued that the focus should not be on “diversity” but on “authenticity and realism.” Within a day, her comments had been reposted thousands of times.Quite a predictable leaning in favor of shoving the original protagonists out for the sake of new ones, rather than give them roles of their own, if anything. Since when wasn't there the demographic shift they speak of? Obviously, this article ignores - the mention of Black Panther notwithstanding - that there have always been plenty of women and characters of different races in superhero comics, and not just the costumed adventurers. There've also been co-stars, which could be even more effective. Yet all that matters to the press propagandists - to say nothing of the publishers themselves - are the costumes, and not even the characters, seeing how we're asked to care more about the outfits. That's why, ironically, "diversity" is failing. As for authenticity and realism, it's pretty apparent her work offers none of that.
Wilson’s introduction to comics came in the fifth grade, when she was given an anti-smoking pamphlet featuring the X-Men. Later in the school year, she asked to join a group of boys who were playing mutants on the playground during recess—the “X-Men” cartoon on Fox had become her favorite show. They didn’t want a girl in their group, but she told them she could play the glamorous mutant Storm, who, in the comics, is the daughter of a Kenyan princess and an American photojournalist, and can control the weather. “It speaks to the power of women done well in this kind of role,” she said. “Those boys didn’t care much for girls but they really cared for Storm.”Seriously, she makes it sound like the boys were homosexual (on which note, it's mentioned later down the paragraphs that she put a gay character into the Muslim Ms. Marvel book, which isn't likely to make all Islamists happy, but we'll get to that later).
...Wilson’s parents were secular liberals who had left Protestant churches during the sixties. To them, God was a “bigoted, vengeful white man,” she writes in “The Butterfly Mosque,” and atheism was “not just scientifically correct, it was morally imperative.”I guess this explains how she got to where she is now. And when she thought she needed to find a religion she considered perfect:
She began looking for one. God seemed too absent in Buddhism, and she couldn’t stomach Christianity’s idea of inherited sin. Judaism, she writes, “was a near perfect fit, but it was created for a single tribe of people.” Islam welcomed converts, and Wilson began teaching herself about the religion. She signed up for Arabic classes, started reading the Koran, drank less. In classic college-student form, she got a lower-back tattoo: it read “Al Haq,” meaning “absolute truth.”Oh, what's this here? Only one tribe or community? By that logic, the biblical Ruth of Moab's example is invalid. Now this is telling something about her line of thinking. And tattoos are actually considered haram under Islam. Some absolute truth she follows, then. The superficial way she puts it, there's reason to be skeptical she actually even tried to apply for conversion to Judaism, because there are movements around that'd be quite ready to accept her, if she wanted to join.
Three weeks later, terrorists flew two planes into the World Trade Center. Watching news clips in which Muslim fundamentalists claimed that their religion was incompatible with the West, Wilson started to believe them. She sought out critics of Islam, hoping to puncture her attraction to it; she read novels by Hanif Kureishi and Salman Rushdie. “I had high hopes that ‘The Satanic Verses’ would cure my religiosity,” she writes; it did not. [...]I get the feeling she had nothing but contempt for Rushdie, a man whose life was made miserable under the threats issued by the Iranian ayatollah Khomeini in 1989. Fantasy writer Roald Dahl made the situation worse when he scapegoated Rushdie. Now, here's how she got the job replacing Carol Danvers as Ms. Marvel:
...she got a call from Stephen Wacker, a longtime Marvel editor, and Sana Amanat, at the time an assistant editor. Wacker and Amanat had decided that the new Ms. Marvel series should star a Muslim teen-ager, and that Wilson should write it. Amanat, a Pakistani-American Muslim, would be the series editor. (Amanat also edits the “Hawkeye” and “Captain Marvel” reboots, and has since become a director of content and character development at Marvel, known for her striking and unorthodox instincts.)What I do know about Wacker is that he's the kind of "editor" who comes off sounding like a public moralist.
The idea seemed, to Wilson, shocking and wonderful; she had become resigned to compartmentalizing her faith and her interest in superheroes. She wrote her first comics shortly after the firestorm over Danish cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad, in 2005, and when, in 2010, she wrote two fill-in issues of “Superman,” a message-board community had lamented DC’s flagship falling into the hands of a Muslim. “I could see the headlines,” Wilson recalled, of her thinking about Kamala Khan: “sharia law at marvel!” For a year, she and Amanat talked on the phone multiple times a week, for hours at a time, drafting different versions of Kamala. Every decision was freighted. Would she cover her hair? Could they find an artist to draw her without that cartoonishly voluptuous female-superhero chest? They knew the many lines along which the character could be criticized: traditional Muslims might want her to be more modest, and secular Muslims might want her to be less so. Some would be wary no matter what.And from what news turned up since, it's clear some are. Notice the bizarre use of "secular" - something she claimed to once be herself - when talking about certain segments of Muslims, instead of the word "moderate"? Does that make sense? Hardly. As for her getting a job writing Superman, that's no surprise, recalling Paul Levitz turned out to be a cowardly dhimmi who was among the staff approving of a joint project with the Kuwaiti propagandist who conceived "The 99". And that was just one of the examples of how a man who once had a well regarded run on Legion of Super-Heroes in the 80s went downhill in later years.
The conventional superhero brings peace through retributive violence; when Batman saves Gotham, much of the city is destroyed. This trope, Wilson knew, sat uneasily with certain Western ideas about Muslims. For a time, she suspected that only a tongue-in-cheek approach would work. “I had originally envisioned her power set very differently,” she said of Kamala. “Explode-y powers, an ironic type of thing.” On the day of the Boston Marathon bombing, carried out by two young men who subscribed to radical Islam, she changed her mind. “I sat down and I tried to think, What would I want to put in their hands instead of the story they’d been given? What would the world look like if they didn’t have to be the bad guys? How can I draw on the same faith tradition and arrive at the opposite place?” Twenty-four hours later, she had figured out Kamala’s backstory.Hmm, look how she/they/both, make it sound like the Masked Manhunter causes the destruction, and not the criminals he battles. Come to think of it, look how they make it sound like "conventional" heroes are all about carnage. And isn't that interesting that she originally thought of giving the character explosive powers, despite the fact that there were terrorists attacks with nail bombs, in Israel and elsewhere, long before 2013 when the Boston Marathon bombing took place? Why only after that terrible incident did she decide it'd be a bad idea?
The article also parrots the now familiar mantra about sales:
The première of “Ms. Marvel” sold more copies digitally than it did in print—a company first. Marvel doesn’t release digital-sales numbers, but piecemeal statistics have shown female characters performing especially well in digital formats. [...]And how come they haven't shown those particular statistics either? Why must we take even this tommyrot at face value? Where anything with female casts could perform well today is in the independents, far more than the mainstream superhero books. It's pretty apparent today that, when you have companies submerging themselves in political propaganda and such, along with company wide crossovers wrecking organic storytelling, selectively or otherwise, women who're looking for talented writing aren't bound to waste their money on stuff that contradicts all that any more than men are. Plus, let's say the book really was doing well in digital sales. Wouldn't a lot of other books be doing well too? Yet it's clear from what's going on recently that this is not the case. "Piecemeal stats" alone is not enough to convince.
The relationship between this divided landscape and the most recent Presidential election is not lost on her. At the coffee shop, as a barista cleared our plates, we talked about how the stakes of every identity-politics debate feel heightened since November—and also about new alliances that seem to be forming in the election’s wake. Wilson spoke with some astonishment about the fact that she could include a gay secondary character in “Ms. Marvel”—the blond, popular Zoe—and still have mothers and daughters show up to her readings in hijabs. “It’s funny. Those right-wing bloggers who said my work was part of some socialist-Muslim-homosexual attack on American values, they really created the thing they feared. There wasn’t a socialist-Muslim-homosexual alliance before, but there sure as fuck is one now, and I love it.”Boy, isn't that hilarious. And unsurprising she wouldn't acknowledge that truly, Islam is hostile to homosexuality, even as there's a bizarre double-standard in the Religion of Peace when it comes to men and underage boys. As for alliances between Islam and socialists/leftists, yes, there sure does seem to be one now, more than ever before. Given how the sales have been tanking of recent, it should be pretty apparent that, despite her claim of other Muslims willing to read the book, not many are. And let's not forget that the election issue from last November pretty much compounded the political motivations behind the series' launching. At the end of the article, they bring up Indonesian artist Ardian Syaf, who's since been shown the door at Marvel:
Three days after we met, another controversy involving Marvel and Islam bubbled up. An Indonesian artist named Ardian Syaf had seemingly embedded a political message in an issue of “X-Men.” The governor of Jakarta, who’s Christian, had been accused of insulting Islam. In one panel, Syaf alluded to a protest against the governor; in another, he referenced a Koranic verse that is interpreted by some to mean that Muslims can only accept the leadership of Muslims. Wilson responded to the controversy with another blog post, which explained to her readers that the verse in question “is subject to a truly fantastical amount of bullshittery in the modern era.” Syaf had taken a verse that originally addressed a seventh-century situation and applied it, in her view dubiously, to a democratic, multiethnic, twenty-first-century state. “Ardian Syaf can keep his garbage philosophy,” she wrote. (He was subsequently fired by Marvel.)As expected, they paid lip service to her taqqiya, even as at least a few prominent sites with comics coverage linked to the authentic texts from the quran verse 5:51 Syaf was alluding to. Point: if they could greenlight the kind of whitewashed propaganda Wilson's been specializing in over the past 2 and a half years, it should be no surprise they could have such an ignorant view of Syaf's thinking as well. I'm sure she knows not everybody will be fooled by her tedious attempt to brush away the whole controversy as a mere nothing, and sales of recent can prove that. Her defensive approach is almost hilarious by now. If she wouldn't be clear about any of the content of Islam, then somebody's bound to figure out she's hiding something.
Wilson couldn’t help but take the dispute personally. When she wrote those two issues of “Superman,” seven years ago, the message-board critics had seen it, she said, as an attack on American values, simply because she was Muslim. Syaf, with his hidden messages, was playing into their hands. Wilson had told me that when she converted, some of her friends had worked to hide their apparent unhappiness; years later, she realized that they had experienced her choice as a referendum on American life. It occurred to me that this may be how some conservative comic-book fans experience her Ms. Marvel—as a referendum on “American” comics. Wilson agreed: “They’re asking, ‘What was wrong before?’ And you’re like, ‘It’s not about wrong. It’s about more.’”
And that's why the whole Muslim Ms. Marvel gimmick has been dropping in sales of recent. The politics alone are a turnoff.