(In honor of LGBTQ Pride Month)
The following a reminder why this isn’t the first time DC Comics promised a brand new day with diversity only to pull some of the most bigoted stunts in comics history.
Can you separate the art from the artist?
This is a question that’s often asked when it comes to enjoying the art separately from an artist’s personal (and often bigoted) views.
Writer (and I use the term loosely) Chuck Dixon answers this question in a very decisive manner. I read Dixon’s work for years long before I learned how outspoken he is about his hatred and disdain for LGBTQs and people of color. Side note: his rant about gays and blacks following the repeal of DADT was one for the record books.
Even way back yonder I always felt his work to be mediocre at best and never understood why he received all the hype he got: Gail Simone’s run of the Birds of Prey was far superior and what he did to Outsiders was unforgivable.
Needless to say I had misgivings about Dixon penning Grifter & Midnighter but against my better judgment (and needing a Midnighter fix) I decided to give the miniseries a chance. After all, maybe Dixon would surprise me, in a positive way.
The verdict: trust your instincts.
Synopsis: Grifter and Midnighter team up to stop some alien squid thingies.
Let’s start with the racefail. As Dixon beats the readers over the head with the blatant racist stereotypes about Middle Eastern terrorists. One scene and one issue would’ve been forgivable but this theme kept popping up from beginning to end. It soon became clear that Dixon was “pushing an agenda” and/or read too many bad fanfics of 24.
Next there was Zee; the duplicitous shapeshifter who tricked Grifter and Midnighter into stopping the intergalactic squids bad guy thingies. I don’t know why but Dixon wrote Zee’s portrayal like the reader was supposed to be shocked when we find out that she has ulterior motives. But that wasn’t the most annoying part. It was the fact that she was naked 3/4 throughout the story for no apparent reason. Unlike Mystique in the X-Men films who is at least blue and scaly, Zee is just a naked woman in human form running around Paris, one of the biggest cities in the world, for funsies.
It served no purpose. Especially given that she’s a covert shapeshifter. Keyword: covert. Now, it goes without saying that when partaking in comics, the straight male gaze is par for the course (sad yet true) but even by comic book standards, this is ridiculous. If you’re going to objectify women in comics, at least make it be plausible like any sensible misogynist.
Racism, and misogyny. Funny how where there’s one ism, the others aren’t far away and of course Dixon doesn’t miss a chance break out the homophobia.
And I’m not even talking about the scene where Grifter flips out when Midnighter gives him mouth-to-mouth to resuscitate him. Actually, let’s talk about that for a second. A seasoned mercenary who has had countless close calls with death is going to freak out about a brother in arms saving his life by providing mouth-to-mouth because of what, fear of gay cooties? Really Dixon, really?
Also Dixon, pro-tip. There are just some things you will never hear a badass like Midnighter utter, the word “fabulous” is one of them. Would you write Batman or Punisher uttering that word? Thought not.
That’s not even the worst of it. I haven’t mentioned the part that Midnighter gets beat up by alien squid thingies which in fact turn out to be alien sperm. Yes alien sperm. Midnighter and Grifter are in the middle of a fight with the aliens who can adapt to Midnighter’s special ability of anticipating combat scenarios a few seconds faster than he can. Midnighter gets his clock cleaned but Grifter comes out unscathed. This is why all logic is defied. As the narrative indicates, Midnighter is the far superior warrior. If the two of them are surrounded by intergalactic jizz and they’re pummeling Midnighter, wouldn’t Grifter, who is fighting side by side with Midnighter, ALSO be getting his tail handed to him, if not get killed? Of course Dixon is also the writer who had Green Arrow fight Cassandra Cain to a standstill which also defies all logic and canon because on his best day Green Arrow wouldn’t last five seconds against Cain.
But anything to make certain the (author insert) straight white guy looks good at the expense of the woman of color, the gay male, or the narrative itself. Then of course later Dixon repeatedly reiterates through Grifter how Midnighter got beat up by the space semen. Because sperm can defeat every gay man, amirite?
This type of illogical buffoonery plagues the miniseries. Later when they track down the super aliens and stop them from breeding (I’m not going to even touch that one), Grifter reveals he has this super duper bomb that he’s been saving to take them out and end the threat. But for some reason rather than tossing it in the water to stop the aliens initially, Grfiter waits to the last possible minute to use it.
The worst part. The concept of the story had so much potential. The mismatched buddy cop dynamic was there with Grifter and Midnighter and even Midnighter’s journey where his worst fears about being the Authority’s weak link when he’s kidnapped at the beginning of the story and has to be rescued by his teammates were explored. Only he discovered that he was kidnapped because even among his godlike teammates he’s the biggest threat. Makes sense. You take on the Justice League, you take out Batman first. Same dynamic here. So much opportunities that were wasted.
Can you separate the art from the artist? The answer is a world of no. Because at the end of the day, the art comes from the artist, bigotry and all.
I don’t know who in the blue hell thought it would ironically be cute to let one of the comic industry’s biggest unapologetic homophobes write one of the most iconic gay characters ever created. It was probably the same braintrusts who nearly allowed other noted bigot Orson Scott Card to write Superman but whoever said braintrusts are, they need every square inch of their ass kicked.
Allowing Chuck Dixon to pen Midnighter. I guess next we’ll be having Rachel Dolezal pen a graphic novel about Storm.