Secularists of all types, best exemplified by the new Marxists, entered “into every civil, cultural and political activity in every nation, patiently leavening them all as thoroughly as yeast leavens bread.” To change the culture, Italian Marxist Antonio Gramsci (1891–1937) argued, “would require a ‘long march through the institutions’—the arts, cinema, theater, schools, colleges, seminaries, newspapers, magazines, and the new electronic medium [of the time], radio.” Popular culture has been used by secularists as a worldview wedge for decades and is a major factor in American politics. “The Democratic Party resonates on the Internet because it resonates in pop culture. The Democratic Party resonates in pop culture because it has been committed to dominating it for over a generation. Democrats are celebrities, rock stars, magazine covers and stadium concerts. Republicans are a small list of famous people who have to make public excuses for their affiliation.”
Let’s take a look at how comic books have become subversive over the years. When comic books first appeared, the market was for children. While there was a dark side to Batman, who made his first appearance in Detective Comics #27 in May 1939, he was not a moral iconoclast. He had a code of justice based on a system of moral absolutes. “Orphaned by a thug who shot both his parents,” a ten-year-old “Bruce Wayne swore ‘to avenge their deaths by spending the rest of [his] life warring on all criminals.’” Superman was noted as an advocate of “truth, justice, and the American way.” In Superman Returns (2006), Perry White wants to know if the Man of Steel still stands for “truth, justice, and all that stuff.” The moral universe has changed.
Frederic Wertham Saw it Coming
In the late 1940s and early 1950s, the Golden Age of comics was about to be tarnished in the form of crime and horror comics with titles like The Vault of Horror, Weird Tales of Terror, and Crimes by Women. This radical shift in comic content came to the attention of New York psychiatrist and part-time comic critic Frederic Wertham (1895–1981) who described them as “blueprints for delinquency.” Writing in The Reader’s Digest in the August 1948 issue, Wertham asked: “Do you think that books which stress murder and mayhem and blood-and-thunder are good for youngsters?” Similar articles denouncing the new comics appeared in the Ladies Home Journal, Scouting Magazine, and additional issues of The Reader’s Digest. Wertham believed that reading comics could lead to violent criminal behavior in young people. His book Seduction of the Innocent (1954) and his testimony before Congress nearly put an end to the comic book industry until publishers took matters into their own hands and implemented the “Comics Code Authority.”
Marvel Comics, publishers of such popular titles as X-Men, Spiderman, The Fantastic Four, and The Incredible Hulk, officially dropped the code in 2001. Independent publishers like Image and the now defunct Valiant never adopted the code. But even before the code’s official demise, some comic lines pushed the envelope of good taste and morality by becoming sex-obsessed, anti-Christian, blasphemous, and occultic, points made by John Fulce in Seduction of the Innocent Revisited. But even before the code’s end, Marvel and DC had consistently ignored it. Thor (#330) has the “God of Thunder” fighting the “Crusader,” a not-so-subtle slam at Christian conservatives at the height of the influence of the Moral Majority in the 1980s.
Marvel announced in December 2002 that it was reviving the 1950’s character “The Rawhide Kid” as an openly homosexual character. Brokeback Mountain was a Johnny-come-lately homosexual cowboy story. Marvel was there first. This was the first openly homosexual title character in a comic book published as part of its Marvel Max imprint “alternative Marvel universe” series. I predicted in 2003 that the title, like the original Alpha Flight (see below), would fail. It did.
The comic book genre was seen, like all fiction, as “morality tales.” People believed in “truth and justice” as if they were objective realities worth defending. We now live in a morally ambiguous universe. Truth and justice are slippery concepts in a post-modernist way. They’re still there, but they mean different things to so many different people, and it seems that most of us are content to leave it that way.
How Times and Comics Have Changed
In the March 1992 issue of Marvel’s Alpha Flight comic book series, Northstar, a former (fictional) Canadian Olympic athlete, decides to come out of the closet after seeing the ravaging effect that AIDS has had on an abandoned baby. He decides to adopt the infant AIDS victim. The editors at The New York Times celebrated this favorable treatment of homosexuality: “[T]he new storylines suggest that gay Americans are gradually being accepted in mainstream popular culture. … Mainstream culture will one day make its peace with gay Americans. When that time comes, Northstar’s revelation will be seen for what it is: a welcome indicator of social change.”
The New York Times, to justify its support of homosexuality, compares discrimination of homosexuals with the discrimination of blacks, women, and the handicapped. “Marvel, beginning in the early 1960’s, was the pioneer in comic book diversity. Marvel published ‘Daredevil,’ a dynamic crime fighter who was also blind. Then came ‘The X‑Men,’ a band of heroes led by a scientist whose mental powers more than compensated for his confinement to a wheelchair. And with ‘Powerman,’ ‘The Black Panther,’ and ‘Sgt. Fury,’ Marvel offered black heroes when blacks in the movies were playing pimps and prostitutes.”
The second-largest comic company, DC Comics, publisher of Batman and Superman, introduced a homosexual character—the Pied Piper—and AIDS‑related themes in their Flash series (August 1991). “Future issues [of Flash] will have the Pied Piper bring a male date to a wedding, and discuss the importance of protecting yourself from exposure to AIDS.”
The goal of parading homosexual “heroes” is to get young people—who will one day be decision-makers—accustomed to seeing homosexual characters in positions of leadership and authority. Gary Stewart, then president of Marvel Entertainment Group when Northstar was “outed,” had this to say about the introduction of their homosexual “superhero”: “And at the time that . . . the team was created, Northstar … was considered to be gay by the creator. [In earlier issues] there were hints that he was. There was no direct admission at that time. We believe that the only message here, per se, is the fact that we do preach tolerance. Just as you have in every day society, you have gay individuals and straight individuals. We happen to have one character in the Marvel universe, which exceeds two thousand characters, that happens to be gay.”
The New York Times, being a bit more honest than the people at Marvel, took an advocacy position. The editors wrote that it was “welcome news.” Since the comic book audience is made up mostly of teenagers, that group “will benefit most from discussions about sexuality and disease prevention.” According to the Times, Northstar’s homosexuality should be treated like race, physical handicaps, and gender differences. There is a problem with the analogy: homosexuality is a behavioral choice. No one chooses blindness, racial makeup, physical handicaps, or gender. And given a choice, people with physical handicaps, genetic or not, would like their disabilities reversed.
Consider Ben Grimm’s character “Thing” of The Fantastic Four, introduced by Marvel in November 1961. (The ten-cent comic sells for more than $40,000, if you can find one of the seven copies in VF/NM condition.) The other three members of the superhero quartet can turn their newly acquired powers on and off at will. Most of the time they are normal‑looking human beings. This is not the case for Ben Grimm. He is always the rock‑like “Thing.” Reed Richards, “Mr. Fantastic,” is forever working on ways to make Ben normal, or at least to give him the ability to change into the “Thing” at will. Abnormalities should be corrected, and homosexuality is a deviation from the heterosexual norm.
The introduction of homosexual characters is increasing. DC’s “Batwoman,” described as “a ‘lipstick lesbian’ who moonlights as a crime fighter,” was introduced in 2006. “The new-look Batwoman is just one of a wave of ethnically and sexually diverse characters entering the DC Comics universe.” Retro-homosexual history has pronounced the Caped Crusader (Batman) and the Boy Wonder (Robin) to be involved in a “special relationship.”
The homosexual community’s strategy is evident: To soften public opinion to adopt the homosexual lifestyle as morally acceptable using popular culture as the sled. In 2009, an attempt to normalize homosexuality was being made by Stan Lee, the creator of Spider-man, X-Men, and The Fantastic Four:
Lee has reportedly created a character called Thom Creed, a high-school basketball player who is forced to hide his sexuality as well as his superpowers.
It is not known what kind of powers Creed will display. Lee, the former head of Marvel Comics … will unveil Creed in an hour-long television special made in the US. If he proves popular with audiences, the programme will be shown in Britain. Lee developed the idea of a gay character from the award-winning novel Hero by Perry Moore, the [Scottish] Sun reports. A television industry source told the paper: “It was only a matter of time before we had our first gay superhero. And if there is one man who can make him a success it is Stan Lee. There’s a real buzz among comic book fans.”
It remains to be seen whether comic book readers will embrace homosexual characters, tolerate them, or give up on comics altogether. The true test will be how the movies present this issue. While there is a homosexual subtext to the X-Men series, most people would not pick up on it unless it was pointed out to them. The original X-Men (1963) comic series was always about alienation, but it was not designed to be a wolf-in-sheep’s-clothing vehicle for promoting homosexuality. Like so much of what is happening in our culture today, it was hijacked.
Thinking Straight in a Crooked World
The nursery rhyme ‘There Was a Crooked Man’ is an appropriate description of how sin affects us and our world. We live in a crooked world of ideas evaluated by crooked people. Left to our crooked nature, we can never fully understand what God has planned for us and His world. God has not left us without a corrective solution. He has given us a reliable reference point in the Bible so we can identify the crookedness and straighten it.