What is the last comic you thought was genuinely brave?
Not cool, hip, funny… Those are great, but brave?
Killing a major trademark a company owns, knowing full well they can resurrect them when they like, is not brave.
Al Ewing made Mighty Avengers, and then its dual spin-offs, The Ultimates and New Avengers, diverse in terms of gender, ethnicity, sexuality, culture, politics, and age. New Avengers had two years in which every on-panel active romance was queer, with straight romances relegated to couples separated by extreme distance or having ended before the series began. That is all incredibly ballsy, but is it brave?
Sandrine Martin & Dominique Osuch’s Niki de Saint Phalle biography, The Garden of Secrets, is beautiful, moving, strange and glorious, but is it brave? It is not, in the end, as brave as the art of Niki de Saint Phalle, if that is a measure. But, compared to any Batman comic from the past three years?
How deeply queer Kate Leth and Britney Williams’ Patsy Walker, AKA Hellcat was for its complete run? The speed with which Bill Sienkiewicz can turn around his tribute likenesses? Erik Larsen committing to his Savage Dragon characters aging in real time? The straight-faced laugh a panel of modern day Nancy.
What is the scale? What should we expect, and should we expect the same, and utilize the same scale, for all comics?
What are we chasing, when we pursue the dream of the brave comic? What would it have to do to be brave? Purely?
After all, it’s just comics. It is only silly comics.
It is only comics. Only movies. Only television. Only music. Only paintings. Sculpture. Politics. Dancing. Donuts. Tuesday morning. April. Two minutes.
It all ought to count. Bravery probably does not need to be proven, and proven constantly. It could be there. Maybe killing off a major or mid-range trademarked character for six months to a year is not brave, by industry or fan standards, but for the artist, writer, even the letterer tasked with the gig, it could freak them out. People will try to shoot you for messing with a comics character, now. People are threatening to kill people over Batman comics, over issues of Venom. That’s where we are at.
Martin and Osuch run us through the astonishing zoo of Niki de Saint Phalle’s life, her entire life, in a scale of enormity and intimacy that is breathtaking. How easy is it for me to tell you that it is not as brave as it could be or as brave as this or that other thing, when in truth, the comic made me cry. And, smile. And, blush. And, double-check and think again and meditate and care?
The Garden of Secrets is a remarkable piece of work.
I couldn’t do it.
Richard Pace and Mark Russell’s Second Coming was canceled before the first issue came out, to find a new home hopefully soon. They are weathering heavy attacks I would not want to face, and really, for silly things. For a naked Adam and Eve and Jesus’ posture as he lugs suitcase and baguette.
Maybe, that is the approach to take, to this question. Would I have done it? Would I have taken the chance? And, committed? Not as a fan, not as joking speculation, but if my paycheck, my name, and the chance someone would bring a gun to a con and try to murder me were up in the air.
The Last Brave Comic
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