New York Comic Con is always an exciting, weird – and more often than not – fun time. It’s a time for surprise announcements from TV networks, film companies, and of course, from comic publishers. It all happens live and the people who were lucky enough to score tickets get to watch it all happen in real time. This can – however – lead to some gaffes of epic proportions.
Marvel seems to be having a tough weekend. First they cancelled their screenings of The Punisher, citing the violence in Las Vegas making the show inappropriate at this very moment in time. (Though, considering there’s more than one mass shooting in America per day, with 46 children and teens shot daily, I wonder at the effectiveness of this particular PR move.)
Then, they announced a collaboration with Northrop Grumman. Northrop Grumman is the world’s fifth largest defense contractor. The collaboration with Marvel included a free comic and panel scheduled for today, Saturday, October 7.
The comic is a team-up between Earth’s Mightiest Heroes and a squad of N.G.E.N (Northrop Grumman Elite Nexus) agents. Which is to say that Iron Man is teaming up with a bunch of drone operators.
Yeah, Iron Man. This guy:
Iron Man, the guy who almost died because his own company was making bank selling weapons to any and all sides of global conflict… a lot like Northrop Grumman is. Except, y’know, Tony Stark tried to drop that shit like a hot potato when he got back to the US. (Whether he’s successful in removing himself and his company from military violence and American imperialism is for another post, however. But the dude tried!) That guy. Teaming up with private military contractors.
Now, most evidence of the comic has disappeared from the internet in the last 24 hours, but one full page advertisement managed to make its way online.
This is warmongering. Romanticizing war and violence is something comics must wrestle with at all times; it’s why The Punisher screenings were cancelled. But this is something bigger than Frank Castle’s one man with a thousand bullets mission. This is even bigger than putting Captain America on an advertisement for the armed forces. This is an ad for a private military force specializing in hi-tech operations.
The internet responded to the comic and panel in kind.
Marvel: our big thing right now is Infinity War
Northrop Grumman: oh, us too
— morrowind wenders (@ICELEVEL) October 6, 2017
i wonder if Marvel's new defense contractor superheroes got their powers from a Northrop Grumman hazardous waste site. pic.twitter.com/r0F8TIK4bJ
— Gavia Baker-Whitelaw (@Hello_Tailor) October 6, 2017
The backlash led to the cancellation of the panel and the partnership between the two companies. It’s the right choice. The shame is that Marvel thought it was a good idea in the first place. At another NYCC panel, Ta-Nehisi Coates responded to backlash he’d received while working on Black Panther: “‘Why you puttin’ politics in my comics?’ … C’mon man. This is not new. What do you think X-Men is? What do you think Cap is?” Comics are political – just like everything else.
It’s endlessly frustrating to be a fan of Marvel in 2017. From Nazi!Cap to this mess… I’m hesitant to buy new books from Marvel these days.
If you need me, I’ll be over here re-reading Punisher: MAX #4.