Comic books have always been political. Comic books have always made a cultural statement. Much like a fish is not aware of the water surrounding it until the creature has been removed from a lake or an ocean, readers are often not aware of the political statements and cultural agendas promoted in the work they consume until those agendas no longer adhere to the ones they hold dear. A slow-witted Mammy in a Tom & Jerry cartoon was deemed benign by non-black audiences prior to a shift in American attitudes about African Americans. Captain America punching Hitler was deemed acceptable for generations until a resurgence of white nationalists grew increasingly distressed that such depictions were encouraging people to (rightfully) respond to their bigoted desires for genocide and the revocation of civil rights with violence.
While I believe that work that champions the hatred and denigration of a group for whom they inherently are has no place in the art we consume, to remove politics (or in layman’s terms, to remove propaganda or a cultural agenda) from one’s work is wholly impossible. Even something as innocuous as a 1980s sitcom such as Growing Pains championed the traditional nuclear American family. And so long as there is room for other families to be depicted, what is wrong with that?
I find that there are two distinct groups clamoring for an imaginary era when comics were not political. The first group is comprised of reactionary individuals deeply angered by the presence of subcultures that are not their own in the work they consume. They are your typical racists, homophobes, anti-Semites, misogynists, etc. However, there is another group that I believe does not wish to whitewash or censor an industry, but is having difficulty expressing what it really wants, which is a curtailing of ham-fisted depictions of current events or thinly veiled lectures disguised as story arcs.
Sadly, I believe the second group is much smaller than the first. However, it exists and its grievance is a valid one. I’ve enjoyed the work of creators possessing cultural viewpoints and political agendas that differ wildly from my own—and it certainly wasn’t because men like Frank Miller are somehow adept at not letting their agendas and viewpoints bleed through their work. In fact they are absolutely terrible at it! But as long as one is not terrible at crafting a good story, one can enjoy work like Sin City: Hell and Back as much as one enjoys Bitch Planet or Empowered.
And I do.