Over on Chuck Dixon’s web site, he has a messageboard thread about his 100 best stories (in the opinion of his readers). These are my contributions to that thread.
Most comic book writers, if they want to bring up politics, just have the character that they like spout their politics.
Case in point: Angel O’Dare crossing Times Square and trashing Giuliani the whole way in a voice that doesn’t even sound like Angel’s in the Vertigo version of “Angel and the Ape.”
It’s not tied in with the story at all, or prompted by anything. It’s just Chaykin spouting off via the character who is his voice.
Perhaps Alfred the butler will take a moment to lament to Batman about how cruel fox-hunting is, even though the anti-aristocracy slant and the mere fact that Alfred is sharing his opinions in a rant instead of a one-liner both seem way out of character.
Or we get “Batman: Seduction of the Gun” or “Batman: Death of Innocence” or that story where Green Arrow watches a nun step on a land mine and then looks inside the land mine to see that his company manufactured it (because a human being’s first instinct is to look at the inside cover of an exploded land mine after someone has died). Stories that are all one-sided diatribes about a great evil in the world that is beyond the superhero’s capacity to resolve. Where statistics are delivered during quiet moments of extended dialogue between two characters.
You could almost be forgiven for thinking that Chuck Dixon just never does any “important stories” because you wouldn’t recognize them as such.
Here’s how Chuck Dixon handles “tonight on a very special Birds of Prey”.
Birds of Prey #7, “The Villain”.
Chuck takes on, of all things, Slobodon Milosevic, via a proxy. In this story, Black Canary must escort an Eastern European general to his trial while avoiding soldiers and other people who want him dead. As they dodge gunfire, Dinah makes it clear she doesn’t like the guy; she just thinks he deserves to be convicted by the world instead of murdered. However, as they run and dodge and sneak and fight, the general makes a couple of good points. She chastises him for having women working in sweatshops. He points out that if not for the factories, which are considered good jobs to have, the women would be working backbreaking labor in the fields, or worse. When they are finally cornered, the general saves Dinah’s life and takes a bullet meant for her. Dinah, having failed in her mission, owing her life to a man she resents and no longer as certain of herself, departs.
Chuck’s character, that is to say the character that he likes, Black Canary, takes on the general liberal view (indeed, the general public’s view) that any dictator is a monster, and it’s a position that most of the readers will easily agree with in the beginning. The political points made in the story are precisely what such a person would be saying in his defense, and they are debatable (but for many readers will be entirely new information). There is no letter column at the end that prompts anyone to get involved with the issue, call a phone number and make a difference. Nobody acts out of character to make the story work. Indeed, it is Dinah’s moral character which is put to the test.
In the end, you have a single-issue story that doesn’t try to get you aping a viewpoint at the end, but prompts you to think about aspects of an issue that you may never have considered, all while entertaining and providing some intense drama. Most of all, it may prompt you to read it again…always the sign of a great comic book.
This recap, by the way, is from memory. I sold all of my early BoP issues because they were going for big bucks. But I miss this one. (It’s also the debut of the electronic canary cry.)