The American Vision: A Biblical Worldview Ministry

Popular Culture as a Worldview Wedge

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The roads in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, are always in need of repair. In fact, anyone living in a city that gets large amounts of snow fall and encounters daily thaws and nightly freezes knows what I’m talking about. The snow falls and afternoon temperatures rise just enough to melt the snow. The water seeps into tiny cracks and crevices in the road surfaces. Then the inevitable happens. Nighttime temperatures drop, freezing the water and expanding the nearly invisible hairline breaks. The next day, the cracks are a little larger. The process repeats itself until the foundation of the road bed is compromised. By spring, the cracks have become automobile-consuming pot holes.

Similar to the way potholes develop, shifts in worldviews occur below the surface with a persistent gradualism until the foundation stones are broken apart. The early Fabian Socialists loved symbolism and depicted their principles in their Fabian Window that was designed in 1920 by George Bernard Shaw. The Fabians chose a wolf in sheep’s clothing as one of their symbols. The Fabian Society logo of the 1950s took a page from Aesop’s fable The Tortoise and the Hare, signifying the slow but unrelenting progress toward a stated goal. The Fabian tortoise carries the motto “When I strike, I strike hard.” Secularism has followed both methods as is evident in the way it has transformed our social, economic, and political systems into something that a Fabian Socialist of yesteryear could only dream of. We don’t often know how badly we’ve been affected until we hit a pothole at 50 mph and bend a rim.

Secularists of all types, but best exemplified by Marxists, entered “into every civil, cultural and political activity in every nation, patiently leavening them all as thoroughly as yeast leavens bread.”[1] 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.”[2] 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.”[3]

Let’s take a look at how comic books have become subversive. 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.’”[4] 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[5] 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?”[6] Similar articles denouncing the new comics appeared in the Ladies Home Journal, Scouting Magazine,[7] 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 consistency 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.[8] 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 industry has been in trouble for some time, although Marvel had a good 2008. Its stock actually rose. Its Ultimate Marvel series, which began with Ultimate Spiderman in 2000, has revived the market as have the movies Spiderman, X-Men, The Fantastic Four, and Iron Man. In each case, the successful books and movies have followed more traditional story telling.

The comic book genre was seen, like all fiction, as “morality tales.” People actually 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 story lines 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.”[9]

The New York Times, in order 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 XMen,’ 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.”[10]

We should not forget Wonder Woman who brought equality to women in the realm of power and multitasking more than 65 years ago. Now there are many women superheroes. Northstar’s hero team was led by a woman. The secondlargest comic company, DC comics, publisher of Batman and Superman, introduced a homosexual character—the Pied Piper—and AIDSrelated 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.”[11]

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.”[12]

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.”[13] 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 normallooking human beings. This is not the case for Ben Grimm. He is always the rocklike “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[14] who moonlights as a crime fighter” (also see here), 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.”[15] 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. The latest attempt to normalize homosexuality is 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.

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Endnotes:

[1] Malachi Martin, The Keys of This Blood: The Struggle for World Dominion Between Pope John II, Mikhail Gorbachev and the Capitalist West (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1990), 250.
[2] Patrick J. Buchanan, Death of the West: How Dying Populations and Immigrant Invasions Imperil Our Country and Civilization (New York: St. Martin’s Press/Thomas Dunne Books, 2001), 77.
[3] Andrew Breitbart, “No Magic Internet Button for GOP,” The Washington Times (January 18, 2009).
[4] James Steranko, History of Comics, 2 vols. (Reading, PA: A Supergraphics Publication, 1970), 1:43. Emphasis in original. Co-creator Bill Finger writes: “Bruce Wayne’s first name came from Robert Bruce, the Scottish patriot. Wayne, being a playboy, was a man of gentry. I searched for a name that would suggest colonialism. I tried Adams, Hancock … then I thought of Mad Anthony Wayne.” (Quoted in Steranko, History of Comics, 1:45).
[5] Mikal Vollmer, Snuff Comics: Golden Age of Torture and Murder—Kids’ Comic Books of the 40’s and 50’s (Solana Beach, CA: Item Comics, 1996).
[6] Frederic Wertham, “The Comics . . . Very Funny,” The Reader’s Digest (August 1948), 15. The article originally appeared in an unabridged form in the May 26, 1948 issue of The Saturday Review of Literature
[7] Frederic Wertham, “Let’s Look at the Comics,” Scouting (September 1954), 2–3, 19–20.[8]Marvel Comics to unveil gay gunslinger” (December 22, 2002):  http://archives.cnn.com/2002/SHOWBIZ/12/09/rawhide.kid.gay/[9]The Comics Break New Ground, Again,” The New York Times (January 24, 1992), A12.
[10] The Comics Break New Ground, Again,” A12.
[11] Comic Book Hero Says He’s Gay,”The Gwinnett Daily News (January 17, 1992), 4A.
[12] Interview from “Point of View,” #2274 (January 17, 1992), P.O. Box 30, Dallas, Texas 75221.
[13] The Comics Break New Ground, Again,” The New York Times (January 24, 1992), A12.
[14] A non-stereotypical feminine lesbian rather than a “butch” appearance.
[15] Batwoman hero returns as lesbian” (May 30, 2006).

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