Today Rick Rottman posted an article to Bent Corner about a minor stink being raised over a couple of pages from Captain America #602. The pages depict a political rally, with protestors holding up anti-tax, anti-government signs. One sign reads “Tea Bag the Libs Before They Tea Bag You,” thereby establishing these fictional protestors as members of the very real Tea Party movement. For some reason this offended Michael Johns, a member of the board of the Nationwide Tea Party Coalition, who promptly went crying to Fox News.
(Incidentally, why does the tea party movement, which I’ve heard described proudly ever since it started last year as a thoroughly grassroots, undirected, spontaneous phenomenon, have, need, or even want a nationwide coalition? With a board of directors, even!)
Needless to say, Marvel Comics, which publishes Captain America, immediately caved when faced with this pointless non-controversy. Editor-in-Chief Joe Quesada apologized and promised that the offending art will be altered for all reprints of the issue, and blamed the whole thing on a rogue letterer. Chris Sims at ComicsAlliance has a few guesses as to what the signs at the protest were really supposed to say.
What I’m not clear on is why the tea party types were upset by this in the first place. Johns told Fox that he found the depiction of the protestors, and the reaction to them by Captain America and the Falcon, to be “juvenile.” But Cap and Falcon only go so far as to characterize the crowd as “anti-tax” and “a bunch of angry white folks.” Johns protested that the tea party movement is actually very ethnically diverse. Even if that is true (and it isn’t), the perception of the tea party movement from the outside is that it is made up of a bunch of angry white folks. The depiction in the comic is just reflecting the commonly held (and, incidentally, factual) view. It’s not as if this issue of Captain America is the first time these concerns about the tea parties have been publicly expressed.
Making the reaction of Johns even more puzzling is the fact that all the sign shown in the crowd are based on signs observed at actual tea parties. And they’re pretty tame, bearing slogans like “No New Taxes” and “America Not Americant” and the immortal “No Gov’t in My Medicare”. Don’t believe me? See for yourself.
The tea party as drawn in these Captain America pages seems a pretty accurate, even kind portrayal. If the letterer responsible for those signs had really wanted, as an expert quoted in the Fox News story speculates, to undermine the tea party movement, he could have done a lot better than “America 4 Sale.” He could have finished the pages in question to include the following actual tea party signs:
Nobody at Marvel owes Michael Johns an apology. If anything, he owes them a thank-you. Looks to me like they were holding back.