Recently, Bill Maher took to his HBO show Real Time with Bill Maher to address comments he made following the death of Marvel Comics legend Stan Lee. In his segment, Maher doubled down on his previous comments by insulting comic book fans everywhere describing them as childish.
Maher would go on a five minute rant saying things like, “I posted a blog that in no way was an attack on Mr. Lee, but took the occasion of his death to express my dismay at people who think comic books are literature and superhero movies are great cinema and who, in general, are stuck in an everlasting childhood.”
Comic book author Peter David, known for his runs The Incredible Hulk, Aquaman, Young Justice, Spider-Man 2099, Fallen Angel, Stark Trek, and X-Factor took to his Facebook page to address Maher’s five minute temper tantrum.
David would begin by making an apt comparison to sports fans, specifically baseball fans. Interestingly David points out Bill Maher owns a minority stake in the New York Mets.
“Bill Maher has informed us, both on Twitter and again last night, that comic books are for kids and that fans of them are basically stunted individuals who are unable to accept adulthood.
So let’s talk about fans.
Fans love to argue. They are particularly big on arguing who their heroes can defeat. And periodically they gather in large crowds, sometimes numbering over 50,000. They pay ridiculous entry fees to get in, and many of them dress up like their favorites. In the places where they gather, they cheer on their respective faves, chant together, eat and hang together. They buy a ton of merchandise, dropping hundreds of dollars at a time. And if they’re lucky, they get autographs and go home happy. Hell, on rare occasions they even attend parades dedicated to their heroes.
And that’s just Mets fans.
It’s also Yankees fans, and Phillies fans, and Dodgers fans, and Jets and Giants fans, and Knicks fans, and so on throughout the country.
Hell, Bill Maher even profits off it, since he bought a minority share of the Mets in 2012.”
David goes on to use Maher’s own insults of calling comic book fans children to apply to sports fans.
“And all these games…they involve balls. Isn’t that interesting? Large ones, small ones, that get bounced or hit or thrown. Balls, which are–as you know–one of the favorite toys of babies.
Yet interestingly no one, not even the profiting Bill Maher, ever accuses sports fans of being juvenile. Of being overgrown children. Get a whole bar riled up about Yankees versus Red Sox and no one is going to say, “My God, grow the hell up.””
David then goes on to point out the ridiculous idea that combining words and pictures somehow means its entertainment purely for children.
“That’s because, as Neil Gaiman pointed out, if you have stories told via words alone, that’s books and the realm of adults. Have pictures by themselves and that’s art, and also for adults. But the moment you combine words and pictures, assholes believe that that makes it entertainment purely for children.”
He then goes into a robust defense of comic books describing them as “modern myths.”
“I’ve said this before but it bears repeating: comic books aren’t juvenilia. Comic books are modern myths. The definition of a myth is something that is defined within its own essence. If you ask someone, “Who is Gomez Addams?” they will reply, “He’s a character created by cartoonist Charles Addams.” IF you say, “Who is Superman?” people will likely respond, “He’s a superhero, the last son of Krypton, with the secret identity of Clark Kent.” In the same way that if you ask who Hercules is, you’ll be told that he is a half-god born of Zeus having an affair with a mortal. You don’t put it in context of its creation; you define it as itself. People who find Spider-Man fascinating are just as valid and adult in their interests as someone who studies Arthurian legend. The fact that it’s happening in modern time and we know who the creators are doesn’t make it any less mythic.”
While Maher criticized recent Marvel and DC Films for being all about a hero fighting over “glowy thing,” David points out there have been a number of comic book adaptations that are anything but that.
“Nor is the multi-billion dollar success of their movies proof of their crossover appeal, according to Maher. “They’re all the same!” he declares, asserting that ALL comic book movies are about superheroes fighting over “glowy” things (like athletes fighting over a ball, remember.). The short answer is, Yeah, right, “Black Panther” is just like “Wonder Woman” (neither of which involved anything glowing.). The longer answer is, Yeah, right, super heroes fighting over glowing things is sure an accurate description of Men in Black. Or Road to Perdition.. Or Kingsmen. Or V for Vendetta. Or From Hell. Or 300, Sin City, American Splendor, Atomic Blonde, Ghost World,Dredd, Scott Pilgrim vs the World, and on and on.”
Finally, David declares that comic books are literature and many of them have gone on to win prestigious literary awards including the Bram Stoker award, a Hugo, and even a Pulitzer!
“BUT, Maher further asserts, comics aren’t literature. Well, let’s figure that out. The dictionary definition of literature is: written works, especially those considered of superior or lasting artistic merit. So what’s lasting merit? It seems reasonable to assume that it’s obvious: something that lasts. That transcends generations. So since Action Comics #1, which was produced over eighty years ago, still has resonance, that would seem to satisfy the definition, as does Spider-Man who was created fifty-five years ago. But perhaps it’s deeper than that. Perhaps to be literature, it must be critically acclaimed. Like Watchmen was when it won the Hugo. Like Sandman when it won the Bram Stoker award. Like Maus was when it won the Pulitzer.
How many Pulitzers do you have on your shelf, Bill?”
David concludes that the reason he’s pissed off at Bill Maher because his rant was completely wrong. He describes it as “demonstrably inaccurate, and incredibly unfair.”
“I’m not pissed off with Maher because he went off on a rant about fans. God knows I’ve done that myself. I’m pissed off because he went off on a rant that was factually wrong, demonstrably inaccurate, and incredibly unfair. His words come from ignorance, and I wish to God he would do something, anything, to educate himself.”
What do you make of Peter David’s response? Do you think he stuck it to Bill Maher?