The Weirdness of WerthamInAction

WerthamInAction

Any comics fans out there remember the fabled year of 2015? If you were keeping an eye on four-colour fandom at the time, you will have noticed that it was a prime time for controversy. Debates raged over a Batgirl variant cover; Breitbart was slagging off the female Thor; and Wonder Woman was using the word “mansplaining”. Amid all of this controversy, Gamergate was trying to bleed out into Comicgate.

It was under this climate that a new community sprung up on Reddit, bearing the name of WerthamInAction – a title that combines the name of 1950s anti-comic crusader Fredric Wertham with that of the Gamergate community KotakuInAction. Its mission statement is as follows:

This subreddit tracks and discusses attempts to smear, intimidate, censor, culturally appropriate, ethically corrupt, or otherwise harm the comic book industry and culture, specifically such attempts by the SJW hate movement. These attempts are collectively known as #ComicGate.

The biracial Spider-Man controversy, the female Captain Marvel controversy, the Muslim Ms. Marvel controversy, the Sensation Comics Featuring Wonder Woman controversy, the Spider-Woman variant cover controversy, the female Thor controversy, the Batgirl variant cover controversy (a.k.a. the #ChangeTheCover/#DontChangeTheCover/#SaveTheCover/#WeWantThisCover/#CoverGate controversy), and similar issues are welcome. These should all be considered under the #ComicGate umbrella term.

WerthamInAction was created by a Redditor named “frankenmine”. This person appears to have a preoccupation with SJWs, and also set up subreddits called TorInAction and MozillaInAction, to monitor alleged SJW activity in science fiction and the tech industry respectively. He views SJWs as something akin to a viral infection, as this post makes clear, and also argues that “Destroying SJW influence on western civilization is as worthy a goal as taking out ISIS” because both are “toxic ideologies that are threatening thousands of years of actual progress, not rhetorical progress”.

Where do comics fit into all this? Well, as frankenmine stated in one post, the final straw for him was when Jane Foster obtained Thor’s hammer:

Which specific event made you realize that #ComicGate wasn’t merely an empty or wishful parallel of #GamerGate, but an actual phenomenon deserving of activism?

I’ll begin. When the female who eventually becomes Thor (ugh!) lifts the hammer, the inscription on it changes. It originally reads “Whosoever holds this hammer, if he be worthy, shall possess the power of Thor.”, but the “he” becomes a “she” when she lifts it.

Preferred pronouns, not on Tumblr, not on LiveJournal, not on ello, but in my comics, holy shit! That’s when I realized the fight was on.

This kind of thing is just the tip of the iceberg. The dude in question has a history of posting seriously bigoted stuff both at Reddit and its right-wing spin-off Voat. There’s an archive of his quotations here, ranging from racist jokes about Niger to conspiracy theories involving Star Wars: The Force Awakens contributing to white genocide. And all of this comes back to the bogeyman figure of Fredric Wertham:

Authoritarian leftists have grown up [since Wertham], of course. They no longer physically destroy comic books. They do it virtually, by infiltrating their way into positions that enable them to change straight white male characters into females, coloreds, or degenerates. The motivation has always been the same: to destroy western civilization.

The reference to “degenerates” (which, as frankenmine clarifies in the thread, includes homosexuals) is ironic, given Wertham’s notorious homophobia.

When I took a look at WerthamInAction I was quickly sucked down a rabbit hole. The discussion ranges from typical “get your politics out of my hobby” fair to… well, just look at this:

RedPillJohnny

The sub’s founder frankenmine would finally run into trouble with Reddit due to his activities at SocialMediaSluts, yet another subreddit that he created. This time, instead of ranting about SJWs, the aim of this community was to post photographs of sexually attractive women without any kind of permission:

/r/SocialMediaSluts welcomes compromising, sexually suggestive, partially or fully nude photos and videos from all social networks, including Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, and more. We’re a proud spiritual successor to the late and great /r/FacebookCleavage, but with expanded scope in both content and sources.

Blimey. It should be no surprise to learn that, reportedly, frankenmine’s account was suspended when he encouraged the spreading of personal information about the women featured at the subreddit.

After the banning of frankenmine, WerthamInAction was taken over by an individual using the name Eagle713. To his credit, this guy took a stand against alt-right racism from other members of the sub, and may have been unaware of just how bigoted his predecessor was.

The House of Ideas

Back in March 2015, frankenmine started a thread entitled “Let’s crowdsource ideas for a comic that will make SJWs livid, and then arrange to have it illustrated and published, at least digitally.” Here are some of the suggestions he got:

In 1986, the villains won. World is ruled by a supervillain matriarchy. Has been for years. Most of society doesn’t know; forced into a drab existence. 9 to 5 punch clock slavery. All the female superhumans either joined “The Matriarchy” or were exterminated. Superhuman men have been suppressed. Most of those that resisted back in ’86 are dead. Only their orphaned children remain. The few who survived the war of ’86 were mindwiped and reduced to living as homeless; shunned by society and haunted by vague memories of their past lives. Art and culture are viciously suppressed like in Fahrenheit 451. Things like imagination and hope are lost. This is the key to superhuman powers. The ability to imagine the impossible can make it real. Superhumans in this world are meant to be more than just costumed crime fighters; they’re antibodies; literally evolved to guard the earth from all threats.

A story told first person through the eyes of a serial rapist. Each issue, the rapist (AKA No) targets someone, rapes them, and pins it on one of their loved ones. The whole process in contact, stalking, planting the evidence, the crime, and the aftermath is shown in great detail, all with an outspoken activist rallying against No, hitting all the bullet points you read in radical feminist literature. No’s victims are chosen seemingly at random, gender, race, class, or any specific trait isn’t considered, except that the victim has loved ones. No just hunts the victim. Of course, the twist ending of the series is that No is the activist. As for why the villain is called No? It’s the first and last word the victims say to her.

I don’t have a full-blown story idea so much as a general concept. I’d like to see something that is completely centered around every single thing the SJWs hate. All characters in the comic are sexualized as much as they can be without making it a porn comic and each female character falls directly into one of the SJW-despised archetypes (Damsel in Distress, Super Villain, Power Fantasy, etc). Also, one of them has to be a submissive with a rape fetish.

Dear leader frankenmine reported that he was “scouting for illustrators behind the scenes”, but despite this, his comics publishing endeavours appear to have come to nowt. WerthamInAction didn’t get its own comics until Eagle713 took over, bringing with him a webcomic universe called NO-Earth. “Part of the purpose of NO-Earth is to correct or avoid some of the problems that we see with other comic book lines”, runs the NO-Earth mission statement. “No character in NO-Earth will ever be re-written in order to meet an artificial ‘diversity’ requirement. This is not a ‘politically correct’ refuge. Any changes to characters will be organic and part of a story, not something ret-conned in to try to appease a vocal minority that can never be pleased.”

Amongst NO-Earth’s comics is Johnny Reb, about a Confederate superhero. Here is the original cover:

JohnnyReb

But alas – Eagle713 was forced to drop this image after finding out that the illustrator had simply traced over an Ant-Man poster:

AntmanPoster

Oops.

As you are likely aware, a second round of Comicgate is currently going down. So it seems appropriate to bear in mind how it ended up last time…

One thought on “The Weirdness of WerthamInAction”

  1. Just one thing about Wertham, leaving aside all his laudable accomplishments and efforts outside of comics, his founding of the LaFargue Clinic in Harlem, studies into the effects of segregation (used as evidence in Brown v. Board of Education), his concern with violence and children, all of which clearly were not only right, but ahead of his time, his critique of comics was spot on from a perspective of reflecting and reinforcing problematic aspects of the culture. All the troubling tropes he pinpoints about violence, race and gender representation, fascistic underpinnings and consumer predation were there and to varying degrees are still there.

    And, above all, he wasn’t a homophobe, he was just a socially-engaged psychiatrist worried about the spreading of a “mental disease” (don’t forget that in the DSM of his era omosexuality was indeed listed as a mental illness).

    Like

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