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An open letter to Caroline Kennedy

July 13, 2012

Caroline Kennedy, President

John F. Kennedy Presidential Library Foundation

I am presuming to intrude on you in your capacity as President of the John Fitzgerald Kennedy Library Foundation. I do wish to call to your personal attention a specimen that may be of interest to your collection.

Enclosed, you will find a copy of a comic book, Before Watchmen: Comedian #1. This was written by Brian Azzarello. It is published by DC Comics, 1700 Broadway, 7th Fl., New York, NY 10019-5905. DC Comics is in turn a part of the Time-Warner media conglomerate.

I must warn you that the contents of this comic book may be disturbing to you on a personal level. The book depicts your late mother Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis as conspiring with the title character to murder Marilyn Monroe. Your mother is also depicted as flirting with the hit-man.

This just skims the surface of Mr. Azzarello's loathsome taste. The comic book goes out of its way to suggest that The Comedian has had sexual intercourse with the unconscious and possibly already dead body of the actress he has just murdered, apparently by administering an overdose of drugs. Mr. Azzarello also manages to soil the memory of Joe DiMaggio (note the baseball) and the legacy of Dion and the Belmonts in the process.

(I have no quarrel with the artist, J. G. Jones. You will note that he does an excellent job depicting each historical figure as immediately recognizable.)

I apologize in advance if this letter is your first acquaintance with this distasteful bit of fiction. Comic books no longer circulate as widely as they used to, While it is not the only or even the main reason, my opinion is that the archly dark and amoral writing of authors like Mr. Azzarello has something to do with the decline. I have an motive in calling your attention to it, and I will be up front about my real agenda.

Astonishingly, the same Mr. Azzarello has also been tapped by DC Comics to write Wonder Woman. While I'm the comic book geek here, I'm going to presume you recognize the character. She has been a national icon of the United States and a symbol of the aspirations of American women for seventy years.

Mr. Azzarello has written Wonder Woman with the same good taste and respect that he has shown your family. He has destroyed her home of Paradise Island, and turned her family into cold-blooded murderers. As a longtime fan of the character, I find his version of Wonder Woman almost as distasteful as his depiction of your family and Marilyn Monroe.

Very simply, I am seeking allies to assist me to persuade DC Comics to remove Mr. Azzarello as the writer on Wonder Woman and reverse his changes to the character's cast and background. (Trust me: in comic books this happens all the time.) I want Mr. Azzarello to move on to other projects better suited to his gifts. I do not believe that this creator of snuff scenes is an appropriate writer for a feminist icon.

I am upset enough about this to seek your help, and would appreciate any influence you are able to bring to bear. Yes, I am a comic book geek. Much of the stereotype probably applies, and I'm obviously fannish enough to care and to bother. But whatever my flaws, I at least don't find these fictions entertaining.


My thoughts

This is a great letter. But you should not apologize for being a "geek". This is not about something you don't like in a comic book. It's about setting an example.

It's true that comic books are not written for children any more. But adolescents and young adults do read them, and they need just as much in the way of things that set an example and standard for behavior as younger people do, above all today when kids are barely educated beyond endless drilling for endless tests, and most schools are just euphemistic prisons for raising more cannon fodder.

You know how Dr. Wertham was back in the 1940s, and they had those hearings about the rotten things in comic books at that time. We laugh about it today, about the stupid things he said about Batman and so forth. But he also had some very salient observations about the deranged violence in things like the EC crime and horror series. Like when he wrote about a woman having a dream where she's almost stabbed in the eye? Today, it wouldn't be almost, and she'd probably get raped while the writer was at it.

I am not saying that kids who read this stuff are going to go out and do it. It's more like it fosters an attitude of contempt for human life. Women are there to be raped, idealism is stupid.

But it is also true that the kids reading this garbage about Mrs. Kennedy do not know or care who she is or who Marilyn is. If you say President Kennedy's name the image in their minds -- if they have any image at all -- is the Zapruder film. This erasure of history is another reason this thing should be thrown in the can. Kids see things like this, or Mad Men, and think that's how it really was.

Re: My thoughts

Yeah. I did want to parry the argument 'this is just nerd rage' with, 'Well, yeah: but it's nerd rage about important stuff.' Wonder Woman, the Kennedies, and Marilyn Monroe are as much symbols of the USA as the flag or Mt. Rushmore. There's a technical name for this as a figure of rhetoric, but it eludes me right now.

Wertham deserves more credit than he gets now, I agree. Most people do recognize that Batman and Wonder Woman involved same-sex fantasies; we just don't give a fig.


Edited at 2012-07-14 07:46 pm (UTC)