Mailbag: Art versus Artist, Comic Book Recommendations, Underdog vs. Lassie

Got some questions in the Action Force Mailbag today.


@MGenuineBaker asks:

Do you ever like or dislike a book/movie based on its creator? Should we try to separate the art from the artist?

That’s a doozy of a question, isn’t it?  And not one that’s always easy to answer.

Ideally, I would love to live in a world where the audience knew nothing of the artist and were free to simply love / hate / be indifferent about art based solely on their reaction to that art.  There’s no guarantee that just because you like X that you’ll end up liking its creator, and I know this because I’m confident in saying just because you like my stories, you might not like me.

I know.  Hard to believe, but true.  There are people out there who don’t like me.  I’ve met them.  And while they are wrong for not realizing how delightful I am, they are entitled to their opinion.  For now . . . (cue ominous music)

Of course, this really isn’t about me because while I have my opinions, I try to take a measured approach with my public persona.  While I feel comfortable saying how much I disliked Man of Steel, I also temper that with an acknowledgement that it’s just one guy’s opinion.  Plus, if you’re offended that I didn’t like a movie so much that you don’t want to buy my books, I feel confident saying you’re the one with the problem.  Not me.

This question isn’t really about me though, is it?

There are creators out there who do make it hard, intentionally or not, to get past their worldview and still enjoy their work.  The most recent example is Orson Scott Card, who is anti-marriage equality (which is his right) and even advocates open, armed rebellion should he deem it necessary (which isn’t).

For the record, I am pro marriage equality, and I still find it hard to think of as a controversial topic even.  But, hey, if someone ends up having a problem with that opinion and decides not to buy my books because of it, I wholly support their right to do so.  I’m also staunchly pro-robot, pro-dinosaur, and (unsurprisingly) pro-Dinobot.  And, yes, I’ll take all the heat for those controversial views as well.

Card, who is undeniably a giant of science fiction, even more recently came out with a paranoid essay about how President Obama is a dictator and how he plans on grooming Michelle Obama to be the next president.  Oh, and something weird about street gangs becoming Obama’s own private army.  Or something.  Really weird stuff there, but, hey, there’s no delusion like paranoid delusion, right?

Given Card’s rather strong and radical views, there’s been a lot of blowback directed at him.  In particular, Ender’s Game, a movie based on probably his most famous work, is coming to the table with a lot of baggage, and that’s sad but unavoidable.  While I’m not sure boycotts really matter and I don’t doubt that the call to boycott product X is so commonplace as to often be silly at times, there’s also no denying that Card has positioned himself to take on this fight.

And really, that’s where I think the line is.  If an artist has unorthodox opinions, it’s cool.  Lots of people do.  And if an artist voices those opinions, that’s cool too.  We should all be allowed to do so without fear of excessive reprisals.  But when an artist picks a fight, it’s hard for me to work up much sympathy when that fight comes back at them.  It’s like the infamous Dr. Laura incident where instead of acknowledging that she said something stupid on the radio and maybe should back away, she decided to double down and try to claim the moral high ground (somehow).  And then her sponsors pulled out and her radio show went away.  And, hey, that’s not anyone stepping on her rights to free speech because free speech doesn’t mean there are no consequences for what we say and it certainly doesn’t guarantee anyone a national platform to share their opinions.

So Card is in a position where his voice gets extra credibility and notice, and that comes with a lot of responsibility.  And if he chooses to use that position to voice his controversial worldview, then everyone else is certainly free to withdraw their support from him, even indirectly.  If it’s an issue that matters to a person, they are allowed to react accordingly, and while it’s a shame it might hurt a movie made by people who don’t share those views, it’s also just part of the big jumbled package that is human culture.

As for myself, I do my best to avoid learning very much about creators at all because, frankly, I’d usually rather not know.  It’s not always easy, but the less I know, the more comfortable I feel judging a work on its own merits.  There are exceptions, both good and bad.  I was never a big Mark Millar fan, but his recent statements about rape in fiction and his persona as a whole have made it difficult for me to support anything he does.  (To be fair, I don’t really like much of what he does though, so it’s not like there’s much of an internal conflict there.)  And at a very low point in my life, Rob Schneider was the first person to make me laugh, and so, I’ll get behind anything he does too.  It is virtually impossible for me to separate the artist from the art in some cases.  And I’m okay with that.

And I’m okay with people choosing to separate the art from the artist too.  It’s just a very personal judgment call.  I’ll respect everyone’s choices as long as they respect mine.


@JarrettRush asks:

What are 3 comics you’d recommend for a someone who’s never gotten into comics? Or superheroes, for that matter?

First off, I always recommend Atomic Robo from Red 5 comics.  Great series of stories with a charming robotic protagonist.  (Have I mentioned I’m pro robot?)  There are several great collected trades, and I recommend all of them, other than Real Science Adventures, which I’m not a big fan of.  Otherwise, you can’t go wrong.

My favorite so far still has to be Atomic Robo and the Shadow Out of Time, where Robo fights an otherdimensional monster across time and space in such a brilliant and well-conceived manner that I can’t ever give it enough praise.  But, really, any trade you can get your hands on will do and they’re well worth the money.

IDW Publishing had an ongoing Dungeons and Dragons comic that was surprisingly fun.  I’ve never been a big fan of D&D (collective gasp from the audience), but this series was fun and lively.  It didn’t really challenge anything about the format of stories featuring a group of adventurers having, well, adventures, but the writing was solid, the art always great, and it was just fun to read.  They released a few trades of this as well, and I recommend starting with the first if you can find it and moving on from there.  Just be sure to get the Dungeons and Dragons series, and not any of the offshoots (Forgotten Realms, Eberron, etc.)  Those might be great, but I haven’t read them, so I can’t really say.

Finally, if you want to go a little toward the classics, I really like any of the collected Marvel Essentials line.  These large black and white collections are chock full of classic stories, and while there’s some dust on them, they’re also a great chance to explore the comics of the sixties and seventies.  I particularly like the more eccentric characters of yore.  (Are the 60’s yore yet?)

Marvel Essentials Man-Thing is probably my favorite because they are so strange, being a potpourri of everything the 70’s had to offer.  They have horror, philosophy, superhero stuff, and often all three at once.  Plus the hero is a walking plant monster AND it is the series that introduced Howard the Duck, so there’s that going for it too.

If you want something a little less out there, I’d recommend Marvel Essentials Tomb of Dracula. It is very much a product of its time, like a Hammer Horror film, but where occasionally Drac fights a mad scientist.  It also introduced Blade, who wouldn’t really become a popular character until several decades later and even then, really isn’t that popular, if we can be honest.

But, if you’re really interested in something awesome, check out Marvel Essentials Godzilla, King of the Monsters.  For a while, Godzilla was actually part of the Marvel universe, which means he got to meet a lot of staples of the Marvel U.  He got pushed down by Hercules, got sent back in time via Dr. Doom’s time platform, and even fought Marvel’s greatest saurian superhero, Devil Dinosaur!  It’s a weird weird series, and well worth checking out if you’re of a mind to.

Hope those suggestions are helpful to you.


@docxen ask:

Could Underdog beat Lassie in a fight?

The obvious answer is yes.  Lassie doesn’t have any superpowers, and Underdog does.

But if I am free to subject your question to nerdly overanalysis, I could suggest that Lassie is the Batman of dogs.  She might not have the utility belt, but she manages to be heroic and capable and, just as with Batman, you would want her around when the world is exploding around you.

Realistically, none of this would make much difference once Underdog threw her into the sun, but if we’re going to apply superhero logic here, Lassie might be able to hold her own.  Give her a Lassiemobile, arm her with exploding Lassierangs, she could even put up a good fight.  But, still, in the end, she’d probably end up in the sun.  Might be fun to watch though.


Have a question you want need answered by a demi-famous guy?  Or just want to drop a line to tell me how cool I am?  Reach me on Twitter at @aleemartinez, on Facebook as A. Lee Martinez, or via e-mail at

Keelah Se’lai

Fighting the good fight, Writing the good write,


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  1. Posted August 16, 2013 at 4:09 pm | Permalink

    I don’t usually know the political views of authors, so it doesn’t usually matter. I read Ender’s Game and liked it and then read Ender’s Shadow and liked it a little more. Then I read Shadow of the Hegemon and hated it and never picked up a Card book again. From the way that series was progressing, I don’t think I missed much.

    I think I need a bumper sticker to profess that I am Pro-Dinobot.

  2. Posted August 16, 2013 at 4:43 pm | Permalink

    i’m pro vampire. unless they sparkle.

  3. JB Sanders Jr
    Posted August 17, 2013 at 4:35 pm | Permalink

    Orson Scott Card’s argument is that his art should stand on its own merit and we shouldn’t let his personal opinions affect our enjoyment of his creations. Using that logic maybe we should look anew at Adolph Hitler’s art and not think too much about that Jewish thing.


  4. VultureTX
    Posted August 18, 2013 at 5:53 pm | Permalink

    Yes knowing what an author is as a person can hurt enjoying their works for reasons given below . It also means that sometimes you still buy the hardback of favored author whom you personally like just to increase their sales even if you really think they should right something new.

    I worked Green Room since the 80’s and my mentor partied routinely with the SFWA crowd. So after learning and talking with authors, I stopped reading some of them.

    SWFA has/had as members-
    BDSM practitioners – try reading a sex or interrogation scene from them in the same light.
    Anti gun nuts – try reading a modern fight scene where it’s obvious they don’t know jack about firearms and even their hate of a civilian wielding a gun comes through.
    Paedophiles – need I say more.
    Religious/Political Fanatics – where their works are but thin wrappers around a diatribe that you already heard at a con.

    I still read a lot but to be honest Blogs influence my reading choices with new authors.

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