- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Benneton comics

“The superhero comics that kids once knew (and perhaps loved) are in trouble. Notwithstanding Hollywood’s recent infatuation with big-budget superhero movies, for much of the past 30 years the monthly comic book adventures of Spider-Man, Batman and their kind have been suffering from shrinking readership and slumping sales.

“For example, during the heyday of the late 1970s, a bestseller from DC or Marvel Comics, two of the biggest publishers, could expect to sell 300,000 copies. These days a similar title would be fortunate to move more than 50,000. …

“The would-be villains are many. Some have blamed the sales slide on cultural upstarts, like video games, manga and the ever-present Internet. Others point to the increased popularity of bookstore-friendly graphic novels, sales of which have recently surpassed traditional comics.

“But there are those who have begun to ask more complex questions, like how characters that are 40 or even 70 years old can remain relevant in an increasingly diverse society. This raises one of the oldest and most uncomfortable truths about the superhero genre: its surprising dearth of non-white heroes.”

— Brad Mackay, writing on “Hero Deficit: Comic Books in Decline,” Sunday in the Toronto Star

Southern Gothic

“Hillary [Rodham Clinton] didn’t help herself with her over-the-top sermon at the First Baptist Church in Selma, Ala., two weeks ago.

“Her aping of a black Southern accent from the pulpit was so inept and patronizing that it should get a Razzie Award for Worst Performance of the Year. At times, it approached the Southern Gothic burlesque of Bette Davis chewing up the scenery in ‘Hush … Hush, Sweet Charlotte.’

“Does Hillary Clinton have a stable or coherent sense of self? Or is everything factitious, mimed and scripted (like her flipping butch and femme masks) for expediency?”

— Camille Paglia, writing on “Hillary vs. Obama: It’s a drawl,” March 14 in Salon at www.salon.com

Reality check

“Most students have enough good sense to see that the campus radicals’ description of the world is wildly at odds with reality. But this battering away at ideas of truth and goodness does have some effect. Very many of our university graduates emerge with the default assumption thoroughly wired into their mental software. And, it seems, they carry it with them for most of their adult lives.

“The default assumption predisposes them to believe that if there is slaughter in Darfur, it is our fault; if there are IEDs in Iraq, it is our fault; … if there are climate changes that have any bad effect on anybody, it is our fault.

“What they have been denied in their higher education is an accurate view of history and America’s place in it. … [British historian Andrew] Roberts points out almost all the advances of freedom in the 20th century have been made by the English-speaking peoples. … And he recalls what held and holds them together by quoting a speech Winston Churchill gave in 1943 at Harvard: ‘Law, language, literature — these are considerable factors. Common conceptions of what is right and decent, a marked regard for fair play, especially to the weak and poor, a stern sentiment of impartial justice and above all a love of personal freedom … these are the common conceptions on both sides of the ocean among the English-speaking peoples.’ ”

— Michael Barone, writing on “The Blame-America-First Crowd,” Monday in National Review Online at www.national review.com

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