The publishing date on FOOM #18 is June 1977, just before our focused time period. One of the most important excerpts I want to take from FOOM comes in this issue, however. It speaks directly to the power of myth in comics and provides an excellent example of the ways in which comic book narratives translate to us as myths. So, let’s take a look at a letter published in #18. A female writer from Ontario, Canada wrote a letter asking questions about the new X-Men team, but ended with a question about something else entirely. She asks, “Why does it seem that people like you and I (who can sympathize/empathize with our band of Homo Superior heroes) are so few and far between, while the narrow-minded bigot is so painfully common?”[i] Such a question wasn’t found in many comic books, but with the new X-Men a substantially growing number of readers were finding sympathy with and empathy for this new superhero team. These readers included many women, not common for superhero comic book readers, so this writer was exploring new territory with her question.
Writer Chris Claremont’s response is even more extraordinary and unlike anything I encountered through reading or anywhere else as a youth of eleven. And it most certainly is something I should have heard somewhere, whether in church, school, or at home. But it really does seem my best lessons were coming from comics, or in this case, from FOOM. Claremont replies:
Why are there people in the United States who think Adolf Hitler was the greatest man who ever lived and regret the fact that he never got a chance to finish what he started? Why do people love dogs and cats and hate niggers? Or wops? Or dagos? Or spics? Or kikes? Or wogs? Or honkies? Or anyone, as characters and as people; I would really flip if, one day, I woke up to discover that the men (note: the X-Men) were “real” people. I would love to meet them. By the same token, I like most people. I don’t think of myself as any sort of racist; I guess that makes me a liberal. But, at the same time, I’ll find myself on the street in New York and – out of the blue – something happening around me will provoke a racist thought. A thought is as far as the event gets, but maybe that’s enough. Maybe I’ve been fooling myself all these years and I’m really a closet bigot. Or maybe I’m just human and nobody but a canonized saint should expect themselves to feel, act, think the straight-and-narrow every instant of every day. Then again, maybe the difference lies in the fact that a bigot would think that racist thought and follow through with it, thought becoming action, whereas a non-bigot thinks the same flash-response thought and immediately realizes that it’s bullshit, that it has its origin in the psychic framework of a society that’s only just beginning to come to terms with the racist elements of its heritage. I honest-to-God don’t know.
What it comes down to is that Dave Cockrum and I view our characters as people, not as black, white, Asians, Irish, African, Amerindian, German, Canadian, Russian, human, mutant, or whatever! People – first, last and always – in the probably vain hope that, sooner or later, everyone else in this screwed-up world of ours will start seeing things the same way.
I am not sure even a “canonized saint” would have written something like this.
excerpt from my book - there's a link on the side if you're interested.