Comic creators are finally pushing back against the subversive wokeness and identity politics ripping the medium and our culture apart. Mike Baron, with his new pro-police comic, “The Thin Blue Line,” is one of them.
You may not be familiar with Mike Baron’s name, but you will have likely enjoyed the influence of his work. Baron is a two-time Eisner Award winner who worked for DC Comics and Marvel and had a prolific run with “The Punisher” during the 1980s and 1990s. During his career, he covered everything from “Star Wars” to “The Flash” and “Batman.”
An example of Baron’s influence can be seen in the hit Netflix series version of “The Punisher.” Micro, the orthodox Jewish hacker, is a Baron creation, as is the anti-security state narrative. Indeed, some of the most woke comics creators today, like Gail Simone, cite Baron’s comics as significant influences.
It can’t escape the notice of normies and comics fans alike that the western comic book publishing industry seems to ripen more towards its destruction every day. Legacy characters like Superman or Robin get replaced with hollowed-out woke versions. At the same time, the storylines they appear in are sanitized and boring.
The industry continues to fall further apart as Japanese Manga sales entirely supplant it. The bulk of the sales in the western “comics industry” are now Scholastic books for 8-year-olds. Things are so bad major creators have left for the life raft called Substack. There are even whispers that one of the big two, DC and Marvel, will stop publishing comics altogether in a few years.
So it’s a big deal when notable creators like Baron get involved to right the ship and make comics fun again. In an interview with The Federalist, Baron discussed his latest pro-law enforcement comics project, the influence of wokeness on the dying comics industry, and his legendary career in comics.
Pischke: So, Mike, tell people a little bit about yourself. How did you get into comics?
Baron: Well, I always wanted to write comics, since picking up an “Uncle Scrooge” in Mitchell, South Dakota, where I grew up. For seven years, I worked on newspapers. I moved back to Madison [Wisconsin] and in 1981, I met Steve Rude. We were just in the right place at the right time because Capital City Distribution, the second-largest distributor of comic books in the world, decided to publish their own line.
So, I went home, and I brainstormed Nexus, the reluctant executioner of mass murderers. They published “Nexus” with Capital City Comics and we were off and running. And on the strength of that book, which spread like wildfire throughout the industry, I was asked to write “The Punisher” (at Marvel) and to write “Flash” at DC, among many other titles. And I had a great career in comics.
Pischke: So, you are now doing “Thin Blue Line,” a pro-law enforcement story? What motivated you to do a pro-cop comic book story?
Baron: One day, watching these riots that swept through America last year. You would see the same thing on channel after channel; city in flames, looters running in and out. Some idiot addressing the camera upfront saying, “These mostly peaceful protests are for a righteous cause.” And you see politician after politician: “We must defund the police.”
Since they declared war on the police, homicides are up 100 percent in every blue city. Rapes, robberies are up over 100 percent in every one of those cities that attacked their own police department. Now they have these vaccine mandates, they want to force everyone to get a vaccine.
And police officers and first responders and nurses and doctors are walking off the job all over the country, leaving hospitals and police departments understaffed, even worse than they were.
So, I decided, well, you know, this story needs to be told because it’s certainly not being told in any of the popular entertainment we’re seeing these days.
It’s about two police officers trying to survive a night in a riot-torn city. It will be familiar to everybody who’s aware of the news. But I must stress, it’s not a polemic at all, it’s not a lecture at all. It’s one of the best stories I’ve ever written, it’s gripping, it’ll grab you by the throat on the first page, and you won’t be able to put it down.
It’s just solid drama. And it snaps and clicks from panel to panel. That’s what I try to do with my entertainment. No wasted space, no boring spots, just pure entertainment. It just happens to have police who are cast in a sympathetic light. Because you’re either for the rule of law or you’re not. Civilization depends on the rule of law.
Pischke: You’ve been a big critic of the comics industry today, how is it different from back when you worked at the big two?
Baron: My experience may have been unique, but I had virtually no editorial interference in anything I wrote at Marvel or DC. It was a different world back then. Dennis O’Neil was one of my editors. Archie Goodwin was one of my editors. These were giants who grew up in the comic industry.
I pick up a couple of comics lately, to see how they’re doing, and I am appalled. Captain America — I bought two issues that were years apart. They were both written by Ta Nehisi-Coates and neither one contained any entertainment value whatsoever.
Pischke: What about the media covering comics?
Baron: What I see shown in the comic press is dreary social justice warrior nonsense, where they’re lecturing or condescending to the reader and scolding them for their prejudices and making bold statements of virtue. But superheroes have always stood for what’s right.
And they should. But the first rule of comics, and this is something they seem to have forgotten, is people buy them to be entertained. And that’s — if they’re not entertained, they’re not going to turn the page.
And what I see of modern comics today seems completely taken over by frivolous identity politics. It doesn’t appeal to anyone outside a very narrow fringe. I think a lot of these people are just writing the comics for themselves to get something off their chest. And they’ve forgotten how to entertain.
Pischke: They also seem obsessed with racial or ethnic identities.
Baron: I talked about how you entertain the audience, but the reader wants to have somebody with whom they can identify. For most people, they think Superman should appeal to everyone. But it seems to me that the majors are hiring writers not based on their accomplishments or ability to entertain, but to check off boxes on a checklist of certain characteristics that they want to make a point about.
Pischke: I think that is a fair point. If you wanted to earn a big title, editors would choose folks with some talent with a proven track record. But today, there are creatives that are put in charge of huge projects, like Alyssa Wong, who’s pretty new to the industry, being put in charge of “Shang-Chi” and “Iron Fist.”
Baron: Yeah, I bought one of those and no entertainment value. And there’s another thing that bugs me, this doesn’t apply just to Alyssa Wong. There are no realistic martial arts portrayed in any place.
And this has always bugged me. And one of the things I’ve prided myself on is including martial arts in a dynamic and realistic manner in my books. And that includes “The Punisher” and especially “The Badger,” and the Bruce Lee comic that I wrote, where you see a technique unfolding.
Pischke: For sure, you can see that, especially in your “Punisher” series. The action in those comics is very grounded in realism, how firearms get used, for example.
Baron: Oh yeah. We had to get the hardware correct or we would hear about it.
Pischke: So how are you funding “Thin Blue Line”? I hear a focus of your fundraising is to help “adopt-a-cop.”
Baron: Well, yeah, we’re working to fund this book. This story is dynamite. It’s the best story you’re going to read all year. It’s up on Indiegogo, “Thin Blue Line.”
With the Indiegogo goals, if we reach $20,000, I’m going to dye my hair blue. At $30,000, I’ll dye my hair green. $40,000 is a mohawk. And if we reach $50,000, which is the level we need to do to adopt a cop, I’m going to shave my skull.
With adopt a cop, we’re going to pay for a police officer to attend a jujitsu academy to learn techniques to subdue people without hurting them or himself. Joe is a master of jujitsu. He’s been training for many years. He’s a veteran. And I mentioned that we like to show realistic martial arts in the book, and you’ll see plenty of that in “Thin Blue Line.”
Pischke: Wow, that sounds like an honorable thing to do. But what does your wife, Ann, think of this plan?
Baron: (Laughing) At first she was, “No you’re not.”
Then eventually after thinking about it, she says, “All right. I’ll help.”
Note: This interview was edited for length and clarity.