Movies & TV / Columns

Looking at Bill Maher’s Beef With Comic Books

January 30, 2019 | Posted by Steve Gustafson
Real Time With Bill Maher

I’m Steve Gustafson and thanks for stopping by. Don’t forget to check out 411mania’s Comic Book Review Roundtable, every Thursday! Read up on the best reviews and let us know what you’re reading as well. Click to read the latest Comic Book Review Roundtable! Invaders #1, and more!

Now, on with the show!

Last week we said, “Farewell to George Pérez!”. Here’s what some of you had to say:

D-Unit: “I loved George’s work on the 90s Avengers series with Kirk Busiek. That was the first time I started reading Avengers comics”

Carl Rood: “Who are they going to get when they need a scene with 500 characters and all of them need to look distinct?”

Reginald Fisterbottom: “Favorite Title: New Teen Titans
Favorite Cover: Avengers # 198
Favorite single piece of published art: the two-page JLA/JSA team portrait from Justice League of America #195
Nothing comparable: a convention sketch of the Avengers-era Beast

Robert Lehto: “Nobody could draw beautiful women quite like George Perez.”

Phenomenal: “New Teen Titans lineup got me into comics. Altough it’s not my favorite Titans lineup anymore,i’ll always have huge respect for George Pérez.

And i am forever grateful for creating Raven. She is still damn awesome.”

darkjourney: “JLA vs Avengers. The scope of the final battle scene is amazing.”

To read all the comments or to read last week’s column, CLICK HERE! As always, thanks for the input!

This week we discuss…

Bill Maher’s Beef With Comic Books

Back in November I did a quick opinion piece on the original Bill Maher comments focused on adults reading comic books. I was called out by a number of folks in the comments for not really giving my opinion and merely rehashing the facts of the story.

Those calling me out had every reason to.

I have mixed feelings when it comes to Maher. On one hand he can be an insightful advocate, straddling the line between opinionated and taking a stand.

On the flipside of that, his smug attitude and cavalier attitude can be a hindrance once you see through his shallow act. He’s been a troll since he was given Politically Incorrect with Bill Maher in 1993 because he understands ratings and attention matter above all else.

I mentioned back in November that Maher was learning the hard way that comic book fans can be a loud group and upon further thinking, I think that’s exactly why he has said what he has said.

Last year Bill posted a blog that called into question the legacy of Stan Lee and the place of comic books in pop culture.

“The guy who created Spider-Man and the Hulk has died, and America is in mourning,” Maher’s post began. “Deep, deep mourning for a man who inspired millions to, I don’t know, watch a movie, I guess. Someone on Reddit posted, ‘I’m so incredibly grateful I lived in a world that included Stan Lee.’ Personally, I’m grateful I lived in a world that included oxygen and trees, but to each his own.”

Maher said he had nothing against comic books, but followed that up by saying he read them as a boy when he couldn’t find a real book. He said he was raised to think that comics were for children, “and when you grew up you moved on to big-boy books without the pictures.”

However, he continued, 20 years ago, “something happened — adults decided they didn’t have to give up kid stuff. And so they pretended comic books were actually sophisticated literature. And because America has over 4,500 colleges — which means we need more professors than we have smart people — some dumb people got to be professors by writing theses with titles like Otherness and Heterodoxy in the Silver Surfer. And now when adults are forced to do grown-up things like buy auto insurance, they call it ‘adulting,’ and act like it’s some giant struggle.”

As you’d expect, the comic book fandom was quick to condemn Bill and his opinion. And rightfully so.

But Maher decided to use last weeks Real Time on HBO to stir up the pot again and make fun of “adults thinking [comic books are] profound.”

“To every person on social media who’s asked me since November, ‘Bill, what do you have to say about Stan Lee?’ and every paparazzi outside a restaurant shouting at me, ‘Bill, what about the Stan Lee thing?,’ okay, your day has come,” he began the segment.

He walked back his comments slightly by saying his comments in November were in “no way an attack on Mr. Lee but took the occasion of his death to express my dismay at people who think comic books are literature and superhero movies are great cinema and who in general are stuck in an everlasting childhood.”

“Bragging that you’re all about the Marvel universe is like boasting that your mother still pins your mittens to your sleeve,” Bill continued.

“You can, if you want, like the exact same things you liked when you were 10,” Maher added, “but if you do, you need to grow up. That was the point of my blog. I’m not glad Stan Lee is dead. I’m sad you’re alive.”

“Again, my shot wasn’t at Stan Lee,” Maher said, “it was at, you know, grown men who still dress like kids.” He went on to say, “Can we stop pretending like the writing in comic books is so good? Oh please, every superhero movie is the same thing: a person who doesn’t have powers gets them, has to figure out how they work, and then has to find a glowy thing.”

“And, again, there is nothing wrong with a man writing comic books,” he said. “There is something wrong with adults thinking they’re profound.”

Of note, industry icon Rob Liefeld responded with a few comic book recommendations for Bill.

“Hey Bill Maher appreciate your point of view,” tweeted Liefeld. “I’d like to suggest comics written by Alan Moore or Frank Miller. The writing and storytelling is outstanding. Watchmen, Swamp Thing, Dark Knight Returns and any Frank Miller Daredevil are gold standards of illustrated literature.”

But let’s take it back a little. Do I believe for one minute Billy believes the manure he’s spewing? No. Just like I don’t for one minute believe Maher when he said: “selling pot allowed me to get through college and make enough money to start off in comedy.”

I’d have an easier time believing he’s a ghostwriter for Drake.

Bill knows comic book fans are a passionate crowd and what better way to stay relevant and get attention than by poking the nest. He knows exactly how we’ll react, giving him much needed headlines and clicks.

While some may agree with Bill, I can tell you that I’ve looked for a guide book on adulthood and I’ve found none.

Like any work of art, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Some see watching baseball/football/basketball as a serious hobby, Others see it as a watching grown men playing a child’s game.

Some can look at a couple splashes of paint on a white canvas as “profound” art while others see…a couple splashes of paint on a white canvas.

Comic books fits right in with these, While some can easily relate to the struggles of the X-Men or the pain of Batman, some just see a comic book filled with cool pictures.

I can list Maus, Watchmen, Saga, Love & Rockets, Sandman, Transmetropolitan, Y The Last Man, The Manhattan Projects, Breakfast After Noon, V for Vendetta, Jimmy Corrigan: The Smartest Kid In The World, Ghost World, Black Hole, and countless more as not only being profound but true works of respected literature.

For my money, it’s tough to beat Astro City and “The Nearness of You”. A story so simple yet so impactful that I can recite it near perfectly and am still touched by its message.

We need not worry about Bill Maher’s opinion when it comes to the importance of come books. We know how important they are and really the burden is on him to discover that for himself.

But he’ll only do that if it means ratings and attention. And I think that’s the saddest, most pitiful, thing of all in this story.

That’s all the time I have. Check out our Comic Book Reviews tomorrow and see you next week!

article topics :

Bill Maher, Stan Lee, Steve Gustafson