There’s been talk lately about comic book writer Tom King, his themes of depression, loss, PTSD, and ennui, and his past as a CIA analyst being a marketable asset. What follows is a short stream-of-consciousness article on the subject. Take a deep breath, kids, uncle Alex is going to talk politics again.
How do we feel about Tom King?
Considering that he started out writing spy and military comics his credentials were actually hugely important for credibility reasons. But I suppose you mean how we feel about the CIA?
Since my focus is on American foreign policy, I don’t have the best opinion of the CIA. It’s an often rogue element in a foreign security apparatus too often focused on short-term gains than long-term sustainability. It’s an issue with policy, not individual people. As part of the War on Terror, America has taken a severe step to the right anyway (or at least it’s become more noticeable) and the obsession over support for the troops and military intervention is already concerning.
Based on that structural background it’s simply good marketing. We don’t know what he did while in the service outside of being an analyst and that means he was in a support role. He wasn’t in a management position so unless this is part of a bigger discussion of dismantling that agency I don’t really know what the point of it all is.
Adding to the last point: I like most of what I’ve read of King’s work so far, the first half of his Batman run is legitimately great, Sheriff of Babylon is really good, and I enjoyed what I’ve read of Omega Men, but a lot of the backlash and mixed feelings about him come from the fact that he’s been churning out stories left and right over less than five years.
Writers return to the same themes over and over again anyway, that’s what they do, because there’s only a limited amount of stuff someone can be knowledgeable about anyway. This is, however, heightened by the fact that he’s been put on so many books. We notice the repetition more often than not. And it’s becoming problematic because he focuses a lot on loss, trauma, and ennui. Considering his deadlines and editorial mandates I’m surprised not more of of bibliography is a train wreck. Sometimes it works in his stories, sometimes it doesn’t, execution is incredibly difficult, though I’d wish he’d find something else to write about.
What also doesn’t help is that especially over the last two years left-wing Americans have become more critical of their security apparatus again even though policy was pretty much the same during the Obama administration: i.e. the absence of a coherent policy with indiscriminate drone strikes and counter-terrorism ops that don’t actually accomplish much of anything. I’m happy that people are critical of their security apparatus again but it’s clearly no good if it keep disappearing whenever someone friendly to your position is in charge and that certainly has nothing to do with King.