Have you ever burned something in effigy?
Photos of an old lover. A flag. Perhaps a Milli Vanilli record?
Burning an object is a way to symbolically exorcise bad memories, a bold form of protest, and a sure way to destroy something you are determined to repudiate.
What about a burning a book?
Book burning carries a slightly different connotation than torching your pop music records, because it can evoke the censorship and destruction of irretrievable historical records. It conjures echoes of the destruction of the Library of Alexandria and Nazi book-burning – of lost knowledge and repression. Regimes and religions alike have used book burning as a public spectacle to symbolize the purification of their subjects after being exposed to some kind of wrongful thinking.
I propose that this sort of ritual destruction exists on a spectrum of acceptability that begins at the intensely personal (photos), continues through the overtly political (flags), and finally comes to rest at objecting to thought (art, history), and the context through which we view each destructions is dictated by the relative power of the people doing the burning compared to the people being burned.
(Now I have to explain some comic book stuff for a few paragraphs, but this isn’t really a post about comic books. Seriously.)
Yesterday was Free Comic Book Day (FCBD), where local comic book stores (LCS) spend money on special $0 cover price comics from every major (and many minor!) publishers that they can hand out for free to customers. It drives one of their biggest business days of the year, and fans wind up purchasing tons of store stock before they walk away flush with dozens of books.
One of this year’s FCBD issues was of Nick Spencer’s Secret Empire – that controversial event comic where Captain America is and has always been an agent of the Nazi-stand-ins Hydra as penned by Nick Spencer. (Not sure what I’m talking about? Here’s my essay and review of #0.)
Some comic book consumers decided to pick up said free single issue and then torch it, taking photos of the process to share on social media.
To say there is tension within the comic fan community over Secret Empire right now is quite the understatement. I’ve seen both sides of the argument want to paint the other as liberty-hating dummies who don’t pay attention to the comics they read. I’ve seen both conservatives and liberals both support and oppose the story – so now we have liberals calling conservatives “book-burning stuck-up Nazis” and conservatives calling liberals “attention-seeking SJW fascists.”
(Can we even pause to evoke Godwin’s Law when the actual comic book is being burned over its allusions to Nazism?)
Okay, enough about comics in the specific. Back to books in the general. [Read more…] about on burning your (free) (comic) books (and Secret Empire’s FCBD issue)