One of the most frequently asked questions I hear at comic book conventions is, “Why aren’t you working for <fill-in-the-blank-name-of-large-publisher>?”
The answer is very simple. I have, by and large, been blacklisted for my conservative Christian principles. This has been going on for about 15 years now…yeah, that’s about right. About the time I started getting some notoriety in comics I started getting a number of very encouraging responses from big-whigs at several companies when I sent in samples.
That is, until they made the connection that I had been simultaneously making noises about my beliefs in the comics press, in letters to editors, etc. Then I suddenly began getting form letters to the effect of “we are no longer interested in receiving samples from you.” (Actually, that may be a direct quote–I’d have to check my archives of rejection letters.
And it’s not just me saying this either, there are those who could corroborate my claims if they were so moved. Unbeknownst to most comics fans there ARE actually a few conservative editors that work in the industry–or at least actual moderates who feel that freedom of expression applies to everyone, not just “progressives”. Anyway, I used to call these conservative guys on the phone at various publishers and talk to them. Or at least try to talk to them.
It got to be a running gag. I’d call up the few editors still willing to work with me and the exchange would go like this:
Me: Hi <name of editor>, got a minute? It’s Doodle.
Editor: Uh, hi…yeah, okay. Sure, sure.
Me: Is this not a good time to talk to you? Is there someone sitting there that would fire you if they knew you were talking to me?
Editor: Yeah, pretty much.
Me: Okay, talk to you later. Bye.
Editor: (Cheerfully) Okay, see you soon!
About that same time I was also at the center of a very public debate in the comics press where I was publicly called an ignorant redneck (in a very skillful manner) by a well known and very talented writer who knew how to call someone an ignorant redneck in a veiled form so as not to seem too awfully mean–but I knew what was meant. Both said writer and editor of that publication received my rebuttal to the article, but chose not to print or even acknowledge rebuttal–as far as they were concerned, the matter was settled. Ironically, much of that debate centered on the subject of what constitutes censorship.
(Do you get the irony? I was censored by a writer and editor both arguing against censorship! Some people have missed that point in the past, so I just thought I’d make that clear.)
I did receive some support from others in the comics industry who chose to contact me quietly to assure me that they were in my corner–but also asking to be kept anonymous, lest they too find themselves unemployed.
After that I went underground, as it were. Finding occasions to work in advertising, children’s books, Christian publications, and doing a lot of commission work for people who either didn’t know about my positions or didn’t care.
Eventually I found people to work with in comics again. Folks who were willing to exploit my ability as a storyteller and penciler in comics once again–in spite of any ideological differences. But you’d be hard pressed to see much in the way of my Christian convictions coming through in the work done with these collaborators. I simply became a cog in the machine. Not proud of this, but then I had to earn a living, didn’t I? (At least that’s been my rationalization).
Of course, every now and then I’d make some public statement on matters of faith (You know, like supporting the Biblical Christian view on pornography, abortion, or marriage?) and be told quietly that I’d do well to keep that sort of thing to myself, lest I embarrass someone whom I was working with. So I backed off. I did. Not proud of that, but it happened.
Now I’m told that “nothing is going to happen” to people of faith who have objected and still object to the recent Supreme Court ruling on same-sex marriage (or other progressive sacred-cows for that matter). That during all this debate over traditional values versus progressivism that the progressives have all been very open-minded and they wouldn’t think of pressing their opinions any further–now that they’ve supposedly been exonerated in the courts and gotten what they want.
Really? I’m supposed to believe that?
I’m not going to trot out the well-known (and well-ignored) cases that have been pending in various states wherein many people of faith were being sued for freely exercising their convictions even before the recent decision.
Nope, going to tell you about the stuff that has happened to me personally:
I’ve been called a bigot. I’ve been called a fanatic. I’ve been called ignorant. My motives have been brought into question again and again. I’ve been denied a livelihood in my chosen field. Have had my abilities ignored or maligned, and threatened multiple times with dismissal if I dared express a Biblical Christian opinion.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I’ve had some good experiences with people on the other side of this debate. A number of these–call them “actual moderates” have agreed (eventually) that I have a right to such opinions on various matters. Some of them have remained true friends in spite of our differences.
But not enough to convince me that “nothing is going to happen.” Not enough to convince me that religious organizations, individuals and the businesses run by such individuals are not clearly in the cross-hairs of many in positions of power.
Not even enough to convince me that there isn’t going to be an angry backlash to my posting this blog.
So I fully support the efforts by various, States, organizations, as well as some members of Congress to reaffirm the rights of people of faith (like myself and millions of others) to freely EXERCISE our faith. That means more than just being allowed to “think and talk” about it (as mentioned in the recent majority opinion). It means that we have the right to LIVE it.
Even if we don’t live it consistently (like me, giving into those who convinced me to keep my mouth shut at various times over the past 15 years).
I’m not proud of the way I’ve acted. But at least I’m saying something now.