G. Willow Wilson on commercial art, ethics, and Donald Trump

Earlier today, the comics world responded to the news that Marvel president Ike Perlmutter donated one million dollars to Donald Trump's veteran event. Of course, if this were a simple donation to a nonprofit veteran association it would be a nonstory, but the fact that Perlmutter donated it to Trump's event made the donation much more morally sticky. The money did not go, as Trump claimed, directly to veteran's needs; it was donated to "The Donald Trump Foundation." The fact is, donating a million dollars to Donald Trump for any purpose is an ostentatious political statement, but donating a million dollars to the event Donald Trump hosted in lieu of attending the final Republican debate before the Iowa caucuses is tantamount to tattooing a "Trump for President 2016" banner across your forehead.

All day, comics creators who work for Marvel have been fielding questions about this on social media. Michael Moore publicly suggested that he might reconsider before buying tickets for the next Marvel movie. Boycott threats abounded.

Tonight, though, Seattle writer G. Willow Wilson, who writes the popular Ms. Marvel comic for Marvel, posted a thoughtful essay on her Tumblr about the situation. Wilson, who converted to Islam about fifteen years ago, takes the news personally. She writes, "The irony that Ms Marvel was launched on Perlmutter’s watch–while Donald Trump would like to prevent Muslims from even entering the United States–was not lost on the mainstream media, nor on me."

Wilson explains that a boycott will not hurt Perlmutter's finances in the least, but it will likely get a lot of comics written and illustrated by innocent (Trump-loathing) Marvel creators canceled. On the other hand, she observes, boycotts are pretty much the only way that people can make their voices heard in modern-day America. This is, she says...

...the great catch-22 of corporate art in any form. ( And it’s something I think about a lot.) It’s the flaw inherent in the system. There’s a lot I can’t say, so let me just say this: follow your conscience. I am going to continue to work on Ms Marvel, for the following reason: I have never, in my entire career, seen a character and a story light people up the way this has, and I need to see it through a little longer. (Unless of course I get fired for talking about this shit, in which case, it was nice meeting you all.)

Wilson then suggests that her readers donate to a (Trump-free) veteran's association in response to this news. You should read her whole response. It's a classy, thoughtful, compassionate piece of writing that really wrestles with the issue on a genuine level. And on a professional level, this is a brave essay for Wilson to write. Her work with Marvel has propelled her to a whole new level of stardom, and there aren't that many outlets for professional comics writers these days.

As a fan of Ms. Marvel, I must admit that the words "I need to see it through a little longer" fill me with dread. Ms. Marvel is one of the only Marvel series I follow closely because it's the most Marvel-y book that Marvel publishes right now — weird, soap-operatic, and a lot of fun. If Wilson quits writing it, I can't imagine the character will survive.

But the good news is that Wilson has acquired a fan base that will read her work wherever it appears; I'd love to see her and Ms. Marvel artist Adrian Alphona do a twist on their mainstream work at Image Comics. That way, they'd entirely own the rights to the work they publish, and they'd be from any association with the stench of Trump's hate-mongering. Wilson should know right now that her fans will follow her anywhere, no matter what happens. She's more than earned our respect.