A Steve Bannon propagandist is turning the alt-right’s antihero Based Stick Man into a comic book
The former DC and Marvel Comics digital colorist is a staunch conservative ideologue whose most recent graphic novel, Clinton Cash, based on the 2015 book, was a satirical propaganda piece originally commissioned by none other than White House strategist Steve Bannon in 2016, according to Smith.
Bannon hired Smith to create Clinton Cash to turn Bernie Sanders-loving millennials and young, comic-loving independents against Hillary Clinton three months before election day.
“I had a lot of people reach out to me who said, ‘I was a Bernie supporter who read Clinton Cash and switched my vote from Hillary to Trump,’” Smith said on Wednesday. “The combination of the graphic novel, the original book, and the movie, I think, really swayed young people and voters in general to not vote for Hillary.” (According to the civicyouth.org, 55% of people ages 18-29 voted for Clinton, compared to 37% who voted for Donald Trump in the 2016 presidential election. )
Now Smith is working on another project with controversial conservative web celebrity Kyle “Based Stick Man” Chapman, who recently went to San Diego Comic Con to recruit more creative members to join the emerging team.
Who is Based Stick Man?
Chapman was one of several pro-Trump “free speech” marchers confronted by antifa members at the University of California, Berkeley on March 4 when the incident occurred.
He emerged from jail a few days later to find he’d unwittingly become an internet celebrity loved and celebrated by alt-right white nationalists.
“My wife is Asian. My son is half-Asian. I’m not about that shit,” Chapman said on Tuesday. “No one trolls me harder than the alt-right. They are fucking relentless.”
But the 41-year-old founder of the virtually all-white Fraternal Order of Alt-Knights also considers himself a proud defender of “American nationalism” and he’s stayed on the radar of hate group watchdogs like the Anti-Defamation League and the Southern Poverty Law Center.
“The Alt-Knights is a group of guys who are willing to stand up for American values,” Chapman said. “I want people of all colors to come together under 1776 Americana and fight these globalist commies, these self-hating whites that want to destroy western civilization, and basically destroy themselves.”
Viral videos and memes of Chapman wearing his now-signature mace-resistant gas mask and goggles caught Smith’s eye earlier this year.
“I looked at the respirator mask he wore and thought, ‘He almost looks kind of like Star Lord from the comic Guardians of the Galaxy, which I worked on at Marvel,’” Smith said. “I thought to myself, ‘He’s the hero we need for right now.’”
A comic book culture war?
Smith attributed the commercial success of Clinton Cash to emerging resentment among loyal comic fans for overt progressive messaging in mainstream comics, which he characterizes as “social justice warrior” fatigue.
He and award-winning conservative comic writer Mike Baron, who is working with Chapman on the Stick Man comic, said Marvel has prioritized progressive messaging and diversity over quality writing and storytelling for the last three years.
Baron said that, rather than create new, original diverse characters the way Marvel’s forefathers did two generations ago, the company’s latest roster of writers opted to simply change many of its most famous and beloved white characters to reflect the shifting demographics of America.
A blonde-haired, fair-skinned Ms. Marvel was ultimately replaced by the Muslim-American teen Kamala Khan. An alternate universe Spider-Man was killed off and replaced by a biracial Miles Morales . Steve Rogers’ Captain America was temporarily replaced by a black guy named Sam Wilson, formerly known as Falcon. (The original Cap later joined Hydra.)
For many Americans, this was a welcomed sign of social progress, but for a huge chunk of established Marvel fans, it was cultural political correctness run amok, according to Baron.
“There has been a pushback, there’s no question about that,” Baron said on Wednesday. “Americans are sick of having everything politicized. They don’t like being told all the time that they’re racist, sexist, homophobes, because they’re not... Your job as a comic book writer is to entertain. If you don’t entertain, you’re not going to get readers.”
Marvel sales vice president David Gabriel reluctantly acknowledged this apparent reality earlier this year when he was asked a question about the company’s slumping sales and fan feedback on the diversity initiative the company launched.
“What we heard was that people didn’t want any more diversity,” Gabriel candidly told ICV2 in March. “We saw the sales of any character that was diverse, any character that was new, our female characters, anything that was not a core Marvel character, people were turning their nose up against. That was difficult for us because we had a lot of fresh, new, exciting ideas that we were trying to get out and nothing new really worked.”
Gabriel later revised those remarks after an onslaught of media backlash, but Smith argued the comments were an honest assessment.
“This is not only a culture war, this is war,” Smith said. “The highest form of warfare is to subvert the culture because you don’t have to raise a standing army. We’re never going to change the culture from Washington. We’re going to do it from comics, from movies.”