Happy New Year! While many are pop a cork and the go-go news cycle downshifts, Newsarama will keep your fires burning with fascinating anecdotes never before revealed. Enjoy!
Throughout the 1980s, a civil war raged in El Salvador, with citizens and peasant farmers trying to overthrow a military-led government officially supported by the United States. Artist Mark Badger helped the rebels’ efforts in his own way.
Take it away, Mark (Be warned, there's some mature language ahead):
“So like so many people, I got into comics to fight for truth, justice, and the American way, right?
“The Farabundo Marti Liberation Front, the FMLN, sort of a Central American support group, had put a lot of effort into reaching out to lefty activists in the United States. And…the United States was giving bombs to the governments in Nicaragua and El Salvador and they were dropping them on farmers who just wanted bank loans to buy feed. It was a war of the 1%, the money and military power structure, against everyone else there. More US bombs were dropped in Central America in the ’80s than we dropped in Vietnam. So I got involved with these guys, doing political work, fundraising, talking to my Congressman.
“I was working on The Score for DC at Piranha Press at the time. Mark Nevelow wrote up the contracts. He was a [former DC President] Jenette Kahn hire, hired to start Piranha to compete with Fantagraphics and other mature comics companies. He had a business background, but he was kind of a character, a hipster with punk rock T-shirts and suit coats. A short little wise-ass Jewish New Yorker guy, and he really freaked everyone out. And he believed that if DC wanted changes in a book, that the company should have to convince the creators to make them. So that was in my contract with Piranha Press.
“So we did the book, and there was a lot of sex in it. There were 3-4 shots of sex going on, usually from long distance. It went through production, it went to print and everything, and when it came out, Jenette and [DC Publisher] Paul Levitz and everybody went ‘Holy shit! We can’t do this!’ But by the time the first issue was out and printed, the fourth issue was all done, and that’s where they wanted changes. Now I thought it was all a nice morality tale—a guy coming to terms with his past and how pornography was actually negative and obsession was not a good thing. But whatever. They wanted changes. The main hooker character had black lace panties because why not? They wanted to turn those into plain white cotton briefs. And there were 3-4 other changes. And Nevelow asked if I really wanted to make the changes and I said no. So he went back to Jenette and Paul and all and they still wanted the changes. So he came back to me and said, ‘Well, if you make the changes, you can get something. What do you want?’
“I said, ‘I dunno. $500, maybe?’ He said, ‘No, no, you can ask them for a lot.’
“And as this stuff was going on, the FMLN was gearing up for a final assault on the capital city of El Salvador. It looked like they were going to overthrow the government. So I told Nevelow, ‘I want money for El Salvador. $10,000 for medical aid.’ So we had a meeting with Jenette and Paul and…I chickened out on the amount. I only asked for $5000. To this day, I’m kind of pissed at myself that I didn’t ask for more. They thought it was great, but they couldn’t do it directly, because it would have to go through Time-Warner, and since our government was supporting the bad guys, it would be a whole political hassle. But they offered to write me a check for $5000 for corrections. I said, ‘Sure! That’s fine!’
“So Paul picks up the phone, calls the accounting department and says, ‘Write Mark Badger a check for $5000. It’s for corrections on The Score.’ We talked a bit about El Salvador and everything that was in the news, and Paul and Jenette seemed really happy they could help out. Five minutes later, a guy from accounting walks in the door and says, ‘That’s an awfully big eraser for corrections.’ They handed me the check and I walked out. $5000 in medical aid for El Salvador. I was totally flabbergasted.
“Sometimes people look at the news and they see something terrible going on and they feel bad because they can’t do anything. But when you can find a way to help…why not? How terrible would that be not to help?”