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Marvel‘s summer event comic, Secret Empire, is now inextricably linked with Nazism. It’s so controversial that fans are even objecting to a seemingly banal marketing ploy: free promotional T-shirts for comic store employees.
The T-shirts in question are emblazoned with the Hydra logo, tying into Hydra’s pivotal role in Secret Empire. The problem is, many readers think this storyline is tantamount to Nazi apologism. Hydra agents are widely regarded as Nazi supervillains, and while their backstory is a little more complicated, they definitely worked with the Nazis during WWII. Secret Empire portrays Captain America as a fascist Hydra leader, and by promoting the comic with Hydra-themed advertising, Marvel is symbolically ignoring the many political critiques it inspired.
So when Bleeding Cool shared a post about the Secret Empire T-shirt promotion, the response was almost universally negative. Some fans even suggested they’d boycott any store where employees wore the Hydra shirts.
Any comic store I walk into that's participating in this will IMMEDIATELY lose my business. Now is not the time. https://t.co/0zgNmoRH3K— Liz the Wonder-Nerd (@JhoiraArtificer) April 21, 2017
Most of the responses were from fans, but a few comic store employees chimed in to discuss Marvel’s handling of Secret Empire. In an email to the Daily Dot, comic store owner Danica LeBlanc said:
“I worry for people working in comic shops who have no choice but to wear the shirts. The message of hate is loud and clear. I feel that this is one more nail in the coffin, so to speak. Marvel has been tone deaf during this entire event, and they don’t seem to be budging.”
Marvel hopes to attract new readers with its extensive marketing campaign for Secret Empire, including cinema trailers and in-store promotions like this one. But many find this particular campaign alienating for deeply felt reasons that will last longer than a nine-issue miniseries.
Correction: LeBlanc’s comic store is Variant Edition, and it’s located in Edmonton in Alberta, Canada.
Gavia Baker-Whitelaw is a staff writer at the Daily Dot, covering geek culture and fandom. Specializing in sci-fi movies and superheroes, she also appears as a film and TV critic on BBC radio. Elsewhere, she co-hosts the pop culture podcast Overinvested. Follow her on Twitter: @Hello_Tailor