The Surplus Value of Superman

One of the fascinating things about the ideological struggles of the last century is that no one has ever bothered to refute the claim that capitalism is inherently self-destructive. The destruction of exchange value combined, with the preservation of use value, presents opportunities for new capital investment. The successful business attracts competitors by the nature of its success. Eventually, the market is saturated and profits reach the absolute minimum. The value of the original business is destroyed by its own success.

Marx was, of course, was observing the boom and bust cycles of the English industrial revolution. Much later, Joseph Schumpeter, drawing on Marx, wrote “the process of industrial mutation that incessantly revolutionizes the economic structure from within, incessantly destroying the old one, incessantly creating a new one. ” It is a famous line known as Schumpeter’s gale, which is just a clever way of saying that the destructive forces unleashed by capitalism are the cost of progress.

That came to mind reading this Vox Day post on the comic book industry. According to people who read comics and follow the business, it has been overrun by howling at the moon social justice warriors. Comics are no longer about Superman vanquishing the bad guys for “Truth, Justice, and the American Way.” Today it is a “half-black, half-Hispanic Spider-Man” lecturing the honkies about their backpack of invisible privilege. Maybe it is more subtle that that, but that seems to be the general direction of the business.

The article VD links to assumes the nose dive in sales is due to the lurch into progressive lunacy by the comic book business. There’s no question that there is little to no market for the social justice warrior stuff. It’s why it always has to be imposed. Still, comic books have been in decline for decades. It is not a dying business, but a dead one. In fact, this SJW phase is what happens to the carcass of an industry or business that has already been pillaged by the money men and grifters of the credit age.

In the industrial age, the cycle Marx first observed was tied to the currency arrangements of the age. Societies still dealt in hard money so capital only seemed to appear and disappear like a magic trick. When a company folded, it felt like the money was gone, but in reality, it had just moved somewhere else. The cyclical nature of hard money, it rushes into a market or industry in good times, then rushes out at the peak, is the underlying cause of the booms and busts common in the industrial era.

We live in a a credit money era, where capital can be conjured out of thin air and just as quickly be made to vanish. Money is not the store of labor value. It is the store of intellectual and social capital. The banker is not worth a billion dollars because his labor sold for a billion dollars. He is worth a billion because his social connections and knowledge of the financial system places him at a highly valuable node in the system, allowing him to skim from the traffic on the network, like a highwayman.

What’s happening in the comic book business is emblematic of the credit money age. Into the 1970’s a comic book was cheap entertainment for boys. It encouraged reading and imagination. At the peak, there was something like 15 million comics printed a month. That meant it was an industry of maybe $10 million in annual sales, including revenues related to publishing. By the 70’s they probably made more from licensing than the comics. More kids experienced Superman on TV than through comic books.

By the 70’s it was a mature business with little in the way of growth. Then, clever money men of the credit era decided it was time to bust out the industry and strip away the remaining value. That’s how we got the great comic book bubble. The guy who chronicled this period, the source for the The Weekly Standard article, still has his blog up here. Even if you have no interest in comics, it is an interesting read because it helps explain the phenomenon of social justice warriors in the credit age.

What’s happening in the comic book business is a systematic strip mining of the value created in the golden age of comics. The first stage was to use credit money to blow a massive bubble, drawing in stupid money that the smart money players then ran off with before the bubble burst. That’s the essence of a credit bubble. Credit fuels artificial growth, which attracts real money looking for a quick return. Instead, the sharps take out the real money leaving the credit money behind, which is back by the worthless assets.

There’s another stage though. After the crash, another class of parasites comes in to feed off the carcass. In the case of comic books, there was the old characters developed in the zenith of American culture. In this case, it is the propaganda value of the comic book heroes. Instead of selling cheap fantasy entertainment to boys, they use the super heroes to promote the New Religion. Those social justice warriors now writing for Marvel did not infiltrate the industry. They were recruited.

This seems to be a feature of the credit money era. The ability to conjure money from thin air not only allows for the unnatural growth of industries, it allows dead ones to stagger on like zombies, re-purposed as propaganda. The reason Twitter is worth $10 billion, and Gab is worth $10, is credit money and the utility of the former to be one of the megaphones of the managerial class. At the same time though, the arrival of the SJW’s means the business or industry is dead, just shuffling along on fumes.

If you are a fan of comic books, this is not much solace, but it does suggest that the appearance of SJW’s is a late-phase phenomenon. It only happens when the end is near for the business, industry or movement. In J. B. S. Haldane’s The Inequality of Man, fanaticism is listed as one of the four great inventions of early civilization. It is what allows a society to grow and break out of its natural bindings. When a society is dead, it is the one thing that remains. It is the last to go.

 

 

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64 Comments on "The Surplus Value of Superman"

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Steveaz
Guest

Just as their entrance foretold the death of comics, could the SJW infiltration of the university campuses indicate that the college bubble is similarly near its end?

Member

Ditto ESPN. Good riddance.

John the River
Member
Funny, I was just reading about the next Thor movie coming up this summer. Apparently Disney/Marvel hired people to make that movie that decided to … Thor gets a haircut, the iconic long blonde hair is shorn. Thor changes his weapon loadout, The Hammer is out, twin short bladed ninja swords are in. The ‘Band of Brothers’ can stay home, a multicultural band of tough women warriors will be at his back. That movie should hit the stacks at the local library by the holidays, I’ll borrow it then. Since Marvel movies also went full SJW a while ago I… Read more »
Christopher S. Johns
Guest

You knew the way things were headed when Archie Andrews was, first, turned into an SJW himself, and then died saving his “best friend,” a gay homosexual war hero with political ambitions who was also in an interracial marriage, from an angry white gunman (no doubt a future Trump supporter).

With apologies to Wilde: One must have a heart of stone to read the death of little Archie without laughing.

TWS
Guest

You do not want to see what CW has done to Riverdale.

karl hungus
Guest

at least Archie died instead of transitioning!

Member

Thanks for that. I hadn’t even finished your first para and was already thinking of Wilde on the death of Dickens’ Little Nell.

And then you just went ahead and said it. Perfect.

TomA
Guest

One of the major untold stories is that pension plans have quietly become one of the biggest holders of bad debt driven by the credit economy. Most of these plans are now managed by Liberals and have made promises of future performance that simply cannot be fulfilled. They maintain the charade by presuming the emergence of a “greater fool” (e.g. taxpayer) down the road to rescue them.

When that bubble bursts, then things will get real interesting, real quick.

Anonymous White Male
Guest

“Most of these plans are now managed by Liberals and have made promises of future performance that simply cannot be fulfilled.”

I think you’ve pretty much defined modern liberalism perfectly. Promises of future performance that simply cannot be fulfilled.

Anonymous White Male
Guest
I collected comics in the Silver Age, 1960’s into early 70’s. I watched as the value of older comics grew exponentially. The Golden Age comics from the 30’s and 40’s cost so much more. Partially because of historical value, but mostly because of rarity. Paper drives during WWII, mothers that saw them as junk and threw them out or sold them in garage sales, and decay of the type of paper used in their construction decreased the amount in existence. Plus, the initial runs of the great titles, like the first Superman or Batman, Captain America, Fantastic Four and Spiderman,… Read more »
Guest
Guest
There are few things more disturbing than grown men who read comic books. I read comic books–when I was 10 years old. When I became a man I put away childish things. The business can’t die fast enough. Twitter is worth $10B because it has 320MM unique monthly users. https://www.statista.com/statistics/282087/number-of-monthly-active-twitter-users/ Gab is worth $10 because it has a total of 150k unique users. http://www.breitbart.com/tech/2017/02/09/twitter-suspends-account-of-free-speech-competitor-gab/ I have said this before and I’ll say it again, Gab will die in the crib due to the idiotic sign-in policy. In an era of ubiquitous surveillance on the internet, no Normie wants to sign… Read more »
Lorenzo
Guest

Gab is also worth $10 because you have to wait before they let you sign up for it. I “applied” a few days ago and was informed that there were over 490,000 people waiting in line ahead of me. I am now about 600 places farther back in line than when I started. There may be half a million people waiting their turn to get in, but I kinda f’in’ doubt it.

It’s a BullShi’ite scam and I’m no longer bothering with it.

Doug
Guest
Are you guys fibbing or embellishing to make a negative point seem legitimate? What your saying doesn’t add up. I haven’t seen anything wrong with GAB you guys are talking about. I signed up to get in, they said it could be 2 weeks minimum, 7 days later I was in. Whats so difficult with that? If it is a long wait, it means it is a growing and popular platform. They have stuck to their clearly stated mission and mandate of free speech and unfettered expression of beliefs from the start. Thats integrity, more than can be said for… Read more »
karl hungus
Guest

comics are dying because of video games (which are a superior form of fantasy support). games will also kill movies, soon. and most traditional toys. once full immersion technology is widely available, the world will become very quiet…

Rod1963
Guest
They are dying the same way board based war games died and along with plastic model and wooden model airplane building and general handicrafts for men like leather, wood and metal work. Of course the first nail in the coffin was removal of shop classes in school. Lets take away fundamental skills. Make boys feel inadequate. Those old enough remember when every small town had a hobby shop with model trains, rockets, airplanes, plastic models and figures, etc. They’ve gone the by the wayside now. Oh you can still buy plastic model kits, but they cost a arm and a… Read more »
karl hungus
Guest

on the other hand there are some wizard things you can do with model railroads now (thanks to improvements in small motors and RF contollers)

and drones!

kids still do those things but they aren’t shown on TV or in movies, so it seems like they don’t.

there are still hobby shops, but wood and metal working classes do seem to have gone the way of the dodo.

Member
The pension funds and 401Ks are the second to last bag holder. We and our parents are the final bag holders. I sometimes wonder if that is an evolved or a designed end state. I wonder if the plutocrats sit around over cigars and cognac and congratulate themselves that when the last bubble bursts, the people absorbing damn near 100% of the loss will be people too old to do much about it? Or did it just work out that way? You’re right, Zman. The SJWs are a protective mechanism of the managerial class and their masters in the cloud.… Read more »
Doug
Guest
Fiat Fiat dominates every aspect of the economic sphere of activity Fiat rules Fiat thinking Fiat money Fiat investment Fiat politics Fiat regulation Fiat influence Fiat “law” Fiat greed Fiat power The only system of intrinsic value and wealth is what is loosely termed System D All of the above fiat is in some measure an instrument or results in eliminating System D. There is another thing, unfettered economic freedom, which employs no Fiat in it’s exchange. Unfettered economic freedom is absolutely a bedrock component of liberty. In some ways, personal liberty is not possible without absence of Fiat in… Read more »
karl hungus
Guest

hard to grow wealth when it is tied to a fixed supply of metal.

Doug
Guest
Karl, you have more brains than that. That is the oldest lie going for not using a gold standard there is. Tell me, how is that growing wealth on the fiat racket working? And why every time gold or silver begins to increase in dollar value is it’s worth artificially manipulated and the market flooded with bullion, if that lie was not a lie? Growing real intrinsic wealth is not tied to the quantity of scarce metals, it is keeping that wealth to make more wealth by the fact you can not create fake gold like you can fake dollars.… Read more »
coyote
Guest

Fiat is Latin for “decree”. Anything can be currency (money, if you will). Oystershells or bitcoins. whatever. Usurers have decreed that debt is money. The interest can never be repaid on an exponentially increasing debt. Sovereign defaults lie ahead for all the nations which are in thrall to the usurers and their bankster tools. The comments about the cycle of finance and paper-mongers using the system are interesting; the dark drama behind the scenes is ultimately our doom. Moneychangers in the temples are always the death of every empire.

Member
Z-man, I think you’ve fallen off the cliff on your view of capitalism. You mostly expressed it’s basic concept correctly, but strangely penned. Capitalism is simply building a savings from the profit from your work and eventually putting that savings to work in one form or fashion into the same or new business venture. A gardener who saves to buy a better tool to increase his work production is a capitalist. High profits do attract competition, this is a concept of a free market. Capitalism and free market have brought the world out of poverty. So profits certainly do drop… Read more »
TomA
Guest

The turnover you describe in regard to capitalism and the free market is know an “churn”, and it is an essential element of all evolutionary processes. Without it, you cannot get a selection for fitness and continue the improvement of the species.

Dutch
Guest
What the readership is missing in Z’s post is that the currency is different now. In the old days, hard currency was accumulated, saved, and invested in new projects. The key to the whole thing was that hard currency could not be printed up, loaning it out was problematic (how does one collateralize a loan of hard assets?), and it never multiplied or disappeared, it just changed hands. Hard currency also limited economic growth, due to the difficulty of leveraging up a hard asset economy. Recessions and depressions were quick, frequent, and brutal. No cash, no go. You couldn’t easily… Read more »
calsdad
Guest
I have to agree. Since the Trump election I’ve been spending more and more time perusing the world of the “alt-right” – and I seem to see quite a few attacks on “capitalism” – which mostly seem to come from sheer ignorance – or maybe not. I tend to take a bottom up view of the way the world is constructed. You can’t have a wall without bricks – so you first have to figure out how the bricks get made. You can’t have bricks without clay – so you had better understand clay – etc. I run into an… Read more »
Member
Many creative people need guidance from realists in order to be able to produce something palatable to the general public. Some of these, after they have seen some success go on to demand more creative license without realizing that the bore they had helping them out earlier was the very reason for their early notoriety. They then go on to make fools of themselves in their further efforts. Cases​ in point: the Matrix trilogy, and George Lucas. I think Z’s theory about SJW’s jumping on board sinking enterprises holds up, but often times I think they are also the cause… Read more »
karl hungus
Guest

think germ theory. when an institution becomes “weak” it becomes vulnerable to SJW’s. and then it dies.

Al from da Nort
Guest

Also, failure of the organization’s immune system. If non-performers are not culled regularly, then SJW’s can multiply and take over.

Al from da Nort
Guest
Doc; As you say, one reason for most ‘art’ being dreck these days is the lack of no-nonsense patronage. Mozart would probably be in obscurity these days but for Baron Esterhazy, who knew music but couldn’t write it well. “You like to eat, you compose to me and my friends’ taste.’, is kinda how it went back then. Not, ‘Such a genius as yourself must be free do whatever it is that moves you, and all Vienna must then swoon at your feet.’. This, plus spending OPM (other people’s money) on the ‘arts’ is how we got where we are… Read more »
Garr
Guest
A lot of people read graphic-novel-format “comic”-book stories. I’ve bought a lot of them for my kid, including recent Marvel books featuring alternate universes and expanded superhero-teams. I don’t understand why nobody (including the linked-to Weekly Standard writer) has mentioned this (unless I missed it). If you go to Barnes & Noble in Brooklyn you’ll see a bunch of Black nerds cutting school to sit in the comics/graphic-novels aisle and read these things. The Progressivism is indirect, it seems to me. The really insidious thing is that the heroes and heroines — especially the heroines — don’t have families and… Read more »
HI
Guest

So SJWs are like mistletoe. Mistletoe makes trees sick, but only sick trees get mistletoe. Young companies, like young trees, are busy focusing on growth.

Herzog
Guest

Off topic: I noticed you deleted the link to Vox Day. Would you mind explaining the background?

Plus, incidentally, shouldn’t it be “Throne and Altar,” with a’s only in the second item?

Member

History may not repeat, but it sure rhymes…
Here’s an article about capitalism in 1932. If it was reprinted in 2008 no one would think it was of another age. Repost in 2020, or after the looming crises strikes and governments fail.
https://mises.org/library/myth-failure-capitalism

james wilson
Guest

Dying corporations seem prone to electing female CEO’s as a proxy for SJW because when all else has failed who can point fingers for doing the correct thing?

Al from da Nort
Guest

Agree FWIW: Hiring ‘Power Skirts’ (love Z man’s pithy, cynical, accurate descriptors) for Diversity Pokemon Points happens in an input-based management measurement system. Organizations that use those systems are either NGO world, public sector or shortly for bankruptcy court. Hence the attraction to magic SJW thinking.

Organizations that use output-based management measurement systems, like the evil profit, diabolic ROE, etc. have a chance.

YIH
Guest
In a comment on a related Vox Day post I mentioned Disney really doesn’t care about Marvel’s comic book sales. Disney probably makes more per year from one popcorn wagon in one theme park than all of Marvel’s sales. The reason they bought Marvel in ’09 were the lucrative movie and merch licensing deals. And of course, when it comes to PC, that can be summed up in four letters: E-S-P-N. I also mentioned the average comic book reader is no longer a kid, comic books are almost exclusively sold through dedicated comic shops (That was the reason the https://infogalactic.com/info/Comics_Code_Authority… Read more »
Dutch
Guest

The people who sold Marvel to Disney were cold-blooded financier types who had no interest in or knowledge of the product. They recognized an opportunity to buy an under leveraged company, bought it with borrowed fiat currency, strip mined and levered up the thing, and then sold it off to Disney. Nice payday. The product could have been Girl Scout Cookies for all they cared.

Severian
Guest
I dunno. On the one hand, comics, like sports, are dying because people view them to get away from the endless drumbeat of politics. On the other hand, unlike sports, comics are pure fantasy. No amount of preaching can convince viewers that girls are as athletic as guys, or that whites are as athletic as blacks, when you can see the evidence for yourself right there every single game. Comics are pure fantasy, though — “in this world, girls are stronger and faster than guys, because reasons.” The Adventures of Captain SJW doesn’t fail because he’s Captain SJW; it’s because… Read more »
Garr
Guest
Just going by the Marvel graphic-novel-format stuff that I’ve read recently — there’s always a hero who’s stronger/more competent than any given heroine, and the heroines tend to tag along to add sparkle to the scenes. The problem, I think, isn’t that the heroines are presented as being equally awesome; rather, the problem is that the heroines aren’t presented as playing identifiably feminine roles in the scheme of things. They do everything that the men do, just not as well (this is how Plato has Socrates describe women in the Republic; he seems to deny that there’s a female nature… Read more »
karl hungus
Guest
Bill Robbins
Guest

I miss Bazooka Bubble Gum wrapper comics.

Member

The same process is now at work with the weekly news magazines. Someone bought Newsweek for a dollar and then simply used the cover for propaganda purposes because it could be billboarded in magazine racks. Again, it’s final usefulness to the fanatics was as a blunt instrument.

sirlancelot
Guest

Was shocked to pick up a comic book some years ago. The price tag was close to $5 ! Have seen an interest by minorities with comic books. Looks like Marvel is just catering to the new fan base.

Sadly the SJW’s are forced on just about every business. It’s funny to see white suburbanites nod their head in agreement whenever the discussion turns to political correctness. Yet in private they whisper their disapproval.

The latest Ghostbuster movie might be an indication people have reached there saturation point for all this nonsense.

One can hope anyways.

GoldenEye
Guest

Zman, the decline of comic books is a bit more complicated than SJW entry. There’s an essay written in 1997 by someone in comic publishing named John Workman that covers the history pretty well

http://www.superversivesf.com/2017/03/14/the-comic-book-crisis-and-what-can-be-done-about-it-by-john-workman/

Brooklyn
Guest
“According to people who read comics and follow the business, it has been overrun by howling at the moon social justice warriors.” Pretty much; though its mainly gotten to lunatic levels in the last couple of years. The problem probably boils down to a major disconnect between them and everything else associated with the characters and concepts. The comics can publish whatever they want and not really suffer a penalty even if its absolutely awful or just outrageous virtue signaling. Millions of people will go to see the latest Thor movie; that should be able to translate into some sort… Read more »
Member
I was born in 1970 and read comics from the late 70s through most of the 80s. I was not a serious fan- I bought, read, and bagged a lot, but was never a convention goer, fan letter writer, first-generation costume maker, or any of that. And my tastes were conventional even by 80s standards- DC more than Marvel, and the less edgy Marvel superheroes. Never read XMen, which was the cool Marvel brand-leader then as perhaps now. OTOH, I read Dr Strange, which represented the New Age wing of comic counterculture. Also read stuff like GI Joe from Marvel… Read more »
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