This weekend, Condoleezza Rice backed out of a planned commencement address at Rutgers in New Jersey after learning that many of the students at the university enjoyed Future's End #0, the Free Comic Book Day offering from DC Comics that serves as a lead-in to the company's ongoing super-mega-weekly-crossover event of the year. Rice had been considering dropping out of the speech, scheduled for later this month, after multiple student protests insisted that the first female African American Secretary of State should not be allowed to give the address because of her involvement in the Iraq War. However, it was the truly terrible nature of DC's comic book that pushed her to make the final decision, according to an article in the New York Times.
"Commencement should be a time of joyous celebration for the graduates and their families," said Rice in a statement that consisted of multiple spoilers for the comic. "But how can anyone enjoy themselves when DC is publishing a comic book that consists of page after page of senseless violence and mutilation of characters? And on Free Comic Book Day, when they're trying to attract new readers?!"
Rice's statement went on to take particular issue with a sequence in which, after several characters are violently mutilated and killed (or transformed into evil cyborgs or something) by an insectoid robot version of Wonder Woman, Frankenstein appears and reveals himself to have the disembodied face of Black Canary sewn into his torso. Later in the book, Batman has his arm ripped off, which Rice called "gratuitous" and "a ridiculous cliche."
"What the hell was that?" wondered a bewildered Rice in her lengthy statement. "Who wants to read that crap?" Rice recommended that people read Chris Sims' review of the book on Comics Alliance, saying that it perfectly summed up her feelings on the book and DC's recent output in general.
"I am honored to have served my country,” Rice said. “I have defended America’s belief in free speech and the exchange of ideas. These values are essential to the health of our democracy. But just because you can brutally murder your characters for pure shock value doesn't mean you should."
"Even if nobody cares about Captain Cold," she added.
This isn't the first time comic books have complicated Rice's public speaking career. When Rice gave the commencement address at Boston College in 2006, dozens of students and teachers stood with their backs turned while she spoke in response to comments Rice had made about the Marvel Comics blockbuster Civil War, and also because of that Iraq stuff.
"Come on," said Rice in a response May of 2006. "Reed Richards may be insensitive sometimes, but there's no way he would make a clone of Thor and send him against his fellow heroes. That's just plain stupid."
Rice will not collect the $35,000 fee for the Rutgers speech. The University plans to announce a new commencement speaker soon, denying rumors that it is unable to find anyone who actually likes the New 52.