As I mentioned before, 2012 had a lot of comics in it and I read many of those. So I thought today I spent some time flipping through more than 1,000 issues to see what is noticeable in those comic books. What, you say that’s crazy? Too much? You’re right, actually. I’ll try to focus on which current events were portrayed in some of those comics and also look at some interesting messages regarding humanity. So, the usual.
It’s fascinating to see how 2011 creeps into the comics of 2012, which is the fastest comics can deal with current events.
Here, we have not one, but two instances of the Occupy Movement being featured in the world of Batman. Batgirl uses a variation on the Occupy slogan, while Detective Comics rephrases the “We Are the…” slogan to adapt it to a group of Joker groupies. The last one is a bit weird, but it shows how strong the impact of that movement was back then. Really too bad to see how it fell out of the media’s favor so quickly, probably because it appeared to be too threatening.
On the other side, Fred van Lente has some fun with the same ideas by creating a cult calling itself The One Percent in the pages of Archer & Armstrong. They have the Wall Street bull as their mascot and declare “Greed is godly.” Van Lente is really good at using current issues for satire as this cult is a nice representation of how the 1% are perceived, untouchable, aloof, with no sense of reality. And greedy.
In Worlds’ Finest Huntress and Power Girl visit Fukushima to fight some kind of Japanese monster, which is a weird idea but is certainly appreciated. Fukushima definitely still was on people’s minds and had a lasting effect until today.
On the other side of the world, Captain Atom helps out fighting a war in Libya, very indirectly commenting on the problematic situation there. But it’s better than nothing or just setting everything in Metropolis or Gotham City.
Huntress refers back to the Arab Spring movement by showing some generic Arabic dictator attack protesters while making tasteless jokes about it. I think this is an example of going a bit too far because it looks more cartoonish than necessary, thereby trivializing reality.
Comics also slowly catch up with sexuality more and more. I could point out numerous examples of homosexuality being featured, but more interesting here is the transgender alien that is abandoned by its parents. It’s a tragic and heartfelt amidst the silliness of Mister Terrific, but it’s much more effective than what Gail Simone did later in Batgirl (awkwardly making someone proclaim that she is transgender, just for its own sake).
Now we get to more general ideas. I love the simple implication that our culture is a culture of subjugation and that space programs are just an extension of that. It takes away all the supposed glory of space travel in an offhand comment.
On the other hand, the Future Foundation is also good at doing the opposite, namely forcing a native alien race into civilization. There might be some winking eye here, but to me the image is just depressing, mainly because everyone is okay with it. Education will save you, my ass!
Sinestro has been a very good character for showing off the dangers of authority and control and in this issue, Hal Jordan makes this very explicit. It’s funny because Sinestro never comes across as the complete villain that he should be. Other villains are clearly evil, but Sinestro always just seems a bit misguided, because, you know, a little control isn’t bad, is it? The thing is that his statement that we’re living in a world of chaos and greed is something people accept and many would go along with trying to control it, to bring order.
Superman also doesn’t have such a positive image of humans, thereby reflecting the image we have of ourselves. Humans are not only helpless, there are mostly a danger to themselves. Humans are flawed as explicitly as possible. Notice that he here is portrayed as selfless and heroic, because it’s clear that he is right and we’d be all doomed without him. (No, we’re not!)
The craziness that is The Manhattan Projects gives this nice speech about discipline and correction, but here Jonathan Hickman makes absolutely clear that it is wrong. The poor boy’s face says it all.
More negativity for poor humans, expressing the popular sentiment that they have an “unceasing hunger for power.” It’s very hard to convince people that this hunger is cultural, not human.
Brian Wood does an excellent in the soon ending The Massive of showing a world brought to an end by what we do to it. We pollute the oceans, not only killing off its wildlife but also altering native people’s lifestyles. I really love how he describes this family’s move into civilization as “a cultural shift”, finally someone getting it right. And of course also showing that civilization is not the savior we make it out to be.
In another issue he takes a not very subtle stab at the U.S. by saying that it’s reality is “war and corporate power and political dysfunction.” While I agree, it is very limiting to just put this on the U.S. as this is true for any organized state.
Almost finally there is this amazing description of memes in a short story from the Mystery in Space anthology. I haven’t really gotten into memes that much and it’s not as unknown as it was some years before, but I just want to feature it here because I think memes are such an interesting concept that most of can give anyone wanting to save the world some hope. Because we are governed by memes, but memes can be changed. And since the problems are not set in our genes, as we are meant to believe, this is a very powerful idea.
I wanted to end with this gorgeous image from Animal Man. It talks about how life was in balance for a long time until the rot crept in. In the comic that’s a kind of villain that just became too strong, but is actually a natural part of life. But of course this can also be read as a version of civilization tumbling the balance of life 10,000 years ago. It’s a matter of interpretation but I prefer this one because it fits my motives and because Travel Foreman illustrated it in such a nice and creepy way.