Monday, May 29, 2006

Super Heroes Get Political.

It seems that not only TV series like to deal with controversial social and political issues, so do comics these days. The Christian Monitor recently reported that in today's comic books, superheroes are also tackling topics such as terrorism, war, and civil liberties as a heavy dose of 21st-century reality seeps into their alternate universe.

Obviously comic book heroes have always been fantasies mirroring our actual struggles and fears – Spiderman is for instance your typical teenager, dealing with a changing body (not every grows spider-like hair and shoots spider-web, but you get the main point, don’t you?) and the need for integration (who hasn’t ever felt ‘different’? Who has not felt ‘double’ at some point?) and acceptance. And we all know that the villain in comics often looks like your typical Nazi or Communist, reminiscent of our grandpa’s fears of WWII and the Cold War.

But it seems that in comics too, the real-world echoes are much more straightforward and it has also become more clearly political. Above all, new stories now nurture a higher degree of ambiguity about the boundaries of right and wrong (something probably appalling to most Conservatives).

According to the editor in chief of Marvel:

"We're posing this argument: Would you sacrifice your privacy for your public safety or your civil liberties for your public safety? This is happening, literally, while we're still in the turmoil of asking ourselves these very same questions.

I don’t read Marvel comics anymore but it looks like some series tackle some issues quite directly:

"Civil War," for instance, explores the issue of civil liberties in the wake of a deadly explosion in a Connecticut neighborhood during the filming of a superhero reality show. Soon, superheroes are at war over mandatory registration, with dissenters facing terms in a prison that will remind readers of Guantánamo Bay.

Some argue it is partly because the audience has gotten older so maybe I should get back to reading Marvels and DC Comics. I am afraid that I might be disappointed with ‘X-Men III’ precisely because I used to read and enjoy them as teenager. Sometimes, it seems that only the old good-vs.-villain stuff does it for me.

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