Martha Thomases: Comics That Mean Something
Glenn and Mike gave me two issues of Strong Female Protagonist to read. Since they are the bosses of this particular sandbox, the ones who pay me the big bucks to do my thing here, I interpreted this action to be a strong suggestion, not a gift.
The series, available on the web at the link above (and in print) has a lot of elements that I like. Here’s the description from the website:
“SFP follows the adventures of a young middle-class American with super-strength, invincibility and a crippling sense of social injustice.”
Super-powers and social justice? I am so there.
It’s not easy to combine comic book storytelling and a political perspective. Let me amend that: It’s not easy to do unless that is the stated starting point. Underground comics were usually overtly anti-establishment, anti-war and pro-drugs. Wimmen’s Comix also big, big fun. It’s probably no coincidence that both were usually comical comics, not episodic stories.
The gang at World War 3 Illustrated carries on this fine tradition, although their emphasis is less on humor and more on inciting activism.
In superhero comics, the most successful (in my opinion, obviously) is the Denny O’Neil/Neal Adams run on Green Lantern.
There have been overtly political comics created by people first known to American readers (or, at least, me) from superhero comics. The most successful, for me, are from Alan Moore. There’s a reason the Occupy movement appropriated the most powerful image from V for Vendetta, and that, even though it isn’t nearly as good as the book, the movie still sucks me in when I find it on television.
Another great book of his, written with Joyce Brabner, is Brought to Light, a non-fiction book about, among other things, American support for dictatorships and how many people have to bleed out to fill a swimming pool.
Moore’s stories work because, first and foremost, the reader (or me, anyway) cares about the characters. The minute the reader feels the action is out of character, the political position is exposed and therefore weakened. For me, this is most noticeable with Jamie Delano. I love his work on Hellblazer and in his creator-owned books. However, he lost me on his run of Animal Man even as I agreed more and more with what he said.
Strong Female Protagonist wears its heart on its sleeve, as its title character struggles to be part of the people’s struggle, not an isolated hero. It’s an interesting take on one of our modern dilemmas.
Or at least it is for those of us who care about such things.