Look at it this way, the good old USA is a child compared to most other countries. The English have Shakespeare and countless other brilliant writers. Europe has the likes of Norse Mythology, the Grimm Fairy Tales. Greece and Italy have their pantheon of gods and goddesses in their mythologies.
What does the USA have? Yes, you can argue, we have stories like Davy Crockett, Johnny Appleseed and the like. However, that only reflects part of our history- the frontier days. What about after that? Can you think of anything? Not really.

So take a look at the comic books.  Superman is the protector of the world… but landed in the middle of a Kansas farm field. Captain America, skinny kid from Captain America, Vol. 1 Ish 1Brooklyn who grows up to fight the Third Reich.  Batman or Iron Man- the billionaires with the brain power to come up with gadgets not only for themselves but to share with the rest of the world (ahem, does that remind you of anyone recently? *cough* Gates *cough* Jobs)

I have sat in classes with professors who can correlate how comic book creators are a bit futurists. Captain America punching out Hitler on the cover of Captain America #1 nearly a year before we enter World War 2.

And not to make anyone upset- I am going to talk about 9/11 here for a moment.  If you are not a comic book fan, I need to explain the following picture below.  The Big 2 (Marvel and DC) plan story lines out months, if not years in advance. This gives plenty of lead time for the art team to work on the book. Books are usually (USUALLY) locked into printing at least a month before shipping. New Comic books come out on Wednesdays, so most local comic book stores have their shipments sitting somewhere in their store on Tuesdays.

Now in the original version of this post- a friend pointed out that in this day and age of technology he couldn’t believe that comics couldn’t be printed to coincide with major events.  I see his point, especially in this new age of digital comics. However, this first example- with Captain America- was back in the 1940’s.  There was really no way that Lee and Kirby could have truly known that we were going to enter into World War 2 nearly a year later after this issue was printed.

Even back in 2001, digital comics were still a thought but not fully implemented. Comic books get released weekly on Wednesdays. 9/11 happened on a Tuesday. So, with this particular copy of Adventures of Superman #596, the issues were either already in sitting in the back rooms of stores and/or on trucks out for delivery to comic book shops when the Trade Towers were hit. Did the writer/artist team know? If they did, I bet good ol’ Uncle Sam would like to speak with them.  Readers of this book were surprised to see the next few days when they got their copies the the image below- which in the story, is LexCorp towers in Metropolis.  Note the bottom panel of Page 1 of the book.

Adventures of Superman #596 (9/12/2001) Page 1

Adventures of Superman #596 (9/12/2001) Page 1

Adventures of Superman #596 Page 2 (9/12/2001)

Adventures of Superman #596 Page 2 (9/12/2001)

Comics not only weirdly predict things, but they also reflect the attitude of the people of this country. Here’s another 9/11 example from the infamous “Black Cover” Amazing Spider-man #36 written by J. Michael Straczynski and drawn by John Romita Jr. (with Scott Hanna on inks) was a tribute to New York City in the wake of the terrorist attacks on September 11th, 2001. Since the Marvel universe takes place in the real world (i.e. New York, not Metropolis) EIC Joe Quesada at the time, felt that the terrorist attacks should be addressed by the characters that live in the city. Who else better than every man, Spider-man?

Amazing Spider-man #36

Amazing Spider-man #36

Comics not only  predict/reflect major moments in history such as 9/11 or World War Two. Sometimes, they reflect societies attitudes about the world.

A few years back Marvel did a story line throughout all their books called “Civil War“. In the story, there is an incident where a school full of kids gets blown up- and its pretty much the straw that broke the camel’s back with society. This causes the President to create a “Superhuman Registration Act” in which anyone with “powers” would have to register for the government.  The Marvel Universe is divided down the middle. One side (Captain America’s ideals) says no because then the government tells them who the bad guys are, they want to keep their identities secret and not let the supervillains have a way to get to a database and find out who they are. The other side (Iron Man)  thinks that it’s a good idea, that it would bring a quality control- for the lack of a better word- and also accountability to the superhero set.

It’s a brilliant mini-series written by Mark Millar (you know him from the Wanted and Kick-Ass movies) and drawn by Steve McNiven. However the issue that pulled my heart strings the most, was actually an issue of the first volume of “New Avengers” written by Brian Michael Bendis.

New Avengers by Brian Michael Bendis

New Avengers by Brian Michael Bendis

New Avengers by Brian Michael Bendis

Luke later on in this issue, convinces Jessica Jones to take their daughter out of the country. Luke Cage  saying goodbye is the most heartbreaking thing on the face of the planet.

Now this series came out in 2006-2007. We as a country were already halfway through a decade plus long war (Iraq, Afghanistan) we were tired of it. Tired of the politicians. This was also the beginning of the  2008 political campaign.  If you take a look at people’s sentiments at this time, especially around the time this series came out.. you can feel the build up of resentment, anger and frustration pour not only out of us, but out of this book.

A hundred years or so from now, people will be looking at this books and making correlations to what was going on at the time. Just like a lot of us did with Shakespeare or books like “A Tale of Two Cities” or “Homer” while we were in school. Actually, I have sat through classes that dissect comics like this already.

So go and pick up a comic book. There are plenty out there that are non-superhero, superhero, horror or just plain goofy. Not only will it give you the mental/emotional distraction that you need, but you will be contributing to our cultural zeitgeist for your grandkids, great-grand children to stare and dissect.  Support these writers and artists who are telling stories about our society in a unique and interesting way that, until the birth of comic strips here in the good ol’ USA, was never even thought of. Things like this will survive for decades to come to explain how our society is NOW.

That’s why Comic Books Rock- they are an ongoing, evolving, time capsule.

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