Archive for September 11th

The Flood


Here’s an online comic book about Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath, created by Josh Neufeld, the guy who illustrates Harvey Pekar’s comics. And here’s an article about the creation of the comic.

The way that comics react to real-life disasters is one of the things I think is interesting about the medium. Sometimes, the reaction is extremely swift — just weeks after September 11th, Marvel produced the beautiful tribute jambook, “Heroes.”


Hulk by Sam Keith

And a few weeks after that, there was “Amazing Spider-Man #36” by J. Michael Straczynkski and John Romita, Jr.


Spidey at Ground Zero

DC came out with some tribute books, but they didn’t really have the same power. DC has worked for years to insulate itself from real-world events by setting its comics in fictional cities like Metropolis and Gotham and Opal City. Many of Marvel’s best-known characters are based in New York City, so there was a personal stake for Marvel.

In contrast, comics have taken much longer to respond to Katrina. In addition to Neufeld’s “A.D.” comic I mentioned above, the only one I’ve found is an upcoming issue of “Thor.”


And these few “Thor” panels illustrate a common theme of superhero comics that react to real-world disasters: Why didn’t the heroes help? Why didn’t the X-Men’s Storm help shut down the hurricane? Why didn’t Mr. Fantastic use his super-scientific know-how to strengthen the levees? Why didn’t the Avengers assist with evacuation? Why didn’t government agencies that spend billions on stuff like SHIELD heli-carriers use some of that taxpayer cash to help rebuild?

There’s never a good — or at least a credible — reason, mainly because superheroes can never actually do anything to help in the midst of real disasters, since they don’t really exist. But the question isn’t really directed at the fictional superpeople — it’s the comic writer’s way of asking real people who could have helped, whether the government, the military, common apathetic citizens, or whoever, why New Orleans still looks like a war zone two years after the hurricane. It’s the writer’s way of expressing frustration over 24 months of inaction and suffering and sorrow.

Still, real-world disasters are a difficult issue for superhero comics, and they nearly never get covered right. Because in the comics, it’s just not realistic to imagine that Superman, Wonder Woman, or the Fantastic Four wouldn’t have done something to reduce the suffering in the wake of a monstrous disaster like Katrina. Pretending they had more important things to do makes them look needlessly callous and cruel, and you’re not supposed to make your big heroes look like uncaring buttmonkeys.

And I gotta say, that’s why I always seem to find myself preferring the comics, like “A.D.”, that address real-world disasters from a real-world perspective. In a terrifying situation like Katrina, you don’t need spandex-clad do-gooders to amp up the drama.

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