Sunday, June 03, 2007

Graphic Novels, Comics, and Society

As some of you know already, I am working on producing a graphic novel this year. Therefore, a lot of my "free" time is spent researching whose shoulders I am attempting to clamber up on. The history of comic books it turns out, is really very interesting, especially as a lense through which to understand more about United States history. Well, perhaps lense is the wrong word but the history of comic books is indelibly linked to that of the country in which they were largely created and the politics of the society from which hail its writers.

In watching this documentary on comic books from the history channel, I found it particularly interesting that, during WWII, comic books were full of hyper-patriotic propoganda where the superheroes ran around beating up the enemies of America, the Nazis in particular...but they were (as they mention in the video) themselves representative of a Nazi ideal, that physically superior aryan male specimen of fantasy that dominates everyone else. This is of course not surprising given the ultra-racist dominant culture of United States itself. The writers of the comic books themselves had ended up writing those magazines of comics in the first place because they couldn't get a job writing comic strips in the respected newspaper business because they were Jewish. So the superheroes could go beat up the Nazis but mentioning that the holocaust was taking place was not going to happen and neither was demonizing the racist philosophies of the Nazis because, after all, our country shared many of the same beliefs.

Also of interest, that even when comic books have deeper storylines (like contemporary comics that question American policy surrounding the Iraq war and that would even go so far as compare the destruction of 9-11 to attacks carried out by the American Government on say...Dresden) none of that is translated to movies and other pop culture media through which those of us who don't actually read comic books on a regular basis understand who these comic book creations are. The layers are almost entirely lost in translation. However, since the essence of X-Men is it's message about bigotry, perhaps it was harder to make this more superficial or maybe its simply because in that case the original creators of the characters were involved in the development of the screenplay/movie.

No comments:

.comment-timestamp { display:none; }