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February 16, 2004



If you're going to include DKR for political reasons, you might also check out The Dark Knight Strikes Back, released about two years ago, also done by Miller. Not nearly as good a read, but there's more overt political dealings - the plot is basically how Batman is going to overthrow an oppressive government run by Luthor. Also, Marvels is a good choice. It's the origins of the Marvel Universe (50's and 60's) told from a newsman's perspective, and painted by Ross. It's somewhat like Kingdom Come in that it questions to role of superheroes in society, but it more directly addresses the power differential between man and super-man. Most of the X-Men collections might also be considered, especially Days of Future Past. Since the entire series is an allegory for the Civil Rights Movement, almost any bit would work, but DoFP deals with the attempted eradication of mutants as a race.

friend of the aardvark

Thanks! I did read the later Dark Knight series, but I found it almost unreadable... personal taste, I guess. I have an instinctive aversion to all X-Books, and a lot of other mainstream series, just because of the long convoluted histories. I do remember Days of Future Past, and also God Loves Man Kills - certainly possible (or maybe Millar's Ultimate X-Men? Fun, at least!). Marvels is a great suggestion - I'll have to go back and read that again.
- Friend of the Aardvark


Two of my recent favorites:
Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood, by Marjane Strapi.
Red Son, written by Mark Millar, published by DC.


I would recommend the series Marshall Law...US soldier returns in 2011 from the Drug Wars in Colombia to find the country taken over by the Religious Right.

Also, don't forget artist Joe Sacco: Palestine and Safe Area Gorazde


David Fiore


Don't forget Animal Man #1-26 (Grant Morrison's run) (which deals with the Animal Liberation phenomenon + Apartheid), Mark Gruenwald's Captain America run (extremely underrated), and Squadron Supreme, which precedes Watchmen had a lot going for it!


great site by the way!

friend of the aardvark

Animal Man - I've heard a lot about it but haven't actually read it. Isn't that the one where Morrison inserts himself into the book as the author? Does anyone know who did that first, Dave Sim or Morrison?

Don't know anything about Squadron Supreme, Marshall Law or Perspolis - will check them all out!


Chester Brown did a comic book on the Riel Rebellion.


"Louis Riel is also a comic book hero of sorts, thanks to Quebec-born Chester Brown, one of Canada's more avant-garde practitioners of the cartooning art. Now, the hard-to-find comic books Brown started producing in 1999, chronicling Riel's turbulent life, have morphed into a hard-back version, Louis Riel: a Comic-Strip Biography, published by Montreal's Drawn and Quarterly"


I have to second the recommendation of Persepolis. It's Marjane Satrapi's memoir about growing up in Iran, basically covering the time from the Islamic Revolution through the end of the Iran-Iraq war, as I recall. It's also intensely personal and elucidates issues of religion, the weight of the past, radical politics, awakening self-awareness, and plenty of other things. The art and narrative are straightforward and accessible but not at all superficial. The specific political situation involved is something I think American college students could stand to be educated about, too. Also, I know I'll risk sounding like a stereotype, but it can't help to get at least one woman's voice in there.

I know that when my college had a comics class for first-year students God Loves, Man Kills was a big hit and really got people talking and thinking, so that would go on the recommended list too. Apparently it made it easier for them all to talk about homophobia in a productive way, which can be difficult for a lot of people.

Much as I love Animal Man, I'm afraid it may stray too far from straightforward politics for your needs, but you should see if the first trade would work. There are questions raised about being an activist and what ends justify what means.

You're getting plenty of great suggestions, though. I look forward to seeing the final syllabus.


Jonathan Dresner

If there's still time, you might consider J.M. Straczinsky's (sorry if the spelling is off) "Rising Stars", though it might too strongly echo some of the X-men themes of government cooptation of special talents, fear of difference, etc.


1. "Fax from Sarajevo" by Joe Kubert - highly recommended

2. "Grendel" (Matt Wagner's creation, some of the later collections from Dark Horse have a great political bent)


Come on, how can you not include any Brian K Vaughn: Y the last Man and Ex Machina




I think Ellis' Transmetropolitan work would be best, but many of the story arcs that would be most pertinent to the course cross through various trade paper backs, and that would get expensive if students have to buy the books. Barring that, Ellis' new series, "Black Summer," would be a perfect fit for the class, easier to obtain (it's currently on the stands), and cheaper. As for the Authority, Mark Millar's "Brave New World" and "Transfer Of Power" arcs would be excellent.

Definite thumbs-up to The Watchmen, DKR, Maus, and Kingdom Come. I'd also recommend last year's "Sacrifice" TPB, in which Wonder Woman executes a human criminal -- only the second time (I believe) that such a thing has been done by a modern DC superhero in the DC Universe's mainstream continuity (the first was Superman's execution of three Kryptonian criminals). Another good story would be the one centering on the "The Elite" )see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Elite).

My only concern is that there is going to be controversy from the Ellis/Millar stories, as they can be perceived as having an anti-right wing slant. Same with Moore's "V for Vendetta." Might want to watch out for the David Horowitz devotees and their McCarthyism.


You may be a bit averse to mainstream comics, but "God Loves, Man Kills" is a very good story.
Someone mentioned Brian K. Vaughn, but not "Pride of Baghdad". That's a great read, and it's very relevant today with the war going on in Iraq. So I'd recommend checking that out.
As far as Alan Moore's work, I think "Watchmen" is great for your purposes. I think "V for Vendetta," on the other hand is very political but it's also very philosophical. It deals with very complex ideas of anarchism, chaos, and the makeup of a society, and it gave me a big headache when I first read it trying to grasp what was going on. Instead I'd suggest looking at Alan Moore's "Top Ten" series from the America's Best Comics imprint. It's a precinct adventure/comedy/drama that deals with the role of police officers in society, drugs, people who are "different," homosexuality. It's a great read.
"The Authority" is definitely a good choice. But if you're going to include Millar, why not "Civil War"? I think "Civil War" is a great political discussion. Although I don't think it's quite as complex and discussion as you'll get in early "Authority."


Man, it's great to see a three year old post get attention from the man himself! Thanks, Warren - the kids loved you.

Not including Ex Machina was a mistake - I hadn't read it, or Y, at the time I did the class. Now I would include one of those, and probably Pride of Baghdad.


Stuck Rubber Baby, by Howard Cruse, deals with the black civil rights movement and homosexuality, based on the author's own experiences.


You should definetly check out "DMZ" very political. basically manhattan is a demiliterized zone during a second american civil war in the near future.

Also Testament would be a great choice. Both are being published by vertigo at the moment.


If you're still taking suggestions, here are three that definitely come to mind:

CRECY--It may be structured as an illustrated history lecture, but it's a damn entertaining one. Not only do you get tons of historically interesting facts, but Warren Ellis does a great job of making the period come alive for modern audiences. Offering anachronistic jokes and commentary and the occasional "cunt" helps immeasurably.

PYONGYANG--Guy Delisle renders the North Korean capital with an eye that gets beyond jingoistic slogans and focusses on both the absurdities and the quiet shortcomings of life in that country. Once one hears about the "modern" airport where the lights are turned off during the day and the subway with one or two stops, one begins to be severely skeptical of the severity of the North Korean threat.

WONDER WOMAN: DOWN TO EARTH--For one brief shining moment, this iconic DC character lived up to her potential as a political figure with this story which focussed less on her punching things out and more on her book tour and surviving a political smear campaign.

I'd also suggest checking out Adisakdi Tantimedh and Hugo Petrus' online comics serial LA MUSE (www.bigheadpress.com/lamuse ) for a superhero story that very definitely oozes politics. The central superhero figure is an anti-corporate activist who also repairs the ozone layer and publicly supports LGBT rights over religious intolerance.


This is a great list. Since people still seem to be making suggestions, I'd add any of the Dykes To Watch Out For collections by Alison Bechdel. Pretty much everything involves politics in those stories (global, personal, philisophical, activist... big range). There would be lots to talk about there.


Would American Flagg fit the bill? Great book. How about Vigilante or some of the older Judge Dredd? I'm trying to remember some of those books from the '80's that SEEMED political to me at the time - maybe they aren't as political as much as satire (except Vigilante - I thought it commented on the justice system, though my memory is not great). It seems much political fodder could be gleaned from Alan Moore's work of just about ANY time - espicially the candy coated fascist leanings of the more recent Tom Strong and societal commentary of Top Ten. It seems that if you look hard enough, politics can be found in ANYTHING......

Jacob Horn

Here are a few different suggestions:

Truth: Red, White & Black - Kyle Baker and Robert Morales' story of the real Captain America origin, inspired by the Tuskeegee Experiment. The art is a little slap-dash, but the material is pretty good and the idea I like--race isn't talked about as often as it probably should be in comics.

Also, let me echo DMZ as a great choice, and the first trade is pretty self-contained; issues of trust (both personal and in one's government), personal responsibility, and other ethical difficulties.

Finally, The Other Side is a very good bit of work from Jason Aaron and Cameron Stewart, set in Vietnam and covering both sides of a war--the propaganda in each camp and the other features of the story lend themselves to political debate.

Jay Adams

Stagger Lee by Derek McCulloch and Shepherd Hendrix - it's about race, politics, murder, and the blues in 19th century America.


I'd recommend Brian Wood and Becky Cloonan's Channel Zero: Jennie One. (I like Channel Zero more, but its not as clear as its prequel.)

Ted Rall wrote To Afghanistan and Back about his experiences as a journalist there. NBM, who published Rall's book, also published War Fix about a journalist in Iraq. You can a preview here

With superheroes in mind, David Tischman and Igor Kordey's Cable deals with terrorism, communist guerrillas and corrupt governments in Peru. (The last issue in the 5-issue trade is useless, but the other 4 work well.) The second volume, Cable: The End deals with the issue of cloning, the racial-religious tensions in the Balkans, poverty in Brazil and dirty bombs in the ex-Soviet Union. These two trades are not as good as V for Vendetta or Watchmen, but they touch on some good issues.

I'm not a huge fan of The Authority myself, but if you want things in that vein, there's also Coup D'Etat by Wildstorm, and Joe Casey's Wildcats Version 3.0. Casey's book is about corporations and the idea of corporate influence being used to change society, which is really fascinating, but I'm not sure the pacing is right for a class. (I.e., it's three trade paperbacks and it doesn't really resolve any issues as much as bring up interesting ideas.) Worth reading, unquestionably, but probably not good for the class. (I haven't read Coup D'Etat since it came out, so I'm not sure how useful it is, but the premise is that THE AUTHORITY overthrow the US government.)

Steve D

Let me reiterate the vote for PERSEPOLIS by Marjane Satrapi! (A personal perspective on politics, the point of view of a girl growing up in Iran during the midst of the fall of the Shah and the rise of the Ayatollah, and enduring a forced move to Europe -- with all of the politics of culture clash that suggests. This has recently been turned into an animated film that has already run accolades overseas and will be released in America sometime soon.)

Also, let me second STUCK RUBBER BABY by Howard Cruse... one of the most deeply felt, personal & powerful graphic novels I've ever read.

You should definitely look at the work of Joe Sacco -- reportorial/journalistic comics, especially PALESTINE.

Jason Lutes' BERLIN. Jason Lutes has been doing a fascinating "historical novel" in comics -- the first volume of the collected stories is BERLIN: CITY OF STONE. It's a multi-strand narrative, tracking the lives of various German citizens in the twilight of the Weimar Republic, as the forces of Nazism and fascism coalesce and take power.

Eric Drooker's FLOOD is a powerful piece done in a wordless, woodcut style (inspired by the proto-comics woodcut novels of 1920s German artist Frans Masereel). A cycle of apocalyptic events in a dark New York, this is an epic work by a politically aware artist who's seeking to speak beyond the immediacy of contemporary politics to underlying issues of freedom, human rights and balance with nature.

Also, the various 9-11 anthologies (such as 9-11: ARTISTS RESPOND), created by teams of comic artists might be interesting to look at and discuss.

WORLD WAR 3 ILLUSTRATED: Confrontational Comics ed. by Scott Cunningham was an anthology from World War 3 Illustrated, a more modern inheritor of the overtly aggressive, political tradition of the underground comix of the late '70s and early '80s. (Not sure that it's still in print...)

Sadly, Alan Moore & Bill Sienkiewicz's BROUGHT TO LIGHT remains out of print -- but it's one of the most gorgeous and intense short pieces of politically motivated comics work from the 1980s.


As Steve D said, Brought To Light would be a compelling title to include if it was in print. Sienkiewicz's collaboration with Frank Miller, Elektra: Assassin, has a lot of political subject matter. Matt Wagner's Grendel stories are good. I think the most overtly political is the "God and the Devil" series (issues 24-33), but I don't think that has been reprinted in a single volume.

You might also include some non-fiction comic books with a political slant, perhaps to contrast the verbal/visual approaches taken in fictional narrative versus discourse involving politics. There's the "xxx For Beginners" series about various issues and political/historical figures, such as "Marx for Beginners" by the Mexican cartoonist Rius. And "We The People: A Call To Take Back America" written by Thom Hartmann and ilustrated by Neil Cohn appeared under my radar until I bought it at a Hartmann book signing.

Omer Carrothers

There's been some great suggestions for your class, and the ones you've alredy said you were going to use are great choices as well.

I would have to say that The Adventures of Luther Arkwright would be a great choice due to the fact that it looks at Britian's politics (in a matter of fashion).

Also, Brian Wood's pre-DMZ political comics, Channel Zero and Jennie One would be good because they deal more with the beginnings of a revolution.

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