Look, no one likes to admit it, but comic books are modern American mythology. We’re not pagans, so in some sense we lack heroic mythological characters to shape our metaphors and our hearts.  Everyone knows Superman, the X-Men are an eternally reinterpreted symbol of the other, and Batman is the Swiss Army knife of national security metaphors. But most discussion of comics-as-art-form focuses on individual units of storytelling: the great issue, the fantastic graphic novel, the imaginary story where the villains win. Yet the value of those characters as myth comes from the fact that their stories never end, that they belong to persistent worlds.

So: enter Ecocomics, a new blog devoted to analyzing the economic, social, and political implications of living in a society full of superpowered beings and vigilantes.  Already it has a series of fantastic posts – the one on the insurance implications of superheroics alone is sheer genius  (I mean, if Superman doesn’t fall under "act of God," who does? Nietzche?)

That being said, though I love the geekout of the site, I think it reveals something about a world of superheroes and supervillains. All our heroes live in a world where anyone – villain, hero, or sidekick – can become a superempowered individual at very little notice.  On any given day, a new or old threat might destroy most of their world. In other words, the world of comic books has always been the War on Terror world, whether it admitted it or not.  The Dark Knight only works as a metaphor for terrorism because it’s the first time Batman ever faces an enemy who knows no limits; after a few years, he feels safe enough doing it that he totes a teenager into battle along with him. Disaster insurance would scarcely be a shocking thing in such a world.

In other words: In some ways, people who dress up in colored underwear and fight street thugs are better adjusted to a world of persistent, non-state violence than we in the real world are. This should worry you.

Dave Kasten

Dave Kasten

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