By hrdwrkngXsoldier 3 Comments
Okay, 3rd one today! One more to be caught up.
This is part for in the series of blog entries I am doing of an edited down version of my senior paper on 20th Century American Comics and Politics. I have stated before it may be boring for some people, but the purpose is to inform and educate. This section's focus is on comics influence and depiction of the Civil Rights Era.
To recap the rest of the series:
Politics, Comics, and Disco:
The era known for disco and movement for unity continued to be illustrated in comics. Minorities of all races and backgrounds became prominent, even stereo-types were dropped for the most part. The civil rights movement was continuing on in the Vietnam War time period, as women battled for equal and fair treatment and wages. The expressions of sexuality had become evident and creators tried to find ways to step outside the Comics Code. This was another period for the progressive movement as new ideas and cultures were further being embraced by America’s youth.
The feminist movement can be tracked through the history of comics, just as easily as it can be followed looking through the fashion trends in periodicals and film throughout the century. In 2010 author Mike Madrid composed one of the first volumes entirely about the subject, “Supergirls.” It is an abridged history of comic book heroines from the beginning of US comics until most current. Madrid points out the affects of the Comic’s Code Authority, the conservative movement, various wars, and pop-culture as they pertain to feminism in comics. He illustrates the growth in the industry of the 70’s and 80’s at a re-emergence of the “sexy, strong-willed, and independent woman” in comics. Through the 70’s readers watched neck lines plunge, skirts get shorter, bodies get curvier, and women become stronger; taking more prominent roles.
Even though the U.S. would eventually withdraw from Vietnam, it was the one war which didn’t get much attention in comics until further in the future. Liberal minded creators sided with much of the nation in their lack of support for the war. The comic industry wasn’t used as a propaganda machine for the conflict as it had 30 years prior. Many of the books which did tackle the subject were considered anti-American or socialist propaganda. Instead during this time the comic industry would begin to shift as new creators entered the fray with the idea comics could be something more. As a whole began to take the spotlight later through the 1980’s when an independent creation by Art Spiegelman took shape in the popular “Maus: A Survivors Tale.” Many who have read the “Maus” say it easily dethrones “The Diary of Anne Frank” as the definitive Holocaust biography; as it eventually won the Pulitzer. This book found its artistic roots in the 70’s underground comic “Funny Animals.”
The team which first championed the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960’s was re-imagined again to support the integration and melting pot effect of modern culture. Marvel Comic’s Giant Size X-men #1, introduced a new team of mutants to the world. The team was made as diverse as it could be. The German, Nightcrawler, was a priest who looked like a blue demon, regardless of his teleporting powers was shown to illustrate recovery from the World War II era. Colossus was a mighty metal man/farm boy from Russia, was used as an open hand of friendship across the Iron Curtain. Wolverine, one of Marvel’s all time popular characters, was the rogue mysterious Canadian, and was the outsider who wanted in. He was loyal and true, and most often used as a focus to bring the rest of the team together through his tough love attitude. Thunderbird was an Apache, who was used, (though short lived), to bring the Native American Culture in. Storm, from Africa was unique in this cast though. She was the first black character to not be treated as molded stereotype. Storm was regal, serene, bold, and kind all at once. She had presence and was a leader.
The cast grew to feature more and more mutants from around the world: Sunfire, from Japan; Banshee, from Ireland; Katherine Pryde, ironically one of the first openly celebrated Jewish heroes came 70 years into the industry, (The original Robin, Dick Grayson was also Jewish); many more members followed creating one of the most culturally diverse and fluid teams in the history of comics. To this day their popularity is hardly matched by DC’s the Justice League, or Marvel’s own Avengers. The popularity of the X-Men family of books eventually branched out to over two hundred different team books, spin-offs, and one-shots.
During the free love/disco era mixing of races was a popular taboo. The 70’s brought more and more mixed couples into the forefront. Many of the couples and their off-spring became ostracized by either cultural sub-group. The need to bring light of the issue couldn’t be left to television alone, comics also stepped forward. There were controversial relationships between mutant and human, alien and human, alien and another different alien, and interestingly enough even a mutant and a robot. These first began to show up regularly in Marvel books but DC soon followed suit. Again popular culture may have affected the books themselves or writers may have been trying to convey their own sentiments on the matter or mixed couples.
Coming forward from the 60’s the drug counter culture moved on into the 70’s with more dangerous and addictive drugs. Because drugs were forbidden by the Comic’s Code Authority, Stan Lee had to approach them with his idea for an anti-drug issue of Spiderman. He felt strongly about the issue and was satisfied with the compromise of allowing the issue preaching on the dangers of drug addiction to be printed and sold, but not to have the logo. Even at this point things began to change and the progressive movement was seeing changes to standards of decency within the code.