By RazzaTazz 2 Comments
In 1947 the board of directors of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists have maintained a clock which represents the proximity of mankind to annihilation by nuclear war. It is conceived that at midnight that the world “goes boom”, and so the further away from midnight the better. Since then it has added climate change, the threat of nanotechnology and chemical or biological warfare to its consideration for the placement of the time. The earliest the clock has ever been was 17 minutes to midnight in 1991 after the Soviet Union and the agreed on the START treaty. The clock deals more with overall trends than it does with specific events, so a crisis like the Cuban Missile Crisis doesn’t even register while in 1995, for instance, there is an increase in the time because of the fears over controlling the nuclear arsenal and technology of the former USSR. At present the revised clock is at 6 minutes to midnight.
Those of you who follow me know that I am an environmentalist and that I think how we deal with the environment in the next few decades will be a turning point for us as a species. But in all honesty if I lived in a comic based world the environment would be the last thing on my mind. I wouldn’t even be sure if I was going to make it work in the morning. The airport disaster in 1977 was the result of crash of two 747s and resulted in the deaths of 583 people, and is still the deadliest crash in airplane history (unless you count 9/11). In a story arc of the first Catwoman series the Joker is trying to target Batman’s “girlfriend” Catwoman and is blowing up or killing everything she comes near. This includes gassing (and therefore killing) an entire airport terminal full of people and causing two airplanes to have a mid-air collision. This act presumably kills everyone on the two airplanes (I am not sure if there has ever been a mid air collision where anyone survived) but the matter was only worthy of being in the background of a panel, sort of a throwaway worst airplane crash in history. He goes on to create a lot more havoc and kill more people. A couple of years later in a Batman 80 Page Giant the Calendar Man orchestrates a similar tragedy, again with very little fanfare. It is almost as if the occurrence of an airplane crash in is such a foregone conclusion that nobody cares. And this is in a city where most of the supervillains are not superpowered and those that are usually only superpowered in a lesser way (Like Killer Croc for instance.)
If we move the action to Metropolis then we have a big blue and red bull’s eye for some of the universes most powerful villains. If Darkseid were to invade Metropolis he wouldn’t think twice about killing its entire population, same goes for Brainiac or Mongul. At least Lex Luthor would only be motivated to kill the whole population if there was something in it for him. I wouldn’t live in Metropolis if I had the choice, because forget the occasional plane crash, I wouldn’t live in a place where every day when I left for work it might be my last. And not my like my last like some unfortunate accident, but my last like “whoever wants revenge against Superman probably doesn’t care if I die too.” I can just imagine trying to plan my social life with a boyfriend or husband: “Hey, we haven’t seen the Sam and Eileen recently, we should give them a call and see if they want to go out for supper” - “You didn’t hear? They were killed by that death ray.” – “Oh really, well how George and Linda?” – “Killed by parademons” – “Tom and Jennifer?” – “Someone targeted an asteroid at their neighbourhood.” … You get the point, people would just be dying at a depressing rate, in fact this fictitious discussion would probably be cut off halfway because someone threw the globe from the top of the Daily Planet building on top of their house.
The British novelist Alan Sillitoe (one of the Angry Young Men) once described people living in the 1950s and 1960s as living under the “long shadow of the bomb.” This was a reference to the depressing atmosphere which the threat of nuclear war and mutually assured destruction created among people. In his novel “Saturday Night and Sunday Morning” he describes how people choose to live their lives more recklessly because of the potential that things could end at any time. In the superhero based world this would be magnified substantially. In one story arc in Justice League Europe in the 1990s a group of villains steal the entire world’s nuclear arsenal and aim it at earth. This is a lot bigger threat than the possibility that maybe relations between and the would breakdown to the point that they start shooting missiles at each other. This is every missile in the world pointing right at you with the fate of the world resting on the whims of a madman.
A mostly overlooked Canadian film called Last Night deals with an imminent global apocalypse (some would recognize Sarah Polley or Sandra Oh). Though it is never described in full the apocalypse is going to happen at midnight, and they have known for at least a few months that it was coming. The main characters have all found a different way to deal with the impending disaster, but the point is that with the end in sight no one is acting normally. Such similar actions took place in the 1920s in where the country was in a constant state of flux, where basically “anything goes.” Certainly society in a super-hero world would be pretty crazy, with a lot of people doing whatever they wanted with a bunch of other people being extremely paranoid and xenophobic. Its kind of strange to think – most of us comic fans get some kind of vicarious pleasure out of reading comic books, we project ourselves on the heroes and their actions become ours. I freely admit to doing this myself, but one thing is for certain, there is no way I would want to be an average civilian there.