5 Hilarious Ways Comic Books Failed To Address World Issues
Superheroes always do the right thing. If a building is burning, they are the first to rush in and rescue any babies. If there's a mass shooting, they are the first to tell their Facebook friends about how Obama will use it as an excuse to take away their guns. If there's a woman talking about video games, they are the first to post her address online and hope murderers are reading. But these are obvious, universal virtues. What happens when superheroes are called in to deal with more complicated ethical dilemmas?
Conserve Energy By Brutally Murdering All Who Waste It
We should all work to conserve energy. It seems like a pretty simple concept, but what if we told you that in 1980, Marvel decided to take that message, tie it in with soup, and spread it out over 36 pages of drooling, gibbering madness? Behold: Captain America And The Campbell Kids.
"Campbell's: I could slurp this all day."
The story starts with a group of children wasting energy on their favorite hobbies: Soapbox loves to design rocket cars and Clean Clara invents bathroom gadgets to clean herself, clean herself, never clean enough, clean herself. Reading Ricardo loves to read, so he has enslaved a team of robots to bring him books. And wild woman TV Tanya plays computer chess and tic-tac-toe at the same time.
"And I'm Bored Captain America! I shouldn't have asked you boring assholes your names!!!"
Instead of leaving these boring teens to their sad, lonely puberties, Captain America starts lecturing them on how much energy they're wasting. Eventually the soup toddlers take over as narrators and it all becomes too crazy for a normal human brain to process.
Look at the shame on the horse's face for being drawn into this existence.
Before we learn the entire history of energy and what it meant to the Native Americans, the lecture is thankfully interrupted by a supervillain attack. Unfortunately, the supervillains are energy-themed and tie directly into the subject at hand. So Captain America's battle becomes narrated by baby soup spokespeople who are also still teaching us about energy conservation. It's like the worst day of five different people's lives all happening at once, but less coherent than that sounds.
"Disembodied heads, you describe the situation from the back! I'll describe it from the front!"
This may be harsh criticism, but severed baby heads are awful narrators. For the entire issue, they explain every obvious thing happening in each panel, while cheerfully floating next to their own pointless narration. All future comic creators should take note -- when creating a dramatic fight scene, try not to float a grinning, cherubic baby head over it.
"OK, looks like Cap is climbing a thing to fight the guy! And while I have you here, energy conservation
is no reason to cut back on the hearty taste of soup!"
The four supervillains, who were never heard from before or again, are all dedicated to wasting energy. They're not even worth the effort of a bad joke, and they beat the shit out of Captain America. So it's up to those sad indoor kids we met earlier to defeat the baddies. How? By conserving energy, of course!
"Captain America is dying! Let's maybe find a better time for all these long conversations about soapbox race cars!"
The children manage to cut the villains off from all sources of energy to defeat them. And when we say "defeat," we mean they melt into puddles that die screaming for help under the ceaseless gaze of a disembodied toddler head. We are not trained therapists, but we know enough about child psychology to know these kids are fucked.
"AT NIGHT, THESE ENERGY-CONSCIOUS TEENS WILL STILL HEAR THE DOOMSDAY MAN'S FINAL SQUEALS!"
This comic feels less like a public service and more like something slithered into your head and fondled your brain. But it does end with a fun maze featuring three of the four recently deceased supervillains! See if you can solve it before a confused janitor mops up their still-weeping liquid remains!
"Remember us as we were: commercial shills."
Don't Litter Or Superman Will Steal Everyone's Bikes
Batman V Superman pisses all over the basic ideals of Superman, sure, but there has been a long and storied history of writers screwing up the Man Of Steel. Nothing demonstrates it better than this public service comic about the dangers of littering.
"Superman says, 'Be a good citizen ... or else!'"
It begins with Superman eavesdropping on two children planning a community outreach program -- not the absolute worst use of Superman's time, but arguably in the top 10. It turns out the children are debating about littering and one kid is strongly and bizarrely on the "pro" side of the argument. So Superman does what he spent a lot of the Silver Age doing: He massively and insanely overreacts.
To teach this kid a lesson about litter, he fills their entire street with "trash." And not random discarded objects -- it's almost entirely bikes. So either he found the world's only bike graveyard or this asshole flew around at light speed stealing perfectly good bikes just to make a point. Then he stands there all smug, giving a speech about what it means to be a good citizen while his super hearing relays the cries of all the sad children in a 50-mile radius who woke up to missing bikes.
Don't Neglect Your Kids Or They Will Become Time-Traveling Supervillains
If you're a longtime reader of Marvel comics, you might know that super-genius Reed Richards is kind of a dick.
From Marvel's What If? Issue 321: "What If Mr. Fantastic Actually Said What He Meant?"
Reed Richards always has his head in some kind of experiment. He develops interstellar travel, robot butlers, and flying bathtubs, all to avoid spending time with his annoying family.
"Sorry, family, I can't make it. I'm working on my time machine. Gah! If only I had some way to get more TIME!"
After his wife and child leave for the park, alone and disappointed, the portal spits out a terrifying future villain. His name is Ego-Spawn, so he obviously comes from a future where everyone is extremely polite about not pointing out your stupid name. Ego-Spawn explains that he was raised by violent TV shows and video games, and they gave him all the powers of violent TV shows and video games. Even in a universe where most people got their powers by bumping into something radioactive, it's a pretty stupid origin story.
"I'm troubled because of uncensored media! You fools! If I was given 12 percent more nurturing
and six more hours of religion, I would have been a dental hygienist!"
Ego-Spawn may have been exaggerating about the variety of his amazing powers, though, because they are completely described using only the words "forehead laser." He's so pathetic that Reed pities him and subdues him using knockout gas instead of a series of escalating rubber bitch-slaps. And here's where the story takes a wild twist. After he's knocked out, Reed removes Ego-Spawn's helmet to reveal he is Franklin Richards, Reed's own son! Maybe! It's someone with blonde hair, at least! He vanished from this timeline too quickly to be certain.
"Blonde hair!? A face!? Forehead lasers!? This must be my son from the future!"
It turns out this entire story is being told to Spider-Man in order to teach him, probably the most famous advocate of positive male role models in the history of fiction, the power of positive male role models. And Reed ends the weirdly pointless story about neglecting his son by saying none of it matters since he can just leave the kid with The Human Torch or The Thing.
Lesson ... learned?
Superheroes Can't Do Much To Fight World Hunger
Comics don't deal well with subtle political issues. They may set out aiming to tackle cultural acceptance, but they'll trip on the run up and wind up cuddling with racism instead. For example: DC once published a comic featuring Lex Luthor, Batman, and Superman dealing with a problem too big for any one of them -- famine. It was the perfect comic for children who wanted to see Superman fail and watch children starve to death.
That sounds horrible. This ... this is horrible.
It was a bit of a downer and probably self-defeating: It's hard to imagine children being motivated to run out and feed Africa after reading about how even Superman couldn't make a dent in the problem. Still, it at least raised some money to help actual starving people. The same almost couldn't be said for Marvel's version.
"We are coming to fucking kill you, hunger."
Heroes For Hope features an all-star cast of comic creators and non-comic writers, and it raised half a million dollars. Unfortunately, when this money was offered to Oxfam, a charity involved in feeding starving Africans, they flat-out refused. They claimed the comic was an abomination of racism and sexism.
To their credit, you don't see a lot of lingerie and fetish gear in children's literature for charity.
The charity representative was offended by how all the black people "looked like Michael Jackson" and was particularly upset at the depiction of Storm, which he saw as sexist and demeaning to all women of color. And while there is a storyline where Storm is put into a variety of erotic outfits, most of the comic is a pretty standard X-Men story with like six more dangerously thin children than usual. There was some reason to believe the person representing this charity was insane, however: They also noted how racist it was for a white carnival barker to shout, "YOWZA!" Which, uh ... is it? We don't know the etymology for "yowza," but we're pretty sure it doesn't mean something terrible about Mexicans ...
Like 80 percent sure.
You're probably thinking, "This is a lot of pie throwing for a comic about hunger. Couldn't they just feed all those pies to the starving children?" Well, you're not going to believe this, but that's exactly what happens.
"And all his spray bottles of seltzer will solve your villages' water problems."
In the end, Marvel took the pile of money to another charity that happily accepted it, yowzas and all, and actual people were fed. Hopefully by a bunch of Hostess brand fruit pies.
Hey Kids, Stay Safe By Trusting Only The Correct Weirdos
In 1987, Blockbuster Video distributed an X-Men comic about keeping your children safe from creeps. So, naturally, it features a cover with a confused child being carried away by a leering blue man in his underwear.
Step 1: None of this should happen.
The story starts with a boy playing with a ball, alone in a park. A creep in a poorly made costume approaches and opens with the line, "HEY KID! LOOK, I GOT A BALL TOO!" The child instantly jumps to the conclusion that this hobo park lurker is actually a member of The X-Men, which has got to be the best-case scenario for a hobo park lurker. He confirms that he is and wants to show the kid his "special mutant power."
Yikes, though, X-Men; this is a dark place.
The lesson here seems to be to never trust a man leaping out of the bushes dressed as a superhero. Suddenly, five people leap out of the bushes dressed as superheroes. This time they actually are The X-Men and, thankfully, not an organized gang of costumed perverts.
"Stalk yer own kid from the bushes, bub!"
Seriously, how did this happen? Were they staking out this handsome young boy and waiting for predators to arrive? Did they reprogram Cerebro to find sex offenders? Were they simply passing through the shadowy bushes of a local playground? And what kind of message are you sending when you tell kids, "Don't talk to strangers in poorly made costumes -- only trust strangers in licensed X-Men tactical suits!"
"I'm confused." -Terrance
And then the comic gets really weird as The X-Men start swapping their best molestation stories. Beast's in particular: It's about a boy getting a phone call from a child predator calling random numbers and hoping to find unsuspecting kids at home alone. Luckily Beast was testing a new holographic projector that let him emerge from the television sets of unsuspecting kids at home alone -- which actually sounds way worse than the phone pervert's plan.
"Aiieee! Whoever this is on the line! A monster just jumped out of my fucking TV in its underpants! Help! HELP!!!"
The strangest thing about this comic is that it seems specifically designed to only protect children living in a world that has X-Men. If you're from a planet without mutant vigilantes in your playground and holographic projectors hidden in your television, virtually all of this advice will have to be modified heavily to be of any use. And should you really listen to a group of semi-nude people who magically show up at exactly the same time as child predators? It seems like The X-Men's main defense against sexual predators is making sure there's already a finger in your butt by the time they get there. We're just saying, X-Men, maybe the world fears and hates you not because you're mutants but because you're super sketchy.
Zoroastrianism used to be one of the biggest religions in the world, but their idea of heaven had a slight twist on it: to get there you'd have to cross a bridge. Sometimes rickety, sometimes wide and sturdy, if you fell off you'd go to the House of Lies for eternity. Fun! Not terrifying at all! This month, Jack, Dan, and Michael along with comedians Casey Jane Ellison and Ramin Nazer as they discuss their favorite afterlife scenarios from movies, sci-fi and lesser-known religions. Get your tickets here and we'll see you on the other side of the bridge!
For more times comic books should've just stuck to their guns, check out 6 Comics That Covered Serious Issues And Failed Hilariously and 5 Disastrous Attempts At Political Commentary In Comic Books.
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