So it’s September 11th today.
They say everyone who is old enough to remember 9/11 remembers exactly where they were when they heard the news. I don’t know if this is true for everyone, but I remember being in middle school and being hurried into an auditorium by the entire staff and not really understanding what was going on until much later.
September 11th was an important event in American history and for American comics as well. For starters, it was the deadliest attack on American soil by a foreign threat since Pearl Harbor.
We all know that Pearl Harbor was the principal event that brought the United States into World War 2, but it was also the event that guided the direction of American comics towards superheroes,
and war comics.
If we take a step back this makes a lot of sense. Comic book publishers saw that the American people needed escapist power fantasies where all their problems could be solved by walking metaphors that could punch their problems in the face and this trend would continue as America became a world wide military superpower that became increasingly involved in world affairs.
Just like Pearl Harbor, 9/11 was an event that rekindled our interest in superheroes.
and it even revitalized an interest in modern military narratives, although these tended to find their way into video games and other forms of media.
Once again, it was a way for American culture to make sense of our place in the world and give a brightly colored metaphor to our problems. The only differences were that our heroes fought in Afghanistan instead of Europe and a lot of creators had to deal with a more complex and morally grey fallout.
In many ways post 9/11 America paralleled post Pearl Harbor America and comic books were there to document and process it.
I know it happened a long time ago, that it brings up painful memories that a lot of us would like to forget, and that many of us would like to keep the political and social fallout that the event caused out of our comic books, but stuff like this is important and needs to be talked about.
So today I’m going to give a brief overview of three comics that dealt with the events of 9/11 and a little bit about the background and influences of each one.
Amazing Spiderman #36
This comic hit the stores on December of 2001, a mere two months after the attacks. As a result, it is the closest out of the three comics to the actual attacks, during a time when it was still terrifyingly fresh in our minds and we were all still standing together against a threat that we really didn’t understand.
Out of all the superheroes in the modern pop culture cannon, Spiderman is probably the one who is most connected to New York, and one of the most hard hit by the events of 9/11.
While New York has always had a special place in comic books as the birthplace of the American superhero industry, Spider Man has had a special relationship with the city. He’s the city’s defender, the protector of the ordinary people living there, and I’m willing to bet that he’s incredibly grateful for all of the tall skyscrapers around that allow him to actually use his webs effectively.
The attacks would even have an effect on the Sam Raimi Spiderman movie, forcing Sony to remove a shot of the Twin Towers from a trailer,
and inspiring Sam Raimi to include a “this is New York! If you mess with him you mess with all of us” scene into the movie.
The comic itself was written by the legendary writer J. Michael Straczynski and was drawn by Marvel stalwart John Romita Sr. It isn’t part of a larger story, it’s just Spiderman wandering the wreckage of Ground Zero and trying to process it all.
Now, I have seen some criticism over the years about this comic, and I can kind of see why. There’s a page where some of the most violent and destructive villains in the Marvel Universe are just standing in the wreckage, doing nothing.
Hell, this wasn’t even the first time that Marvel destroyed the Twin Towers in their version of New York. Juggernaut did it in an issue of X-Force in 1991 and laughed about it.
but this is not the kind of comic if you ask me this comic deserves our attention and respect as a way for a company that is so engrained into the culture of New York to come to terms with an event that shook the city and the country to its core.
In the Shadow of No Towers
In the Shadow of No Towers was published in 2004 and was written by indie comics legend Art Spiegelman, the author of the groundbreaking graphic novel Maus.
Mr. Spiegelman is a native New Yorker and was there during the attacks. He was a contributor to the New Yorker magazine at the time and is responsible for the cover of the magazine published on September 24th 2001.
He’s also a big fan and advocate of comics and takes a lot of inspiration from a lot of the early comic book artists, and it shows in his work. The book itself is much more personal than the Spiderman comic, but at the same time it has something more to say about the event and its impact.
On one hand it’s about the author himself and where he was during the attacks. His daughter was attending school near the Twin Towers on that day and the author is not afraid to talk about the fear and terror of actually being up close and personal to an event like that was.
On the other hand, this book was published in 2004 and while we had come to grips with the attack itself, we were neck deep in the consequences that the attack wrought on American culture and politics. Specifically we were at the beginning of what would become a long, drawn out military occupation in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Spiegelman saw what was going on, how the attacks were being used to justify spending billions of dollars and killing thousands of American troops (along with Lord knows how many Iraqi and Afghani citizens), and he was not happy with what he saw.
This book uses old school comic characters and techniques to talk about 9/11 and its aftermath and it is really worth checking out.
This comic came out the same time as In the Shadow of No Towers but instead of being a one off graphic novel, it was a 50 issue comic series that lasted six years and was published by DC Comics.
The series was created and written by Brian K. Vaughn,
who has been doing a lot of great comic book work and is most well known for creating the indie mega hit Saga.
Now, Vaughn is not a native New Yorker but he did go to New York University and got his start there and, according to the author himself, he created Ex Machina as a rant against the political leadership of the time.
The comic presents an alternate history of New York and America. It’s a future where there is a single superhero called “The Great Machine” and he manages to stop one of the planes from crashing into one of the towers. In the aftermath he is elected to become mayor of New York City and the comic deals with his term in office.
The comic is a political drama and out of the three titles we’ve talked about it is probably the most detached from the actual events of 9/11. While it actually changes the events of that day, it uses the superhero story to tell a gripping and meaningful story that shines a light on American politics and how our country’s leaders used the Twin Towers to guide the American public towards the future we are living in now. The comic is brilliant and it is definitely worth your time.
So there you have it, three different comics, by three different types of comic professionals, talking about the same event through different viewpoints and motivations. And while it is important to acknowledge the fallout and changes to our culture and way of life, it is important to never forget what happened and how we can ensure it will never happen again.
Now it’s time for another Kickstarter comic that I find really interesting. Let me tell you about a book called Frankenstein for Mayor.
The comic is a 76 page story about partisan politics in Transylvania, and an attempt by the lower class werewolves to usurp the incumbent mayor Dracula with their candidate: Frankenstein.
The project is created by Jack Wallace, Chris Allen, and Reinaldo Lay and is seeking $2,000 through Kickstarter in order to fund their first issue.
The project currently has $1,061 and has 21 days left.
Kickstarter link: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/2001641902/frankenstein-for-mayor-comic-about-partisan-politi?ref=category_newest
Why I like it
I honestly think that Frankenstein’s monster would make a fantastic elected official.
Let’s consider some of his strengths as a political leader.
He hates fire, so he would ensure that our fire departments were well funded,
He’s a big believer in science and loves children, so he would ensure that our schools ran well,
and he is the literal embodiment of “speak softly and carry a big stick” so we could rely on him to adopt a firm yet gentle stance on foreign policy. But perhaps most importantly, he is a man of the people,
several people actually.
I like this comic because it recognizes the potential that someone like Frankenstein has for all matter of social and political commentary and that leads me directly into…
Why you should donate
Because it’s the kind of comic we need in today’s day and age.
Let’s face it folks, we’re at a point in American and world politics where it’s either a joke at best,
or terrifying at worst.
The thing is, politics have almost always been like this, and comics and cartoons have almost always been a part of showing how ridiculous it can all be.
We only have to look at the work of people like Thomas Nast,
to realize that politics are a joke and the cartoonist is the little boy showing all of us that the emperor has no clothes.
What we need are people who are willing to look at the big picture and show just how ridiculous and over the top it is, and what better way to show both the hilarity and horror of modern day politics than Frankenstein’s monster and all of our favorite horror villains.
Kickstarter link: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/2001641902/frankenstein-for-mayor-comic-about-partisan-politi?ref=category_newest
Sigh, so we can all agree that these last couple of months have been pretty crappy right?
I’m not going to go into any great detail on this matter, you can watch the news for that, but I will say that if the heroes that I write about in this blog were alive and around today…I’d think they would be very disappointed.
I thought this would be a good place to put the picture of Captain America punching Hitler, but I thought this one would be more apropos.
Thank you Superman.
The sad truth is that the reality of the situation is, and always has been, complicated. While these comic books were created to provide a morale boost to the men and women fighting against fascism,
fascism had a very real presence in America since it became a thing.
Yes, those are swastikas next to the American flag and a picture of George Washington. This is a picture from 1938 at a Nazi rally in New York. This was a thing right up to the point where we started fighting the Nazis.
One of the things that we’ve been seeing in a lot of these Golden Age comics are superheroes who don’t go off to Europe to fight the Nazis, they find plenty of them here. While there was a war to fight across the ocean a comic book hero could always find a spy ring, saboteurs, or enemy agents hiding around with plans to disable the war effort.
Maybe the heroes saw that there were other threats that were much closer to home, or maybe they just wanted to save money on air travel.
Either way, let’s dive into some escapism and talk about a hero who held down the home front against the scourge of Nazi spies: the eloquently named Spy Smasher.
Origin and Career
Spy Smasher was first published by Fawcett Comics and was created by Bill Parker and C.C Beck, the two men who originally created Captain Marvel.
The hero made his first appearance in Whiz Comics #2 in February of 1940, an issue that was actually the first issue of the Whiz Comics title and has one of the most iconic covers in comic book history.
The story starts off with a literal bang, someone is sabotaging American military vessels.
Wait, $20 million dollars for an aircraft carrier? What a bargain!
Naturally this worries a lot of very powerful men in Washington, and one man decides to share potentially dangerous information with his daughter and fiancee.
Nazi spies in America? Preposterous!
Meanwhile, the spies themselves have been busy and decide to steal plans for a mine laying ship, only to be foiled by the timely arrival of the Spy Smasher. They are led by a fairly creepy individual known as “The Mask”.
The hero manages to pursue the villains in his Gyrosub. This is a vehicle that serves as a helicopter, an airplane, speedboat, a submarine, and a completely ridiculous looking vehicle.
Eat your heart out Batmobile!
Long story short, the hero winds up defeating the spies, even though the main villain escapes.
The day is saved and the plans are returned.
In a fairly ballsy move, the creators didn’t reveal the identity of the Spy Smasher in the first issue. In fact, they didn’t reveal the secret identity of the Spy Smasher for most of his stories. Sure, it may have been a clever marketing ploy, but even children would have thought it was weird that Spy Smasher and Alan Armstrong were never in the same panel together, and how Alan disappeared whenever there was trouble, or how Spy Smasher had a strange fascination with the woman who was Alan’s fiancee.
Spy Smasher was Alan Armstrong is what I’m trying to say.
It turned out that Spy Smasher’s battles with his arch nemesis the Mask turned him into a pretty popular hero. He was so popular that he actually had a crossover with Captain Marvel in Whiz Comics #16 where he turned evil and tries to hypnotize the hero into doing his bidding.
But it’s okay because it turned out that it had all been a ploy by the Mask to hypnotize and brainwash the now dead Mask to do his bidding.
Spy Smasher continued to have a career after the war, although he did change his name to Crime Smasher to fit with the times.
So what happened?
Alan Armstrong remained a popular staple of Fawcett Comics, right up to the point where they were forced to stop publishing comics in 1953 after losing a lawsuit to DC Comics that claimed they had ripped off Superman.
While Captain Marvel would go on to have a pretty successful career (he’s called Shazam! now due to copyright issues) Spy Smasher fell by the wayside. I guess when there are just no more spies to smash you don’t really have a future. Why they didn’t decide to use him to hunt Soviet spies is beyond me.
Spy Smasher would go on to have a limited career, barely used but not forgotten. One of his most notable appearances was in the excellent tv show Justice League Unlimited where he appeared in the opening of the episode “Patriot Act”,
and in Gail Simone’s Birds of Prey series she introduced a character named Katarina Armstrong, a highly skilled global anti terrorism agent with a costume that was heavily inspired by the original Spy Smasher.
While she looks like Spy Smasher and has his last name, any potential relationship the two may have had is not revealed.
In many ways Spy Smasher had the same career trajectory that a lot of Golden Age superheroes had. He was popular in the 1940’s and while he fell by the wayside after the comics industry crashed, he was fondly remembered by those who knew and would go on to be an influence for the superheroes of the future.
If you ask me it’s a crying shame that nobody uses him any more, I’m sure he wouldn’t mind coming out of retirement to fight a few more Nazi spies on American soil.
WARNING: This article contains offensive portrayals of Black and Asian people and discussion of legitimate war crimes committed by the Japanese Army in China. You have been warned.
Today I want to talk about diversity in comics.
Yes, I know this is probably the last subject that anyone wants to talk about, and I’ll admit that I’m a bit late to the party on this one (for the record no…I don’t think diversity is killing Marvel’s sales, it’s event fatigue and constant relaunches), but this is a blog series on the Golden Age of Comics and while there were a fair share of non white characters in early comic books,
they weren’t exactly…acceptable for modern audiences, or any audiences for that matter.
With that being said, if there was one specific group of people who were blatantly targeted during the Golden Age of Comics, it was the Japanese.
This sort of propaganda was quite prevalent during the 1940’s and I’m sure people made excuses for it like “there’s a war on”,
and “they attacked us first”,
but calling an entire country of people animals,
and unfairly imprisoning thousands of American citizens because they were suspected of being saboteurs,
is just wrong.
The funny thing is, during the Golden Age of Comics there were a small number of Asian American artists working in the industry, and one of them even created a superhero that actually portrayed the Japanese with a small semblance of humanity.
Today were going to talk about the first Asian American superhero: The Green Turtle.
Origin and Career
The Green Turtle made his first appearance on the cover of Blazing Comics #1 in June of 1944.
You’ll notice a couple of things about the cover such as the shadow figure with the eyes, the fact that the Japanese soldier being strangled has actual eyes instead of slants, and that the hero’s face isn’t showing. All of that is there for a reason and I’ll explain it later.
The character was created by Asian American artist Chu F. Hing.
Hing was born in Hawai’i, studied at the Chicago Academy of Fine Arts, and was part of a small group of Asian American artists who were working in American comicbooks at the time.
The comic itself was an anthology title and was published by a small collection of publishers known as Rural Home. The specific company that published Blazing Comics was called Croydon Publishing.
The comic takes place entirely in the Pacific, and the Green Turtle exclusively fights Japanese soldiers and leaders.
What’s really interesting is that all of the action takes place in Japanese held China. The Japanese soldiers attack Chinese civilians, the entire supporting cast is Chinese, and America is never threatened or even mentioned in the comic.
While the Green Turtle had no actual superpowers, he did have a cool looking jet called “The Turtle Plane”.
The man swoops in and saves the day by machine gunning a bunch of Japanese soldiers, rescuing a boy and his mother, and roasting two more soldiers with his jet engines.
Holy crap! He actually cares for the civilians and actively tries not to kill them!
So, the Green Turtle works in China, protects the Chinese people, and lives in a mountain in Tibet.
So did that mean that the Green Turtle was a Chinese superhero?
Well…did you notice that in those pages above you never saw the hero’s face? That’s something of a common theme throughout the comic.
It’s widely believed that Hing was locked in a battle with his editor over the ethnicity of the Green Turtle. In all likelihood, Hing wanted to make him Chinese but his editor was resistant due to the infamous “Yellow Peril” that produced many of the offensive stereotypes that permeate our culture.
So while the Green Turtle spoke English and had pink skin, as opposed to yellowish orange like the Asian characters,
Hing subverted this by never showing his face in the comic, even when they slapped an image of his face on the cover of the next issue.
The kid on the cover was the Turtle’s sidekick and the same kid he rescued in the first issue. His name was “Burma Boy” because if you wanted any amount of success in the Golden Age of Comics you needed a kid sidekick with a wacky name.
You may be asking yourself, what’s the Green Turtle’s origin story and what is that weird shadow with a face? Sadly, the comic never gave an origin story or an explanation for the shadow.
Something that makes this comic especially noteworthy is Hing’s portrayal of the Japanese. Unlike many Japanese soldiers in other American comics Hing wrote and drew like…humans.
Which is especially hilarious when, in the VERY NEXT STORY IN THE ANTHOLOGY, there is an American soldier who manages to convince Japanese soldiers that he is one of them by smearing mud on his face.
However, It is worth mentioning that while Hing’s portrayal of the Japanese was substantially less racist that his American contemporaries, they were still portrayed as monsters. While Hing’s Japanese spoke perfect English and had visible eyeballs, they weren’t above bayoneting women and children,
and torturing prisoners.
This could be chalked up to war time paranoia and Hing’s Chinese heritage, since Japanese soldiers had a well documented history of brutal and horrific war crimes in China.
(side note: why the Japanese committed these crimes is a discussion for another day. All that I will say on the matter is that many of the Imperial Japanese military officers responsible for these crimes were tried and punished, many Japanese officials have apologized for them, and it still remains a very sensitive and painful memory for a lot of people to this day.)
So what happened?
The Green Turtle disappeared off of the face of the Earth after issue #5. I can’t say exactly what happened, but my research showed that Croydon only published 10 books from 1944-1946, and I am speaking from personal experience when I say that the publishing industry is not kind to small time publishers.
The Green Turtle would remain obscure for decade until 2014, when American cartoonist Gene Luen Yang and Malaysian born artist Sonny Liew created a six issue mini series that told the origin story of the Green Turtle called The Shadow Hero.
It definitively makes the character Asian and gives an explanation for the shadow and why his skin is pink.
I actually remember reading it in 2014, long before I decided to start this blog. It’s a really good story and I highly recommend it.
The Green Turtle was definitely a special case for the Golden Age of Comics. In an industry dominated by white men and white superheroes here was an Asian creator doing his absolute best to create an Asian hero in a time where it wasn’t socially acceptable. It would be understandable to think that Chu Hing was upset and angry about this, but I don’t think that was the case.
At the start of Blazing Comics #3, Hing has some Chinese characters on the left side of the first panel.
It’s an old Chinese saying “Four oceans, one family”, which could be interpreted as the author stating that even though China and America are worlds apart in culture and distance they’re still brothers in arms and a common cause.
That…is remarkably open for a comic book coming out of the 1940’s and is something that deserves our attention and respect.
Before we begin, I just want to say thank you for two very big milestones.
First, last week’s blog post on Truth: Red, White, and Black was the single most successful blog post we’ve ever had on this site.
I was absolutely blown away by the audience and the wonderful conversations that the article generated.
Second, yesterday was our two year anniversary as a blog and a website. I’m not going to lie and say it’s been easy, but watching people enjoy everything we’ve worked so hard for has made this little venture worth it.
Anyway, let’s talk about a super hero that killed a whole bunch of Nazis and called himself the Grim Reaper.
Origin and Career
The Grim Reaper first appeared in Standard Comics’ The Fighting Yank #7 in February of 1944.
As you might be able to figure out from the cover, the entire issue had something of a military theme to it, especially since the United States was in the last full year of the war in Europe.
The Grim Reaper was published by Standard Comics and was created by comic book writer and editor Richard E. Hughes.
The pictures above show Hughes’ many pseudonyms which he used since he was an incredibly prolific comic book creator in a career that spanned the 1940’s to the 1970’s.
It’s worth mentioning that the Grim Reaper is something of an oddity in Golden Age superhero comics. While many of his fellow heroes started off fighting common criminals and spies, the Grim Reaper was thrust straight into the front lines of the war in Europe and got right down to kicking Nazi butt.
It’s also worth mentioning that Richard Hughes was actually a pretty good writer, because The Grim Reaper’s stories were pretty good.
In his first appearance our hero makes it very clear that he has no qualms about shedding German blood.
Also, he manages to save a concentration camp full of prisoners and captured Allied pilots so the Allied war effort can destroy a Nazi aerodrome.
Apparently, this story was so popular and well received that the Grim Reaper would be given his own title and cover appearances after his first story.
To be perfectly honest, I think that this is one of the greatest Golden Age covers I’ve ever seen.
The Grim Reaper’s new adventures were more of the same deal with him fighting the good fight in Europe and killing Nazis left and right.
What’s really interesting about these stories is just how human and normal they are. The Grim Reaper is actually more of a secondary character and the writer tends to focus on the plight and effort of normal humans actively fighting the Nazis across Europe.
Sure, the first page has a large picture of the hero, but the story itself is about the Greek resistance movement that sprung up to fight the occupying Nazi force.
It’s also worth mentioning that while the first Grim Reaper story falls into the typical tropes of turning the hero’s Nazi enemies into monsters who don’t have a very keen grasp of English and like to talk “in ze stereotypical German akksent!”
The funny thing is that, during his first main story, the writer goes out of his way to actually humanize some of the Nazis by having a Gestapo officer actually save the Grim Reaper’s life and reveal himself to be a German working against the Nazis.
They would eventually give the Grim Reaper an origin story in his second issue.
It was revealed that the Grim Reaper was actually an American student studying in France named Bill Norris who decided to stay behind in Paris in order to continue his studies.
The Nazis, in a blatant disregard for human rights and the Rules of War, sent Bill to a concentration camp when he tried to protect an old man from being beaten by a group of soldiers.
Sure, the soldiers had every right to arrest Bill for what he did, but you don’t sentence someone to slave labor when they assault your men without weapons.
While in the camp, Bill meets a leader in the French Resistance and manages to escape.
He decides to help the French and dons the Grim Reaper costume to fight the Nazis out of patriotic duty.
The Grim Reaper would go on to have a couple more adventures fighting the Axis powers, but then the war ended.
The Grim Reaper was too popular to be cancelled, so he decided to go and fight gangsters and common criminals instead.
Honestly, the new stories were nothing special and the Grim Reaper found himself playing second fiddle to other stories and characters that were becoming more and more popular in post war America.
So what happened?
History and bad business happened.
Standard comics went out of business in 1956 as the comic book market dried up and left many of the smaller publishers bankrupt.
The Grim Reaper would have remained forgotten if it wasn’t for the best beard in comics, the incredibly intimidating Alan Moore.
Moore had created his own publishing company in the early 2000’s called America’s Best Comics
and he scooped up many of the Standard Comics’ characters that had slipped into public domain which he used in a spin off series called Tom Strong.
The Grim Reaper would eventually be killed in the Tom Strong spin off series Terra Obscura.
In the end The Grim Reaper was a pretty typical flash in the pan Golden Age superhero. He existed, had a pretty short run, and faded into obscurity quickly and was only remembered by people who were truly interested in this particular time in comics.
With that being said, he was well drawn (for the time), had a pretty sensible backstory, and was surprisingly well written for the time. Like many real life people who were fighting and dying in Europe and the Pacific during the war, the Grim Reaper did his part to beat back tyranny and evil and that is worth celebrating.
Full disclosure, this is going to be a short article. That being said, I think today’s comic book heroine is awesome enough on her own and doesn’t need a whole lot of space to show how awesome she is.
Today we’re going to talk about a female heroine who SHOULD have been one of the great female heroes to come out of the 1940’s: Betty Bates, Lady at Law.
Origin and career
Betty Bates first appeared in Quality Comics’ Hit Comics #4 in October of 1940.
She was a backup character created by artist and writer Bob Powell,
whose other credits include characters such as Sheena, Queen of the Jungle.
Betty Bates was an interesting character, especially for the 1940’s. While the era has been criticized for its rampant sexism and misogyny it is the era that gave us classic female super heroines such as Wonder Woman,
and an early Black Widow.
With all these super powered ladies flying around it seems difficult for someone as plain as Betty Bates to stand out, but she manages to do that in grand style.
For starters, Betty Bates was a District Attorney, a profession that was almost exclusively reserved for male characters.
She was almost unnaturally honest, refusing to take bribes and to be coerced into letting criminals go free.
She was also a capable and talented detective, determined to get to the truth. She never had a secret identity or costume, never had any colorful gadgets, and while she only fought gangsters and thugs with colorful names, when it came time to throw down and defend herself…
she could handle herself in a fight.
So what happened?
Her series was published by a company called Quality Comics, a company whose most famous creation was this guy.
Quality Comics sold off most of its characters in the 1950’s to DC Comics but the company had been suffering for a while. Betty Bates was lost in the shuffle and after a ten year run her title was cancelled.
Despite her unglamorous end, Betty actually has a pretty impressive legacy.
She outlasted many of her more traditional male superhero counterparts and would continue to have a comfortable position as a back up character in the Hit Comics line for over ten years. In fact, she still holds the honor of being the longest running non super powered, non main character heroine in comic book history. Plus, there is only one comic book lawyer who has lasted longer than she has.
Anyone want to try to explain why we’re not talking about her instead of Wonder Woman as a female comic book icon?
Sadly, she has remained forgotten for most of history and hasn’t been revived or brought back in any modern issues.
Which is a crying shame if you ask me.
How could she be brought back?
Unlike many of the Golden Age heroes we talk about on this blog that might have trouble fitting into a modern setting, Betty’s problems are actually quite the opposite.
There are a seemingly endless number of law procedural shows on television today.
and Betty Bates could fit into any one of them
Also, we are now living in an age where leading ladies are gaining an increasingly large portion of the spotlight in popular culture.
and I think Betty could fit right in.
The difficulty rests in finding a leading lady. Personally, I nominate Haley Atwell.
But that’s just me.
So the fifth season of Game of Thrones has come to an end (yes I know it happened this Saturday bear with me) and this means we have reached the end of the blog series. Oh, the series will still go on, there is still so much to talk about, it’s just that I want to save it for the next season and in the mean time I’d like to talk about something else.
I would like to close off this season of blog posts by talking about why I love the show so much. I am a lover of history, I love reading about it, talking about it, and I was a History major in college. One of my favorite books of all time is a epic work of historical nonfiction called “A Distant Mirror: The Calamitous 14th Century” by historian Barbara Tuchman.
The book is Tuchman’s account of the 14th century where she talks about everything from the 100 Years War, to the spread of the Black Plague, to peasant uprisings, and political intrigue. Besides having a badass cover, that’s the white horseman of war leading an army of dead against the living, Tuchman’s book helps her portray the 14th Century as a dark parallel to early 20th century Europe suffering from the aftermath of the First World War (I should note that Tuchman’s most well known work is August 1914 where she talks about the prelude to WW1). This book is really good and I highly recommend it.
The reason I bring this up is because history and fantasy, especially really good and well written history and fantasy, can help us understand the world we live in by drawing parallels to our society and filtering them through the fantastic and the epic. I’ve spent the last couple of weeks showing the events, groups, and people that George R.R Martin has used as inspiration for his masterpiece but if we apply the same treatment to Game of Thrones that Tuchman applied to 14th century Europe a lot of interesting things start to appear. For example:
One of the most powerful organizations in the Game of Thrones universe is the Iron Bank, able to change the fortunes of everyone from peasants to kings. Does that seem so strange when our modern banks like Goldman Sachs and J.P Morgan have such a huge stake in our world today? How many of us are tied to a bank because we wanted to buy a house or car or go to college?
Some of the most brutal and evil lords and rulers in Game of Thrones are currently, and formerly, some of the most effective and powerful rulers.
It’s no secret that quite a few parts of our world are run by terrible people.
But when you consider the situations that led to their rise to power and the ability of these monsters to keep and hold on to their power their continued existence, while not very justifiable, can certainly be explained.
Speaking of leadership let’s talk about some of the “good” leaders. While there are plenty of horrible people in power both in the show and in real life there are people in charge that are trying their best to do the right thing.
Sometimes it all works out and the good guys win but what a lot of leaders who start out with good intentions eventually learn is that it’s always a bit more complicated than it originally seemed and things can go wrong very quickly.
This is just a small sample of some of the parallels between the Game of Thrones universe and our own world. We could go on for hours on subjects like money, torture, ethics, proper leadership, terrorism, environmentalism, and slavery but to do that would require a book’s worth of time and research.
Thank you for reading this blog and sticking with me for the fifth season of Game of Thrones. We produce a comic strip about a family of supervillains (something completely different from this) for your enjoyment and I hope you’ll stick around in the future where we have plenty of fun and interesting topics lined up for you.
Valar Morghulis…see you next season.