This may shock and possibly even appall, but I don’t use the internet to research this column. I read books, newspapers, magazines — I have even been spotted at the library on occasion. This has the tendency to make one feel like a Luddite or some kind of post- modern information guerilla. While I’m sure these items may exist on the internet, I will never reference them here because;
- I don’t know where these references are and;
- It would make it far too easy to tell what’s the truth and complete fabrication if I linked to the stories.
Given how quickly modern society has become dependent on the internet for information retrieval, relying on print media, especially when it’s hidden in such an esoteric place as a library, almost feels like cheating.
But I suppose I am cheating. While most of the stories below are taken from said books, newspapers and magazines to show how comics aren’t simply fanciful creations, one of them is a lie. In all of them, though, I’ll be noting comics that make good use of the ideas presented here.
Super-criticality may sound like something your mother-in-law specializes in, but it’s actually a name for a cascading effect among space debris. The threat here is that orbital debris might begin smashing into each other, causing a domino effect that could destroy portions of the world’s satellite networks, endangering civilian and military communications. Theoretically, a nation could push this to happen by taking out key satellites, such as China did last year when it zapped one of its own aging weather satellites. Why would you want to do this? Well, currently the U.S. military is nearly dependent on satellite networks for its eyes and ears. Infinite Horizon is a title from Image that capitalizes on this idea. An adaptation of The Odyssey, it takes the anger of the gods in the original work and replaces it with a war in which everything has gone wrong, including the destruction of military satellites, resulting in the main characters becoming completely separated from the chain of command.
Of course, you don’t need to look into the theoretical to get strange. Recently in New Zealand marine scientists studying the corpse of a gigantic squid measure its eye at 11 inches across. Of course, the body had been frozen for awhile, so the biologists assume that it would, in fact, be larger if the creature were still living. It’d probably be the equivalent of swimming along and having an eye the size of a hubcap open in front of you. That’s what seniors refer to as a ‘bladder control moment’. So what else lives down there in the deep blue sea? Gutsville, another Image title, takes a look at this by supposing that a band of colonists from England were swallowed by a giant sea creature and forced to carve out a living in its belly. Sound implausible? Sure, but a penguin recently discovered in the belly of a Blue Whale makes it seem less so. The whale’s digestive system, use to only breaking down plankton, didn’t kill the penguin, but the little bird had been in there long enough to have had the feathers on his behind begin to dissolve.
Perhaps the weirdness and seeming hostility of nature is the reason that mankind can be so hostile itself. But does what we do really matter? To us as a species, certainly. To the planet? Probably not. Recently a group of ecologists took a look at some coral that had been nuked 50 years previous to discover that 65 percent of the species have returned to the kilometers wide crater. Mother Nature is just chugging along at the Bikini Atoll. In a nod to this, BOOM!’s Northwind takes place in a future where Man’s pollution has turned Winter eternal and the equator has been nuked because, true to our species, we couldn’t share. However, while people in Northwind may be hiding underground, the planet continues to change and adapt, not seeming to much notice our presence.
So we’re on a hostile planet that doesn’t much care if we’re on it. Is it any coincidence, then, that we’re so cruel to one another? In April, a report released showed that the CIA viewed legal problems from “harsh interrogation” techniques to be inevitable. Not surprisingly, someone over there had the conversation that I imagine went something like, “Yes, Martha, torturing people will probably get us sued, so we’d better have a defense drawn up.” So they set out to build a legal support from the Justice Department, which they received in the form of Alberto Gonzales. Left On Mission is another title from BOOM! that tackles this issue in the espionage sphere, head on. And not in a sexy, pro-torture, 24 way, but in morally shady and far more realistic fashion.
It’s not terribly surprising, though, that secret agents and covert organizations, by definition groups with little to no oversight, don’t always act honorably and sometimes even act criminally. To wit, investigators from the Government Accountability Office were a bit distressed to realize just how easy it was to gain sensitive material over the Internet. On eBay alone, they were able to pick up a nuclear-biological- chemical suit and space parts for a F-14. While the States may have retired its F-14 fleet, Iran is currently sitting on a bunch of them that could function if only they could find the spare parts. Of course, while becoming a regional powerhouse, Iran also has its share of criminal problems. Recently the capital Tehran’s police chief, in charge of fighting vice in the city, has been arrested after being caught with six nude women in a brothel during a police raid. Naturally, crime in all of its forms, has always been fertile ground for comics, with 100 Bullets and Criminal being the current standard bearers. Image and Virgin are doing some work in the past eras of the genre with Pretty Baby Machine and Dock Walloper respectively.
So there you have it, the weird and the wonderful in our world and how it’s peaking through in comics.
If you’re interested in finding out the answer to last week’s column you can
find it at http://madbastard.hypersites.com.