Heroism in Comics Now and Then

I just read vol. 3 TP. Justice League of America: Rebirth. The basic use of language when having to do with physics while Ryan Choi and the team traveled through the microverse was a step up from 1960’s complete fantasy science. Of course the fantasy element was still there allowing them to have fun with with an imaginative world. Atom riding a light particle traveling across the microverse was the highlight of the trade paperback for me. As well as the art for the plasma storm. It’s a rescue mission to find Ray Palmer, AKA The Atom was the plan. Ryan Choi needed him to help figure out how to stop the destruction of the microverse. Save the world/universe is objectively heroic and all. However, how many times have you been apart of a universe on the verge of collapsing? Exactly. It’s fun to read, but not very relatable.

Once I finished that one. I picked up my omnibus of New Teen Titans. Volume 2. I’m about half way through it and I had to reflect at a certain stopping point. The New Teen Titans plays through like a soap opera. Much different then the Teen Titans of today. The three part chapter is called “Runaways.” It starts out with individual kids running away from home. In the corner there is a caption that tells the reader their name and where they are from. Each character gets four panels of why they’re leaving home. The one that stood out the most was a girl who was thrown out on the street for getting pregnant. “I raised you to be a lady, but your nothing but a rotten slut. Go walk the street with the rest of your kind.” Father of the year award goes to…

In all seriousness, Marv Wolfman really fleshes out these characters making them multi faceted. There was no magic bullet solutions. There wasn’t necessarily a happy ending. Just broken kids on the streets of New York.

There’s several scenes that stood out. Making me realize these creators were reaching out to real life communities with their social commentary. Very seldom will comics today write a story that hits this close to home. The second part was when Robin is told to go crack some heads to get answers. He tells the D.A. “That’s not what we do. We obey the law.” The D.A. after dealing with this drug epidemic and seeing many kids overdose and get killed is understandably on edge. “Maybe I don’t care about the law. Maybe I care about what’s right!” Robin takes the case, but on his terms. He isn’t Batman. He does care about law and order.

One page illustrates the problem the D.A. has been dealing with. The same three kids are approached by a pimp. He tells the girl who was called a slut. He has a way for her to make some money to get her off the street. Then proceeds to build her self esteem up before swooping in and tricking her out. He proceeds to tell the kid who was hanging out with thugs, all he has to do is deliver envelopes. He neglects the details of what’s inside. (They’re filled with cocaine.) He uses slightly different tactics but gets the same result. He approaches the third kid. Who is a little more sensible and tells him to get lost. The pimp doesn’t sweat it. In a very Hitchcock way the artist (George Perez) reflects all the young people in his sunglasses. Like a hawk seeking out mice. “Suit yourself amigo, there are plenty of others.”

Raven using her empathetic powers seeks out this pregnant girl. One of the boys at school tells her to leave the girl alone. She’s not someone you’d want in your life. Raven tells him the girl is clearly in pain and needs help. She hasn’t eaten in days so she takes her back to cyborgs place to feed her. Cyborg walks in with a rag and wipes off the caked on make up after being prostituted. He walks her to a homeless shelter for runaways. It’s where Cyborg went when he ran away from home.

The counselor explains, “These kids have no self worth. Why would they get a job making $100 a week doing honest work. When they can make a thousand a week selling drugs.”

Karma spun itself around when this same pimp started getting smart with one of the higher tier thugs. To teach him his place they took him out back, and beat him to death. This will come into play later.

As the climax wraps up one of the kids is killed in a hail of gun fire by their own men. Not one of the previous kids I mentioned. There’s a group of kids at this meeting before the shooting starts. They are all being instructed by a fat sleaze ball. (That’s not in the comics. Just an observation.) Raven emerges from the ground in her astral form. Then chaos erupts as bullets fly, and fists are swung.

In the midst of the fight this kid is gunned down. There’s a caption in the bottom of the panel that reads his name and his age. “His name was Sylvester Johnson. From clearwater, Florida. He was thirteen.”

The pimp survived, and gets the drop on one of the thugs. He starts taking them down one at a time. He’s battered and beaten, bloody and bruised. Reality showed him where he stood among these criminals. He now seeks vengeance. Not for himself, but for everyone who was manipulated with false power.

Raven finds the older brother who’s younger sibling was shot in the beginning of the chapter. Hiding in an alleyway. He was seeking answers. When guns went off he hid in an alley. Tears in his eyes, he wept. He explains that he wanted answers, but he feels like a coward for hiding. “God I feel so sick inside.” Raven replies, “Your brother and others like him face private devils each day of their lives. We all do. The differences between us are in how we fight what we most fear.”

The pimp turns himself over. The Teen Titans take down the drug king pin. A kid dies. The neighborhoods drug problem is in a better place. Happy ending? Not quite. Those three kids I mentioned before go back to their families. The pregnant girl who was tricked out is turned away from her father still. As well as another boy who immediately leaves again after his mom starts screaming at him. The third boy is brought back home and apologizes to his folks. Two of the three kids are right back where they ended up. This is the final page of the runaways story.

The runaways story in comparison to comics of today shows empathy, compassion, strength through unity, realism, heart felt social commentary. Where Panic in the Microverse was cool. That isn’t what hero’s are suppose to be about. That’s not why I started reading comics. Comic books are an imaginative and silly parallel to our world. They are suppose to inspire us to be better people. I can’t throw a semi truck at a space ship. But I can care about my fellow human beings. Regardless of who they are or where they come from. It’s about inspiring people to be their best self, and take care of their community.

Please like, follow, and share via social media. Thank you for reading!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s