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Sunday, February 10, 2013

DC Comics Turns the Occupy Movement Into a Superhero Title

Image: DC Comics
Eighteen months after the phrase first entered the collective public consciousness, the plight of the 99 percent is coming to mainstream superhero comics — via a new series from the second biggest publisher in the American comic industry, which just happens to be a subsidiary of a multi-national corporation that makes around $12 billion a year. Irony, anybody?
In May, DC Comics will launch two new series taking place in their mainstream superhero universe that offer different insights into the class struggle in a world filled with superheroes, alien races and inexplicable events. The Green Team, written by Tiny Titans and Superman Family Adventurescreators Art Baltazar and Franco, with art by Ig Guara, revives an obscure 1975 concept about teenage rich kids who try to make the world a better place with their outrageous wealth. In an interview promoting the series, Franco promised that it would address questions like “Can money make you happy?” and “If you had unlimited wealth, could you use that to make the lives of people better?”
Obviously, this is one of the more fanciful series DC will be publishing.
But while DC is promoting The Green Team series as the adventures of the “1%,” its companion title,The Movement, is teased as a chance for us to “Meet the 99%… They were the super-powered disenfranchised — now they’re the voice of the people!”
“It’s a book about power,” explained The Movement writer Gail Simone. “Who owns it, who uses it, who suffers from its abuse. As we increasingly move to an age where information is currency, you get these situations where a single viral video can cost a previously unassailable corporation billions, or can upset the power balance of entire governments. And because the sources of that information are so dispersed and nameless, it’s nearly impossible to shut it all down.”
“The thing I find fascinating and a little bit worrisome is, what happens when a hacktivist group whose politics you find completely repulsive has this same kind of power and influence,” she elaborated in an interview at Big Shiny Robot. “What if a racist or homophobic group rises up and organizes in the same manner?”
While the concept is ambitious, the idea that a comic capable of living up to the book’s populist inspiration could come from DC Entertainment still strikes some as unlikely. Matt Pizzolo, the editor of the Occupy Comics anthology, told Wired that “though DC Comics did help launch Alan Moore and David Lloyd’s seminal anarchist epic V For Vendetta over two decades ago, it’s unlikely they would do so today. Between dismantling Vertigo and frankensteining Watchmen, the past year has demonstrated DC isn’t a safe place for bold creators who want to tell the kinds of stories that would inspire things like Occupy, rather than just cash in on them.”
Still, Simone says that the use of the iconography and language of a real-world populist movement is deliberate, promising that the book will reflect today’s decentralized political world and offer ”a slice of rarity that we’re unlikely to see in most superhero books.”
This wouldn’t the first time that DC has attempted to offer pre-packaged populist rebellion, of course; in addition to the aforementioned publication of the anti-establishment V For Vendetta, the company’s Vertigo imprint also published Grant Morrison’s The Invisibles, a series centering around an international organization struggling against forces of authority and repression that included anti-corporate themes.
Only time will tell whether The Movement will live up to the subversive examples of these earlier books, or just end up a well-intentioned piece of topical super heroics that trades on, and commodifies, a real political movement.
The Movement #1 will be available in both print and digital formats on May 1, while The Green Team #1 will be released on May 22.

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