SuperMOOC Mania! Part Three – Social Inequality in Comics

SuperMOOC2You guys!  I’m so excited to be with you again on our journey of comics, social issues and SuperMOOCs.  I have now reached the halfway point of the SuperMOOC I’ve been participating in since March – Social Issues through Comic Books, so a few more months of me focusing on issues and then it’s back to focusing on…well, mainly Batman, but other stuff, too, I promise!

For this 3rd module, our SuperMOOC community has been reading comics that deal with Social Inequality, and what an eye-opening and fascinating subject to tackle through comic books.  From nonfiction to dystopian to superhero, all the ranges of graphic reads were well represented, and they all looked at social inequality in a different and responsible way.  I was happy to see that, yet again, I had only read one of the books that we are studying; all the rest of the required texts were comics that were new to me, but have now moved up to the top of my “must recommend” list.

Keep these in mind for readers who are interested in or grappling with social inequality or for those just looking for a great comic.  At this point, I’m really stretching it with the “let’s start with Batman” speech, but let me try it again.  Hmmm.  Well, our first book is written by Gail Simone, who is the current writer on Batgirl…and it’s set in the world of Metropolis and Gotham City, so there you go.

The Movement, Volume 1The Movement, Volume 1:  Class Warfare by Gail Simone & Freddie Williams II:  If you haven’t read any of Gail Simone’s comics (and start with Secret Six, btw, if you do), you are seriously missing out as Gail is just straight up a great writer.  With her new comic book series for DC, The Movement, Gail brings us to Coral City, which, as I mentioned, is part of the same universe in which Metropolis & Gotham City exist.  In Coral City, there are the rich and the poor, those that try to help and those that try to hurt and, oh yeah – superheroes.  To say that the poor have it rough is an understatement.  Not only do the police (well, some of them, not all) run afoul of the laws they are supposed to be upholding, but there’s a killer out there who is targeting the destitute.  However, there’s a movement rising…and they call themselves, ahem, The Movement.  No longer will this group stand aside and let people be hurt, taken advantage of or killed.  They’re using the one thing they’ve got more of…and that’s their minds (slight nod to Jarvis Cocker & Pulp for the misappropriation of that line).  They’re also using their technology to catch people in the act and keep them honest.  But, can these strong-willed superheroes work together to stop the madness or will the serial killer without a face (well, not really, but no one’s actually seen it) continue to haunt the streets and the downtrodden?  Trust me, reading Gail’s work is a joy; never didactic and always thought provoking.

March, Book One by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin & Nate Powell:  This is such a great nonfiction title to recommend to readers, both teen and adult alike.  In March, an engaging, haunting and handsomely illustrated graphic novel memoir written by Congressman John Lewis, he tells his story of being a boy growing up in the segregated south to his time working in the civil rights movement.  This first book in his planned trilogy lets readers move with him from his time as a young man on an Alabama sharecropper’s farm to his life as a young adult staging sit-ins at Woolworth lunch counters.  Beautiful black and white line drawings perfectly accompany this story of tragedy and heartbreak, but also determination and fortitude.  Just a perfect example of what exemplary nonfiction comics can be.  (a 2014 Great Graphic Novels for Teens selection)


X-Men God Loves, Man Kills

X-Men:  God Loves, Man Kills by Chris Claremont & Brent Anderson:  Okay, so I’ve never, ever read an X-Men comic before.  And, to tell you the truth, I don’t think I’ve seen any of the movies, either.  Unfortunately for me (and also quite a childish trait, I must admit), I am an unflappable DC comics gal, but after reading this seminal and well-regarded story about hurting mutants only because of “what” they are, I have to admit, that I’ve been missing out not reading more X-Men stories.  So, I learned something!  Okay, so back to the story – there’s this minister, Reverend Stryker, who only sees the X-Men as abominations of God – no in-between, no caring about them as individuals.  He just really wants to eradicate them from the planet, all in the praise of God, and he’s determined to see his plan out until the bitter end.  But, unbeknownst to him, Magneto (he’s always fighting Professor X and the X-Men because he thinks that mutants should take over the Earth, that they are the next step in the evolutionary process, but he put that thought aside in this book…well, for the most part…anyways…) has joined the X-Men to search for the missing Professor X as well as expose Reverend Stryker as the very antithesis of a Godly man.  They must work fast, though, before the Reverend puts his ultimate plan into motion.  A great read for fans of the movies, and trust me – after someone reads this book, they’re going to look long and hard at themselves and our society.  It’s one of the most thought-provoking comics I’ve ever read, if not the most.  Really good, trust me.

Once again, I’ve come to the end of my list of recommended reads perfect for those interested in the topic of social inequality as well as those looking for good, not your regular run of the mill comic books.  A side note:  when I’m thinking more deeply about what I’ve read for the month, I always remember the quote I included in my first post on my SuperMOOC readings from Denny O’Neill – if we expose young people to the idea and nuances of a problem to young people through comics, they will be the one to change the society in the future.  I especially thought about it this week as I read books that were both painful and empowering at the same time.  And, don’t you just love it when you read something “fun” and it challenges you at the same time?  I sure do…and on that note, I’ll end for this month.

Be sure to join me in July when I cover comics that deal with immigration!  One of them is Superman, which I’ll really just have to force myself to read, but I’ll do it for you, dear readers (FYI – I don’t like Superman in the least.  I don’t know why I don’t like him, I just don’t).  Oh!  I really like that tag line I used last month, so I’ll use it again… See you then – Same Bat Time (approximately), Same Bat Channel (or website)!

– Traci Glass, currently reading No One Else Can Have You by Kathleen Hale