Saturday, June 25, 2011
The Future: Awesome or Awful?
Karen: Regular BAB reader and commentator Sean Strange suggested the idea for this post -thanks Sean! Today we look at the future -actually, a whole bunch of futures. Comics have always presented a variety of outlooks on the future: some positive, but most pretty negative. The time in which these possible future are conceived seems to have a strong influence on whether the future depicted is utopian or dystopian in nature.
For example, one of the best known comic book futures is that of the Legion of Super-Heroes. Created in 1958, the Legion originally depicted a glowing future of triumphant technology and prosperity. This reflected the attitude of the post-World War II years in America, where the middle class grew and life was good. Despite having to fight world-threatening menaces like Mordru and the Fatal Five, in general, the early Legion's universe was an orderly one.
If we move forward more than a decade to the 1970s, the era of Vietnam, Watergate, and the energy crisis, the future no longer seems so bright. Marvel had at least three different possible futures represented at this time, all of them unpleasant. There was the run-down world of Deathlok, the conquered Earth of Killraven, and a thousand years in the future, the war-torn reality of the Guardians of the Galaxy.
Deathlok had the military-industrial complex in charge, experimenting on people and generally showing no morals whatsoever. Things were so bad that cannibals were running free in the streets of New York! In Killraven's future, the martians of H.G. Wells' War of the Worlds returned to Earth in the 20th century and wiped out most of humanity, and enslaved the rest. The Guardians of the Galaxy saw their worlds conquered by the Badoon, a reptilian race. One added attraction to the Guardians was that their leader, Vance Astro, was born in the 1960s, so he provided a viewpoint character for readers.
Over at DC again, Jack Kirby came up with Kamandi in 1972. Inspired by Planet of the Apes, Kamandi was "the last boy on Earth," stuck on a world controlled by intelligent animals. It might not have seemed as grim as Marvel's dystopias, but it wasn't the sweet future of the Legion either.
Of course, in 1989, the Legion (and its readers) were in for a rude awakening with the 'Five Years Later' Legion, in which the Dominators had conquered Earth. Not even the Legion it seems was safe from the "grim and gritty" fad.
Back at Marvel, one of the most famous alternative futures in comics was born in X-Men 141-142 with the "Days of Future Past" storyline. In this future, Sentinels had subjugated mutants and humans alike. Although this was a very creative and memorable story, it unfortunately had a huge influence on the X-Men comics for years, seemingly dominating the books for years.
Of course there have been many other possible futures presented in comics -and most of them of the darker variety. I've left out quite a few, such as Hercules Unbound, Omac, Atomic Knights, Mighty Samson, Judge Dredd, Jonah Hex, and all the Marvel 'The End' series. Which ones are your favorites? Do you prefer a more positive future, or do you like the post-apocalyptic ones?