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The Green Team V. The Movement And The Class Politics Of Superhero Comics

By Alyssa Rosenberg on February 12, 2013 at 10:33 am

"The Green Team V. The Movement And The Class Politics Of Superhero Comics"

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Via The Mary Sue comes the news that Gail Simone, Freddie Williams II, Art Baltazar, Franco, and Ig Guara are working on a new project for DC comics, in which two superhero teamups, The Movement, done by Simone and Williams, and The Green Team, Baltazar, Franco, and Guara, represent the 99 percent and the 1 percent. I’m curious to see how that will actually shake out, because the early interviews don’t offer an enormous number of details. Jill Pantozzi writes:

“The Movement is an idea I’ve had for some time. It’s a book about power–who owns it, who uses it, who suffers from its abuse,” said Simone. “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.”

Simone didn’t name any characters in the interview but said The Movement would be an adventure story with some dark humor, and that it feels like a “very new kind of superhero book.”

“We’re not trying to preach platitudes at people. I happen to love superhero comics, especially the crazy glamor and thrills they contain,” she said. “But on the other, I think the backdrop is a slice of reality that we’re unlikely to see in most superhero books. And I find that tremendously exciting.”

It’s amazing how many superhero stories involve said superheroes either having access to extreme wealth, or in the case of more working-class heroes like Peter Parker, ending up in proximity to it. It’s an assumption that goes hand-in-hand with the idea that the superpowers people manifest will be good for practical things, mostly fighting, and therefore monetizable, or at least worth controlling. And it also assumes that superpowers are relatively rare, and therefore a much more valuable commodity.

But it’s amazing how much interesting storytelling with superheroes comes when you get away from that wealth, or when artists start to explore the resentments that said wealth and power would inevitably engender. The central tension in The Incredibles is jealousy: Buddy Pine’s driven to try to democratize access to superpowers when he’s treated as ridiculous for aspiring to be as useful, and to get some of the social capital that Mr. Incredible is afforded. In Powers, superheroes have mixed status in society: some of them are public employees with the same somewhat-elevated status as cops, some remain tremendously famous and socially powerful, and others have adapted poorly to the restrictions based on them. Luke Cage, which I’ve been reading a lot of lately, derives much of its early power from the mismatch between how badly Luke Cage’s clients, some of them battling ordinary forces like housing discrimination and racial violence, need his services, and how little they’re able to compensate him for it. Luke is constantly short on rent and respect, and the business of superheroics is a rather grubby one.

If DC Comics wants to get at class politics, it seems like they should start by making superpowers much more common, and making some more highly valued than others, often in ways that don’t make immediate sense. It might also be fascinating to change the genesis of superpowers—rather than spontaneously manifesting themselves, or being the result of chemical exposure, a blood transfusion, or a wicked training regimen, maybe there’s a cost to getting powers that proves to be easier or harder to pay off, depending on which one you end up with. And maybe those inequalities have gotten suddenly and dramatically more intense. That’s a setup for a big event and new teamups that could be genuinely seismic.

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