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Introduction – Defining Comics, Defining Anarchism

 

Introduction-ception

 

My name is Nick Ford and I am a huge comic book enthusiast, in other words a huge nerd. I write for the Center for a Stateless Society and edit their Youtube videos and maybe make a buck or two while I’m at it.

I consider myself an individualist anarchist or mutualist anarchist. Mainly in the tradition of people like Benjamin Tucker, Lysander Spooner and more contemporary folks like Kevin Carson. I also sometimes just simply consider myself an anarchist without adjectives via Voltairine de Cleyre who was a late 19th and early 20th century anarchist. She was a brilliant writer, poet, critic and an all around amazing person. I’m happy to rant about her to you after the presentation is over.

I am also a member of the Alliance of the Libertarian Left of New England (ALL-oNE for short). We’re tabling at the Boston Anarchist Bookfair this year (it’s our fourth!) and I encourage you to drop by, check out our dirt cheap pamphlets, fancy smancy books and chat!

Finally, most of my writings these days can be found at my site, abolishwork.com. I’ll be speaking about anti-work at the Boston Anarchist Bookfair on Sunday from 4:45 to 5:45 PM. If you want to know more about the site, my opposition to work, my presentation at the B(A)B or anything else related to this come talk to me after the presentation is over!

This presentation will be focused around a case-study of anarchism and its relation to comics. I will be specifically focusing on the character from V for Vendetta, V.

I fully acknowledge in this particular presentation that I’m using one of the biggest or most notable examples and that there are also probably others I could speak about. I spoke at last year’s book fair about the DC character Anarky and the Image character Scarlet so this is me wrapping up the rest of that presentation by focusing solely on V. But I’m sure I could work on other anarchist or anarchic comic book characters so if you know some other characters I should check out please let me know after the presentation is over.

 

What are Comics?

Now, before I get started let’s lay out some quick and basic definitions of comics and anarchism.

For comics, I’ll be using Scott McCloud’s seminal work Understanding Comics (1993) for my definition of comics which builds on Will Eisner’s book Comics and Sequential Art. (1985). McCloud first gives us Eisner’s basic definition of comics as sequential art but wants us to be more specific.

He asks from a comic book looking audience for suggestions and eventually comes to this definition:

com.ics (kom’iks) n. plural in form, used with singular verb, 1. Juxtaposed pictorial and other images in deliberate sequence, intended to convey information and/or to produce an aesthetic response in the viewer. (p. 9)

 

McCloud’s seems more specific and more comprehensive but Eisner’s seems much more poppy and easily integratable into casual conversation. So it’s a matter of context in some aspects of this definitional dispute.

But for my purposes I’ll be using the following to define comics:

Sequential art that consists of juxtaposed static images.

I think this is a fair combination of Eisner and McCloud’s definitions. I think it’s punchy enough to be at least somewhat memorable while at the same time being “academic” enough for my own purposes. It’s also leaving the same possibilities that McLoud leaves open.

It doesn’t dictate that comics must include the already overly-saturated market of super-heroes, nor does it box it into any particular genre like horror or comedy. Nor that there must be words for it to be a comic or a certain philosophy must be abided by. Or that a certain tool, method or material must be used for a comic book to be a comic book.

So as opposed to some definitions that you may hear I think my combination of Eisner’s classic definition with McCloud’s, coupled with my own little tweaks makes for a fairly succinct but also pretty accurate definition that also leaves many possibilities open.

 

Defining Anarchism

I know that many here are already familiar with anarchism but I also recognize that there may be a few here that aren’t terribly familiar with it or perhaps even a few who may not mind a quick refresher. So at worst, hopefully this’ll just be a welcomed refresher of stuff you already know.

Now, the trouble with defining anarchism is that there are many more definitions for this word than with the word comic books. From the typical misinformation of it being a society that lacks rules, structures or order to the better definition of a truly voluntary society and order.

With anarchism I find the main commonalities to be a focus on a few things: the voluntariness of the society, the cooperativeness of a given society and the lack of governmental forces in a society.

I think the voluntariness in anarchism’s definition means that society must mainly hinge on actions and relations that form, which take shape and exist because people will them to be so. Because external limits are not artificially imposed on the individual and instead they are free to do what they want so long as it does not harm others.

For cooperativeness I believe this implies things like mutual respect (for cooperative affairs mainly rely on respect) and a sense of egalitarianism (your mileage may vary in how far this is taken via your chosen school of thought). And also given that anarchy comes from the Greek anarkhos which meant “without chiefs” we can also (at least etymologically) see an opposition to hierarchy or at least the implications of such.

Finally, notice the phrase governmental forces. I’m not just saying the government here; I’m also suggesting any institution or group of people who act like the government. So for example anyone who acts like they can exert their authority over others and oppress them such as bosses and to one extent or another bigots.

Here is my own definition of anarchism for the purposes of this talk:

Anarchism: A political philosophy that demands the end of governmental forces in society and in its stead a society based on voluntary order and cooperative relations.

With this definition that includes both cooperative and voluntary I am trying to raise the possibilities of radical equality between individuals and in institutions and between those institutions that these individuals create as well.

Using the term order specifically, I am trying to demonstrate that structure is not necessarily being opposed. It just so happens that many of the structures of the day are things we oppose and want to abolish.

For anarchism I’m trying to rely on challenges, concerns and goals as opposed to concrete positions, distinct histories or certain individuals in the “anarchist canon”. I think this, like the McCloud and Eisner inspired definition of comics leaves us up to plenty of possibilities while still allowing for memorable and approachable identifications of the terms we want to use. This definition probably isn’t the best possible but I think it will suffice for our purposes and hopefully give any newcomers here the basic gist of what anarchism can be about, if nothing else.

 

Case Study: V

Alan Moore. The name alone should conjure something for you. The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, The Killing Joke, Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow?, Swamp Thing and of course Watchmen.

Whatever you’re familiar with you’re probably also familiar with his graphic novel V for Vendetta. We’re going to put the movie adaptation to the side (I’m sure Moore would approve) and focus mainly on Moore’s original work.

So first let’s try to figure out exactly how anarchist V is as we piece together who V was conceptually and how he turned out.

For the first part we’re going to have to look at an article that first appeared in Warrior #17 (which was a British comic anthology) written by Alan Moore called Behind the Painted Smile in 1983.

Believe it or not, V for Vendetta started out as a sort of mystery strip, then into something more based on a thirties pulp strip and finally went back to an earlier idea that Alan Moore had had.

The character was originally named “The Doll” who was fighting against a totalitarian system and given Moore and David Lloyd’s shared political pessimism it worked as a base outline. Eventually Moore came up with the name “Vendetta”, shorthanded it to “V” and tried to find ways to get anything he could find associated with it. Finally, a man named Dez Skinn and his partner at Graham Studios had come up with the perfect name: V for Vendetta. From there the ideas started flooding through. Moore came up with V being a psychologically damaged escapee from a government concentration camp and Lloyd coming up with an idea for making him a resurrected Guy Fawkes (who will get to later) type character.

The rest, as they say, is propaganda, or history, whichever.

From early on both Moore and Lloyd had political pessimism on their mind and that’s very important to the story. It helps set the stage for the larger tale and its background: England has been taken over by a fascist party called Norsefire via a global nuclear war in the late 1980s. Norsefire have been doing some “population control” through exterminating “undesirables” like blacks, gays and so on.

I want to first underscore the importance of V for Vendetta. Because it’s not just some ravings of an anarchist or an anti-system so-called “loony”; it’s a serious critique not only of fascism but abuse of political power in general and an important cry for freedom. It not only speaks to our basic conceptions of what we regard as necessary parts of being free like having our privacy, not being subject to abuse, being able to speak our minds with reasonable certainty we wouldn’t be oppressed for doing so and so on. But none of these things exist in the world of V for Vendetta. Instead you have cameras everywhere, widespread police abuse, the media controlled by the government and freedoms infringed every day.

Now why does that sound familiar?

And that’s the other reason why this work is such a masterpiece. Like 1984 or other political dystopian works it has a sense of predictive power when it comes to telling us what has actually happened within society. A lot of our technology is not safe. We have phones by Google, computers that can be hacked, wires that can be tapped, conversations that can be listened on and we can be assassinated via the president…but only theoretically, of course. Plenty of the things that makes England an undesirable place to be, in V for Vendetta, are some of the same things that make today’s political order an undesirable place to be around. While I am in no way saying that it’s equivalent I am suggesting similarities and certain tones and actions that seem familiar. Especially when you think about the way modern society functions in many places (let’s just say the US and the UK for our present purposes) and the way the “future” is presented in V for Vendetta.

Past that, the writing is brilliant, the artwork holds up remarkably well considering it was started in 1982 and ended in ’89. Speaking of how old it is, if it wasn’t obvious I’ll be spoiling the plot here and there. Especially considering that it’s over twenty years old, you’ve most likely either read the book or seen the movie or you vaguely know the plot either way.

The gist of the story is that a “terrorist” named V has elected to take on Norsefire and convince the people of England via his violent struggle that they should rule themselves. Alan Moore being the anarchist he is doesn’t pull many punches when it comes to saying that V considers himself an anarchist and that his mission is an anarchist world free from the likes of Norsefire. So the question here isn’t whether V has anarchist intentions or considers himself one but whether he’s any good at said intentions through his means and his vision of what comes next.

V’s mission is for England to reach “The Land of Do-As-You-Please” which he believes is an anarchistic society, a society based on voluntary order (p. 195). Anarchism for V is a society in which people have become their own boss and taken control of their own lives (p. 114, p. 245). V also makes sure to keep it clear that there are distinctions between anarchism and chaos. That anarchy means no leaders and not a fundamental lack of rules. He also points out that the riots and chaos that happens towards the end of the book is not anarchism but chaos. But for V this is purposeful chaos. This chaos gives the people a voice and it is all the more powerful to him because of the silence that preceded it under the iron fist of Norsefire. He believes that the chaos will make Norsefire remember just how loud and powerful the voice of the people can really be. And from this chaos a much more organized and voluntary society will be formed. Anarchism will be a society that loves the sweet music of peace and cooperation and be able to do away with “our destroyers” and explosives that give rise to anarchy.

But how did we get to the chaos to begin with?

V’s story starts off saving a young woman named Evee from being raped by what are called “fingermen” and kills them. He then proceeds finish the work of Guy Fawkes and blows up the House of Parliament.

Guy Fawkes, for those who don’t know, was a member of the provincial English Catholics who planned and failed to blow up the house of parliament in 1605. He wasn’t doing this for some sort of anarchist reason, by the way. He was doing it to do a little thing called restoring the Catholic monarchy. To me, the glorification of Fawkes to me seems similar to the sort of praise John Wilkes Booth gets.

Even though V was successful because the explosion happened during the night, no one was killed.

From there, V takes Evee to his hideout and tells her a little about his place, and from there he proceeds to keep killing others in Norsefire. Like in 1984 we have things like “ministry of X” but instead of that exact title for the different divisions within Norsefire they are named after body parts. So one is called The Eye (for surveillance), another The Nose (for detectives) and the Ear (for auditory wiretapping) and so on. Of particular interest is David Finch who leads the nose. Right from the get-go the reader may notice something peculiar about Finch: that he doesn’t suck up to the leader of Norsefire, Adam Susan. Susan, on the other hand is in love with his computer, Fate…literally. And throughout the novel his mental state degrades further and further down while V’s path of destruction continues and only keeps getting bigger. Susan pulls out all of the stops of course, he tries to corner V through his fingermen, he tries to send Finch after him (which eventually backfires in some pretty interesting ways) and he tries to overpower V with a showing of brute force but none of this works. V outsmarts him, overpowers him or uses Evee in some way to get past Norsefire’s defenses.

Speaking of Evee, she’s a rather important and controversial figure within V for Vendetta not for necessarily anything that she does but what V does in relation to her. In one of the most famous and probably most discussed part of V for Vendetta (whether it’s the film or the graphic novel) is the torture scene with Evee. V tricks Evee into thinking that she’s been captured and manages to have all of her hair cut, waterboards her and make her survive on very little food. He does this until he builds up her resolve to the point that she refuses to give up what she knows about V and instead says she’ll elect to die. At this point she’s released from the “torture facility” and it’s all revealed to be a sham. V has been behind the torture the whole time.

One thing that wasn’t a sham however, was a note that Evee read by a woman named Valerie. In the note, Valerie tells of her life, how she got to the torture facility that she presumes Evee is now in and that she loves her. She says that she grew up in Nottingham and became attracted to girls early in her school years, her parents were aghast, particularly her mother.

Valerie grew up wanting to be an actress and eventually became one. Starting small and then getting into bigger roles as time went on. This is where she met Ruth and she lived with her for three years among many roses before the war began in 1988. But once the war began there were no more roses for anyone. Ruth was eventually taken away while looking out for food and was tortured into giving up Valerie’s name and saying that she had been seduced. She killed herself soon after. Valerie says Ruth killed herself because she gave up that “last inch” that keeps us still intact and gives us something to fight back against. Valerie concludes her letter saying that she doesn’t know who the person is who is reading her note but that she still wishes she could kiss them.

This is really one of the most powerful moments of V for Vedetta for me. It’s hard (at least for me) not to tear up at Valerie’s words and the images that go along with it. The indescribable feelings of loss and torment knowing that the person you love is gone and that you know that you’re next. The feelings of being absolutely alone and being powerless the knowledge that this is all in the past and that there’s nothing Evee can do for Valerie now. It’s then easy to see for me why V would use this to motivate Evee. So she won’t give up that last inch like Ruth did or lose it like Valerie did when she died. Instead she’ll keep fighting no matter what the conditions are and will continue to fight against the fascist system that V is also fighting against. V does this for sympathy, he does it for empathy and understanding, so Evee can understand what V himself probably went through to some extent or another. But more importantly to what Valerie went through so Evee can now not only fight for herself and for V but for people like Valerie as well. People who have already been lost to Norsefire, who have been kidnapped or killed or tortured or any number of things. For the people that have given up or let Norsefire take away that last inch of themselves. V wants Evee to do better than that.

There’s lots of ways you could take this method of getting Evee on V’s side but overall I don’t believe that it was moral, necessary or very anarchistic of V.

First off does V need to torture Evee to understand his point of view? Is it necessary? Was there no other way he could get her to understand? I could understand his point of view just from reading the letter. I personally didn’t need any torture to understand what V was saying. But then perhaps I’m a bit privileged in that I’m the reader and Evee is just a participant. Still, the torture scene is probably the biggest blight against V being an anarchist or at least a good one.

Granted, he doesn’t kill many innocent people. He kills mostly fingermen who are trying to either kill him or others who, while they aren’t actively trying to kill him are employed in the business rather explicitly (though I’ll be careful to note here that that doesn’t mean it’s necessarily okay to do much less advisable but it’s at least more arguable). When he blows up the various buildings in London there’s only one incident where anyone dies and it appears to be implied that the person who was in there wasn’t an intentional target of V. Though, on the other hand, this shows the perils of engaging in widespread violence against a system: innocents may get hurt.

And Evee is nothing but if not an innocent. Someone who didn’t deserve nor, I think, need the torture that V gave to her. Of course, V seems to think so, but why? V reasons afterwards that he did it because he loves Evee, he wants her to be set free, he was willing to do whatever it took to get her to understand his point of view, that being free and understanding freedom is much more important than being happy and so on.

But let’s backup and question an implicit assumption in all of this: is V really a good guy to begin with? After all, being the protagonist and being a good person aren’t synonymous.

The torture of Evee isn’t the only reason to question it. Alan Moore has made the point that he tried to make the novel morally ambiguous and not just black and white. He could have said here are the Nazi bad guys and here’s the anarchist good guy but it doesn’t look like he did that. Given that I’m not so sure V is really a good guy or meant to be even viewed as such to a certain extent.

He certainly has his charms, he has wit, he is skilled with various sorts of combat and stealth and he seems to care a great deal about the concept of freedom and for other people. But on the other hand he uses emotional blackmail and psychological torture to convince Evee to join him. He still kills plenty of people and via the chaos of the riots leads to at least the death of a little girl who tries to emulate the rebellion she sees going on her.

Does V take responsibility for this as well as the chaos? We never get an answer.

V also psychologically tortures Susan by taking control of Fate and emotionally manipulates Susan into madness. Now, I’m not shedding any tears for Susan here. I don’t think he’s a good guy, that’s for sure. But I do want to show that V is pretty much willing to do anything that it takes to get to where he wants to go. Does this make him good or bad based on that alone? It’s not easy to tell but given his actions throughout the book it’s certainly not an easily arguable case that V is just the good guy and that’s it.

There’s another thing worth considering that I don’t think I’ve ever really see anyone tackle: V has the ability to spy on the whole mass of England (p. 220). When he takes over Fate it’s worth noting that Fate has control over the surveillance in England and Evee exclaims that V can see all of England with his TVs. V responds that he can only get the “riot soap opera” and “bad disaster films” but on page 228 we can clearly see V watching (at least for a moment) while a few party members are in bed.

In the next panel he turns it off but both the possibility and the capabilities have been shown off and clearly V has used and is using them to spy on people. If it wasn’t okay for Bruce Wayne in The Dark Knight to do this and be called a fascist for it then why can V get away with it?

Now, part of me can’t blame him because it’d probably be necessary on some level to know how to counteract Norsefire on some larger systematic scale. But another part of me still seems struck by how willing V is to go against his own principles just so he can make the world a better place, or at least the place he perceives as being better.

In terms of V’s means he considers “The Land of Take-As-You-Wilt” to be the intermediary of the society in which V for Vendetta starts until we’re eventually to “The Land of Do-As-You-Please”. But is this an anarchist point of view? As far as I know most of us wouldn’t be comfortable with causing a whole bunch of chaos tomorrow just for the vague possibility that somehow anarchism would come from it. Granted, it’s not like V doesn’t do some education via taking over the broadcasting of Norsefire. He does two speeches to the public to educate them a little bit about who he is and what he wants out of them. But he mostly speaks (as he typically does) in riddles and contrived language and I’m unsure how effective that really is for the general public. Past that it’s not like V really communicates to the people on the streets but then again it’d be impractical to try, most likely. And he’s not exactly a public figure except when he either makes a speech or blows stuff up. And I personally don’t find all of this a good enough basis for some sort of anarchist revolution.

But then his tactics alone don’t disqualify him from being an anarchist, perhaps.

Again, most of the things he blows up harm no one, almost all of the people he kills are either immediate threats to him or to others and even when they are not they’re surely systematic threats to people on a nearly constant basis. Now, again, that doesn’t mean it’s a good tactic or it’s morally legitimate, but it’s certainly a whole lot less problematic in moral terms than just killing random people or killing the postman because their tangentially related to the state.

In general though I don’t think V really understands anarchist tactics or how an anarchist would go about creating a better world. For someone who claims anarchism isn’t equivalent to chaos I think he does a pretty poor job proving that it’s not. And he only makes the “faces of anarchism” clear to Evee, explaining that they are both destroyer and creator. He rightly points out the creator is more important which he puts into terms of “sweet music” but still suggests we should celebrate the bombers, the bastards and the people who are “unlovely and unforgivable” (p. 222). V seems to relish in destruction and chaos at one point saying that “the chaos progresses splendidly” (p. 217) and seems to think it’s the best way to get to anarchism.

But perhaps it’s just hard to understand V’s point of view here because although we certainly do not live in good conditions under the present government they’re not exactly committing genocides, rounding up gays and blacks, etc. Perhaps V’s response is valuable in some way or another if the scenario that plays out in Moore’s novel actually happened (or something like it). But even in this case I’m still unsure.

More broadly speaking I think the topic of violence and so on is a thorny issue and of course just talking about it a risky thing. So this is a topic that should be handled with care but that doesn’t mean the discussion shouldn’t be had at all. The issue of violence and anarchism is a complex one and one that’s necessary to hash out and sometimes that means out in the open air. It should be done carefully mind you, so as not to give anyone in the ruling class any excuses, but I still think it should be done when and where people feel comfortable. But when it comes down to it I don’t think most of us here want a violent revolution. I know that I don’t at least. I’d prefer society to gradually change towards more and more freedom via radical measures including direct action, building alternative institutions and more.

But violence isn’t really in my repertoire in those radical means. It’s not something I’m very much interested in and despite the lovely visuals Lloyd and Moore have given us in V for Vendetta I’m still not really impressed or satisfied, much less convinced, that violence is the answer to the present social order. Now, granted, I don’t really know that either Moore or Lloyd are convinced of these things either. I remember reading in an interview that Moore isn’t fond of the killing that V has to do in order to achieve his goals (though strangely he thinks the torture is a more complex matter that he aligns more sympathy with) so clearly Moore himself isn’t that interested in violence to one extent or another. And while I can’t really speak for Lloyd I’d suspect a similar position from him.

Now, perhaps we could argue that violence in response to the ultra-violence prone fascist led society was V’s only reasonable choice. Is that possible? Perhaps. I’m not a pacifist and I think self-defense is a perfectly fine thing and I also think owning things for protection is perfectly fine too. But of course V wasn’t just getting himself involved in self-defense. Plenty of his actions were initiatory and aggressive towards known government agents. But even if V’s response was rational that doesn’t mean the way he went about it was possible. After all, the story is fictional…mostly. And being fictional and being the huge epic story it is, there’s bound to be plenty of holes in the plot (like how did V get such unrestricted access to the subway tunnels for so long?). And those plot holes and the fact that it’s fiction makes for a somewhat unrealistic expectation that we’re all just going to pull a V on the oppressors of society while waxing Shakespeare.

But even so I think, just like with our other case studies that V is good intentioned and can be a great source of empowerment and if nothing else wonderful discussions about anarchism, power and politics. I don’t really think V is a very good anarchist all things considered and honestly making him so associated with chaos, violence and destruction probably does more damage than good in my opinion. But V is still a fascinating and complex character that while perhaps some sort of anarchist (he seems to be pretty vague about his goals and what they may look like) is, as I said, still not a very good one. I say that because of his tactics, his association with chaos and violence and because of his general lack of understanding of anarchist praxis.

But that doesn’t mean he’s not worth reading about. Indeed, I think V for Vendetta is required for any comic book fan, let alone an anarchist comic book fan. Which means that my recommendation goes double for the anarchist comic book nerds in the room.

 

Conclusion:

There was something interesting I noticed about all of the case studies I looked at and with V I think his wit and his manner of perceiving the world is one of the most interesting things. I think his amount of smarts and the way he deals with right and wrong are fascinating to take a look at.

I think V is, at best some sort of hypocritical anarchist who doesn’t really understand the means of anarchism even if he understands some of the goals of anarchism. I don’t think he has much of the spirit or passion either because most of that is tied up with revenge and not liberation. I’m not saying these two things are always mutually exclusive but V for Vendetta is named such because the main point of V’s mission isn’t just personal and collective liberation for all of England. It’s also a vendetta he has against the ruling class for personal wrongs they’ve committed against him in particular.

The ways he deals with Evey and trying to get more people involved in the movement, namely psychological, mental, emotional and even physical manipulation is to be looked down on as far as I am concerned. So are his ideas of the means. But the words V uses and the wit he uses to formulate his plans, to plan a few steps against Norsefire are important elements of being an anarchist (again, not really saying anything about his means here which I largely disagree with). Because if we’re going to liberate society and ourselves we’re going to need to have our heads in the game and we’re going to have to be able to plan and be a few steps ahead of the obstacles in our way.

More broadly speaking in terms of comics and anarchism we shouldn’t be afraid to look into other mediums for either creating or finding better ideas about how to configure a better society. And when it comes to television, movies and music, anarchists certainly have taken their fill of people, ideas and so on. But when it comes to comic books I say we have a lot more work to do. Not only is it discouraging to just even try to look up a basic Google search for the key terms comic books and anarchism but the fact that I think I could probably only write a handful of these essays, each featuring three case studies is the most discouraging of all.

Perhaps even more discouraging than that is the lack of work done on analyzing these comic books and the characters that inhabit them as well as placing them within anarchist lens and seeing what we can get from them. Maybe it’s not even something useful for you and perhaps everything I’ve said so far is garbage as far as you are concerned. And if so then that’s fine. But I’d rather have us find that out and try than just ignore things like comic books.

To anarchists credit we’re always still building and comic books is one of the major mainstream forms of entertainment that still feels underground in some ways. It’s like the progressive rock band Coheed and Cambria. They’re a massively successful band and have had even a few radio hits here and there but their following is still pretty cult like…in a good way. You could say the same thing about Rush. Sure, everyone knows Rush (well “everyone”) for Tom Sawyer but do people know any of their albums or their other songs (besides the radio hits)?

Comic books despite being mostly inhabited by nerdy white kids who start plugging their ears and stamping their feet at the word “sexism” are still a somewhat underground and cultish kind of activity. They’re very resistant to change and also very nostalgic (two things, in my opinion that is killing the comic book industry’s standard of what makes a good comic) and they can also be very conservative. Indeed, some of the landmark texts of the comic book industry Watchmen and The Dark Knight Returns can be read (in some parts if not overall) as a fairly conservative piece or involving conservatism in some of its parts fairly obviously. Now given Watchmen is written by Moore, I’m not trying to accuse him of doing that for some personal ideological reason. But it’s still worth noting either way.

I think things like this only means anarchism has its work cut out for itself. And if we want to change industries, impact markets and get people to have their views challenged and eventually changed for the better then we’re going to need to get some starting material. We’re going to need a good foundation of where to come at them from. If they want to see anarchism in action where are they going to look? What should they read? What authors should they pay attention to? What if there isn’t any more anarchist materials at all in the next five years and what if comic books are barren and need some form of radicalism in one way another? What then?

Well then I say is the perfect time (as I think it is now) for us to take a much closer look at comics, recognize the art form behind it and try to change it for the better. If you’re not seeing the next great anarchist or anarchist themed comic then go make one.

In terms of what lies ahead for future installments I can think of some who I’d still like to analyze or analyze within an anarchist context.

For example I can think of Mr. Nobody from Doom Patrol, a situationist inspired villain turned sort of anti-hero from what I understand. I can also think of radical elements in comics like Animal Man, which I’ve been told at one point references ALF (the Animal Liberation Front) and promotes things like veganism and so on.

There’s also a character in Neil Gaiman’s Sandman who disavows his position of authority and that could be interesting to analyze too. I think all of these things and more could be analyzed within anarchist contexts. And if you’ve read Anarchist Studies: October 1997, which you can find at the library here you’ll know that some of these already have been analyzed!

So I don’t think this’ll be the only presentation I’ll do about anarchism, anti-authoritarianism or radicalism more generally in comic books.

Hopefully this is just the start of something beautiful.