Issue #33 of 35   INDEX

Joel Grineau
by: Joel V. Grineau
Superheroes and Social Issues

Comic books regularly deal with social issues prevalent in North America. This is not surprising as comic books, as much as any other art form, are a reflection of the societies that produce them. For example, numerous comic books have dealt with the issue of drug abuse. Both Green Lantern (vol.2) and the Amazing Spider- Man in the early 1970's dared to tackle this issue without mutant books have been dealing with the question of racism for years.

In the 90's, comic booksdealt with the issue of AIDS. Issue #420 of The Incredible Hulk (1994), depicted the death of Jim Wilson, an old acquaintance of the Hulk's, from AIDS. This was an excellent story. At one point Jim Wilson is wounded by an assassin and Rick Jones starts thinking along the lines of ". . . I've got to stop the bleeding, wait - I'll be infected, I've been to the stars and back, and I'm afraid to touch him, his blood is tainted". (My description pales to the original dialogue and pictures done by Peter David, Gary Frank and Cam Smith; get ahold of the original, it's worth checking out).

The most notable and laudable aspect of these stories is that many of them are entrenched in comicdom. Despite the fact that super heroes are involved, the problems don't go away tomorrow, just like in our real world. For example, the Green Lantern story that depicted Speedy's drug addiction appeared almost 30 years ago. Today, beyond Crisis, after several teams of Teen Titans, the death of Green Arrow and Green Lantern, Speedy (aka Arsenal) still states that he has "a drug problem"'.

Similarly, Hour Man and his son, Hour Man II have been addicted to, or been in danger of being addicted to, Miraclo, the very drug that gives them their super powers. Iron Man has been a recovering alcoholic for decades. In the latest issues of The Avengers (vol.3), Iron Man has been unable to stop Warbird from sliding into alcoholism.

As in my last column, I find something ironic here. You'll recall that the comics code authority was created with the express purpose of protecting children from any adverse messages in comic books. Yet, many of these comic books are code approved. For example, a segment of contemporary society feels that AIDS is God's `Gay Plague', and yet issue #420 of the (code approved) Incredible Hulk, available at your local 7- 11, argues for compassion for AIDS afflicted persons.

Joel Grineau is a former Writer/Contributing Editor for "Chaos" Magazine. "Iron Man" 146 (purchased in the spring of 1981) was his first comic book, and time has not worn down his enjoyment of them. Joel holds a BA from the University of Guelph and an MA from the University of Saskatchewan. He is currently an officer with the Canadian Forces.

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Text © Joel V. Grineau, 1997,1998.
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