This is Life Right Now?

I can’t fully explain how the next 8 years will play out (yes, I said eight). I can barely get a full grasp how it will feel when January 20th rolls around. The only thing that I can compare all of this to are things I’ve seen in fictional universes.

Maybe its because things don’t feel quite right. Maybe things feel out of place or a tad bit disjointed because this can’t be right life right now, can it? Donald Trump is going to be president. I was kinda hoping we would get some sort of time traveler trying to stop this shit. Unless you consider the alternative that they actually did because Hilary won… but what does that even mean? (answer: ssǝןpɹɐbǝɹ pǝʞɔnɟ ǝɹɐ ǝʍ)

So, yes, this is real life and I can only compare it to a few things.

G.I. Joe: Worlds Without End (1985)

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On November 4th and 5th of 1985 these two episodes aired that depicted a few members of G.I. Joe traveling into an alternate universe (via transmutation device). They soon discovered that Cobra won and took over The United States (and the world). What followed was the discovery that everything had changed. The currency was different. The White House was made of gold. The Lincoln Memorial is now Cobra Commander Memorial (although he’s not dead).

This was a nightmare world where democracy died, where a lunatic and his cronies have taken over everything. Jobs don’t exist because it was replaced by slavery. I’ve always wondered how possible would it be for something like this to happen. How could a egotistical person like Cobra Commander win? How does that start? Hm.

Justice League: The Savage Time (2002)

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This story aired on November 9th of 2002 and its a time travel tale that involves WWII and Nazi Germany. The premise is more of, “what if the Nazis won?”  So how did this happen? Well, Vandal Savage managed to change the time stream. Green Lantern protected most of the Justice League from the temporal force that was unleashed (because they were in space doing what they do). When the JL returned to Earth they discovered that a tyrant had taken over everything.

Since most of the story revolved around going back in time to fix shit, the brief present was nothing short of an Orwellian depiction of how a government can be run by a tyrant. The only bright spot was Batman still existed but in “the resistance leader” sense. This is where I begin to think about how Nazis can run a modern day country. It doesn’t seem so far fetched now.

Star Wars (All of them)

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There are many things that fascinate me about Star Wars that go beyond Jedi, the religious undertones, the father/son dynamic, and the spaceships. At the end of the day, the majority of the story is about the rise of evil and xenophobia. Chancellor Palpatine, despite being a Senator, was considered an outsider of sorts when it came to the political realm of the Republic Senate. He was voted in because the people wanted change and he thus plunged the galaxy into war that lead to him ruling it with an iron fist. Aliens, in particular, were forced to the edge of a galaxy that was ultimately run by old white men.

I think the most fascinating thing is that Palpatine was a liar and the Jedi knew it. He played everyone with lies and when he was attacked he was able to play up a non existent weakness. At the end of the day, he turned a Republic into a an Empire. At one point I couldn’t even imagine what life would be like as a citizen of this galaxy until I read a great book called Bloodline by Claudia Gray which explains the birth of the First Order from the ashes of the Empire.

All it takes is a populist candidate with a group of politicians who want to turn government on it’s head.

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But you know what? This is all fiction right? This shit could never happen on a smaller scale. This could never happen to us. Right.

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Order, Chaos, and Super Heroes

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The funny thing about nerds is that we tend to argue about the finer points of comic book logic that really has nothing to do with reality. This includes, but not limited to, things like the exact science of time travel or feminism in comic books. In the end, you would be surprised to see how many dudes actually believe that time travel is possible before believing that a female superhero can be legitimized. However, the point of order and chaos in the super hero genre is something that is highly debated.

Before we begin there are a few prerequisites that need to be met so you can understand why I’m taking you down this road (otherwise you’ll have to take my word for it) You need to be familiar with Justice League Unlimited, more importantly, the episode “Clash” which features a huge battle between Superman & Shazam. You will also need to have read Kingdom Come by Mark Waid and Alex Ross to understand the connection. Finally you should’ve seen the movies, Man of Steel and Captain America: Winter Soldier.

Let’s Begin.

There were two superheroes that I didn’t care for as a child: Superman & Captain America. As a young dark-skinned Latino, I found it hard to really connect with any of these larger than life white men. I lived in the Bronx and the ideals of Truth, Justice, & the American Way was something that didn’t resonate with me. However, I understood that both characters represented a set of ideals and no matter how corny I may have found it, these ideals defined the type of heroes they are. They’re both boy scouts created during a time when people needed something to believe in.

The comic book industry has changed over the last 25 years with superheroes being more present in our daily lives with movies and animation. Over that time, we have seen the evolution of how superheroes are written and marketed. Batman became darker and more violent which seemingly led DC Comics to go down that road because it makes more money. But how would this effect Superman?

In 1996, Kingdom Come addresses this issue. What if the line between order and chaos were blurred where people can’t tell the difference between hero and villain? It was Superman that lead the charge back to order. His “antiquated” ideals saves the world from its inevitable end because its all about finding another way to save innocent lives. It is this very idea that many people argue over when it comes to the Man of Steel. Do we want an updated version of an iconic hero that has been in our psyche for decades that blurs this line?

3727914-3353225879-CAPTAIn 2005, Justice League Unlimited was a wildly popular animated series on the Cartoon Network. It’s 30 minute episodes set the standard for current DC Animation. During that season, the viewers were witnessing a massive story arc where Lex Luthor (of course) was pulling all the strings. In the episode called, Clash (written by the late Dwayne Mcduffie) we see Shazam join the Justice League with much joy and adulation. He is touted as a boy scout much to Superman’s chagrin.

“I thought I was the boy scout” is the perfect line in this episode and when I re-watch it now, I realize that the changing of Superman began more than 10 years ago. While I try to stray away from interpreting someone else’s work, I really believe that McDuffie saw the writing on the wall and wrote a story where Superman was no longer the symbol of truth and justice. I would like to think that he had the question in his head, what if Superman’s line was blurred? Thus the fight between the two ensued that in the end it was Shazam quitting the JLU stating… “You don’t act like heroes anymore.”

Fast Forward to the age of the New DC 52 (which is soon ending) and the movie, The Man of Steel. We can talk all day about the science of this movie. We can debate on the massive amounts of damage during the battle of Superman & Zod. In my opinion, the ending is not debatable. Have we evolved Superman to the point where he no longer represents those ideals of the past? No matter your answer, we’re in a time where Superman had no choice but to kill.

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Then I think about Captain America, the last boy scout. He still represents what America should be and not what it is currently. This is something that I failed to see as a child. In Captain America: Winter Soldier there was point in which Steve Rogers had to choose what he wanted to do with his friend, fight to the death or leave his fate up to Bucky? Either way, he was with him to the end of the line. His faith in his friend and his ultimate ideals was the reason he survived that battle. He found another way.

So where does that leave us? Is it Batman that has the better set of ideals leading into Batman V Superman? Are we willing to subscribe to the thought that there’s a blurred line between order and chaos or should we adhere to the notions that a hero is more than just the sum of abilities, but rather the ideals the character upholds?

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