“I used to be embarrassed because I was just a comic-book writer while other people were building bridges or going on to medical careers. And then I began to realize that entertainment is one of the most important things in people’s lives. Without it, they might go off the deep end. I feel that if you’re able to entertain people, you’re doing a good thing.”
In the wake of his recent passing, this quote from comic-book maven, Stan Lee, reinforces the often-unnoticed value of the nature of his work. Yes, part of the charm of comic books and films is the surface novelty that accompanies the extraordinary world of superheroes and the like.
But Stan Lee and other pioneers in the field worked to ensure that the heroes in books and films addressed deeper and more relevant issues that audiences could connect.
For many years and the multitudes of different characters created, Lee and other comic writers have crafted storylines that touched on an array of tender subjects and issues.
A popular example is how the “X-Men” comics have tackled ideas of racism and xenophobia in many of its issues and films.
Throughout the multiple universes of the Spiderman narrative, many of the characters combat relatable issues such as poverty, loss of loved ones and substance abuse.
Specifically, issues of “The Amazing Spiderman” showed characters’ battles with drug use.
Stan Lee and other writers for Marvel Comics fought against the approved content for comic books at the time and ran the issue despite drug content being against code. They did so because they felt that it was a topic of social relevance that needed to be shared.
Marvel Comics also tailored series specifically to pertinent issues. “The ‘Nam,” a limited series produced by Marvel in the late 1980s, portrayed stories placed amid the Vietnam War, all told from the perspective of active soldiers. The trepidation of war was also a topic that they touched upon with their character “The Punisher.”
Characters such as Hawkeye have started discussions on normalizing disabilities, and their lms have touched on issues like alcoholism, incarceration and grief.
Though rivals to Lee’s Marvel Comics, DC Comics has also used their media
to help bring light to important societal problems. In many issues, even Superman, the epitome of strength, deals with issues of isolation, as he is the last of his race.
Wonder Woman Diana Prince’s storylines, speci cally after being relaunched, struggled with issues such as domestic abuse, race and sexual discrimination.
Many of DC’s issues of Batman delved into more serious topics, speci cally using the caped crusader to ght against inequality.
DC Comics has also printed storylines involving corrupt politicians, the Ku Klux Klan and physical assault. Issue 22 of “The Suicide Squad” offered up an entire storyline revolving around a ctional government issue that heavily resembled the Iran-Contra scandal.
Akin to the speci c series produced by
Marvel, DC Comics created books that targeted historical social events.
A perfect example is their “Ex Machina” series. The set of 50 issues and four special editions brought to light the state of countries in the aftermath of national tragedies. “Ex Machina’s” main storyline follows the only superhero left in the wake of 9/11.
Overall, comics provide ostensible, enjoyable entertainments, but there
are heavier subject matters being addressed, for which they deserve further recognition. There is hardly a social or political issue that has not been addressed in comic books, film or similar media.
Stan Lee and other writers from Marvel and DC comics have worked to craft characters, storylines and universes with which readers and audience members can relate on a deeper level.
These works are often dismissed as juvenile or superficial. However, this should not be the case.
The aforementioned subject matters are just a few examples of the exorbitant number of impactful topics touched on in comic books and works alike. They are an important form of publication that resonates with several audiences.