The GeeksverseKony 2012

Kony 2012
Published on Tuesday, March 13, 2012 by

Kony2012 is burning up social media, a group of advocates trying to raise awareness about child soldiers pressed into service in Uganda.  Questions have been raised about the financial records of the organization, but the goal of ending child soldier warfare seems noble.  Although, my position here on Comixverse is that this is a missed opportunity for G.I. Joe and other war books.Perhaps the main story of IDW’s G.I. Joe would be derailed if they inserted a politically resonant setting utilizing Kony or child soldiers. Although, an Elseworld style story, like Future Noir,could be a useful venue for dealing with the headlines in comics.  Similar to Seal Team 7s foray from newsreel into comics. Some stories need to be expressed in comics as well as news feeds.

Typically, I advocate for as much G.I. Joe as possible. I am on the “Bring Renegades to Comics” bandwagon. Besides my usual, give me more banter, examples of headlines reflecting comics are plentiful. Besides Seal Team 7’s appearance in Code Name: Geronimo overthrowing Bin Laden finally, Special Forces should jump to mind.

Will Rosado's G.I. Joe #12

Special Forces Pin Up

Special Forces is a 2007 comic, written and drawn by Kyle Baker, published by Image Comics.  The series followed the lives and deaths of misfit soldiers. It could be compared to G.I. Joe meets Island of MisFit toys, crazy characterizations but not flattering. Special Forces was ripped from 2006 headlines from the Iraq War. The first issue’s back cover includes snippets of CBS and ABC headlines about Army recruiters letting entrance rules lax.  Eisner Award winner Kyle Baker used comics to mix in political commentary with his action packed war comic.

Since war comics have lost their market appeal since Sgt. Rock or the early Nick Fury’s Howling Commando adventures, the genre needs a revitalization. IDW can grab some quick headlines utilizing G.I. Joe vs. Kony. The news feed inspired Elseworld tale could not only deliver a solid story but also grab its own headlines, giving the genre a shot in the arm. Marvel or DC could revive war comics and do the same, but not have a consistent follow up product after the headlines fade. IDW can revitalize and follow through. If IDW isn’t going to capitalize on the social 2011 social media push, then Kyle Baker and Image Comics should team up for more Special Forces.

Kony2012 may be surging interest across social media. However, it is noteworthy that Kony’s impressed child soldiers have been going on for over 25 years. This is not the first time television, music, and poetry has presented this story.

Special Force #2 Cover

Lupe Fiasco, poet, has a great poem “Little Weapon” set to music and featuring several different artists. If you are unfamiliar with the poem about child violence in general, then you should check it out.  I recommend hearing it performed. The song references young children being rewarded with soccer balls and burning down villages without being the size of the rifles or able to wear adult uniforms.

Television and Unicef combined in Long Way Down (2007). Long Way Down (2007) documented Ewan McGregor and Charlie Boorman traveling by motorcycle from the northernmost point of Scotland to the southernmost point of South Africa on motorcycle. The travel documentary educated about the countryside through which they travel.  In one episode, they leave the motorcycles behind and fly to northern Uganda to visit an Unicef project trying to rehabilitate Kony’s child soldiers.  McGregor and Boorman wanted to spread awareness.

Awareness is key.  Uganda has little to no economic or political value to the United States. The only way to make the United States take action is to hear the people speak. Since Facebook has a higher population than the United States, social media is a platform for engaging not only the United States but other governments. Let that sit in your conscious as it will.  This is a great time for opportunism to make new comics and potentially reach new audiences.

Future Noir #2 "Let's Find Out..."

4 Responses
    • Stupid Disqus ate my post (it was a long one, too). Too tired to re-type the whole thing now.

      My thoughts on the matter are that I’m wary of comic book writers’ ability to integrate real-world events and issues (particularly ones of a politico-military nature sure to evoke strong feelings among readers) in established superhero or “fantasy soldier” (i.e., G.I. Joe) comics in a way that doesn’t seem tawdry, exploitative, or just plain wrong-headed whilst still maintaining the strengths of the format. 

      With rare exceptions, comics from those two genres deal in moral absolutes and a worldview that considers “justified” violence as the first and best solution to most any problem: great set-ups for punch ‘em ups (and I love me a good action comic), but not exactly the best context to examine real-world issues with subtle moral shadings. Larry Hama was able to pull it off for a while during his vastly underrated mid- to late 1980s run on G.I. Joe: Special Missions and Ann Nocenti did an excellent job of it towards the end for her late 1980s/early 1990s run on Daredevil, but I think for the most part, thought-provoking and introspective stories that touch on real world politics and economics will be easier to come by in creator-owned comics with a satirical bent (such as Kyle Baker’s Special Forces or Garth Ennis’ The Boys), where there is less pressure on the creative team to sanitize content in the interest of licensing concerns.   

    • For the most part I don’t want real world issues in my comics.  Or at least I want them filtered through the fantasy lens.

      Batwing has dealt with the African child-soldier recently.  Batwing himself was a child-soldier.

      • I take it when you say “comics” you are referring to “superhero comics”? I’m largely the same way, with some exceptions (quasi-historical superhero comics with ties to a specific time period, for example).

        My thinking is, when it comes to tackling contemporary real-world political issues in a meaningful way, satirical comics and non-superhero comics are a much more suitable forum. I don’t know how, say, a Wolverine or Batman comic book could have addressed the realities of the Bosnian War like Hermann’s Sarajevo Tango or Joe Sacco’s Safe Area Goražde.

        I think the fantasy vigilantism and simplistic morality that are at the core of most superhero comics preclude any thoughtful examination of real-world political issues beyond “this is a thing and see, we know enough about it to mention it in our comic book”. Which is fine. I don’t watch HBO World Championship Boxing for its stirring political insight, either, you know what I mean?

        • I should have specified super hero comics.

          Even Batwing, which deals with child-soldiers somewhat, really didn’t approach the issues.  Where it talked about the superhero group, The Kingdom, fighting the warlords armies it convienantly forgot to mention the child-soldiers.  Which makes sense because how do you deal with super heroes fighting child-soldiers?

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