Comics Are Trying to Break Your Heart #111: Under the Radar

Comics Are Trying to Break Your Heart #111 by Drew Barth

Under the Radar

If we think back to comics during and after World War II an interesting trend emerges. We had the Golden Age of comics and all of the heroes and horror stories that brought—which then led to the adoption of Comics Code bullshit. Violence and death were now outlawed as egregiously un-America in comics. Unless, of course, we’re talking about war comics. The glories and goriness of war abounded in war comics at the time, but a few creators found the ideas of those war comics repugnant. And this is where a book like The Unknown Anti-War Comics comes into play.

Edited by Craig Yoe, The Unknown Anti-War Comics compiles many works published by Charlatan Comics that expressed anti-war sentiments. Featuring creators like Steve Ditko, Joe Gill, Denny O’Neil, and Pat Boyette, this collection showcases some of the strongest work from these creators—especially the O’Neil and Boyette story “Children of Doom” at the end of the book. Many of the stories here were included in various Gill-penned anthologies for Charlatan like Never Again, Strange Suspense Stories, and Space Adventures, anti-war narratives that these creators were able to publish under the guise of simple sci-fi fantasies.

Many of these stories still resonate as true today. In the story “Come In, Earth—Please,” Gill and artist Charles Nicholas show us two astronauts coming out of cryogenic sleep after leaving Earth behind to explore new planets a hundred years ago. They are dismayed that they have yet to receive any communication from their fellows on Earth and, in a Twilight Zone-esque twist, discover that nuclear war has destroyed Earth and they may be the last humans left in the galaxy. In the thematically similar stories “No Common Ground” and “Journey’s End,” we see aliens who have fled their home worlds for Earth in search of life free from the violence of their original homes. Met with distrust and the threat of a full-scale nuclear war, tensions wane as children from both sides play together and show their parents the folly of their violence.

Just as comics are apt in depicting violent conflict, comics are also especially apt in encapsulating the theme that war is our path to extinction. This collection reminds us that morality is a subject that comics can explore masterfully.

Get excited. Get rid of the bomb.

Drew Barth at Miami Book Fair in 2019.

Drew Barth (Episode 331) is a writer residing in Winter Park, FL. He received his MFA from the University of Central Florida. Right now, he’s worrying about his cat.

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