Like a lot of you, I’m still pretty well numb with shock over what the hell happened last Tuesday night — and if you’re not, read no further, since what I’ve got to say will just piss you off. Will we survive this mess? Do we even deserve to, if our country is this fucking stupid? Both are questions none of us can answer right now — but when I ride the train to and from work, and see the abject terror on the faces of my fellow Minneapolitans who happen to be Hispanic or Muslim, I know this country has taken a turn for the darker, and it’s going to be up to those of us with a conscience to make sure that our friends, neighbors, and family members all feel both welcome and safe in this new, reactionary America. The angry white males are back in the driver’s seat — hopefully for the last time, given their shrinking numbers — and the threat to everyone who doesn’t fit into that narrow demographic is downright palpable. For my part, I refuse to get on board and quietly accept this repugnant new anti-intellectual, nativist, xenophobic vision of our country, and fortunately for those who are of a like mind, there’s plenty we can do in order to make our voices heard by lawful means, including — buying comic books?
Yup, while cartoonists from R. Crumb to Garry Trudeau have skewered our president-elect (I still throw up in my mouth a little bit every time I have to say or type that) quite righteously over the years, there are plenty of funnybooks on the stands right now that, while not taking Trump on explicitly or specifically, vigorously repudiate the man and everything he stands for, so here’s a sampling of five current titles (note this is NOT intended as a “top five” list, as these are all fine reads) to help remind you that there is another, better US of A hidden within the one we currently see playing itself out before our eyes (and, crucially, it’s a LARGER one, given that the orange-hued blob of flatulent fascism actually LOST the popular vote) and that one day — hopefully very soon — the values of optimism, inclusion, tolerance, and (not to be too grandiose) love will win out over the petty fears and prejudices of a dwindling and ill-informed political minority.
5. Bitch Planet (Image) – Let’s not kid ourselves: Our soon-to-be president is an unrepentant sexist and misogynist of the lowest, most reprehensible sort, and his Supreme Court nominees are certain to do major damage to women’s rights. So thank the goddess that we’ve got the most stridently feminist comic series of all time going right now courtesy of Kelly Sue DeConnick and Valentine De Landro. This grindhouse-flavored book does women in prison with a sci-fi twist, and just as important as its all-inclusive cast (women of color, trans women, and even men play active roles in the proceedings) and politically-charged story is its superb backmatter, which is a gathering place for feminist thought and discussion every issue. I can only imagine the positive impact these (accurately) self-described “community pages” will have on an increasingly-marginalized-and-objectified female readership in the face of the forthcoming all-out assault on their very humanity courtesy of President “Grab ‘Em By The Pussy.” Bitch Planet was always challenging and enlightening reading — now it’s flat-out necessary reading.
4. Ms. Marvel (Marvel) – The best way to fight back against Islamophobic bigotry? Show that Muslim Americans are people just like anyone else, of course. G. Willow Wilson’s Ms. Marvel (currently illustrated by Takeshi Miyazawa) has been bridging divides since she first came on the scene in 2014, and now Kamala Khan has graduated to the level of a genuine pop-culture phenomenon. Is there a place for her in Trump’s less-than-brave new world? You bet there is, as long as as we keep supporting this fine series. Positive representation of our Islamic brothers and sisters is downright crucial now, and fortunately for us, it’s already happening in the pages of this book. One word of warning, though — Marvel head honcho Ike Perlmutter was a major Trump supporter and financier, so you may want to take that into consideration before deciding to put money in his pocket.
3. Shade, The Changing Girl (DC/Young Animal)– This might seem a surprising choice since it’s in no way a political comic, but so far Cecil Castellucci and Marley Zarcone’s series has been a terrific look into the mind of a true outsider — outsider as in, an other-dimensional alien in a teenage girl’s body. And if there’s one thing history’s taught us about would-be authoritarian strongmen, it’s that they’re quick to marginalize and endanger anyone they consider “the other” — racial, sexual, ethnic, and religious minorities are usually at the top of the list of targets, but anyone who acts or even thinks differently is bound to be labeled a “freak,” “weirdo,” “subversive,” or even “traitor” in fairly short order. Shit, it wasn’t that long ago that anyone and everyone opposed to the Bush/Cheney war agenda was called “unpatriotic” and even “unAmerican.” Multiply the nationalist zealotry and enforced conformity of those years by about a thousand and you’ll have some idea of how ugly it’s going to get for people opposed to Trump. “Safe spaces” for the culturally marginalized are going to be a real oasis in the years ahead — this comic definitely says “it’s okay to be different.”
2. Love And Rockets (Fantagraphics) – Gilbert and Jaime Hernandez, thank you from the bottom of my heart. Your series populated with punks, queers, and strong Latinas got us through the Reagan years in one piece, and now you’re back just in time to do the same through an even more reactionary period in our history. Everything about this comic just makes me think the world’s gonna be okay.
1.Renato Jones: The One % (Image) – One thing’s for sure : for all his phony-ass populist rhetoric, Trump’s a rich bastard, and he’s going to look out for himself and his pals first and foremost. If you thought the class war was hopelessly one-sided in favor of the wealthy before, wait until you see what the next few years bring. He’s already talking about lowering the top marginal income tax rates substantially, and slashing the corporate take rate from 35% to 15%. The so-called “1%” are going to feast on the rest of us under a Trump administration, but Kaare Kyle Andrews and his eponymous hero, Renato Jones, know what to do about these sons-of-bitches — take ’em out by any means necessary. When non-violent resistance simply doesn’t cut it for you anymore, this is your “go-to” comic. Renato’s already given one Trump stand-in a violent comeuppance, and right now is taking down another — while romancing a fictionalized Ivanka. Surreal, ultraviolent stuff, with a strong social conscience.
So there you have it — all may seem lost right now, and who knows? Maybe it is. But let’s not go down without a fight. And let’s not go down without our comics.