Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Comics and Atom Bombs

The world, not just the United States or Japan, changed when the two atomic bombs were dropped over Hiroshima and Nagasaki.  The war's end was simply one change, the world changed in many different ways than that sole end.

The world became aware of the bomb to end all wars.  This mighty power of destruction that previously was considered to be futurist and science fiction or fantasy, was for now in the hands of just one or two countries in the Allied powers.

The end of the war allowed the fashioning of a new world, with new alliances, and between the two most powerful allies, new enmity and distrust.  The acknowledgement that the system of war and recovery was changed was evident, in the fall out from the war.  The resort to big open wars would no longer work, as eventually both super powers and later the great powers would acquire nuclear weapons as well. 

This does present a change in plans for Ares, God of War.  When both parties making war have the ability to end it with a few dropped bombs on both civilian and military targets, the wars we fight are no longer clean and easy to sort out.  And this ignores even the fact that the world might well take sides, but, is it out of loyalty, or is it for the benefits that your umbrella of nuclear arms might provide?

The new world as found in the post nuclear era was considered by many in comic book form.  Whether the new, polluted world, as found in Nausicaa, or the urban anarchy and street gangs of Akira, Japanese talents considered the new world from a profoundly individual perspective.  Whereas other artists and writers might understand the horror of nuclear weapons, the Japanese had in fact suffered their use.  Rightly or wrongly, they suffered the use, as many still debate that issue.  Some people might consider the use of a nuclear background for stories to be wallowing in the moment and the suffering, but if it is done with care, I disagree.  It is a valid avenue of thought to consider a world with more destruction, and more fear, as a result of more bombs.

But the Cold War of the 1950s to late 1970s offered a powerful reminder to the world what could happen if both sides were to feel challenged enough to lose the war.  In those considerations many comic books were published showing a world shattered by unlimited use, and suggest that there is no winner should the world face such wars.

There was a wave, in the 1980s of comic books that showed the worlds found after the bombs, and considered what kind of forms of government might rise up after the destruction.  V For Vendetta by Alan Moore and David Lloyd suggested that in response to world catastrophe a fascist state would rise.  From that rise a response to the concentration of power within the hands of the state would give birth to anarchism and anti-government violence.  The book was solemn and dark, but was not without hope.  But nuclear war does present quite a challenge for survival.

In the present, while dystopia based stories exist, the gnawing fears of the Cold War offer fewer options.  Catastrophes still exist, but more now come from fears of environmental disasters, and the loss of control of the fabrics of society due to the internet and anti-state movements.  It seems hard for me, a 50 year old man, to imagine a world without a fear of nuclear war, but few people think of it now as the cause of the future disasters.  But it does still exist.

1 comment:

kurt wilcken said...

This reminded me of the initial storyline when George Perez revamped WONDER WOMAN back in the '80s.

The initial story, introducing Diana to Man's World, involved Ares bringing the world to the brink of nuclear war. At the climax, Wonder Woman defeated the God of War by using her magic lasso -- not to make him tell the truth, but rather to SEE the truth of what he was really trying to accomplish.

Triggering Nuclear Armageddon would not just be the Biggest War Ever, it would also be the End of War, because nobody would be left to fight anyone else. And that was too much bloodshed even for the War God.

Ares decided to put his plans on hold, but soberly warned Diana -- and us -- that he could change his mind at any time.