The cookie elves have asked the circus
freak to tell you to stay off drugs.
I think I'm speaking without exaggeration when I say that the ONLY reason anyone in my generation stayed off drugs, in school, away from cigarettes, well-fed and unmolested was thanks to the tireless efforts of the Teen Titans. Barred their intervention, I would have been left to the woefully inadequate admonitions of “Bad Dudes,” most likely ending up neither a winner nor bad enough to rescue President Ronnie.
Spider-Man is totally raising the fuck out
of your awareness about the dangers of bull-riding.
Thank you, trend towards major publishers issuing special edition Public Service Announcement comic books to little kids! You kept me out of prison and off the streets, off drugs and high on life! In fact, I don't even live above ground anymore, I have a sub-basement hovel filled to the ceiling with stacks of newpapers and jars of my own urine. I'd throw the stuff out, but Spider-Man once told me that bad men were trying to touch my swimsuit area, and I'm afraid to walk outside to the garbage can on the curb.
To fill you in on my self-indulgent rambling, DC and Marvel (among other publishers) have always been eager to lend their character to comics with charitable aims. The Teen Titans starred in a trio of anti-drug comics, Spider-Man (with Power Pack and - holy fifth-string characters! - Skids and Rusty from X-Factor) and the Hulk have both warned kids about assorted stranger danger, and Superman, Batman and the X-Men have all made their stand against famine in Africa (bravely opposing the intimidating pro-famine-in-Africa lobby). Even the Radio Shack Whiz Kids got in on the act, turning the tremendous processing power of the TRS-80 to the problem of inner-city drug use. I think they solved it, too, I should double-check that issue. I believe the resulting equation recommended hugs, rather than drugs...
"Hi there, nice to meet you, we're Power
Pa -- HOLY JESUS, KID!"
So now we're on the same page, and that page probably includes a pudgy white kid in a striped shirt crying while Spider-Man holds his shoulders and says “Tommy, you have to understand that it's not your fault!” I'm sure you got your hands on these yourself, somehow, either via a well-meaning adult authority figure who likes to say “I think these kids consider me to be pretty 'cool'” and make air quotes when he says it, OR you swiped a copy from the library and read 'em with your delinquent friends while you lit up.
Originally, this article was going to try and be a comprehensive overview of ALL the major PSA comics, but I ran into two problems. First off, if you think I'm going to make fun of a comic book about molested kids, you're nuts. What the hell kind of captions am I supposed to slap together for THAT? “Hey retard, did your daddy touch you? Haha, FAG!” If you're feeling so all-fired giddy, why don't you write up a couple hurtful paragraphs, blog it, and then sit back and watch the hate mail roll in. I get more than enough vitriol for just not liking Secret Wars II ...
For a South American anti-landmine comic,
Wonder Woman was re-costumed in a more
modest fashion. I'm amused by the idea that
kids couldn't learn about landmine safety if
they were otherwise confronted with Wonder
Woman's Amazon rack.
(Still, I would've loved to fit a “Touched by The Angel” joke in here somewhere. Ah well ...)
The second problem is that there are about a million of these things. I honestly thought there weren't more than half-a-dozen. As I hunted down copies after copies and documentation of these books, I began to wonder how so many kids could still be sniffing glue and starving in Africa. I mean, fuck, how many times do you have to be TOLD, junkies? The Living Legend of World War II is not used to repeating himself!
Even Storm and Luke Cage got to do one, although they take a back-seat to Spider-Man in their PSA comic about the dangers of smoking (Hell, they barely even got on the cover, first time around). Actually, looking at it a little more objectively, I believe the comic is less about smoking hazards and more about how Marvel doesn't have any prominent black characters who can stand on their own merits. Unlike DC, who has that guy who's the fourth or fifth most popular Green Lantern, and then also there's Spawn, who I was surprised to discover was black under the shadows, the mask and the facial scarring. JESUS, how deep do you feel like burying the brother, McFarlane?
Sorry, I'm getting off track here ...
Fun fact: Spider-Man stars in more of
these things than anyone else. Which is
why he tackles such bullshit topics as
"Literacy," a topic no comic book has any
damn right addressing.
Although their hearts are largely in the right place, I never felt these comics were a good idea. Beside the fact that half-naked vigilantes who routinely beat the tar out of mental patients in fetish gear are probably not the IDEAL spokespersons for a sane, safe, law-abiding existence – although, I could be wrong. Perhaps those anti-drug seminars they used to hold in our high school auditorium would have packed more of an impact if the attending officers had been decked out in Mardi Gras beads and bike shorts, and hauled in a wino to pummel – superhero comics are notorious for reducing even the most complex problems into black-and-white matters.
Super-heroes thrive on the morality play, which makes super-hero comics particularly well-suited to warning kids against the hazards of trying to conquer the world. As far as pinning drug abuse or worldwide famine on an individual super-villain or monster goes, I'm not so assured.
It's already a pretty spurious premise that any PSA comic is going to spark a turnaround in any of the serious issues they address, which is why the stated purpose of these books is to inform and raise awareness. Problem is, are we really raising awareness of an issue by blaming its cause solely on some mythical villain?
This poster promotes a Superman comic
which raises awareness about land mine
safety. Any joke I can make here about land
mine safety is pretty much talking shit from
a guy who lives in a country NOT COVERED
(I'll take a parenthetical aside here for a moment to fill you in on a peccadillo of mine, before it rears its ugly head. Both the X-Men and the Superman-Batman team appeared in comics benefiting African famine relief charities. One was titled “Heroes Against Hunger” and the other was called “Heroes For Hope,” and no matter how often I remind myself, I keep switching those up to make “Heroes for Hunger” and “Heroes Against Hope.” Happens consistently. This is the same berserk mental twitch which makes me call any of the Star Wars sequels – assuming for some reason I feel compelled to precede it with its episode number and whatnot – as “Star Trek,” and why I constantly, unconsciously call those films “Star Trek: The Phantom Planet” and “Star Trek: Night of the Clones.” HONESTAGOD!)
In the X-Men:Heroes Against Hope book, the mutant heroes ultimately discover that the famine in drought-struck Ethiopia was being caused (or at least exacerbated) by this alien monster who fed on human suffering. OH, SO HE'S THE GUY! Gut him out hollow, would you Wolverine, and let's get back to punching the Toad in the phiz.
Take, for instance, the well-intentioned Captain Awareness comic, which is certainly trying its hardest for a very worthwhile cause. However, as the tale within the pages unfolds, it turns out that incidents of rape are actually caused by a big smoky monster which possesses men's bodies and makes them do bad things. Whereas I appreciate the sentiment that my gender as a whole is so inherently pure of heart and free of ill will that it takes an all-powerful ethereal being of gross malevolence to turn even the most sociopathic brute into a rapist, I DON'T THINK THAT'S REALLY THE PROBLEM!
"Jesus kids, I'M FLYIN' HERE!"
This trend is sort of endemic to the super-hero genre as a whole, which often makes villains out of 'embodiments' of emotional or metaphysical states, as well as the occasional elemental and whatever the heck it was Speedball was supposed to be in relation to kinetic energy. OH WAIT, why the hell didn't SPEEDBALL DO AN ANTI-DRUG COMIC? That's automatic GOLD, Marvel! “Don't do me, kids, I'll ruin your life. Say no to me.” IT'S GENIUS!
So the super-hero universes abound with what tend to appear to be normal folk in fright masks and aerobics gear, but who are secretly the universal depository of all the universe's sense of sorrow, hate, apathy, anger, bigotry, what have you. Now me, I'm a dyed-in-the-wool, bleeding heart tree-hugging Leftist, but even I support executing THESE fucks. “So, this is the universal embodiment of all hate in the universe? There'd be no hate without him, am I getting this right? Okay, pardon me, Punisher, may I borrow this?” Boom, problem solved. And here I thought it took a deep understanding of the nature of man and his role in a wide and unresponsive universe to salve the wounds of the human condition, when all you really have to do is beat the guy in the Danskins to death with a crowbar.
Believe it or not, this book is about minorities
in the engineering field. Who are building
enormous, terrifying Tyrranosaurotons, or
something. I agree that this issue needs more awareness.
At least none of these books had the paucity of good taste to create an anthropomorphic embodiment of child molestation. Not that you really have to, since Marvel's currently doing a pretty good job of BEING that themselves. (Don't believe me? Hey, when was the last time you saw an eight-year old girl with a gargantuan rack and pillowy pudenda? Try X-Men:Phoenix. Like your eroticized juveniles a little more photo-realistic? No Trouble at all! And then there is, of course, the latest mutant title, X-Ploitation of Minors! Marvel! Because NAMBLA only lets you hump little boys!)
Which makes it a shame that the PSA comic trend has died down, or at least seriously put the brakes on in the last ten years. Because we sure could use a comic warning kids to stay away from anything Marvel president Bill Jemas has a hand in ... ironically, in fact, I think reading any single issue of Marville will pretty much take care of that right out of the gate.
(Hey, here's some fun: So far, not counting this one, there are nineteen paragraphs in this article. Guess how many of them will generate an angry piece of hate mail. Whatever you guess, it's two less than actually will.)
Bonus Image (I ran out of room in the article): Here to teach you about bicycle safety, it's Spider-Man and Ghost Rider. You know, Ghost Rider. The self-immolated guy with no skin whose motorcycle is on fire. That guy. He's here to teach you about wearing kneepads.