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Comic Books That Put the Pow in Political Power

In Ms. Marvel, published by Marvel Comics, the heroine confronts a campaign to bring back “the real Jersey City,” which starts by making her Muslim family unwelcome. In Green Arrow, from DC Comics, the liberal hero is at odds with a fearmongering West Coast mayor whose philosophy is summarized as: “Capitalism is a meritocracy. If somebody is better off than you, it’s probably because they wanted it more.”


Some panels from the opening page of the first issue of Calexit, a left-leaning comic from Black Mask Studios.

Black Mask Studios

Resist!, an anthology of political comics, recently released its second issue. The first, with a print run of around 60,000 copies, was circulated at the women’s marches in January. “Sh*t My President Says,” in which Shannon Wheeler, a cartoonist for The New Yorker, illustrates the tweets of Donald J. Trump, will be published in August by Top Shelf. And in November, Fantagraphics Books will release “Economics in Wonderland,” a cartoon guide to “a political world gone mad and mean,” by Robert B. Reich, a former labor secretary under President Clinton.

Calexit, which is drawn by Amancay Nahuelpan, has sold out of its first-issue run of 25,000 copies, and a reprint will be forthcoming. In what will be a recurring feature, the back of each issue has interviews with people trying to enact change. Issue No. 1 includes Amanda Weaver, who is part of Reclaim Chicago, which is dedicated to ridding local government of corporate interests, and Bill Ayers, a Weathermen founder.

Mr. Pizzolo, who is based in Los Angeles, will also document the creation of Become the Government, his “super PAC” to support local progressive candidates who are new to politics and will be financed by his earnings from sales of the comic series.

How readers and retailers will welcome some of these projects is uncertain. “People look to comics for escapism,” said Mark Evanier, a comic-book writer and historian. When projects stray too much into the political arena, he added, the reaction is sometimes, “If I wanted this, I’d read the news.”


Mad magazine’s satirical take on Donald Trump includes imagining the first family in the mode of the newspaper strip “The Family Circus.”

DC Entertainment

“Most comic purchases aren’t about politics, they’re just about how good the story is, but I do think there’s an increased sensitivity to the political content of comics on the part of fans,” said Milton Griepp, the chief executive of ICv2, an online trade publication that covers the comic-book industry.

The Divided States of Hysteria, written and drawn by Howard Chaykin, and published by Image comics, provoked a strong response from fans. It is a violent vision of the United States, after a coup d’état, bracing for a terrorist attack. Some of the comic’s depictions — an attack on a trans sex worker in the first issue last month; a cover showing the lynching and genital mutilation of a Pakistani man — set off debates about artistic freedom and responsibility, and censorship and social justice warriors. (So another day on the internet.)

But if fans want these types of stories, comics stores are likely to order them. “Retailers that I talk to evaluate their audience and stock what they think they’re going to buy, regardless of content,” Mr. Griepp said. “I was just talking to a retailer last week that told me he hated John Lewis’s politics but ordered March for his store.”

Mr. Griepp was referring to March, the graphic-novel trilogy by Representative John Lewis, Democrat of Georgia, about the civil rights movement and aimed at inspiring young activists. Mr. Pizzolo is treading on similar ground. Message-driven comics are a comfortable fit for Mr. Pizzolo, who founded Black Mask Studios in 2012 with Steve Niles, a writer of horror novels and comics; and Brett Gurewitz, a musician and founder of Epitaph Records. The impetus was Occupy Comics, a comic-book project to raise money for the Occupy Wall Street movement.

“We could rely on the federal government in the past, but I think a lot of people no longer feel that way,” Mr. Pizzolo said. We “are inspired to be more directly involved in the political process than we have in the past,” he added. “We need to work in our communities and our regions constructively. We need to learn to work together and get over preconceptions about one another.”

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