There was a massive undertaking by DC. It involved dozens of new stories, a diverse array of the industry’s top talent, and was an impressive effort, the likes of which had never been done before. This might sound like some kind of veiled reference to the recent relaunch of all their books, but in fact I’m talking about something completely different.
How different? I will tell you. Ten years ago, DC published an incredible 200+ page anthology entitled 9/11: The World’s Finest Writers and Artists Tell Stories to Remember (ISBN 1-56389-878-0).This volume was of course in response to the terrorist attacks on that horrific day, with the proceeds of the book going directly towards various relief efforts at the time to aid affected victims, families, and nearby communities.
You certainly don’t need me to tell you how the devastating events of that day impacted virtually every single person in the nation. The vast majority of us did what we could; we gave blood, sent supplies, or donated money if we could, but beyond that we could do little but sit by helplessly, and watch. And grieve. And cope.
One way we often cope is to seek distraction from events that our beyond our power to control, and as anyone who reads comics already knows, comic books are excellent for providing that distraction. Reaching for a volume about 9/11 might not seem the best way to cope with 9/11, but the truth is, this was a book that went beyond providing distraction.
This book, with contributions from Neal Adams, Will Eisner, Joe Kubert, Ed Brubaker, Geoff Johns, Stan Lee, and way too many others to mention, went beyond providing distraction. It provided hope. It provided inspiration. It provided tales of heroism. And in doing so, it provided comfort.
But what does a book like this do for us in a post-United-We-Stand era, where social networking shines a hard, piercing light on our divisiveness? Where a Congress that once sung God Bless America in unison now bickers to the point where it barely functions? Where the reasons why America is so great are lost amidst the troubles of a sputtering economy whose recovery is hampered by governmental ineptitude?
I will tell you.
It serves as a reminder. Maybe not of how great America is, but how great it can be. On how a population so diverse in its political, religious, and social views can be brought together, even if it takes a crisis of once-unfathomable proportions to do it. On how no matter how bad things get, we can and will overcome. And on how the most unassuming and unlikeliest of us has the capacity to become heroes.
All of this, from something that the uninitiated oh-so flippantly like to call a funny book. Shamelessly unaware that comics like The Avengers, Uncanny X-Men, and The Amazing Spider-Man have been teaching us those lessons for decades.
Ten years ago, we had uncertainty tempered with hope, but today, we have hindsight bolstered by facts: America has indeed survived. Our enemy has been routed. And our worst nemesis is dead.
But we are alive.
We are alive. Maybe the good guys haven’t won yet, but we’re certainly winning, and in every great comic book story I’ve ever read, that’s what the good guys do. They fight, and they win. You can knock us down, but we will get up again. You can lay us low, but we will come back, taller than ever. You can try and take us out, but we will fight you.
And we will win.
Yeah, it’s only a comic. And yeah, it’s all that. It’s also unfortunately out of print, but seems to be available from plenty of resellers. It’s an excellent compilation that shows not only just how great comics can be, but how great America can be, as well.
Where comics, by the way, were invented; how cool.
God Bless America.