Announced at last weekend's Wizard World Chicago convention, new comic Iron Maiden One takes the real life War On Terror one further, showing the American Government reacting to a new terror attack on American soil by taking the fight to space. It's not the first comic to imagine a super-charged response to future terror attacks; Wanted creator Mark Millar's upcoming series War Heroes imagines President John McCain giving US soldiers super powers to better kick terrorist ass after the destruction of the Capitol Hill. We talked to Millar and Iron Maiden One writer B. Clay Moore to ask, when did it become okay to imagine the War On Terror getting worse?
The striking thing about both War Heroes and Iron Maiden One is that both start from a place that would've been unimaginable even a few years ago; not that the War On Terror is ongoing four or five years from now, but that America is still unable to prevent terrorist attacks within its own borders. Does this mean that the general public has forgotten the intensity of 9/11, or simply become desensitized enough to be able to fictionalize it? Mark Millar isn't convinced:
I remember saying to my wife as we left Titanic that I felt it exploited a real world tragedy and were we all killed in a bomb blast would some idiot be making a movie about it 80 years later. At least Cameron had the decency to wait almost a century. But what really struck me was when I googled it and found that the first Titanic movie had gone into production mere months after the disaster. The moral of this story is one of two things... a) writers are most influenced by the headlines and chatter around them or b) we're all opportunists who hope to be first on a real world trauma. The answer probably lies somewhere between the two.
Iron Maiden One's B. Clay Moore:
I think it's interesting that you'd assume a desensitization to the war is what would allow us to imagine worst case scenarios in the future. From my vantage point, it's blindingly obvious that the public at large is desensitized to the war, and has been for some time. While it's true that news gathering organizations like to link disapproval of the war to some kind of anti-war sentiment that's sweeping the nation, I don't think that's true. Not to sound too cynical, but I think a lot of Americans don't like the war the way they don't like broccoli. What bothers the government more is probably eroding support from the international community, and I think this story takes that ball and runs with it.
Does either writer feel that their series bears any guilt or responsibility to do more than entertain, considering the weight of their backdrop? Moore:
I think it's always "okay" to create fiction that probes the darker corners of possibility. This book is more a chase/thriller than a pointed commentary on the direction of the war. The elements that provide the backdrop aren't fun, but they are plausible, and in a sense, the story asks a sort of, "What would good people do when faced with horrible choices?" question. I think reminding people that wars are not just fought in sound bites, and that they always involve the brutalizing of human beings, actually runs countercurrent to that desensitization, in any event.
It's kind of like Stan [Lee] and Jack [Kirby]'s emergence from the atomic atrocities and somehow turning it into superheroes. Japanese culture using the worst incident in their history and turning it into Godzilla. I think the entertainment industry has a curious habit of turning the worst of what's around us into something we can rationalize and to some extent control.
Turning the unknown of terrorism into "something we can control" seems to be a subconscious theme in comic coverage of current events - War Heroes is overt in turning the Iraq War into something approaching satire (much like DC's Army@Love and Image's Special Forces series), playing the real life drama much broader in order to present something much more comfortably enjoyable and less disturbing than what may really be happening "over there."
Of course, whether these two new series will be exploitative, exorcising or simply just entertaining will, ultimately, be judged by the audience (Previews for Iron Maiden One haven't been made available yet, although descriptions of the series by Moore as "a space chase terror thriller extravaganza" suggest that he's not going the dark comedy route). War Heroes launches at the end of July from Image Comics; Iron Maiden One's launch date is unknown at this time.
B. Clay Moore on Iron Maiden One [Newsarama]
War Heroes Issue One Preview [Newsarama]