Sub cultures within sub cultures are always kind of strange. It’s like splitting atoms, yet even that has a purpose on some way, shape or form. For the past year I’ve been exploring the connection between comic book fans and libertarians; at first I thought it would just be a cool connection to create, but eventually I found a deeper bridge connecting the two interests together. From interviewing radio hosts to comic book artists, and even professional cosplayers, what I’ve seen is that comic book collectors are often libertarians for the same reason punk rockers, goths, and other ostracized sub cultures are, because this is art form and medium which celebrates individualism.
Ayn Rand inspired comic legend Steve Ditko always crafted his characters as individuals fighting against a society which always wanted to force the hero to desist or conform. Anarchist Alan Moore always used his work as a critique of the role and function of the state, and while not necessarily always in lock step with libertarian orthodoxy, followed in the steps of socialist George Orwell who at least targeted the fallacies of communism and fascism.
From Lex Luther to Hydra, comic books have always been notorious for calling out crony capitalists and dangerous ideologies, even when the artists or writers bridged the progressive line. For the most part, comic book characters, much like their readers, were always outcasts who for some reason or another, felt a need to save society from itself, even when they were shouted down. Comics themselves, unlike libertarian themed novels such as Atlas Shrugged, spread a wide net across the youth of an entire generation post WWII as they featured escapist plots and characters who bared the weight of the world on their shoulders, in a way which anyone regardless of political belief or orthodoxy could find entertaining.
Libertarian themes have even found their way into the mainstream culture primarily through the Marvel Cinematic Universe films, where heroes such as Captain America fought the police state and the Incredible Hulk and Iron Man expose the worst parts of the military industrial complex. In the field of print comics themselves they’ve been sprinting in two separate directions, that of social justice such as Marvel, who is switching races, genders, and sexual orientations of a large line of their characters, and of social and political criticisms such as Valiant Comic’s Bloodshot series where the main character fights white supremacy, and DC Comics where the heroes are often at odds with ill-intentioned state powers.
A surge seems to be appearing though from independent publishers, who are trying to bring explicit libertarian content to readers such as the superhero themed Voluntaryist series by anarcho-capitalist Jamie Sherman, and the space-opera inspired Liberty Force by Johnny Adams and Heather Nixon of the Johnny Rocket Launch Pad podcast. While these young and independent series provide explicit libertarian stories for primarily libertarian audiences, activist organizations like Free the People helped sponsor the first volume of the Indoctrination comic series, where several investigators combat a dangerous and self-destructive. While Indoctrination is not an explicit libertarian series, it still brings forth the message of individual choice against the destruction of collectivist ideology.
Above all, comic book collectors and libertarians represent a part of society ridiculed as counter culture, where as far as they’re concerned, they’re loving it and wouldn’t change a thing. Comic books target the themes mainstream entertainment won’t go near and where other art forms aren’t able to achieve. Above all, comic books create a language which surpasses borders, time, race, and orthodoxy. Much like the fundamentals of libertarianism, comic books are for everybody (except evil doers and statists).