Two US authors have found a novel way to address the mass shootings that regularly plunge their country into mourning — comic-book superheroes.
The daring Ignited series, penned by former Marvel and DC writers Mark Waid and Kwanza Osajyefo, and released by legendary French publisher Humanoids Associates, tackles the politically controversial topic head-on.
It tells the fictional, but tragically familiar story of six teenagers who survive a shooting at their high school in Phoenix, Arizona.
Under immense shock and stress, the teens develop superpowers. They view their newfound strengths as an opportunity to “make a difference” in their violent world, “because otherwise we went through all our pain for nothing.”
In addition to giving a voice to real-life shooting survivors, Ignited was a chance for scriptwriters Waid and Osajyefo to address a range of sensitive, highly topical issues in the US — while drawing on their backgrounds with Captain America, X-Men, Batman and Superman.
Topics featured in the first few issues include gun control, immigration police raids on Latino families, militias and growing calls from ultraconservatives for teachers to be armed with guns.
“The Ignited shared universe is different because it’s not really superheroes — to me, having written a million superhero comics, superheroes are about masks and capes and powers, and super villains,” Waid said.
Here the real “villains” are extremists and the National Rifle Association gun lobby.
The books’ heroes are “dealing with things on a more realistic and a more human level,” Waid said.
Founded in Paris in 1974, Humanoids Associates is the only French-language comic book publisher to have succeeded in the US.
It remains one of the top players in the European market, where it is first became known for wildly popular sci-fi comic anthology Metal Hurlant (Heavy Metal) — which Ridley Scott said partly inspired Blade Runner.”
The publisher’s owner, Fabrice Giger, said superhero comics are “a first for us.”
“Our logic was to approach [mass shootings] from another angle ... What can we say that hasn’t already been said by others?” Giger said.
The series, which had its US launch this summer and is to be published monthly, has “the taste and look of American comic books, but is something a little bit different,” he said.
“We started from the basis that Marvel, DC Comics and even smaller American publishers are all politically correct ... whereas we have always dealt freely with all subjects,” Giger said from his Los Angeles office.
Scriptwriter Waid agreed that “because American comics are corporate owned, they have to cater to all political stripes.
Ignited is drawn by Philippe Briones, a French comic book virtuoso who worked for a decade at Disney.
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