Among the not-so-brilliant ideas I’ve had recently was starting a comic-book addiction right before becoming unemployed. It’s bad enough that I’m starting nearly from scratch — I’d basically ignored the medium since I was about 13 — and even worse that comics are one of the most expensive entertainment habits you can pick up.
Still, it’s a good distraction. I just started working my way through Brian K. Vaughan’s superb political superhero comic, Ex-Machina, and aside from the thoroughly embarrassing moment the other night when I stupidly pronounced the title as “Ex-Masheena”, I’ve enjoyed it quite a bit. I’m only half way through the second book right now, but I’m beginning to wonder somewhat if series writer and creator Brian K. Vaughan is some sort of liberaltarian.
Let me explain. The series chronicles the adventures and exploits of Mitchell Hundred, the mayor of New York. Hundred also happens to be the world’s only superhero — The Great Machine. In the comic’s alternate history, Hundred stopped the second plane on 9/11, saving one of the twin towers and becoming a city hero. The story offers a delightful grab bag of big-city political dealing, superhero exploits, sci-fi conspiracy (the origin and nature of his powers is somewhat mysterious), and ripped-from-the-headlines subplots.
In the series, Hundred is an independent who allies with the Democratic party and is close friends with an aging Marxist true believer. But Wikipedia also notes this about the series:
In the first issue, Mitchell explains that he chose the name “Great Machine” based on a quote about society by Thomas Jefferson. Accordingly, one of the series’ recurring themes is the tendency of citizens to become overly reliant on their government and constantly expect it to save them.
The first two collections also start out with Hundred arguing that the city should embrace school vouchers and not implement a smoking ban. Specifically, he argues that the servers the ban is ostensibly designed to save from second-hand smoke will probably suffer even more from a lack of tips as smokers flock to bars outside the city.
Perhaps I’m reading too much into things. Perhaps more has been revealed in later issues that cuts against what I’ve seen so far. And perhaps there’s 60 issues of evidence against my theory in Vaughan’s last series, Y: The Last Man, which I haven’t read. But, while Vaughan hasn’t revealed a huge amount about his personal politics, he’s apparently written that the series was “born out of my anger with what passes for our current political leadership (on both sides of the aisle)” — in other words, exactly the sentiment you’d expect from a liberaltarian.
Either way, though, read the series!