A new and, for some people, weird concept. At it’s base, the idea is that if enough people are paying attention to a thing and are spreading enough real information about a thing, then that thing will be dealt with. People will get angrier and angrier about that thing until something must be done. And when that conversation starts, it doesn’t end until whatever problem is being spoken of has been resolved.
And it is a conversation – that’s what the internet has brought us. Before, it was dictation, and always one way: the media told us what it wanted us to believe and ignored any inconvenient facts. Information was given the illusion of integrity while lacking that quality, because there was no check or balance in place to make sure that integrity existed. We assumed the news and the police and the politicians were honest, at least in the west.
Which is weird, considering the evolution of culture in the west was born of revolution, or was rooted in rebellion. People attacking established power structures. And yet, as history continued, people placed more and more trust in the power structures that evolved, believing that the ones that had been instituted were somehow more honest and better than the ones that had been there before.
“Four legs good, two legs better.” We forgot the warning we had been given, focusing instead on the shiny new baubles that were dangled in front of us. We bought into the lie that the civil rights movement in the sixties changed everything and that racism was finished. We believed in the lie that the equal rights movement had triumphed over sexism. We believed that the government was there to help us.
Watergate changed that. There were always parts of the press that were interested in actual journalism, in keeping the public informed. In 1979, when corporations were given human rights, that changed. Watergate brought down an American President, and the powers that be took note and made sure that nothing like that would ever happen again. The press has increasingly become a mouthpiece for what has become known as the 1%, touting a party line that has nothing to do with fact and everything to do with propaganda.
Think we’re wrong? Look at what’s happening with Planned Parenthood, a service that helps women stay informed as regards their personal health and helps them make informed decisions. Abortions are the smallest part of what they do, but figures like Sarah Palin would have you believe that they do nothing but kill babies. Bill O’Reilly would encourage you to kill the doctors that work there, then back pedal when his watchers actually listen to him.
All of the distractive atrocities get worse when you realize that is what they are; distractions. Pay attention to the lies being told about Planned Parenthood and the way Planned Parenthood is being forced to apologize for crimes they never committed. Ignore the for-profit prisons, the for-profit schools, the for-profit insurance companies that Obamacare replaced that didn’t actually offer any protection at all.
They turned Occupy Wall Street from a focused protest against money in politics, the unlivability of the minimum wage, and the ludicrous double standard of justice into a meaningless moment that collapsed into itself and was forgotten.
It was a brilliant piece of sleight-of-mind.
And then the internet happened and slowly, slowly, the world began to change. People began conversing with one another, sharing their stories and realizing that the things they suffered where not exceptions to the rule, but the norm. #blacklivesmatter. #yesallwomen. It’s a direct challenge to the propaganda that’s been passed off as news for decades, and it’s discredited horrible people that are too slow to adapt to what the world is becoming.
We’ve spoken before about how comics are a medium of change, an overlooked means by which outliers can find community and strength. The mutants of the Marvel universe are stand-ins for homosexuals, pariahs, Jews, African-Americans, anyone that feels marginalized by a media that demonizes them. Superman as the immigrant that makes a new home for himself, becoming the best of what his adopted people have to offer and being lauded for his achievements. Prez, both the old and new versions, which talk about the responsibility and promise of youth on a political level when that level has become entirely corrupt.
Hacktivist. A story about how open and frank communication can change the world.
This is a series created by Alyssa Milano, an actress who left acting to become one of the best people in the world, essentially using her celebrity to do good works. It’s written by Jackson Lanzig and Collin Kelly, two people that are well-versed in internet culture, marketing, and the on-going dialogue that the web has brought us. It’s drawn by Marcus To and colored by Ian Herring, who add light and shadow, weight and emotion to every frame. The end result is beautiful and gripping and shattering. It’s a comic series about our world, about hope and expectation and the people that would strangle the world out of pride and greed, and the naivete, genius, and courage that is needed to fight them and win.
It’s a story about two friends that create an internet communications company that is something like Facebook or Twitter or Tumblr and use it as a means to overthrow a horribly evil political regime and fight the political forces that try to control them. It’s about one of them learning and becoming willing to sacrifice himself to make the world a better place despite those same forces, and the consequences of what follows.
Needless to say, we loved the volume. The kind of courage it takes to talk about the sort of topics that this comic took pains to discuss is massive, and the maturity to address them in this fashion while keeping a sense of maturity and dignity is intense. There was nothing shocking here, no strange twist, just excellent storytelling that took advantage of every strength the medium could offer. It was one of our favorite comics, period, and one of those titles that we still talk about.
When a sequel was announced there was a bit of a commotion in our offices. When the issue arrived we approached it with fear and eagerness, wondering if the integrity of the second epic would live up the first.
A thousand times, it does.
Spider-Man likes to talk about how with great power comes great responsibility. Their first time out, the two main characters of this title toppled a country and fooled the American government to make the world a better place. One of them faked their death, the other taken in and put in a very polite prison by that same government. It all felt real and earned, and this comic takes place six months after that one.
The world has changed, and internet culture is viewed, incited, and studied. There’s more going on in this one comic than in some entire runs of other titles, or even other titles in their entirety. And yet Hacktivist feels uncrowded, letting ideas and characters percolate and develop at their own pace. Swords win battles, sure, but ideas topple empires.
And this? This is an idea writ large, a primer on how to make the world a better place while also serving as a warning against becoming the same old and evil you might be railing against. There’s nothing else like it on the market today, and that alone would make it worth reading even if every little detail is wrought to perfection.
This isn’t for everybody, but it should be. This is a conversation piece about politics and weight and consequence, about all the things we’re told not to discuss in polite society and really must. All of those subjects are the ones that matter, that shape us and let us make the world a better place. Not dictation, not believing blindly in the edicts of any single source, but rather finding your own truth.
We can do that now and we really must, and this comic is a good place to start learning how to become a part of that conversation. If you want to see intelligent political commentary on the realities of the world and be entertained while you’re doing it, this is one of the finest pieces of literature that you could choose.
And we cannot wait to see what comes next.