Since starting The Comic Vault, I’ve wanted to provide a hub for other comic enthusiasts to share their thoughts, which is why I accept guest posts that cover people’s experiences with comics. I’m happy to present the first guest post, written by Noel Jenkins, who’s gone into detail about what the comic Elementals means to him and why he loves comics in general. I never thought reading a comic book would leave me traumatized and encouraged; but it happened. Elementals by Comico Publishing did it for me. I was taken back, shocked, and moved. Isn’t this just a comic book for children? I asked myself. Hooked, I scanned the pages and wondered what would come next. With a few more pages, more emotion. I read on and soon I became even more engaged.
Elementals was published in 1984 by Comico, a small Pennsylvanian publisher, before Marvel and DC were unofficially known as the “big two”. This was a very special “children’s” issue published, that highlighted the harsh reality of child abuse and neglect during the 1980s.
The art done by the Comico Team is masterful, yes and a further glance at the content in the panels allowed me to see the emotion and the hearts of the characters. Especially the leader of the elementals, a 15 year-old boy named Tommy.
In the story Tommy wakes from a dream about a child being murdered. Through the comic he races to find the killer of several children, including a boy named Billy, and protect them before it’s too late and another child ends up missing, or worse.
What I have learned through research of similar topics in popular media around that time, is that although unfortunate, this is not and has not been a new occurrence. Children have lacked protection for a long time.
I too was born in the early 1980s and can see how my childhood may have been affected by the popular media of the times. I know physically that I was protected for the most part. But there was also a feeling of vulnerability that kept me unsettled. I know that I was scared of horror movies but still watched them and a ton of late-night television. What I viewed as a major part of my childhood was also a strategic communication experiment.
In 2000 a documentary titled The American Nightmare was released and some of the directors of those iconic horror movies spoke in part about some of the social context of their films:
”What happened in part,” said Adam Simon, the documentary’s director, in an interview, ”was simply that there were images being delivered to American living rooms that would not have been allowed on the screens of their movie theatres without an X rating. And the self-evident contradiction of that, in part, was what broke through the barriers.”
Geoffrey Hartman, the director of the Fortunoff Video Archive for Holocaust Testimonies at Yale University, has recently written that the graphic images churned out by today’s culture make critical thinking “more difficult”, not less.
In the Elementals series they touch on sensitive topics the whole time, so much so in this issue that, Tommy, is psychically linked to the murder victims.
For Tommy it may express the dissociative properties of someone subject to a large amount of programming and may show signs of involvement in MK ultra-like experiments. (Tommy should try cosplay sometime)
Trauma is indeed the basis of this story and many other stories that we love. Really it’s not surprising. We connect and identify with heroes and villains for our own purposes. Often we see ourselves through the actions of these characters with whom we have identified, whether “good guy” or “villain”. I believe that this point reveals a link deep in all of us that we are all connected to each other. We are connected by the actions of ourselves, but ultimately that of others too.
As the embodiment of a 15 year-old boy, still very much a child himself, Tommy connected to each of the children in a very real way. In reading Elementals, I felt as if Tommy knew trauma well. As if that trauma, like an endless loop not dealt with, would be a hard and ugly journey (like a Golem maybe?) If we are lucky, the ugly things can be that which reveals what’s right under the surface of society in the complacency of what we call our modern times.
Now I look further into how things affect me, (especially comics) and in turn I dig deeper into how society is changed by the media we intake. But that’s just me and why I love comics.