American Flagg! - Back to the Future Past
Just an Interesting Period Piece Or Just Ahead of Its Time?
Excerpted from Toonpedia.com
- The history of American comic books is replete with flag-draped characters like Captain America, The Shield and similar star-spangled do-gooders — one of whom was actually named "The Star-Spangled Kid". But they mostly flourished in the 1940s. When it came to the '80s, Flagg was, as the saying goes, "not your father's patriotic-style hero."
According to the series back-story, in 1996 (13 years after the comic originally appeared), everything collapsed. Nukes were flying not just in the Middle East, but also in Western Europe. Black plague in Asia and food riots in Europe. Banking system melts down, just like many nuclear power plants. Islamic uprisings in places where you wouldn't even think there was Islam. So the U.S. government, along with the executive boards of most major corporations, moves to Mars.
Now, it's 2031. On Earth, things are worse than ever — gang wars every Saturday night, political rivalries settled by shooting matches, everybody doped up on media overload and exotic drugs, economic depression to make its century-past counterpart look like a bad hair day, and the government, still up on Mars, couldn't care less.
Into this steps Reuben Flagg, an out-of-work actor raised on Mars, transforming his screen personality into real life as he takes over the job of representing the government and enforcing its law in 21st-century Chicago. He is assisted by a talking cat named Raul and the fact that he's one of the few characters in sight with anything resembling a conscience.
Chaykin's Flagg is still highly regarded by many comics readers — but like much near-future science fiction, events have passed it by, rendering it just an interesting period piece.
As alluded in the heading to my post, IMHO
AF! cannot so easily be dismissed simply as a period piece. Yes, events have not played out precisely as described and in the same time-frame, yet even so there's been plenty of close parallels in the recent past as well as presently and likely more to come.
Around the same time the Flagg saga started, legendary underground cartoonist Gilbert Shelton's epic Wonder Wart-Hog adventure, "The Nurds of November" covered some like ground set in the then present day early '80s recession, with the Hog of Steel's alter-ego, sh!t-outta-luck and newly out-of-work journalist Philbert Desanex emerging from the course of (some admittedly very unlikely) events a modern-day folk hero and write-in candidate for president.
Fast becoming a serious contender, not taking this threat to their carefully crafted scam lying down America's owner "Gloptron Inc." attempts to assassinate the unsuspecting Desanex with their most advanced killing machine (a 10-foot tall cybernetic lemur). Failing miserably at that (not knowing his dual identity as World's Mightiest Pig), after he wins the popular vote they implement 'Plan B' - the electoral college comes out in favor of his next closest opponent.
In a last-ditch effort to counter Gloptron's move, Philbert and his motley crew arrange for a constitutional convention in the midst of America's desert region. Unfortunately the conventioneers collectively indulge in an awesomely ill-timed boozing binge the day and night before convening, and wake up with the worst hangover ever. Consequently feeling like crap and not thinking too clearly, they overwhelmingly decide to form a Fascist dictatorship.
As if on cue a very much alive Adolf Hitler obligingly appears to the astonished assembly, explaining with a poke to his head for those wondering insomuch it's said his skull was found, he'd had it removed to confuse his enemies. The crowd rapidly and raucously responds to his arrival with arms raised, roars of 'Sieg Heil' and crudely sketched swastikas.
Although clearly aghast at this turn of events, Philbert ultimately responds with a shake of his head and a shrug of his shoulders - he and his sweetheart then walk off into the sunset, fully aware what will become of the country and yet at the same time knowing their love for one another will see them through and keep them together forever. THE END.
...But not REALLY
. Shelton's greatest creation next to "The Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers" couldn't and didn't end there. Much as the Coyote caught crap in every Road Runner cartoon, subsequent WWH installments would again showcase the persistent lucklessness and misery of long suffering Philbert. No truly happy endings for HIM! Yet that was the whole point of his existence, for comical effect of course...
Not so funny if and when America-at-large finds itself in the same sorry boat.