15 Sep How Comics and Baby Boomers Influenced the World: A Comparative Study (Pt:3)
The sixties offered both comics and baby boomers a time of growth through adversity. For both parties, the previous decade had been one in which growth beyond the constraints of a conservative social standard was discouraged. Now, as the first signs of defiance to accepted norms began to take place, a clash was inevitable. Change, in general, does not come easy and this would certainly be the case for America. Nevertheless, as vehicles of transformation, and comic books were ideally positioned to bring this about.
Comics would play a significant role with young baby boomers, especially those that were beginning college by the mid-sixties. College campuses around the country were becoming a hot bed for social unrest. Baby boomers were not happy and the ideas that were at the point of their dissatisfaction could find a purchase in the comics that many of them were reading.
Many comics, especially those that were the product of the creative duo of Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, had brought a vein of realism to the superhero genre. Lee and Kirby, having laid the foundation for this new brand of hero with Spiderman and the Fantastic Four, now set out to incorporate social issues in their stories. There was no better social issue that was brimming to be broached than that of racial inequality. America, during this time, was dealing with the pains of racial strife, and the civil rights movement was striving to gain momentum.
Yet many white baby boomers were as yet untouched and unaware of the growing discontent by their neighbors of color or of their plight. And then Lee and Kirby introduced the X-Men to the world. The X-Men were a group of young mutants, children born with super powers that set them apart from normal people. They had the same dreams and aspirations as any one else, but because they were born with powers (i.e. they were different) they were shunned, marginalized and hated by the majority of people. The racial overtones were obvious. More importantly, the injustice of such bigotry was made abundantly clear and young white baby boomers understood the message.
As these themes continue to play out in the comic medium, baby boomers took heart and took action. As the civil rights movement grew and became a force, both black and white baby boomers were joined together in a common cause of justice. In conjunction with the anti war movement as the Vietnam War progressed, baby boomers rejection and staunch opposition of their parents social and political policies forced – albeit slowly and painfully – change. By the end of the decade, significant strides had been made in civil rights – both in legislation and in the minds of the public of what was acceptable. By the end of the decade, a military pull out of Vietnam was inevitable.
Baby boomers had proven that they, as a generation, were a social force to be reckoned with. Their ideas were influenced by the comics they read and the convictions in their hearts. Baby boomers understood that it was their determination for change that had brought about the social transformation that they were witnessing. As a new decade ushered in, baby boomers and comics would assert their new found dominance in American culture.
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