Over the weekend at WonderCon, author Douglas Wolk (Reading Comics) gave a talk about the not-so-secret allegorical tales that lurk beneath the BAM! POW! of your typical superhero comic book. I caught Wolk on the con floor and asked him to explain the political subtext of Greg Pak's recent World War Hulk series. In this video, he explains how it's all about blowback from 9/11, and why Iron Man represents the military industrial complex.
For those of you who haven't read the Planet Hulk and World War Hulk series, here's the quickie back story: Iron Man and his gang called the Illuminati blast Hulk into space for the "safety" of the human race. (Because, you know, the Hulk is always smashing and stuff.) Hulk crash-lands on a planet where he can at last be the hero he never was on Earth — he fights with a bunch of oppressed aliens against evil humanoid overlords, wins, gets crowned king, and marries an ultra-awesome, super-strong alien who becomes his queen.
Everything goes bad when the ship Iron Man and Co. sent him to space in suddenly blows up. Queen is killed, and Hulk's new home is ravaged. He and his alien buddies (his "warbound") go back to Earth to get their revenge on Iron Man. Hulk is so mad, and so righteous, that he's gotten bigger and greener than I've ever seen him. I mean, he is so strong he can withstand space vacuum and smash up the moon.
His showdown with Iron Man stretched across several comic book crossovers. I highly recommend the series, especially Planet Hulk. And for the record, Wolk is totally right in this clip. You won't be able to deny it after reading.
Another famous recent example of comic book allegory that Wolk discussed is in Mark Millar's Civil War series, all about the Superhero Registration Act. Apparently, however, Millar denies the importance of allegory in the series, calling it "just gravy." Wolk also talked about Grant Morrison's 7 Soldiers of Victory ("It's about meshing together different forms of enlightenment.") and Green Lantern vs. Sinestro ("Green Lantern is thoughtful about how power can affect the world, while Sinestro uses fear to gain power.").
Want more Wolk? Check out his book Reading Comics.