Top 10 Comic Revolutions

A column article, Top Ten by: Sam Salama Cohén

This week's top ten is somewhat special. In CB we look at the world around us, and with all the recent revolutions that have been going on in many Islamic countries, which are certainly changing the shape of the world as we know it, we went and took a look at all kinds of revolutions (in the widest meaning of the word) that have taken place in comics. The result is this unique top ten extravaganza. Enjoy!

10. The Rabbi's Cat, or the Religion revolution

What would happen if a seemingly normal cat, which lives with the rabbi and his daughter, ate a parrot in the middle of the night? In our world, the worst thing that could happen would be for the cat to have a difficult digestion, right?

Well, in Joann Sfar's world, writer/artist of the series of graphic novels called The Rabbi's Cat, things could get very, very strange, and as it turns out, the cat proves to be much more than it seemed, starting a revolution in the classic, traditional and controlled world of Jews and their ages-long traditions.

Through the vehicle of the cat, the creator questions how real life and faith converge, and sometimes one lies in the background because of the other. Always taking religion with a pinch of salt, the author shows us that even those who claim to follow it feverishly can succumb to the most basic desires of the flesh.

Who would have guessed that, through his 2003-2005 series of graphic novels, Sfar would start a revolution in how the European market perceives religion, which until then had been looked upon as serious and classic?

And who would have guessed that he would do so through a cat?

9. Billi 99, or the People's revolution

Corporate greed. Secrets. Poverty. Unemployment. Prostitution. Drugs. A tough, young girl without a father, destined to become the leader of the people's revolution.

Sarah Byam and Tim Sale delve into a corrupt world where everything seems lost and crisis is the word of the day. 

On this lesser known work, from 1992, Tim Sale gives readers an amazing display of crude and realistic fights. Fights on the streets, fights on the hearts and souls of everyone who believe that survival doesn't mean a thing if the fight hasn't been worth it.

But the biggest fight of all is a personal one. Billi's. Her quest to prove her father's innocence and get back the honor and respect he deserved sets her on a self-destructive path.

Branded as an outlaw, she takes on the mantle of Toledo, a hero for the community, an icon and a gleam of hope in a dark city living dark times.

She might not be the people's Zorro, but that inspiration and that constant fight for truth, righteousness and fairness in the decadent world that surrounds her earns Billi the greatest prize: people's revolution. 

8. Prisoner's revolution, or Spidey goes loco

Ever wondered if Spidey was truly on the wrong side of the law? Yeah, sure he isn't... but what if I told you that way back (Amazing Spider-Man#65, October 1968) he was the involuntary leader of a revolution in one of NY's penitentiaries?

That's right! Seeing as a bunch of prisoners were trying to jailbreak using Captain George Stacy as their hostage, your friendly neighborhood, in one of his strangest moves ever, thought quickly and, using his bad reputation to his advantage, convinced the prisoners that not only was he on their side, but that he was going to lead their breakout. Instant revolution, ladies and gentlemen!

Of course, this story could've only been perpetrated by Stan "The Man" Lee and "Jazzy" Johnny Romita, in one of his most special told-in-one stories. 

They showed everybody Spidey's true colors in a pretty original way, and that's what earns this issue a place on the top ten Revolutions!

7. The Super-villains' revolution, or everybody against Batman

The mastermind: Ed Brubaker, master of the spy genre.

The placeDetective Comics #777-782

The time: 2003

The story: An old plot against Batman, orchestrated by a league of his deadliest enemies, comes back to haunt the Gotham vigilante.

As a mysterious super-villain killer stalks Gotham, leaving a trail of marked coins, very similar to the ones used by Two-Face, Batman has to unravel an old mystery... 

With this story, Brubaker gave readers a frightening perspective on how Batman's world could suffer if the villains decided that it was enough humiliation; if they started one last revolution, to get the underworld on board the same train: the "kill Batman" express. For real.

Obviously, a super-villain revolution such as this is difficult to pull off, if we take into account all the different egos involved in the mastermind of the big hit.

But, even if it didn't work out, what would the ramifications be? 

I'll only tell you this: Arkham Asylum is missing one crazy maniac, and he's going after Batman.

6. The Infinity Gauntlet, or the Heroes' revolution

Sometimes the stakes are so high, the threat so big, so unmeasurable, that it takes an unusual gathering of heroes, from all the corners of the Universe, to save Reality itself from becoming the victim of a Titan gone mad.

Thanos' comeback to the Marvel Universe, by (who else?) comic-book legend Jim Starlin was a huge one. With The Infinity Gauntlet, readers worldwide saw that it was possible to have a story so big that threatened the existence of every sentient being in the Marvel Universe.

With the power of the gems, Thanos had changed the rules of the game, twisting reality at his will. And, though at first it looked as if everything was lost, Avengers Mansion became the hub where the heroes' revolution to fight back the mad Titan started.

It doesn't matter which your favorite character was. Almost all of Marveldom assembled to fight back the insanity, the destruction, the death.

It's true, however, that there were two other Infinity Revolutions later on, but this was the first major one, the one that reestablished both Warlock and Thanos into the Marvel continuity, and, most important, the one where an insane love for Death by a mad Dictator, capable of committing atrocities was met with a heroic resistance, a true revolution. 

5. Superman vs. Muhammad Ali

Originally called "The Battle of the century", this 1978 extra-special one-shot pitted two of the most iconic figures of the 70's against each other with the freedom of the whole Universe as the prize.

Comics' most powerful super-hero, Superman, joined forces with Ali, a man that was a revolution in itself. A man that fought many battles, most notorious the ones that he fought outside of the ring.

This comic's message was pretty clear then, and it stands as clear today. Take away all the funny aliens, starships and that red sun that takes away Supes' powers, and what have we got? A fight for liberty, for the freedom of each and every individual, and the ultimate fight against oppression and dictatorship (all of that amazingly penciled by Neal Adams). 

Those fights for the rights of the individuals, and of Earth as a whole, as a community, can be fought not by strange super-beings from alien planets with a big emblem on his chest, but by the common man, the one that's worried about living in a free land and that won't tolerate oppression of any kind.

That ain't a revolution that rocked the world? Then tell me what is.

4. The coming of the Warhawk, or the Avengers' revolution 

The Avengers have fought many foes over their rich history, but without a doubt there's one that stands on its own, that stays unique: a brainwashed team of Avengers, fighting amongst themselves, as a crazy mob turns to attack them.

Wonder when this happened? Back in the day (on Avengers #98), when Ares was still alive and a really bad guy; Hercules was an amnesiac demigod and Hawkeye... was wearing a skirt.

The whole team had to face a revolution in the heart of NYC, as people turn against each other, their hearts filled with hate and rage thanks to a mystical music that Ares' mythological creatures were playing.

Ares' (a.k.a. the Warhawk) intent? 

To pitch each nation against each other, and start a war all over again. He wanted to end the cold war in a very hot way, and maybe it was only one of Hawkeye's arrows, appearing out of nowhere and freeing Thor's hammer from being trapped inside of one of the Scarlet Witch's hex sphere, the one thing that helped foil Ares' revolution.

Afterwards, and honoring their name, the Avengers stormed Zeus' kingdom and helped to set all the gods free and back to life... but that's another story, for another time.

3. Watchmen, or Dan's comeback

Too long ago they had been heroes. Strange ones. Each of them very different and with different motivations.

Now... as some conspiracy that had been building in the shadows start showing its murderous head, all that's left of the once great Watchmen are some sad individuals, citizens that would look ridiculous in a combat suit.

But even then, somehow, Dan Dreiberg still has a spark of the hero he used to be inside of him. He sees that the world around him is going to hell, and something, a silent alarm ignites.

His duty, their duty, for old times' sake, is to protect "their own" from that mysterious assassin, and if in order to do that he has to start a silent revolution, that'd have them travel all around the globe in search for answers... Dan would have to ditch those super-hero clothes on.

Who watches the Watchmen? Who watches the whole world going to hell, and has the answer to fix it? The last one you would expect.

Watchmen needs no introduction, and still, this Masterpiece has so many different layers to it, that is the perfect fit for this top 10.

The GN was a true revolution in the way heroes are depicted in the comic-book medium. The birth of the anti-hero, the man or woman you really have pity, nausea or sadness for. The death of that classic hero with clear motivations and a true purpose to carry on through a legacy; that's what Watchmen represents.

Dirty secrets from the past, dirty secrets from the present... it all surrounded by a silent and unexpected revolution, from characters whose sad, real lives leave them so empty that they find comfort in doing justice and helping people one last time. 

Whether that secret revolution, that last stand is worth it... you'll have to read and see.

2. Days of Future Past, or Kitty Pride confused

If you are familiar with the Claremont/Byrne run on the Uncanny X-Men, you will know that, apart from the "Dark Phoenix" saga, this is as good as it gets. At least in my book.

Talking about an apocalyptic future where almost every mutant has been killed or is in a concentration camp may not look as such a spectacular idea today, with all those alternate realities, warped dimensions and Houses of Whathaveyou that we've seen over the years... but back then, in 1981, Claremont & Byrne established the seeds of many stories to come.

How did mutants get to this dire situation? With the passing of a law by Robert Kelly, a Senator that made his way to the top by defending his idealistic view of the future, where each and every mutant (including your friendly neighborhood Spider-Man) had no place in it and, therefore, had to be dealt with as the threat they were. 

As I was saying, future looked pretty ominous for all mutants, as only a bunch of them were still standing and ready to fight back against the Sentinels. And fight back they did.

Led by none other than an aged Logan, the mutants started what would be their last fight, the ultimate revolution. The prize? Honor, freedom, victory.

However, this revolution was unique, as thanks to Kitty Pride - the nexus between two timelines (present and future) - Xavier's gifted learned in the present about what the future would look like if they did not fight back against Senator Kelly and his radical ideas in their time.

This was a revolution fought on two fronts, on two timelines, to save mutantkind from complete decimation, so spectacular and so relevant to the X-mythos that it had to be included on this Top Ten's podium!

1. Civil War, or the day friendship died

This is it. The biggest, boldest fight between super-heroes you have ever seen.

But what was Civil War - not just the series, but the whole event and the new status quo that it left in the Marvel Universe - all about?

At first I thought it was all about cracking the internet in half, or something like that.

As I started to get into it, however, I realized that between strange and over-the-top characterizations of the leaders of the two sides (Iron Man and Steve Cap) there was one clear theme, that run out over the year or so that Civil War, its preludes and its aftermath, were on the racks.

Civil war's creator, Mark Millar, whether he knew it or not, was paying homage to one of Watchmen's themes: Who watches the watchmen?

Because the people in the MU had grown tired of superheroes playing by their own rules, and not being judged for their (sometimes) careless actions by the same standards as the rest of humans were.

So, as you already know, a law was passed, and in order to comply with it, Marvel heroes had to reveal their identities, stop working on their own and register with the government.

And there's where the revolution started. Cap, as an icon of liberty, decided that none had to give up his or her freedom in order to ensure security, and so did many more super-heroes, joining him in his crusade, his revolution, against former friends now working for "the dark side".

Hiding from one secret base to another, trying to recruit more and more heroes to join the cause, the Revolution eventually lost; and as the new regime was enforced, revolutionary heroes who still where anti-registration went underground... until the Skrull menace united everyone all over again.

The best part of this Marvel Universe revolution came with the fact, certainly well depicted, that there is neither black nor white, and that people's ideals are not so clear-cut, more so when one decision involves fighting your best friends and making hard decisions without a second thought.

Tony wasn't a murderer, Steve didn't want to be the Revolution's icon, and Peter wasn't a turncoat. 

They just thought they were doing the right thing, and in doing so, they committed many mistakes. And that does look very real to me.

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