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8 Comic Book Heroes That Spread Progressive Ideals

Quintessential patriot Superman renounced his US citizenship last month in protest. But he's not the first comic-book hero to espouse progressive ideals.

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8. Mike Doonesbury. This is a gimme, Doonesbury creator Garry Trudeau having been a mouthpiece of progressive politics since 1968, but this list would be remiss without it. Mike Doonesbury’s musing on the news of the day cast him as a kind of anti-hero, the opposite of saviors like Superman. Rather than rescuing everyday Americans from the ills of the day, he was the everyday American, and his sardonic, sometimes silly observations of political hypocrisy transformed him into a character many people could identify with. He reflected the cynicism of the post-Vietnam years; we no longer believed an omnipotent alien would swoop down to save us from ourselves, but we could appreciate the plight of a person going through the same things we were.

This list is nowhere near complete -- comics, long thought of as an alternative aesthetic, have been a refuge and outlet for liberals since they first became popular in America. And while the internal debates rage on (Do comics glorify war culture? Do they encourage anti-social behavior? And why are all the women characters so busty?), as an art form, they harbor some of the best examples of progressive aesthetics in pop culture. Even though the "graphic novel" has now been legitimized by literati, and the most beloved superheroes now glean billions of dollars at the box office, most comics still essentially live outside the realm of the capitalist mainstream that dictates homogeneity. Luckily, they don’t live outside the political discourse.

Julianne Escobedo Shepherd is an associate editor at AlterNet and a Brooklyn-based freelance writer and editor. Formerly the executive editor of The FADER, her work has appeared in VIBE, SPIN, New York Times and various other magazines and websites.