From about the 1970s forward, modern story-telling in movies, popular culture and reading have been fascinated with dystopian futures. While George Orwell and his classic, 1984, clearly cornered the early market on the topic a decade earlier, the idea of a not-so-wonderful tech-based future really gained wings and flew a bit later. Everything from Logan’s Run to 2001: a Space Odyssey questioned the direction of humanity and what its advancement was really going to provide. Some storylines were dark, like Soylent Greens. Others were hopeful and had positive endings, like Star Wars. However, in every aspect, there was a trend of thinking that the future isn’t a perfect place and has a lot of problems. Comic books weren’t immune from this theme.

Continuing A Modern Theme

With comic books in the 2020s, the release of Ghost Machine #1 continues the dystopian trend at a personal level, focusing on characters like Geiger, for example. Placed in the near future, only 25 or so years after a stereotypical nuclear war event, Geiger has the Spiderman-similar ability to not be affected harmfully by radiation. However, his newfound skill in the post-apocalyptic age isn’t perfect. He has a problem of being a walking time-bomb instead. This paradox of living forces the hero to struggle to control himself and his power at a time when everyone would probably be asking, “Why bother? What does it matter now?” Yet he does anyway.

What Comic Books Say About Us

The progression of the latest comic book apocalyptic or dystopian themes captured in Ghost Machine #1 are definitely the products of experienced veterans like Geoff Johns and others in the Image portfolio, but it goes beyond just the individual artist. The dystopian theme is a cultural concern about where all of us will be in a half century, which isn’t that far away for many, including those born in the 1970s. It’s a theme that also says society doesn’t trust its leaders to do the right thing and instead expects an eventual serious mistake to happen as well.

Whether the same concerns ultimately play out or not, as Tolkein’s Lord of the Rings did with World War II, there’s no question that serious comic books continue to reflect society’s deep-rooted concerns about what tomorrow may bring. While we are not at the fear level of a nuclear war that was present in the early 1980s, there is still saber-rattling that continues to unnerve people across generations. And our imagination reflects those fears.