Sep 18, 2017

EC Comics' Judgment Day - Simultaneously Outdated and Still Relevant

If ever you're feeling bad about the racial dynamics of the world today, and if ever at the same time, you want to read some classic quality comics, take a trip back to 1953 and EC Comics' "Judgment Day." Originally published in Weird Fantasy #18 and written by Al Feldstein and drawn by Joe Orlando, it is one of the most important comics stories that's ever been published


This seven-page futuristic story revolves around an Earthman named Tarlton landing on Cybrinia, the Planet of Mechanical Life, one of Earth's colonies. He's greeted by a bunch of orange robots, and is quickly shown how they are mass produced and made, from construction to sheathing to being placed in the "educator," where their mechanical brains are endowed with all knowledge available to society.



All is well and good until Tarlton realizes that the orange robots and the blue robots are treated differently.



He asks to be shown where the blue robots are made, and he makes a point.


At the end of the story, he takes his helmet off.


That's it. That's the twist ending. In an era in a company known for ironic twist endings, "Judgment Day" ends with the revelation that the main character is black. It's impossible to feel the full impact of it now, but in 1953, this was huge.  It's almost definite that anyone reading it defaulted to Tarlton being a white guy. In an era where Ebony White was seen by some as an advancement for portrayals of black people, Tarlton is important.

So we've got a long way to go, but I think the fact that this particular twist ending wouldn't have the same impact today shows we've come quite a way. The arguments are different now. The institutional racism that Tarlton talks about in this story still exists, but now we know that when a minority holds any positon of power, it shouldn't come as such a surprise.

To aspiring creators, I hope this also exemplifies how you can use science fiction to talk about contemporary issues.

Here's the story in full. Click to enlarge and read this story that would undoubtedly be called SJW propaganda if it came out today.





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