Think for yourself
Created, Written and Illustrated by Brian Wood
"Over here in comics, things are different, you see. Sometimes, we're an outlaw medium. Sometimes we're just the preferred tiny place for neurotics and losers to gibber in. Either way, we're an outside art, a fringe medium watched by no-one but the more voracious cultural commentators and the aficionados. We don't have huge corporations trembling at our every movement, because we make no money compared to the other visual narrative media. That vast commercial pressure isn't brought to bear on comics. Which means, often, that we can say what we want without rich men's scissors attacking our work until it's safe for little Tommy in Dogshit, Nebraska. I hate little Tommy in Dogshit, Nebraska. I want to kill little Tommy in Dogshit, Nebraska. And so does Brian Wood." - Warren Ellis, from his introduction to Channel Zero.
The above paragraph encapsulates a lot of how I personally feel about the comics medium. I constantly get on my soapbox and scream out to anyone who will listen that there is so much substantial material contained within comics, but very little of it ever gets noticed without having a major motion picture attached. No one pays attention, so there isn't a lot of money involved. With no money, Hollywood, corporate America, and the government (all three of which are sometimes interchangeable) don't care what anybody says in comics.
That's what gives guys like Brian Wood and Warren Ellis the freedom to write whatever the hell they want. Comics is one of the last mediums where people can actually be subversive and revolutionary. Comics can still question the system and offer alternative ways to change it.
Channel Zero does all that. It was Brian Wood's first published work, and was first released in 1997. I think it's even more relevant now than ever before, and will only continue to carry more weight over time. It chronicles the movement of its main character, Jennie 2.5, and her attempts to restore true freedom of speech and expression.
With modern tech, there are so many outlets available for people to express themselves. Everybody has a blog/spacebook/yourspace/shwitter/metube where they can say whatever they want. But then when people start saying the wrong things, stuff that can actually upset the status quo, efforts are made to supress those views. The exchange of information and viewpoints has allowed for the progress of technology, and in many ways has helped to improve lives. If we continue to allow supression, or even intense regulation of the flow of information, than we lose the benefits. We will be left with very few options of how to live our lives. We won't have the capacity to make a wrong decision, as the only options that we will be capable of deciding between will be those determined by the people on top.
Channel Zero explores a possibility of what can happen if the people allow their lives to be dictated by corporate sponsorship. Jennie 2.5 slaps America in the face by hacking into the system and revealing its institutionalized apathy. The message of the book is even more poignant as Jennie's radical movement devolves into just another fashion trend. It kind of mimics how Che Guevara used to be recognized as one of the most influential revolutionaries in history, but he's now recognized as that silhouette on t-shirts.
After reading Channel Zero and understanding what Jennie 2.5 is really about, I'm reminded how important it is to think for yourself. It's easy to follow your friends, or subscribe to a point of view to have a sense of acceptance. But you can't just be a Republican. You can't just be a Democrat. No one is just a liberal or a conservative. And yet people toe the party line and stand behind their party, even without really looking at the issues and deciding on each one based on one's own values and self-interests.
I think that by being reading this column, or even just being on our site, it's very likely that you already feel similar to the way I do. You think about issues instead of just buying what THEY're selling. You understand that you can change your lot in life regardless of where you start. What I ask from you is to share that paradigm with others. Use your blog/spacebook/yourspace/shwitter/metube to encourage people to do the same. Even if the MAN tries to silence your voice, use sign language.
Who should read this book:
People who don't buy into the hype.
People who still believe that the world can be good.
People who are tired of letting the system think for them.