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THE PC OF ZOMBIES

ZombieZombies and the rest of the undead are at today’s terminus of a trend toward political correctitude that began before any of us were born. Comics — of the newspaper ilk — had been criticized by Concerned Citizens almost from the beginning. And the criticism lurked, sometimes shouting and sometimes merely growling, ever since. With the advent in 1954 of the Comics Code, we learned specifically what the Concerned Multitudes were so concerned about. It was a long list.

Prohibited were: glamorized crooks, detailed plans for crimes, the words “horror” (and “crime”) on comic book covers, gruesome pictures, vampires, walking dead, cannibalism, profanity, smut, obscenity, attacks on religion, nudity, divorce, sex perversions, unperverted sex, liquor and tobacco and fireworks advertising, scenes of violence — and more, much more, but all in the same Victorian vein.

Mainly, Concerned Citizens objected to any affront to a nineteenth century sense of decorum. They didn’t like sex or ghoulishness or violence. Particularly, they didn’t like people killing people.

The publishers and creators of comic books reacted accordingly. They skirted sex, avoided ghoulishness, and took all the weapons away from heroic characters. Batman couldn’t have a pistol. And even if he got one by disarming a foe, he couldn’t use the pistol against his opponent. No killing.

In Westerns where wholesale gunfire is common, no one is ever killed. Gunfighters shot the guns out of the hands of the bad guys. No one died.

Meanwhile, back at the superhero shops, the good guys in tights acquired new offensive armament. Force fields. Lighting bolts from the finger tips. These vibrations could render enemies unconscious or harmless. But nothing fatal or disfiguring. And no blood was shed.

Simultaneously, the bad guys were no longer members of the human (sic) sapien species. They were alien beings — with force fields under their fingernails. So the superheroes were, at last, evenly matched. Their foes were not just crooks of the same species. They were superpowered aliens. So the superheroic good guys couldn’t be accused of bullying (which, in his inaugural appearance, Superman certainly could be), of beating up on ordinary, unpowered humanoids. Perforce, it was okay to pound non-human aliens — to dismember them, to blow them full of wholes.

Admittedly, the stories told under these restraints quickly became dull. The trend reached its apotheosis in the movie “Man of Steel” wherein Superman and his similarly superpowered opponent, neither of whom, regrettably, has fingertip force fields, must resort to pure, unadulterated power: they run at each other and crash headon like a couple freight trains. After a couple of these, boredom sets in pretty quick.

And the same kind of thing was transpiring in comic books.

Then, to the rescue, we have the walking dead.

At last, our heroes have opponents they can dismember and dispose of without killing them. Because they’re already dead. Hence, the ultimate in politically correct violence — superheroes battling and bloodily disintegrating zombies and similarly no-longer-alive beings. No one, apparently, objects to desecrating animated corpses.

For more Rants & Raves with its comics news and reviews, gossip and cartooning lore, visit www.RCHarvey.com

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