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Issue 46: Marvel and DC’s Famine Relief Comics



Mike: Like, talk about the Republican mindset as this, like, overly expensive, nonsensical solution for something that's not really a problem. Hello. Welcome to Ten Cent Takes, the podcast where we swear our way through once in a lifetime historical events one issue at a time. My name is Mike Thompson, and as always, I am joined by my co host, the sidekick and suffering Jessika Frazier.

Jessika: And how. Just you wait, friends. The suffering is endless.

Mike: Yeah, we made the mistake of recording this on the night that the midterm elections are unfolding. And so we are depressed and stressed like nothing has really been called yet on, like, the really key races. But I don't know, man, if we suddenly sound very sad halfway through the episode, you'll probably know why.

Jessika: And warmly dressed because it's quite chilly where we are right this second.

Mike: I've been living for it. It's been raining. It's great.

Jessika: M. You know how I feel about the rain.

Mike: Do I?

Jessika: My tiny house leaks.

Mike: Oh, right, yes. Ironic, since it's, uh, shaped like a pirate ship.

Jessika: Yeah, well, the leaks come from above instead of below in my home watertight. Nay.

Mike: I was going to say, you just can't do anything normal, can you?

Jessika: No, I have to live in a house that shaped like a pirate ship and then get rained on and then.

Mike: It leaks from the top.

Jessika: And it leaks from the top. I know. I'm a whole problem. I'm a whole mess. But that's why the folks keep coming back. Yeah, I think question mark.

Mike: I don't know. Maybe it can't be because we're charming and funny.

Jessika: No, we are trash goblins. We completely I know. We talk about this every time.

Mike: God. At some point, Sarah's going to draw us a mascot and I'm very excited about what she's got planned.

Jessika: I'm also very excited.

Mike: Anyway, if you are new to the show, the purpose of our podcast is to look at comic books in ways that are both fun and informative. We like to talk about their weirdest, their coolest, their silliest moments, and then examine how they are woven into the larger fabric of pop culture and history. And as always, if you are enjoying the show so far and you want to help us grow, it'd be a huge help if you want to rate us and or review us on Apple podcasts, because that really helps with Discoverability. So tonight we are going to be talking about Heroes for Hope, starring The X Men and Heroes Against Hunger, which were two charity comics created by a veritable who's who of the comic book industry in the 1980s designed to help generate funds for famine relief in Africa. But before we start going down that rabbit hole, and because this episode is going to be dropping somewhat close to Thanksgiving, we are going to change things up a little bit. And instead of asking what is one cool thing that we've read or watched lately, I'm going to ask, what is one comic or comic related piece of media that you were thankful for?

Jessika: I am thankful for the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles animated series.

Mike: I don't know why I even asked. I should have just called it.

Jessika: You know, I love that. Everyone knows. I love that. It was definitely one of my, uh, nerdy loves. When I was a kid, I remember my brother and I running around with laundry baskets on our backs pretending to be Ninja Turtles. So it runs deep with me. So anybody who thinks I'm not a nerd to my core, just know. Just know. So that's really what I would say. It's fun. I have such good memories behind it. And it's a piece of media that I feel like will always make me feel warm and fuzzy on the inside.

Mike: Nice. Mine is right now Superman Son of Kalil, which is a newer series that I believe it's getting rebranded in the near future with, uh, a different name, but it is written by Tom Taylor and illustrated by John Tims. And I've talked about this before. Tom Taylor is, I think, one of the best writers out there in comics right now. And he has written a really wonderful story starring Superman son, Jonathan. And the comic got a lot of attention, both positively and negatively because this is the series where John came out as Bi mhm. And that said, yeah, it's noteworthy because there is that focus on John being queer. And it is also a story where Superman is not often present in the comic, but his metaphorical shadow looms pretty large. But it is a really beautiful story about family and love in dealing with pressures to live up to when your parents are famous for different reasons. But this is, I think, kind of like representative of something that I've been noticing more and more in media, which it feels like the last couple of years, we have really been getting a lot of really good representation of queer people and and by people in particular. And I've been really grateful to see that there's a lot of TV shows and even some movies have been stepping things up in that department. That's more what I'm thankful for. It's just the overall trend. This comic just happens to be, I think, the best example of queer representation in mainstream media right now.

Jessika: No, I like that.

Mike: Oh, man, it was so funny, too, because when I was talking to Sarah about it earlier this week, I said, Jessika is already yelling at me on messenger about this. And she was like, what did you make her read? I know this is your fault.

Jessika: It's 100% your fault. I usually inadvertently make us read something awful. And you're like, you go into it with full knowledge every time. You're like, oh, uh, sorry about it, but.

Mike: Oh, man, no, uh, this was a doozy. And I thought it was going to be much funnier.

Jessika: Oh, God. Funny, but not funny ha ha. Funny sad.

Mike: Yeah. Ah. Going to that real sad clown school of funny.

Jessika: Uh lord. Seriously?

Mike: Yeah. So before we get to tonight's main topic, we need to talk about Ethiopia, starting with the Ethiopian civil war. What do you know about it?

Jessika: Absolutely nothing. I know whatever you're about to tell.

Mike: Me, it's probably for the best. It's real bad. I've spent the last few days reading through an increasingly depressing series of articles about all of this stuff and Human Rights Watch reports. I'm like, God damn it, I just want to make uh this is a comic book podcast, and yet here I am. Okay, basically, in the 1960s, the Ethiopian empire started to get really unstable after there was an attempted coup to overthrow the Emperor Halai Salasi, and they wanted to install a progressive government with his son, the Crown Prince OSFA wasan at the head and to institute more progressive policies. And after that, the emperor's regime continued on until, like, late 1974. But it sounds like it was increasingly creaky because he was growing increasingly unpopular with citizens at all levels of society. And this was due to stagnating quality of life, slow economic development, and an increase in human rights abuses, which we love on this show. So in 1974, a group of officers and enlisted men in the Ethiopian army who called themselves the Durg, they overthrew the government and started running the country as a junta, which is like a military based government party. They didn't consolidate their power over the country, though, and so they quickly found themselves facing off against a bunch of opposition groups that had sprung up because of the power vacuum. And in 1976, as a result of this, they instituted something called the Keishabir, which is also known as the Ethiopian Red Terror. And it was this really brutal campaign of violent terror against their competing political groups. And the accounts are honestly pretty awful and nauseating. The victim account is just overwhelming. Amnesty International told the BBC that there may have been 500,000 casualties, Wikipedias as the number might be closer to 750,000. But everyone agrees that most of the victims were just innocent people caught in the middle. Jeez and this leads us to the ensuing Ethiopian famine. In the 1980s, the Dirk decided to redistribute the land to the general citizenry. The idea was that they were taking land from greedy landlords and giving it to the peasants who had actually done all the work and were not able to reap any of the real benefits of this. But this was apparently a pretty big disaster because of mismanagement corruption and people's overall hostility towards the Derg. And then on top of that, the land had actually been really devastated by constant warfare. And then there was a pretty big drought that hit in 1983. Now, before this, droughts and famines weren't exactly uncommon in Ethiopia, and like, 80% of employment there was tied to agriculture, but this drought was catastrophic. And combined with the preexisting conditions, it all combined into this, like, perfect storm situation to create the country's worst famine in a century. So you had this monster famine going on. An international relief was being funneled through the government, which was fighting multiple conflicts within its own borders, and also didn't actually have access to some of the hardest hit areas because of those conflicts. And it sounds like those early areas that were really dealing with the brunt of the famine in the north of the country were basically in rebel territories and the government just didn't send food there. And then the famine kept getting worse. I guess there was like a literal plague of locusts a couple of years later, too. But between the famine, the government's cruelty and incompetence and everything else going on, almost 8 million people were directly affected by this and over a million people died. It's just staggering, and we don't think of things like this being able to happen in our lifetime, but it was horrific. And this is an incredibly truncated version of a really major historical tragedy. And if you want to read more about it, there's a ton of articles and books available. I'm glossing over a lot of stuff, honestly, because there's a lot that I don't want to talk about based on what I read, and also because this is something you can teach an entire college course on. I'll post resources in the notes if you want to read more about it, but I understand if you don't. Yeah, so, basically, I just wanted to provide some context about how we got to the comics that we're talking about tonight. So, in late 1984, the BBC wound up documenting this whole thing, and the report was this, like, galvanizing event because it shocked Britain into action. And that, in turn, brought together the international community in general. Not only did a host of European nations come together to provide aid, but so did the Soviet Union and the USA. It was a big deal. It was like a real combined effort from the international community. And additionally, the famine became the charity focused de jour of this time. An Irish musician named Bob Geldorf saw the BBC report and he decided to do something about it. So he and the Southern Scottish Musician Midor put together the musical Supergroup Band Aid, which recorded the song Do They Know It's Christmas? That single was a pretty monster success. It sold over 2 million copies worldwide and it raised more than $24 million for famine relief. They also coordinated the Live Aid concerts, which, for those of you who don't remember it and it's not part of your cultural memory, it was a concert event that took place simultaneously in two venues, both in the UK and the USA. And it was kind of this, like, insane triumph for satellite broadcasting. And it lasted 16 hours, I think, between the two locations. If you've seen Bohemian Rhapsody, I think that's where they end up, like, showing the Live Aid concert, where, like, Queen gave this amazing performance at the concert, and it's widely considered, like, one of, like, the major moments of the band's history. Yeah. And those concerts went on to generate an additional $127,000,000 in relief funds. And then finally we had another musical supergroup called USA for Africa recorded the charity We Are the World, and that went on to sell, like, 20 million copies. And it's still one of the best selling singles of all time.

Jessika: I was going to say the melody popped her right into my brain.

Mike: I re watched them ahead of this, and, uh, it's kind of funny because from a 2022 lens, none of these songs are really great. We are the world do they know it's Christmas? They're just very sappy kind of balance.

Jessika: And do they know it's Christmas? It's like, uh, wow, how freaking Christian centric good.

Mike: Yeah. And I think one of the lyrics is, it's like, how will they know it's Christmas? Because there's no snow in Africa. And it's like, uh, the intent was good, but weird. Weird that the UK would do something unintentionally colonizing weird. Yeah. This is where comic books enter the story. In 1985, Marvel put out Heroes for Hope, starting the X Men, which was basically the comic equivalent of these musical charity moves. The book contained a ton of work from all star industry creators and a couple of folks from outside the industry, like Stephen King and Harlan Ellison and George R. R. Martin. And it also contains, like, one of the few pieces of Marvel storytelling by Alan Moore outside of his Marvel UK stuff that he did. And it sounds like everybody involved, like, even the Marvel production staff just donated their time to this project. There are really too many creators to fully list out on this episode. You know, take another ten minutes. But highlights outside of those that we've already mentioned include Stan Lee, Alan Moore, John Burn, Howard Chaiken, Steve Engelhardt, Klaus Jensen, Brent Anderson, Al Milgram, Bill Senkovitz and Walt Simonson. And according to the afterward note by Jim Shooter in the book, the whole thing came out in a pretty interesting way.

Speaker C: One night a few months ago, artist Jim Starling called me at home to propose an idea that his friend and fellow artist Bernie Wrightson has suggested to him that Marvel Comics published a special issue of the XMen, a benefit book for famine relief in Africa. Jim and Bernie wanted to do the book as a, quote, unquote jam, with as many artists and writers contributing, which would enable us to bring a small army of outstanding talents together on the project, making it a real event. I thought it was a great idea.

Mike: Special thanks to Lance from Comic Bookkeepers for the Voiceover work. If you are looking for more quality content after this episode. Check out their show. I believe they are reviewing Wakanda Forever this week. And last week, I think they did a deep dive on Namor. But back to the topic at hand. So the Xmen was a pretty big brand to be involved, to be honest, in a project like this. According to Comic Con, which tracks comic sales history, xmen and X Factor were the two top selling books for half of 1985. The other six months, the top selling books were all individual issues of the event book Secret Wars Two.

Jessika: Mhm.

Mike: So the comic's overall plot was by Chris Claremont, anne Nocenti, Bernie Wrightson, Jim Starlin and Jim Shooter. And there were individual sections of the story written by a ton of different folks. What's even more interesting about this is that this and Heroes Against Hunger were created as what are called comic jams. And these are basically when a variety of creators work together on a project, usually a couple of pages at a time, and it's largely improvised. This is a technique that's known as the exquisite corpse, which is when artists and writers improvise content based on a very small excerpt that they're able to see. There's not a lot of detail about how it happened here, but it sounds like the creators had the general story, and then they were creating their section based on the last page of the previous section. So it sounds like they were given the assignment of, like, okay, so this is where point A left off. You need to get us to point B. And that's all the context you have.

Jessika: Wow.

Mike: Yeah. Uh, it's kind of surprising because, honestly, for the most part, this is a fairly coherent story in the book.

Jessika: The xmen one. Yeah, if you insist.

Mike: I think it is.

Jessika: But it hops around quite a lot.

Mike: It does hop around, but I think it gets to where it needs to get to overall. Yeah. So it sounds like the creators had to get from the previous ending point to another point, but they were allowed to improvise how they got there, which is like, kind of a neat element, I think. So the story begins with Rachel Summers, the newly added Phoenix to the X Men, opening the door, the X mansion, to grab the mail. But something's really wrong. There's like, this comatose mailman sitting in the middle of a barren desert where their lawn should be. And any of the X Men who go out to rescue the guy are basically hit with this sense of horror or terror and a painful hunger. Wolverine goes out, and he's able to make it out because he is, you know, uh, his healing factor sort of protects him, and then he figures out that it's all a psychic illusion. And so as the Xmen go to search the grounds, they start getting individually attacked by whoever is behind this, which provides us with a bunch of quick little, almost like horror vignettes of the hero's various subconscious fears. So first we have colossus is confronted by metal skinned versions of his teammates, who basically tell him that his armored form protects him from the weakness of humanity, which then leaves him with lasting doubts about him as a person. Kitty Pride, in a little section that's written by Stephen King and illustrated by Bernie Wrightson and inked by Jeff Jones, goes to grab something from the fridge and then meets this like, grim reapersque figure in a cloak who exposes her greatest fear of going hungry. Nightcrawler finds Kitty, who's basically a skin and bone scarecrow, and then he suddenly finds himself dealing with this glowing woman who's telling him he can be a hero and redeem the world. I don't know how, but only if he sacrifices himself and he doesn't want to. And then he thinks that he's like a giant coward. And then the enemy plays into his fears about how he's really a demon for giving into his selfishness. Magneto is shown a vision of a world where he achieved his dream of mutant supremacy, but it's a nightmare that ties back to his origin story. In Nazi death camps, rachel herself has a nightmare where she's dealing with a group of Doppelganger hounds, which were part of the Dystopian Days of Future Past storyline that she originated in. Wolverine dreams of a battle between his human and beastial sides. Storm has this psychic assault where she's dealing with an evil carnival where the ringmaster traps her in a house of mirrors and he shows her all these various distorted images of who she can possibly be. And then he tries to get her to throw a pie at a group of starving people. And this is the first time that we actually see the starvation theme, the famine, all that come into play. And Storm doesn't do that, and instead she shares it with the crowd. She says there's plenty for everyone. Yeah, and that's the moment she becomes the first one to overcome this psychic assault. And having triumphed against this attack, she emerges from a dream state. And then she rallies the whole team with a speech where they're like, we're going to find this person who is doing this to us. And they use Rachel summer's powers to track the psychic enemy to Africa. They fly the blackbird to the source, roughly, and right after they land, they come across hoards of starving people. And then immediately after that, a bunch of relief aircraft arrived that are full of supplies. And the X Men actually help distribute the supplies. They basically sit there and say, this is a more pressing matter. We will find the bad guy to fight later. And they help in all these different relief efforts. And it's actually kind of cool. I, uh, like that there's that whole focus. And then that Night Rogue is trying to feed a child and the kid dies in her arms or right as it is about to touch her, and that becomes her breaking point. And she goes back to the campfire where her teammates are sleeping, and then she ends up stealing their powers while they're asleep. And she becomes this kind of, like, cool amalgam of the entire group. It's a little silly looking, but it's also kind of a cool design. Yeah. Ah, she's got like, you know, metallic limbs and, like, different it's kind of neat, but yeah. And then, because she has Rachel's powers now, she traces this evil entity to its hiding place in the desert. And it looks like a Mud igloo, but it's actually like a crypt. The entity has this, like, kind of psychic body that's shaped sort of like a weird lizard alien. It attacks Rogue and then she absorbs it and it possesses her. And Storm was able to track Rogue, and she ends up distracting this creature before it can get out and really do a lot of damage with all these powers. And she fights it sort of to a standstill until the other X Men reawaken one by one. And then as they reawaken, Rogue's body loses the powers that she's stolen, and then they help Storm defeat this thing. And it's actually kind of cool because at this point in time, Storm doesn't have her powers. That was a whole storyline in the 80s, was that Storm lost her powers, but she was still leading the X Men, and she had this baller punk rock look that I still love and.

Jessika: Oh, my God, mohawk. Storm is absolutely my favorite.

Mike: Yeah. Right around the same time, there was an issue where she also got into a knife fight with Callisto, who is the leader of the Morlocks. And it's pretty good. I actually really like that they bring that back every now and then, they'll give Storm her mohawk, and then they also are happy to prove that she's actually really good in a knife fight. That was pretty great. So the X Men help Storm defeat this thing, but they all acknowledge that this creature is a psychic being, and it's ancient. It's basically been living alongside humanity, feeding off their suffering. They don't really know what it is. We're never really given a hard origin story for it. But Storm theorizes that it could be the ultimate primal mutant that just feeds on human suffering. And the group realizes that their battle with the entity was kind of a metaphor for the fight against the famine overall. And Kitty talks about how hopeless things seem because the creature probably survived in Wolverine comfort. Sir. And it ends with the X Men resolving to stay and help with the relief efforts. And that's the end. It's a 48 page story. It's broken up into these little bitesized story chunks, so you get these little bits of story that don't quite gel together. Like, it feels like one person was writing it, but at the same time, it gets you to where it needs you to. I don't know. What did you think about this book? What did you think about Heroes for Hope colon starring the X Men?

Jessika: Like shaking my head already. So first of all, Africa? They just say they're going to Africa. What, the whole damn continent? Yeah, the whole place. Huh?

Mike: Huh?

Jessika: Yeah. So be specific. Choose a country. And of course it's like, yeah, the one place they touch down is starving. How convenient. And I don't know, it's the white savior thing for me. It's like they're like, oh, we're so helpful. We need to get in there and help. And it's like, yeah, I mean, I probably would help too if I kind of came upon that situation, but it felt very much like we are doing so much good here we are. I don't know, it had a weird vibe for me and I don't ever like the way that they depict the starving people.

Mike: Mhm.

Jessika: Like it feels gross, it feels exaggerated. And again, it's just kind of not a good vibe. Yeah. And I don't know, I found it a little confusing because I didn't really get what was going on with every like suddenly we were in a desert and then we were here and then we were there and I kind of had to catch on to what was going on and maybe I just wasn't following along. But for me it was more of a hop, I think, than I was expecting from scene to scene. Which makes a lot more sense when you explain it with one person having written it and then passing it along to the next person kind of a thing. Also, can we please talk about the suspicious child death in Rogue's Arms? Because I'm sorry, but that child was fully alive. Yeah, that child looked fully alive.

Mike: M. And then they have to sit there and they're like, oh, look, basically it couldn't even touch me before it died. And I'm like, okay.

Jessika: M, it really sucks is all I'm saying.

Mike: It was very much a narrative trope where they were trying to stir up her anger against this thing.

Jessika: Yeah, oh, absolutely. But one of the things about this comic is that when Colossus I don't know what's going on with him. He's in the water and he is struggling, he is fighting for his life. But there is this one frame, I have no idea what's happening, but I just sent you a picture and I would like for you to describe what it looks like is happening.

Mike: I was wondering if you were going to call this out. Uh, when I saw this originally, I have to nightcrawler throws his towel at Colossus while he's in this pool and that's when his nightmare really begins. But the way that it is drawn, it looks like an uncircumcised dick with hands.

Jessika: Yes.

Mike: You know, how about ten years ago, the show how I Met Your Mother. There's an episode where these architects are trying to design a bank, and the bank president is showing the model and he's just like, that's a penis. Every now and then I find that gift. And this is one of those times where I saw that and I'm like, that's a penis.

Jessika: I was like, what's going on? So the caption says, my towel, Kurt. How will I, uh, dry off now, not only that, but there is water underneath this towel. But it doesn't look like water necessarily. It looks like it looks stringy. We should post this picture.

Mike: We should post this picture. We should absolutely post this picture.

Jessika: It might be taken down because people might think it's not just a towel.

Mike: Like I said, it's a penis. Hashtag, it's a penis. So I think I'm viewing this with a bit more of a forgiving look.

Jessika: You're potentially more forgiving than I am.

Mike: Yeah, sometimes. Depends. I actually liked that they sit there and they talk about how they can't solve the famine. They can't fight it, but they can help with relief efforts. They aren't trying to take charge. I liked that they were trying to help however they could. I liked that Storm wound up being the one who really was kind of responsible for defeating this thing not once, but twice. And storm is from Africa. Kenya specifically. And I also kind of dug that it was the woman who was representative of at least the region, who has no powers, who ends up being kind of like the one who rallies the troops and who defeats the evil, even if it's really just temporary.

Jessika: No. And I can appreciate the Storm aspect of it for sure.

Mike: Yeah. And I mean, I wasn't sure how good it was going to be. I wasn't really expecting much, but I really kind of enjoyed the whole theme of the individual nightmares and how basically they couldn't really fight against them in.

Jessika: A traditional sense because they were battling their own demons. Yeah.

Mike: Narratively, it's a little bit uneven, but I think it works for the most part. And in comparison, I think it works much better than the next book we're going to talk about.

Jessika: Oh, I mean, absolutely. Yes. But I have worse things to say about that one.

Mike: I mean, I think we both do. Was there anything that you especially liked about this book or anything that you really didn't like?

Jessika: Mhm I did like how part of it was tapping into each of their own fears, and that was a neat thing to kind of explore for each of the characters. Things I didn't like. Again, it's the white savior thing. For me, it's the calling. It Africa. I feel like things are done with a certain intent and sometimes they lack sensitivity.

Mike: Yeah. I enjoyed the idea of the villain not being the true evil. I thought that was kind of clever. It was just sort. Of a parasite that wasn't actually causing the misery. It just happened to be feeding on the byproduct. I really enjoyed a couple of the psychic nightmares, but I especially enjoyed the one that was written by Stephen King and having Bernie writes and illustrate it was just Chef's Kiss. It also had, like, echoes of King's novel Thinner, which had just come out a year earlier. So I'm sure that that's not a coincidence.

Jessika: Not at all.

Mike: Yeah, I'm a little frustrated by the fact that we never got an actual explanation for why this thing was attacking the X Men. There was a vague line about how mutants in the past had tried to destroy it. So this could have been like a vague act of revenge. But mhm whatever.

Jessika: That part was not well explained.

Mike: Yeah, I mean, it came across as like a well meaning after school special that mostly works. It's not great, but it mostly works. So Heroes for Hope sounds like it was a pretty reasonable hit. Apparently it generated $150,000 at the time, which is a little over 400,000 when you adjusted for inflation. You know, it's nothing to sneeze at. Uh, and proceeds from the comic went to the American Friends Service Committee to help with their efforts with family relief and recovery. And then Jim Starlin and Bernie Wrightson were co recipients of the 1986 Bob Clampet Humanitarian Award for their work on the book. So it's not really surprising that Starlin and Wrightson basically did the exact same thing the next year with DC Comics getting a lot of the same contributors to work on another 48 page book that was this time called Heroes Against Hunger. And Heroes Against Hunger was plotted by Starlin and Wrightson. And then, according to Wikipedia, there were over 100 people that worked on the book. Overall highlights include a, uh, cover penciled by Neil Adams, and ank by Dick Giordano. There was pencil work by George Perez, Barry Windsor Smith, then Jack Kirby, and writing by Mike W. Barr, Mark Wolfman, and Jerry Conway. How would you summarize heroes against hunger?

Jessika: Buckle up, bitches, because strap in. Strap in. Because let me just tell you right now that earlier today, before Mike and I recorded, I said, hey Mike, I need a few extra minutes. This has taken me a little bit longer to take all of the notes that I had jot down in my scribbly cursive handwriting and put it into something I could read easier into our outline. And Mike's like, yeah, no problem. And I still wasn't done with it by the time we met up because I vastly underestimated how much I wrote about this. That being said, we will be going into quite the narrative because this shit was also a roller coaster ride and made kind of even less sense than the other one did.

Mike: It was wild and needs more explaining.

Jessika: Than the other one because otherwise you'd be lost.

Mike: I had to put this book down several times.

Jessika: I did too. I had to restart it because I.

Mike: Was like, wait, so grumpy. I was so grumpy about it.

Jessika: We first see Superman, who is carrying huge freight containers of topsoil to Ethiopia to relieve their famine. And there's a news crew narrating the living shit out of the situation and speaking super condescendingly about the country being aided.

Mike: It's so bad. And it's basically just narrating everything that he's doing. It's like it's the definition of telling, not showing.

Jessika: Superman flies through the air with a giant box of topsoil. But I don't know. There's a wind. Yeah, it's pretty bad. And Superman is approached by a Peace Corps worker named Leanne Layton, who ridicules him for doing more harm than good and calls him out for being a camera hog.

Mike: Which absolutely I mean, no light is detected.

Jessika: Yeah, he literally was like, flexing for the camera. He's like, perfect. They've got my good side. Ding. So she calls him out, ridicules him for doing more harm than good, and asks him how long he thinks his plan is going to take. And he's like, 20 years. And she scoffs at him and walks away because obviously that's a ridiculous time frame for an immediate problem. So while carrying his next bin full, he's shot out of the sky and, oh, no, the topsoil was lost in the wind. But who would do such a thing? Meanwhile, eerily nearby, of course, coincidentally, Batman is dealing with a similar situation where someone is shooting down planes carrying food. The Bat sees Superman flying overhead and blinds him with a mirror to get his attention. Cool. And is immediately snarky to him. That would be pretty funny.

Mike: That was the whole thing was like this was right around the time that John Burns, man of Steel miniseries had just, like, rebranded Superman. And so he was a big popular character again. But they really had Batman and Superman have this sort of antagonistic relationship back then. That was a whole thing. You remember going way back remember the new Guardians episode and that Millennium crossover that led to it? Ah, yeah. There was this whole really kind of mean spirited, one sided rivalry between Batman and Superman where, like, Superman for the most part is like, whatever, I'm fucking Superman. I don't care. Yeah, Batman had, like, a major chip on his shoulder. Like, really did not seem to like Superman.

Jessika: So and that definitely showed in this too, where Superman at one point was like, would you just listen to me? He's like, chastising him. It was pretty funny. So Superman uses his microscopic vision on the fallen plane. Microscopic vision, quote, unquote. And is somehow able to surmise that it was taken down by a particle beam weapon.

Mike: Of course, yeah, whatever.

Jessika: You see the face I'm making? I'm like, okay. So again, there's more of that classic hero miscommunication between the two. But Superman tells the Bat about something Lex luther had been cooking up that may actually be inadvertently good for the world. And because Superman is obviously obsessed with Luther and is stalking him kind of weird.

Mike: That was one of my favorite things, though. It was Batman's like, you know where he is and you're not locking him up. And he's like, man, sometimes he does stuff that's actually good for humanity because.

Jessika: He likes watching him.

Mike: I'm like, I don't know, man, this feels real weird.

Jessika: This feels no, here's my thing. They both are in love with each other. Absolutely. It is so obvious. He's like, oh, I couldn't possibly go see Lex. Luther like, we are not on good terms. And Batman's like, we're not on good terms. Superman is like, you're probably on least bad terms, so you should probably go.

Mike: They're both billionaires and they'll find common ground.

Jessika: Dude, fuck billionaires. Every time I think about billionaires, I want to flip a table.

Mike: Yeah, hashtag get fucked, billionaires.

Jessika: Seriously. And so Batman and Superman eventually come up with a plan to have Batman track down Lex Luther and have Superman track down the lines of communication to see who had been able to learn their freight schedules. I don't know. It was really unclear. But Superman could do it. He could do anything. So because he could do anything, he finds that there was, in fact, a tap put on Wayne Enterprises. Communicators, of course. But he's also attacked by cyborgs, which he pulverizes with his heat vision, like, immediately. And it's fine because they're not people.

Mike: Yeah, but we learn that they're not people. One of them punches him in the face and obliterates its fist.

Jessika: Its own hand. Yeah, his hand explodes.

Mike: I think that was the first time I put down the book. I'm just like, what is this nonsense? Where I'm like, I thought this was supposed to be a thing about helping people in Africa.

Jessika: What's happening right now?

Mike: And all the cyborgs are just like random white people, by the way.

Jessika: It's very random white people. But you know what? You know what? If you're going to make cyborgs, just like, chilling, protecting something, making a bunch of unassuming white people, and you're probably fine. The police aren't going to bother them.

Mike: I feel like in this scenario, when you have them in Ethiopia, maybe they stick out a little more.

Jessika: Well, that is fair. Because here's the thing. Let's see. So he pulverizes them, the cyborgs, and then he's able to follow the communication path again. And then he literally breaks through the ceiling of a secret underground lair. And there he finds and starts immediately bothering this large green man with four arms who is called Master. I do have to note that his two arms at the top are very small, and the others are proportionate.

Mike: His name is the Master. It's not just master. It's the master.

Jessika: Gross.

Mike: Either way.

Jessika: But here's the thing. Superman breaks into this man's home, and then gives him attitude when he's upset about it. Okay, who's going to pay to repair that for a secret bunker? Does he look like he's made of money? Oh, he is green, actually. So the Master, excuse me, explains that he loves desolation, thrives on it even, and makes some really rude and generalizing statements about the desolation of the country of Ethiopia as a whole. And then he fully admits to shooting down the planes and Superman's ear loads, as it were.

Mike: His super loads?

Jessika: His super loads. Uh, the master also shows his ability to control metal as he encased a Superman in a bunch of metal objects, which he, of course, escapes. Batman, meanwhile, is also going to break into someone's private residence.

Mike: I would like to note one thing, though, which is that the master, at this point in time, he has like a musical keyboard embedded in his chest or something.

Jessika: Oh, that's right. I forgot about that.

Mike: That he plays and that's like how he does all this weird shit with the encasing him in the middle. It is such a weird tonal shift where you go from all this stuff about the horrors of famine in Ethiopia and then you just have this really goofy Sci-Fi character who looks like he belongs in an entirely different comic.

Jessika: Yeah. He says, all, seriously, I love desolation, and then starts playing like the Willy Wonka to it on his chest. Like, what's going on here?

Mike: Yeah, so we need to take a break for just a second. Jim Starlin, we talked about him a bit back in the new Guardians episode where Steve Engelhardt talked about how he and Jim Starlin took a fucked ton of drugs and wandered around New York City. And you read through a lot of Jim Starlin's cosmic Sci-Fi space opera stuff and you're like, someone took a lot of drugs to come up with this stuff.

Jessika: There it is on the drugs.

Mike: I guess they weren't all given out to children on Halloween.

Jessika: Oh, my gosh. Yeah. Uh, again, no one is giving your children drugs. They are too expensive. I know we give that PSA every year. But you know what? It is worth the PSA. Batman, meanwhile, is also headed to break into someone's private residence and is taking the Bat plane to Lexor Island to look for Lexiboo. He's shot down kind of the theme of this issue and has to bail. And after some combat with defensive killing androids got to love that island style android finds Luther, who defs asks why his privacy is being invaded. Fair point, my dude.

Mike: I mean, broken clock.

Jessika: Batman is able to lay out the plan, but Luther, because he has a big old crush on Superman, can only focus on the fact that he sent Batman to the island instead of coming himself, as it were. But he is willing to help on the news. It's so high school because he's actually willing to help once he figures out that Superman has failed something.

Mike: I love 1980s, like, petty bitch Lex Luther. It's very good.

Jessika: All of his motivation. And this was like, oh, I could show up as better than Superman. I'm in. No, that's great, you son of a bitch. I'm in. So Luther then shows him around his farm talking about how nobody on his planet goes hungry because of big crops. Because he's got big crops and he cannot lie.

Mike: Yeah, he literally he like shows Batman a hologram of, like, people working with these, like, giant tomatoes. And so you see Batman just like, walking through these giant holographic tomatoes. It's very weird.

Jessika: It's very weird.

Mike: It's bad shit.

Jessika: It's bad shit, in fact. Oh, uh, my goodness. So with just slightly more convincing that he could be the hero, luther agrees to help. And he's further motivated into action when Superman and Batman bring him to Ethiopia to what I assume is a refugee camp.

Mike: Yeah, that's what it seems like. The visuals are intense. Like it's kind of jaw dropping. Like they go from like this weird kind of like comic book style to it's almost like grotesquely overrealistic with the starvation victims.

Jessika: Uh, it felt gross and downright racist and insensitive. I'm not going to lie.

Mike: Yeah.

Jessika: So Superman and Luther go to fight the Master because even though Superman wasn't able to track him again, luther was so Master monologues about his love of suffering, blah, blah, blah. Looks as if he's on the verge of killing Superman. And there's huge explosions which end up being near the refugee camp that Leanne Layton was working at, of course. And she rightfully is pissed about them doing explosiony battle with a baddie so close to the innocence. Like, do you actually want to save them? So Batman runs over mind monologuing his thinly veiled desire to die for the cause. Such a fucking murderer. I fucking hate him. Meanwhile, Superman has been ejected into another dimension completely, of course, and uses some strange deductive reasoning that seemed to be based a lot on laws of physics related to Earth. Bold assumption, soups.

Mike: Bold assumption whole another dimension. Don't know if physics work there, but okay, why not?

Jessika: Yeah, but he somehow figures out that there should be another door out of the dimension. And of course, he just flies, really speedily and busts through dimension wall and is magically back to the Master in Luther. Okay.

Mike: I don't know, man.

Jessika: Then M, the Master sends out bombs to the four cardinal points on Earth. Because heaven for me, you just got to bring all of Earth into this. And Superman has to go stop them, of course. Then Luther fights the master and Batman fights master. And then finally, they all collectively bring him down. And Superman takes out his front chest piece, which is that music thing we were talking about. And I kind of didn't get it until that point, if we're being completely honest. And then they sent him back into the weird space dimension without his powerful chest keyboard.

Mike: I don't know, man. I have a lot of things to say about this.

Jessika: And then collectively, the heroes are able to do all the work with the soil and the super crops, but they won't grow there's. Then just this thing about over farming of peanuts and you know, goes into this whole giant tribe.

Mike: Yeah, the woman from the Peace Corps, like, sits there and then delivers all this about the details of why crops won't grow and how the desert is getting bigger. And it's like, I don't know, man. Really? You're just delivering to this to us as like, random dialogue after we had like a 20 page fight scene. That was utter nonsense. I feel like maybe our priorities were out of whack when we were putting this together.

Jessika: Yeah, maybe so. I would also like to note that in my notes I had peanuts with a capital P. So apparently Snoopy was involved.

Mike: We're showing our, uh, Sonoma County roots.

Jessika: We sure are. Uh, so basically there's this message at the end. Like it'll take all of us in order to resolve this. And somehow, even though the people are still starving and no one was helped the last frame is a thankful and teary eyed Leanne Layton for no fucking reason.

Mike: I was viscerally angry at that last panel. She's like, she knows they'll be back up. I'm like, Are you sure of that?

Jessika: Because you really did just call Superman out for just being a showboater. And you're right. You were right. Don't doubt your instincts, girl. They're correct.

Mike: Yeah.

Jessika: What a fucking mess.

Mike: I was going to say I don't even need to ask how you felt about this book.

Jessika: It reeks of white savior colonizer. It's giving colonizer.

Mike: I mean, from the COVID which, I mean, Neil Adams, we've talked about in the past, tremendous artist. But he just was kind of a hired gun who would do whatever people asked him to do for this sort of thing. Mhm so yeah, and then you've got Lex Luther sitting there and he's like, wearing his power armor and Batman is looking all stoic. But I don't know, just brooding in the background in the middle of this crowd of starving people. He's just brooding. And Lex Luther is wearing his power armor and he's saying to Superman, they're dying, Superman, and not all your power can save them. It's like, what? Jesus Christ.

Jessika: He goes from caring a lot to not caring at all. It's kind of intense. And honestly, Superman and Batman are both really showing how much their way of doing things isn't really focusing on actually helping others. Like you said, it's kind of wild.

Mike: Mhm.

Jessika: It's also kind of hard to see Luther as the bad guy because he does solve all of the problems. If we're completely fair, he solves all of the problems. I kind of out of spite, but I'll take it.

Mike: Yeah, uh, like, whatever. Like I said, broken clock every now and then.

Jessika: Exactly. So those are really all of my thoughts for the Heroes Against Hunger fuck. That's all?

Mike: Yeah. I hated it in Clue, the movie, madeleine Con White is just, like, talking about it. She's like, I hate much. Just flames. Flames on the sides of my face. That was me when the Master first appeared and he started talking about how he was directly involved in making things worse for Ethiopia. Uh, I hated how it was this nonsense Sci-Fi superhero story that turned into a slug fest for a large portion of the book. I hated how preachy it felt at times. And I hated how the ending was like, superheroes can't save us. It'll take the world working together. But then the woman from the Peace Corps is, like, crying happily because she knows they'll be back to help this whole thing. This was the wish version of the previous comic we read.

Jessika: I already told you this isn't sustainable.

Mike: I really didn't like this at all. I did enjoy that we got to see petty bitch Lex Luther. That was fun. It's always fun when Pbll makes an appearance. But the Master was really egregiously toned up, to be honest. And the whole thing where he plays the keyboard in his chest and it lets him fire energy, it feels just so tonally dissonant with the rest of the story, especially after we've gotten these extremely upsetting images of starvation victims. And, uh, it feels like it was making light of the situation that was trying to bring attention and generate funds for. But I don't know, man. I tried to find anything that I liked about this. And really, there were so many talented people involved in this. And it feels like such a disingenuous boned in thing where it was like, look, we're helping, too.

Jessika: Yeah. No, I agree. I didn't like any of it. I already don't like a billionaire, so I already don't like Superman, and I already don't like Batman. Lex Luther. I'm sorry. I do like petty Lex Luther, so I will amend that. I do enjoy petty Lex Luther out of the context of this incredibly serious topic.

Mike: But I mean, also the whole thing where it's like, um, Batman in the Ethiopian desert. I was just like, what?

Jessika: Well, and the fact that he just happened to be there and Superman just happened to be there, it's like, let me blind him from the sky. I did like that, actually.

Mike: Yeah, where he's, like, signaling him with a compact mirror. That was great.

Jessika: Which batman, of course. Batman has a compact mirror. Think about it.

Mike: Of course he does. Yeah, but I mean, I don't know, man. Maybe, uh, Bruce Wayne would be there instead of Batman. It would certainly make a lot more sense.

Jessika: Yeah, exactly.

Mike: I don't know. He wouldn't be there.

Jessika: He'd just be donating money and have some dinner. Some fancy dinner.

Mike: Yeah.

Jessika: Fucking billionaires, man.

Mike: I mean, I feel like I already know the answer to this, but which of the two books did you like better or at least hate less?

Jessika: Listen, Rogue may have killed a child in the first one, but I still liked it better than the second one. Yes, and that's saying a lot based on the sentence I just said.

Mike: Yeah, I definitely enjoyed Heroes for help more. It's not perfect, but it definitely feels like a more genuine story trying to deal with a really complex, sensitive topic. And honestly, it feels like an X Men story because that was a big thing about the X Men was that they were socially progressive comic characters. They were stand ins for oppressed minorities in the real world. And like I said, everything about Heroes Against Hunger just feels incredibly tone deaf. I don't have a lot of insight into how well Heroes Against Hunger did. It's not documented anywhere that I could find. The sales data on Comic Con is real limited for this era. In the 80s, I'm assuming it raised some money for relief efforts just because it was all these people donating their time and effort. And I've come across this book several times in the dollar bins. Like, clearly people bought it and then had it in their collections, which then they sold. But yeah, that said, I don't know how effective of a fundraiser this specific book was, but I'm sure that it raised money because this was, as I said, the hot thing to donate money to in the 80s. There was also, like, Hands Across America at the same time too, which was a little bit more broad. It donated to a lot of things, but there was a lot of money thrown at famine relief in Ethiopia and then broadly, Africa. A lot of the fundraisers talk about, like, African hunger and African famine relief, and I don't know if that was going anywhere else, but, you know, like, it's one of those things where you have to wonder, like, how effective all of this fundraising was. And the truth is that it was pretty mixed. The Human Rights Watch put out a report in 1991 called Evil Days 30 Years of War and Famine in Ethiopia. And they had this note between 1977.

Jessika: And 1991, western aid to Ethiopia rose tenfold. Much of this aid was humanitarian famine relief, though not achieving all that its proponents claim. This aid no doubt saved many lives and livelihoods. However, there is a more questionable side to aid. In the crucial year 1985, about 90% of aid was given to the government and to humanitarian agencies working on the government side, despite the fact that they had access to only a minority of the famine affected population. Much assistance was given without scrutinizing the context in which it would be utilized and in fact serve to support the counterinsurgency strategies of the Mangostook government. Instances include the rehabilitation assistance to the Southeast during 1980 to 82, the Food for the North Initiative of 1985 to 86, and the outpouring of eight in 1987 to 1988. More generally, the international assistance undoubtedly prolonged the Mengistu government's life.

Mike: Yeah. So this is a very dense subject that I have boiled down into a very shallow summary, but what I've read implies that this was a case of the release supplies and funding just being given to the government and then people trusted them to do the right thing. Which, like when you have a corrupt, oppressive group in power, is honestly a pretty bad idea. And as for Ethiopia itself, the Durg had a couple of rebrands and stayed in power until 1991 before it fell to rebel forces. And this really wound up happening because the Soviet Union withdrew support in 1990 and the Dirt couldn't really fight off the various rebels anymore without their help. And then there was a transitional government for a couple of years and then a new constitution was established in 1995 and they're under a parliamentary republic now. But I got to be honest, the country doesn't really sound like one I'd want to visit anytime soon. They have a human rights section on their Wikipedia page that is very long and not in a good way. And the country is openly hostile towards queer people. Since this time in the 80s, there have been a couple of more famines, but they haven't been anywhere near as deadly as this one was. Probably because things are a lot more stable politically these days. And, um, yeah, that's where we're going to leave off on this topic. I genuinely thought that this was going to be a funnier episode, but it wasn't. Sorry about that. But I don't want to leave off on a complete downer. So I want to talk about something else real briefly, which is that food insecurity is like a really real thing here in the US. And we are at the point where groceries are getting very expensive and people are struggling more so than usual. And because we are just about to hit Thanksgiving, there are a lot of food reps going on. And so if you're able to buy an extra can or two of food, if you can afford it and chip in to your local collection group, or if you can volunteer at your local food bank I used to do that pretty regularly before the COVID Lockdowns hit. And I'm looking to start back up again now that we're double boosted. It may not feel like a lot, but remember that small things can help. And if you're not sure about where to go to help out with your local food banks, go to FeedingAmerica.org. We will link to it in the show notes. It is a great resource.

Jessika: Yeah, remember too, that there are a lot of community organizations and groups that organize things like adopting families for the holidays that might be anywhere from, like, helping them pay for their meals or once it gets towards the holidays again, doing toy drives or other types of things. So check with your community, too, and see where you can help the people who are near to you. Because I got to tell you, there are always going to be people in our communities that need our support, and, uh, especially now that things are getting harder.

Mike: Yeah. Just always try to do good and be kind. That's the big takeaway, I think.

Jessika: Yeah.

Mike: All right, shall we move on to, uh, brain wrinkles?

Jessika: It's wrinkle into it.

Mike: All right. I have been talking a lot, so why don't you go first?

Jessika: Yeah, well, you know, as we said, it's election night, so Mike and I are going to hop on the news feeds after this. I'm sure Mike shaking his head. Yeah.

Mike: I'm so nervous. I'm so tired. I'm so exhausted. I'm just, like, worrying about these people who hate my friends and family, like, continuing to get people to vote for them.

Jessika: Looking at you, Huckabee Sanders. So I've been thinking about all of those people who don't want us to exist, and not only that, are trying to block us, uh, sharing stories and other forms of media with each other in the form of band lists, like band book lists. And I think about this a lot, because if we stifle people's access to other stories, we continue the same narrative and we silence others. And we're doing a lot of silencing right now. And I'm tired of hearing the same voices, and I'm tired of m a lot of silence just generally in our world right now from other people. And I'm worried that the more conservative people that are in power are going to continue taking away these resources for people to share their experiences. We're really fortunate and living in an area that's pretty liberal. Not super diverse, but more diverse in some places and definitely way more progressive than a lot of places. And I'm worried about people who don't have access. I have access to things. I have access to media, I have access to representation for my community. And there are so many people who are losing that access. So buy ban books if you can, because that just encourages other places to continue selling those books.

Mike: We are admittedly very biased towards banned books because Maya Kababe, who wrote the excellent memoir Gender Queer, is directly responsible for our friendship and thus this podcast.

Jessika: So the author of a banned book is, in fact, responsible for everything you're hearing right now.

Mike: The most banned book in America in 2021.

Jessika: Oh, so proud of him.

Mike: Um, so proud, man. It's absolutely wild. Like, just how strange and interesting friendships are and what they can lead to.

Jessika: Yeah. So that's my wrinkle. Go buy band books.

Mike: Yeah.

Jessika: What about you? What are you what are you nibbling on? And your brain ski. Something happy, right?

Mike: No. God no. I know this is a downer episode. I'm sorry guys. Brian's Comics, which is the local comic shop in Petaluma, that is my default comic shop and that is one of our default comic shops. Sent out an email last night saying that they are closing at the end of the year and they didn't go into detail about why. I'm sure that there's a multitude of factors playing into it but I'm really sad right now know about that. Like when I walked out and was talking to Sarah about it after I got the email, as soon as she heard the news, she was like, are you okay? I'm like, not really. I got introduced to the shop not too long after I moved back to the Bay Area and it became a regular haunt eventually for my whole family. And side note, the kids did not like reading until I introduced them to comic books and now they are Voracious readers and I'm so sad to lose this place that, you know, made a point of making comics accessible to everyone. Like the whole reason that we are doing this episode is because I came across Heroes for Hope and their back issues when you and I were both there.

Jessika: Yeah, I like to meet up there. So that's really sad too because that's one less place you and I can meet up.

Mike: Yeah. And we've got a couple of other comic shops within driving distance, so I still have local options for getting pull lists, but I'm just thinking about how tough the last couple of years must have been for smaller comic shops. And I'm really nervous about what the next couple of years are going to be like for them now that the economy is getting ready to melt down. So if you have a local comic shop near you and you like comic books, support them. Do not buy stuff from Amazon if you can help it. I realize that there is a discount if you buy there. Support the little guys, please, because we don't want to keep losing local comic shops.

Jessika: Yeah. And local businesses in general. Think about that as you're doing shopping.

Mike: Yeah. Anyway, I'm sorry to end this on a downer. We will be back next week with a dollar Bin Discovery mini episode and then after that we are we talking about Fish Police?

Jessika: We're talking about fish police, man.

Mike: Yeah, man. Um, my body is ready. That'll be great. But until then, take care of yourselves. Have as happy a Thanksgiving as you can and we will see you in the stacks.

Jessika: Thanks for listening to Tencent takes. Accessibility is important to us, so text transcriptions of each of our published episodes can be found on our website.

Mike: This episode was hosted by Jessika Fraser and Mike Thompson, written by Mike Thompson and edited by Jessika Fraser. Our intro theme was written and performed by Jared Emerson Johnson of Bay area. Sound our credits and transition music is pursuit of Life by Evan McDonald and was purchased with a standard license from premium B. Our banner graphics were designed by Sarah Frank, who you can find@lookmomdraws.com.

Jessika: If you'd like to get in touch with us, ask us questions or tell us about how we got something wrong, please head over to tencenttakes.com or shoot an email to tencent takes at uh@gmail.com. You can also find us on Twitter. The official podcast account is ten cent takes. Jessika is Jessika with a and Jessika is spelled with a k and Mike is fan cell V-A-N-S-A-U.

Mike: If you'd like to support us, be sure to download, rate annual and review.

Jessika: Wherever you listen, stay safe out there.

Mike: And for the love of God, support your local comic shop.

Jessika: And seen that's a wrap, folks.

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