Welp. It looks like we’re all hunkered down in our respective isolation locations to stand against this virus and, inevitably, the anxiety and boredom are starting to get to you. But if it’s one thing that we’ve learned as people who have access to streaming services like Netflix, it seems like a lot of people are taking that anxiety and meeting it head on by binge watching television shows and movies that are centered around viruses and pandemics. How progressive! How steeped-in-psychology!
But if we can do that with movies, then we can certainly do it with comics, too. So if you’re feeling bold and wanting to meet the fear and unknown of contagions, viruses, and bacteria head on, you might want to check out this list of truly viral comics.
Y The Last Man
Publisher: DC Comics (Vertigo)
Written by: Brian K Vaughan
Art by: Pia Guerra
It might not be deadly coughing fits, but Y the Last Man tells the tale of Yorick, an amateur magician who manages to carry on despite a sex-specific plague obliterating everyone with a Y-chromosome on planet Earth. Amidst an all-female “utopia” (or so it’s considered by some such as the extreme-feminist group, the Amazons), Yorick’s survival is seen as an act of defiance, and he has to be persistent if he doesn’t plan on being dead, too.
(Also, he has a pet monkey named Ampersand; which is objectively the best name you could choose for a pet monkey.)
In a time where hope feels unreachable for many, Y the Last Man offers a practical message of inspiration. While the current situation may not be based on something as set-in-stone as chromosomal makeup, the idea of defiant survival amid a place that is trying to kill you is a triumphant message to hold on to.
Publisher: DC Comics
Written by: Chuck Dixon
Art by: Rodolfo Dammaggio
To be fair, this is a collection of Batman stories that ran throughout several Batman comic series including Batman: Shadow of the Bat, Detective Comics, The Batman Chronicles, Azrael, and Robin. So with such a wide-spanning storyline, what could possibly be so dire? Oh, I dunno. Maybe a lethal virus entering Gotham City? And with a good chunk of plot centering around a gated community of wealthy Gotham folks thinking they can just seal themselves away from the virus after one of them has already been infected, this is a story that might end up ringing uncomfortably true for what we’re seeing right now. Luckily, this is a comic story, so Batman and Robin are on the case while the rest of the city is under quarantine. Lots of twists and turns to be had and lots of scares with the beloved Bat-family, and we get to see Tim Drake just barely scrape by. What more could you ask for when it comes to eerily relatable comic content?
Judge Dredd: ‘The Cursed Earth’, ‘Block Mania’, and ‘Day of Chaos’
Publisher: Rebellion Publishing
Written by: Pat Mills (Cursed Earth) John Wager (Block Mania, Day of Chaos)
Art by: Brian Bolland and Mick McMahon (The Cursed Earth); Carlos Ezquerra (Block Mania); Ben Willsher, Henry Flint, Leigh Gallagher, Colin MacNeil, Edmund Bagwell (Day of Chaos)
Look, if it were up to me this entire list would be made up of examples of plagues found in the pages of 2000 AD, but that just wouldn’t be fair. So I’ve whittled it down to some Judge Dredd stories that really hit the spot and can be found as either individual collections or in their respective Judge Dredd Case Files.
First up is The Cursed Earth, which shows Mega City Two (the West Coast of Dread-World’s America) becoming infected with a virus playfully named 2T(fru)T that turns it’s victims to violence and riot. On the other side of the country in Mega City One, they’ve finally come up with an antidote. And who better to make the trek across the barren, radioactive wasteland of the Cursed Earth than a group of Judges with Dredd as lead? No one! And if that doesn’t sound Balto-esque enough for you, then I’ll also remind you that they encounter a T-Rex.
Second in the line is Block Mania — another example of the easily spread virus of violence within the Judge Dredd Universe as an engineer sows discourse to rev up the hate and hurt in society. Uplifting, right? And since this storyline is a part of the famed Apocalypse War, you can count on some “What if we went to war with the Soviets after all” discourse!
Last, but certain not least is Day of Chaos, which is essentially series co-creator John Wagner preceding to destroy Mega City One just to see what happens, there’s also a lot of tying up of loose ends dating back to some of the earliest days of the strip. But no worries about having context because it features amongst other things Russian revenge plots, the “Chaos Bug” after which the series is named, the Dark Judges and the destruction of most of Dredd’s city. But honestly, the best part of all of this is the presence of PJ Maybe — the illiterate genius who somehow keeps the Dark Judges at bay. Perfection.
Publisher: DC Comics
Written by: Ron Marz
Art by: Fernando Passarin, Tanya Horie and Richard Horie
It’s an unfortunate end to a series, but Kyle Rayner’s mother is dying. Kyle can’t help her. Green Lantern’s can’t help her. No one seems to know what’s happening. Ultimately, she dies, and it breaks Kyle’s heart into pieces. This sets up the story for the Sinestro War issue released just a month afterwards where it’s revealed that she was killed by — holy &%*^ — a super-intelligent virus by the name of Despotellis in attempt to ready Kyle to become possessed by Parallax. Yeah. It’s a lot to parse out. But seriously, the whole problem revolves around a super virus! How topical!
Plagues: The Microscopic Battlefield
Publisher: First Second
Written by: Falynn Koch
Art by: Falynn Koch
Hoping to help your kids deal with all of this turmoil in the world but don’t know the best way to explain it to them? First Second is here to help with their genius Science Comics — specifically, Plagues: The Microscopic Battlefield — which explains how plagues are born, how they spread, the history of plagues, and how we can prevent them in the future. Either they’ll be frozen with anxiety or they’ll feel at ease after learning the science! Either way, they learned something, and that’s basically all you can do with homeschooling, right?