By Cory Doctorow
February 26th, 2015
The Reagan era kicked off a project to dismantle social mobility and equitable justice began. This trenchant, angry, gorgeous graphic zine launched in response.
World War 3 Illustrated: 1979–2014, a 300+ page, hardcover volume financed by an oversubscribed Kickstarter collects and thematically groups the very best of more than 30 years of visually stunning, blood-boiling graphic outrage and calls-to-arms. World War 3 has featured some of comix’s greatest underground talents, from Peter Bagge and Art Spiegelman to Sue Coe and Sabrina Jones, not to mention Fly, Spain Rodriguez, and many more, and their work for WW3 was always their rawest, most unrestrained material.
I got my copy through the kickstarter, and have only gotten to it now because it is so huge and deliciously well-made that it had to wait until I could sit down with it at the office — at 3lbs, it was too heavy to contemplate reading on the road or even on the bus. But I had a couple hours free yesterday and I dived into this, and when I came up for air, I wanted to burn something down.
It’s hard to recall, from this remove, how hard-fought the slide into corporatist dystopia has been. We didn’t just wake up one morning with the expectation that only the richest would be able to avoid penury in their old age, that bank czars would launder billions for drug-lords and get off scot-free while the poor were packed into prison in unprecedented numbers on bullshit drug charges, that the war on terror would see Americans torturing their “enemies” in “black sites” abroad and in Chicago, that we would submit to total surveillance, to the elimination of due process, to the checkpoints for people driving while brown and legalized theft in the guise of civil forfeiture, impunity for rapists and no-knock SWAT murders as part of daily life.
But at every turn, people have fought. Brave, crazy, hopeless or crazed with hope, they fought. And World War 3 was there, its artists shouting out every time the authoritarian state palmed another card, sometimes getting arrested themselves. World War 3 is a genuinely radical publication, and it is also radicalizing. Reading it should make you furious, and hopeful, and determined to do something.
Thomas Piketty’s Capital in the 21st Century marks the Reagan years as a turning point: the moment at which the scattered fortunes of two world wars reconverged into great masses of extreme wealth, exerting terrible, constant gravity on policy, dismantling anything that stood in the way of the creation of multi-generational dynasties of the feudal hyper-rich whose interests were first and foremost in government priorities. Since then — through the whole WW3 era — we’ve seen the dismantling of tenant protections, labor protections, progressive taxation, public schools and public health. Even the justice system and the prisons have been privatized. There is no more moving record of this period than the one you’ll find in these pages.
Also of note is Bill Ayers’s introduction, which contains all the fire and passion of his other graphic novel work, and will send you to the barricades.