As much as mainstream social media platforms would like to wipe conspiracy narratives off the face of the planet, they still remain—for, in fact, as long as I can remember—heady grist for the comic book mill. You will no doubt not be surprised that this is still the case in 2019, if not on steroids.
We see these types of plots not only in numerous comics from the Big Two (Doomsday Clock pretty much has so many it trips over itself), but from the smaller pubs. And perhaps the only difference is that the smaller pubs, basically, name names.
Nobody Is In Control is a smart & well-rendered series from Black Mask Studios that should appeal to both the comic book fan and those just looking for a good conspiracy narrative a la the Illuminatus! trilogy.
Its main protagonist is one Richard Savare, who was a big-shot conspiracy radio host in the Art Bell mold in the 1990s. Now Richard has disappeared from his vocation and day-to-day public life, choosing instead to live in the woods for reasons. We don’t know exactly what those reasons are by issue #1, but suffice to say he is somewhat paranoid.
But also: the current fringe conspiracy community somewhat alienates Richard, as he notes that
“When I got into radio, it was still fun. Enough of the wild west that I was excited, but not so full of assholes that I felt ashamed.”
And this little scene demonstrates that writer Patrick Kindlon understands his subject matter, in that many conspiracy media types like Richard in the 90s have become disgusted with the way things have turned out in our present pleasant era (and, further, wonder if they contributed to the atrocity in any way).
So Richard believes he can sit the Trump Era out in the woods—but then he stumbles across the mysterious Nick, who seems to be on the run for reasons. And Nick is so much your classic Trickster archetype—making Richard rethink his refusal of the Call to Adventure per Joseph Campbell—that the man literally shapeshifts as he talks to him.
Here is where artist Paul Tucker just does such a excellent job…sorta sliding Nick’s shapeshifting into snakes, Kennedy, and others in a subliminal dreamlike way that really effectively evokes the type of limbo-esque world Richard has inhabited for so long in the fringe community.
AfterShock’s Descendent, written by Stephanie Phillips and drawn by Evgeniy Bornyakov, is more contextualized as a straight-up action comic—but that doesn’t mean it’s light on the “real life” conspiracy references. Our protagonist David Corey is, like Richard Savare, a conspiracy media person It’s at this point that I should point out…I am sorta one as well. So of course, I relate to these two comics with just an extra bit of interest.
But David is apparently far more dreamy than I am, and fits that typical “bad boy” hero. He drives past a military barrier in a pickup truck that has a “I KNOW” banner hanging from it, and is of course arrested. His ex, who conveniently also happens to be an attorney, has to bail him out—but insists she won’t fall in love with him again.
In-between this banter, we have a baby kidnapped from some conservative immigrant-hating fuck-head, and a mysterious “all seeing eye” type symbol left behind that connects the crime to that of the Lindbergh Baby. (Spoilers: that’s an “actual” conspiracy theory, by the way).
We also get this rather frank exchange about MKUltra (another “real life” conspiracy):
And so we have two recent first issues of comic book series about conspiracies—they take different tonal approaches, but both also have their finger on the pulse of the current zeitgeist. I