Central Theme / Comic Books

Remember, a Central Theme is not the same as An Aesop; a theme is a question, idea, topic or concept that the text explores, while an Aesop is a conclusion the author reaches about the theme or a lesson they wish to impart to the reader. As such, you should avoid phrasing your examples as conclusions.
  • 300: No one man is above anyone else.
  • Albedo: Erma Felna EDF: The whole story ask the following question: What could happen if you decide to give animals the same sentience, emotions and quirks like the ones shared by the human race? The answer is basically the animals will still do the same things the humans do, complete with wars, racism and even genocide.
  • All Fall Down: Bad things happen. You deal with them, because they're not just going to fix themselves.
  • Astro City: The ordinariness of the extraordinary.
    • Multi-issue arcs tend to have their own central themes as well. Confession, about a sinister superhero training a sidekick while public opinion turns against supers, is about doing the right thing regardless of what people think. The Tarnished Angel, a noir mystery about lowlife supervillains being murdered, is about shame and the hold of the past.
  • Avengers Academy: Choosing to do the right thing, even if other options are easier.
    • Also, acknowledging and learning from past tragedies without letting them define you.
  • The three different series of Batgirl each have three different overarching themes:
    • The 2000-2006 series featuring Cassandra Cain is about innocence and redemption; specifically, about how innocence can be corrupted and what is required to redeem someone for the wrongs they've done in the past.
    • The 2009-2011 series featuring Stephanie Brown is about heroism, and what it takes to be a hero even if no one else thinks you're capable of it.
    • The post-New 52 series (2011-present) featuring Barbara Gordon is about healing the wounds of the past, whether physical, emotional or psychological.
  • Batman 1989: How the traumas of the past affect the choices we make, and thus how they shape us into the people we are in the present.
    • In particular, practically every member of Batman's Rogue's Gallery either reflects a part of Batman himself and/or like him has an over-arching trauma that has shaped their lives ever since — except where he has used his trauma to make himself a better man by defending the innocent to try and prevent what happened to him from happening to others, they have succumbed to despair and evil and use their traumas as an excuse to hurt others.
  • The Boys: The pathetic inadequacies of superheroes and the futility of relying on them (both in-universe and, in a meta-sense, as wish-fulfillment figures) to solve the problems of a complex world.
    • Alternatively, horrible ways in which corporate greed destroys everything by applying half-baked, poorly put together, but easily marketable and profitable solutions to complex problems and using corruption to make them first choice options instead of something that would actually work.
  • Captain America: Is truth, justice and the American way old-fashioned?
  • Batman: The Dark Knight Returns: To bring justice, do you have to operate outside the law, or become enslaved by it?
  • Doctor Strange - The self-defeating nature of Pride and superiority of knowledge and wits over raw power.
    • Doctor Strange and Doctor Doom: Triumph and Torment: There is a price for every victory.
  • Carl Barks' stories in the Disney Ducks Comic Universe, deal with several recurring themes:
    • The stories surrounding Donald Duck often deal with luck, the fact that some are Born Unlucky like Donald, others are Lucky Bastard like Gladstone Gander. Many of the stories such as "The Magic Hourglass" or Scrooge's Number One Dime deal with the idea of lucky charms and whether these objects truly bestow luck.
    • More broadly the stories deal with adventure. The treasure hunt plots as in "The Golden Helmet" come from wanting some yearning for adventure and excitement in the mundane everyday life but the adventure stories don't free you from day-to-day problems of work/family/friendship and rent. Likewise, daily life is often quite adventurous in its own right.
  • Ex Machina: Do the ends justify the means? And, does anything ever really end, anyway?
  • Warren Ellis' run on DV8: A really dark take on Power of Friendship - World is a harsh place you won't survive in without real friends.
  • Fantastic Four: The nature of family.
    • Also the sheer bizarre wonderfulness of the universe and the dangers — and opportunities — that exploring it can hold.
  • Flex Mentallo: Don't throw away things you love because they are seen as immature, silly or stupid.
  • From Hell:
    • The fundamental interconnections that exist between everything and everyone, and how a serial killer is both a product of society and culture as a whole and something which goes on to shape that society further.
    • The conflict between rationality and spirituality, masculinity and femininity, and chaos and order—and the idea that all three are just different shades of one single overarching conflict that pervades all of human history.
    • Humankind's trade-off of passionate spirituality for coldly rational knowledge, and whether or not that trade-off is ultimately for the best.
    • The role of violence in shaping human society, and how no great change can ever come without pain and sacrifice.
  • The work of Geoff Johns frequently revolves around themes such as family, managing your emotions and finding your place in the world, with the theme corresponding to the overall motif or theme of the character(s) he's writing for. For example:
    • His Green Lantern run spanning pre- and post-New 52 revolves around overcoming fear and accepting your emotions.
    • His Justice Society of America run focuses on family.
    • His The Flash run explores the character's need to 'slow down' (i.e. take time out every now and again).
    • His Aquaman run looks at what it is to be an outsider
  • Global Frequency: The extraordinary things that ordinary people can do if given the chance and resources to do them. Also, how no skill or ability is truly worthless, and how even the most seemingly trivial or obscure forms of knowledge can, if applied in the correct setting, do amazing things.
  • The Incredible Hercules: What does it really mean to be a god?
  • The Incredible Hulk: The dangers of repression and the need to accept all sides of yourself.
  • Irredeemable: How far a man has to go to become truly irredeemable?
  • Journey into Mystery, Kieron Gillen run: Is true change really possible? Or do all things have to revert to their former state sooner or later?
  • Judge Dredd: The law, no matter how harsh, really is there for your protection.
    • Alternatively, the extremes that unthinking, unyielding and over-oppressive fascist law-enforcement can go to... and the kind of society that would need this kind of law-enforcement in order to function.
  • The Killing Joke:
    • One bad day can drive a normal man to madness, but we have the choice to stay sane when confronted with tragedy and suffering. Truly evil people are often convinced that everyone is as bad as they are, and they'll go to extreme lengths to prove it. That doesn't make it true.
    • Can you actually help the mentally ill by treating them? If you can't treat them and if you keep them them alive knowing they will keep killing, can The Hero be considered saner than the villain who realizes the absurdity of the situation?
  • Kingdom Come: What exactly are the differences between The Cape and the Nineties Anti-Hero?
  • The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: Culture is both a reflection of the society and context in which it creates and an expression of its genius and ambition. Art is not only a product of life, but something which in turn shapes and influences society itself and its very bad when culture merely regurgitates old tropes and ideas out of empty nostalgia and lack of creativity.
    • The Nemo Trilogy deals with the change in mores from 19th Century Science Fiction (centered on exploration, searching for new lands, filled with mystery and adventure) to 20th Century Science Fiction (centered on limits, horror of discovery, filled with doubt and fear).
  • Lex Luthor: Man of Steel: Might even a monster be convinced he's the hero of his own story?
  • Loki: Agent of Asgard: How truth can hurt and be used as a weapon.
  • Nemesis the Warlock: Humans can be bastards, but don't have to be.
  • Nextwave: When the world is completely insane, the only way to handle it is to go a bit mad yourself.
  • Planetary: The world is wonderful and we should do everything we can to stop anyone who wants to make it mundane and boring.
  • Phonogram: How art influences, inspires and changes but sometimes also destroys it's consumers.
  • Preacher: God Is Evil. Why else would the world be like this?
  • Rogue Trooper: War Is Hell
  • Runaways: Creating your own family.
  • The Sandman: All things change, all things end. Neither of these is terrible. And there is always more to everything (and everyone) than you expect.
  • Scott Pilgrim: Fighting for the one you love.
    • On a more serious note, learning from the mistakes of your past, accepting your flaws and becoming a better person instead of repeating the same mistakes all over again.
  • Spider-Man: With great power comes great responsibility; what it means to have power and to use it in a socially and morally responsible way.
    • This theme can be said to apply, to varying degrees, to almost any superhero story in some shape or form.
    • With Spider-Man, it's being a hero even when there is no reward for being one, it won't get bills paid, it won't help your love life and it won't get you fame and respect.
  • Superman: What it means to be a hero, a good person and an inspiration to others — and how these three qualities are not necessarily the same.
    • One doesn't need powers to make the world a better place, just the will to do so.
    • Hope and idealism always beat brute-force and cynicism.
  • Transmetropolitan: The ways in which societies remain the same even in the face of inconceivable and massive-scale technological advancement, particularly with regards to social and political corruption, greed, prejudice, class systems and apathy.
    • And, by Word of God, the idea that it will always be the people willing to stand up and raise their voices who will change society.
  • V for Vendetta: What does it mean to have freedom? What price is it worth?
  • Watchmen:
    • What would inspire someone to dress up in an elaborate costume and fight crime as a vigilante outside of the fantastical world of comic books.
    • Also, explicitly: "Who watches the Watchmen?" (Who protects the people who protect us? And if they go wrong, how will we know, and who'll protect us from them?)
    • The choice between living without morals and letting your morals define you, and the inevitable pitfalls that come with both choices.
    • "Who makes the world?" When even a Physical God doesn't have all the answers, when the "world's smartest man" is filled with doubt and the Presidents and businessmen are equally confused, why do ordinary people keep believing that they are more powerless or that they need heroes?
  • The Wicked + The Divine: Accodring to Word of God, the relationship between art and its creator, how choices and compromises artists make influence their creations, their audience and their very lives.
  • Wonder Woman: The conflict between the desire for peace and how it may be sometimes necessary to fight in order to ensure it.
  • X-Men - Choosing to do the right thing, even when faced with prejudice and injustice. More specifically, having to choose between using your abilities to help mankind and using them to rebel against an oppressive establishment.
    • New X-Men: Academy X: People and their rivals probably are Not So Different as they would like to belive.
      • Craig Kyle and Chris Yost's run: Innocence Lost, especially loss of trust in your idols and authorities.
    • X-Men: Legacy vol.2 (Legion's book): Are you really in control of your life? Or are you controlled by your past burdens and people around you?
  • Y: The Last Man: What does it really mean to be a man?
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