Comicbook: American Flagg
"Justice . . . my way." - Reuben M. FlaggAmerican Flagg!
is a comic book created by Howard Chaykin
for First Comics
. The series ran from 1983 to 1989.
A little back story . . . 1993 (the Year of the Domino), after a series of world wide crises, the U.S. government (and the corporations that ran it) relocate to Hammarskjold center on Mars ("Temporarily, of course
") while the corporatist Brazilian Union and Communist Pan African League become the world's super powers.
Flash forward to the year 2031, and the U.S. government is now "The Plex," whose Tricentennial Recovery Commitee is supposed to get America "Back on track for '76" but is in fact a plot to sell off the country, composed of arcologies dubbed Plexmalls with a police force dubbed Plexus Rangers to keep law and order (such as it is). Enter Reuben Flagg, former vid star assigned to the Chicago Plexmall. Reuben has a somewhat idealistic view of America, but upon arrival, finds himself mired in violence and corruption.American Flagg
is legendary among fans of '80s independent comics for its revolutionary panel design, which has made it a heavy influence on the generations of creators that came along afterward.
This comic has examples of:
- All Women Are Lustful: It is pretty much a universal attribute.
- The Backwards R: Faux Cyrillic is a common graphic element, especially when the series moves to Russia/the Plex-USSR in the second series. Even the series logo was changed, with the word "AMERICAN" now written in Faux Cyrillic as "ДMЗЯIKДИ".
- Bread and Circuses: How the Plex maintains control.
- Buccaneer Broadcaster: Q-USA, the pirate video station inherited by Flagg.
- But I Play One on TV: Subverted. Flagg, famous for playing a Plexus Ranger on TV, actually becomes a real one (though not by choice).
- Corrupt Politician: Chicago mayor C.K. Blitz. And Raul the Cat, when he is elected mayor. And pretty much every other politician we encounter.
- Crapsack World
- Crazy Survivalist: The fascist American Survivalist Labor Committee (A.S.L.C.), which teams up with the Gotterdammercrats, the more "respectable" party of Illinois Nazis, to take over Chicago.
- Creepy Crossdresser: Ivor Overholt, who makes himself into a doppelganger for the presumed-dead Peg Krieger in order to seduce and blackmail a character who was obsessed with her. Possibly a borderline example of Easy Sex Change as well, though the character still had his original genitalia and still appeared as a man in public.
- Deadly Game: The poli-clubs of downtown Chicago engage in these, televised on Firefight All Night Live.
- Drunk with Power: When Raul the Cat is elected mayor of Chicago, he quickly becomes this, while also becoming literally drunk, on Gato Blotto™ provided by a real estate developer.
- Dumb Muscle: The robotic Luther Ironheart. Also Russian Plexus Ranger Yuri Kholyakov.
- Even Evil Has Standards: Titania Weis, a devoted fascist and member of an explicitly Nazi-inspired political party, objects to plans by the even worse American Survivalist Labor Committee to kill the entire population of Chicago with poison gas.
- Fallen States of America: Basically the series premise. America is falling apart from a variety of internal and external enemies (including a neo-Nazi revolution), natural and unnatural disasters, and simultaneously powerful and neglectful rule by The Plex.
- Fantastic Drug: So numerous that the Comic Book Drug Reference has a separate appendix dedicated to fictional drugs appearing in the series.
- Fictional Political Party: A bewildering number of them. The "poli-clubs" of downtown Chicago literally fight each other every week for the televised Reality Show Firefight All Night Live.
- Good Bad Girl: Quite common, as is the Bad Bad Girl. Actually, it's the Good Girl that's a rarity in this series.
- Gratuitous German: Ranger Scheiskopf's name is German for "shithead".note
- The Great Politics Messup: Flagg dances on the verge, but still manages to fall into this pit, albeit very gracefully. The USSR survives well into the 21st century, but the ultra-capitalist Soviets of the Plex-USSR and "Stalinland" theme parks seem almost like a foreshadowing.
- High On Catnip: While serving as mayor of Chicago, Raul becomes addicted to Gato Blotto™, a super-potent variety of catnip.
- Husky Russkie: Russian Plexus Ranger Yuri Kholyakov.
- Ink-Suit Actor: This trope, taken Up to Eleven, essentially kicked off the series. Reuben Flagg was an actor living on Mars and starring in the hit TV series Mark Thrust, Sexus Ranger. But a CGI technology called Tromplography™ perfectly duplicated Flagg's character, making Flagg himself superfluous. Flagg was fired, then drafted into the actual Plexus Rangers.
- Interspecies Romance: One of Raul the Cat's favorite video programs is Interspecies Romances (“Tonight — a man, a woman... and a duck.”)
- Istanbul Not Constantinople: Often used in throwaway gags that highlight the intriguing ways in which the world has changed without going into great detail about it - e.g. "the People's Republic of Great Britain."
- Job-Stealing Robot:
- Flagg's Tromplographic™ Ink-Suit Actor.
- Ranger Scheiskopf alludes to this trope when he asks (while deactivating Luther Ironheart) "Do we really want an America policed by robots?"
- Knockout Gas: Somnabutol™, in low doses, is a recreational drug. In higher doses, it's "the Official Riot Control Device of the 1996 East Coast Meltdown." Also described as "like a wet dream without the hot parts."
- The Mall: The Chicago PlexMall is a Mall-turned-Arcology.
- Meaningful Name: Pretty common, most obviously with the newly-installed Chief Ranger John Scheiskopf.
- Mega Corp.: The Plex, which runs the former United States and Soviet Union from its new "temporary" headquarters on Mars. Another Mega Corp, Four World Industries, appears to essentially control the government of one of Earth's two superpowers, the Brazilian Union of the Americas.
- Mini-Mecha: The deactivated body of robot deputy Luther Ironheart serves as this for talking housecat Raul, who "pilots" the body from where Luther's holographic head would ordinarily be.
- A Nazi by Any Other Name: The American Survivalist Labor Committee (ASLC) puts its own American spin on fascism. The Gotterdammercrat party is more of a direct descendant of the National Socialist party, complete with swastikas and Putting on the Reich uniforms.
- One-Hour Work Week: Nearly literal for Mandy Krieger. She has a legitimate job as the air traffic controller for O'Hare Chicago Plexport... which only has two flights per week.
- The Pope: In the second series, black-market Blood Sport basketball player Jules "Deathwish" Folquet becomes the Pope after a series of improbable events.
- Projected Man: Luther Ironheart is something of a hybrid. He has a large human-shaped but clearly robotic body, and a hologram for a head. While his head usually appears as a friendly and obviously non-human cartoon image, he can also use it to impersonate other characters. He successfully impersonates Flagg at one point, and the image is apparently flawless, at least on a video screen.
- Robot Buddy: Luther Ironheart.
- Sapient Pet: Raul.
- Screwed by the Network: Flagg, who loses his job to his own CGI Tromplographic™ duplicate.
- Show Within a Show: A couple examples:
- Bob Violence, a popular In-Universe animated show, ran as a backup feature for several issues.
- We also see some episodes of Reuben Flagg's old series Mark Thrust, Sexus Ranger.
- Space-Filling Empire: The Plex represents the former governments of the USA and USSR, but (particularly since the Plex seems to be largely abandoning Earth for its Mars-based "temporary" headquarters), the world's true superpowers are now the Brazilian Union of the Americas and the communist Pan-African League, which has also conquered most of Europe.
- Subliminal Advertising: Subliminal messages in the popular animated show Bob Violence were responsible for driving Chicago's "go-gangs" crazy and leading to armed attacks on the PlexMall once a week.
- Talking Animal: Raul the Cat, whose ability to talk is never really explained.
- Those Wacky Nazis: The Gotterdammercrats, Illinois Nazis who most people seem to treat as tame and mostly harmless, but then ally with the also fascist, but violent and genuinely revolutionary, American Survivalist Labor Committee (A.S.L.C.) to take over Chicago.
- Trade Snark: Omnipresent (not to be confused with OmniPresent™, on sale for a limited at Jerry Rigg Firearms™, with a free packet of Mananacillin™ if you act now!)
- Tricked-Out Gloves: Mandy makes Raul a pair of cybernetic gloves. Their only real feature is opposable thumbs, but when you're a housecat, that's enough.
- Troperiffic: It's a Twenty Minutes into the Future Cyber Punk Crapsack World full of sex, violence, drugs, and references to just about anything and everything.
- Twenty Minutes into the Future
- Unexpected Successor: Flagg's friend Bill Windsor-Jones is the rightful King of England (most of the royal family having been killed by a German nuclear strike on London at some unspecified point in the past, and Britain subsequently becoming a communist puppet state of the Pan-African League.)
- Weather Control Machine: Sprite, a forgotten Cold War Soviet satellite programmed to disrupt voting patterns in the 1996 U.S. presidential election, is accidentally activated by a meteorite collision. This causes extraordinary blizzard conditions in 2031 Chicago.
- Zeppelins from Another World: "Zeps" are now the travel mode of choice. Crystal Gayle Marakova is a zeppelin pilot for Four World Industries.