Comicbook / Give Me Liberty

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Give Me Liberty is a Comic Book series by Frank Miller and Dave Gibbons, originally published in 1990-1991 in four 48-page volumes. It describes the life of Martha Washington, an impoverished black girl born into one of the worst ghettos of Chicago in a dystopian near-future, with the United States on the verge of civil war. Despite her lack of opportunities and the machinations of others out to destroy her, Martha eventually becomes a war hero and a major figure in deciding the fate of the United States.

The success of the original series spawned several sequels, which comprise a comprehensive Story Arc of Martha's life and death:

  • Martha Washington Goes to War
  • Happy Birthday Martha Washington (a collection of shorts)
  • Martha Washington Saves the World
  • Martha Washington Dies

The title of the series comes from the Patrick Henry quotation, "I know not what course others may take but — as for me — give me liberty or give me death."


This series provides examples of:

  • Action Girl: Martha Washington.
  • The Alcoholic: Howard Nissen, after having to deal with more than fifty separatist movements in the US and his mostly right-wing secretaries actively opposing him. Moretti may also be blamed.
  • Alternate History: The POD is after 1990, with Dan Quayle having served one term as President from 1993 to 1997, followed by Erwin Rexall who wins the 1996 election. Under the Rexall Administration the United States becomes increasingly dictatorial.
  • Artificial Human: They exist and are pretty convincing. One of them is taken hostage by the gay nazis.
  • Bald of Awesome: Martha in the sequels. She defeats the AI which takes over the world and commands a spaceship to the place where they believe the Precursors which seeded humanity came from. And this is only while she is bald, most of her war exploits occur when she isn't bald.
  • Brain in a Jar: President Rexall, after awakening from his coma.
  • Brainwashed: Martha. She gets better.
  • Burger Fool: The "Fat Boy" fast food chain.
  • Captain Ersatz: Captain Kurtz though he developed his own Super Serum.
  • Cloning Blues: Some billionaire had a number of blonde buxom babe clones made. They're not very nice people.
    • One is. She also has a lesbian crush on Martha
  • Convenient Coma: President Rexall spends many years in this. His cabinet is not that lucky.
  • Cool Sword: Martha uses one (a saber) when she fights the gay Nazis IN SPACE! (She wisely refuses to use firearms, since they'd puncture the station's outer hull, which would kill both parties. Her opponents are not that smart.)
  • Corrupt Church: There's a sex scandal in the Vatican.
  • Corrupt Corporate Executive: Even if we don't meet them as characters, it doesn't take many guesses that they must be there. Beluga, later the president of the East Coast Capitalist Dictatorship, probably qualifies.
  • Crapsack World: Because when the government lacks money, they close facilities for the mentally insane. When this leads to chaos in the cities, they send out troops to kill them.
    • Probably a Take That at the Reagan Administration, which closed mental health facilities as a cost-cutting measure.
      • Hard to tell which of the world is parody and which is intended to be serious. The world does get better in cases but gets worse again, still with hope for the future.
  • Crapsaccharine World: It sure is crappy, but it's also damn colorful!
  • Dan Quayle: Apparently the last President before Erwin Rexall.
  • Depraved Homosexual: The "pope", a gangster boss in Cabrini-Green. His henchmen catch Martha who was disguised as a boy because her mother wanted to avoid her being raped.
  • Distant Finale: The final one-shot comic takes place decades after the previous book. What happened between the two stories is only hinted at.
  • Divided States of America: New England, New York City, Florida, Texas, the Northwest, South California, the Southwest, and the Deep South secede from the US, leaving them with only 20 states. (Alaska and Hawaii aren't even mentioned - maybe people just forgot about them in the mess.)
  • Exactly What It Says on the Tin: The final story in the series is titled Martha Washington Dies. Take one guess what happens in it. She dies. This trope also applies to earlier stories, such as Martha Washington Goes to War, "Martha Washington Stranded in Space", and Martha Washington Saves the World.
  • Eye Scream: Happens quite a lot
  • The Faceless: The Surgeon General.
  • Frickin' Laser Beams: The United States has a series of giant laser cannons in space - as does the Soviet Union. When the United States tries to fire it at Libya, they hit their ally Saudi Arabia instead. Later, the Aryan Thrust captures it.
  • The Fundamentalist: The Surgeon General.
  • Giant Food: Genetically engineered food, for sale at the supermarket chain Behemoth.
  • Global Warming: New York has become like Venice, since the sea level has risen because of Global Warming.
    • Being shelled by the US military in order to put the secessionists down has helped too.
  • Great White Hunter: Moretti appears as this in one fight scene which is between Imagine Spot and allegory (Martha is a purple panther).
  • Groin Attack: Martha does this several times.
  • Humongous Mecha: In the form of a "Fat Boy" mascot, no less.
    • Also Martha's mech she tests out in Louisiana, and that of the First Sex Confederacy woman she fights in those swamps.
  • Immigrant Patriotism: One Latino immigrant in PAX
  • Lady Land: The Confederation of the First Sex
  • Little Miss Badass: Martha is just thirteen years old when she joins the PAX militia.
    • Not sixteen or 17?
  • Mad Doctor/Morally Ambiguous Doctorate: The Surgeon General.
  • Magical Native American: Wasserstein.
    • He is not magical though.
  • Manipulative Bastard: Moretti, who manages to blackmail Martha into servitude, frames the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs for destroying the Apache Nation with an orbital laser, stages a Presidential coup that destroys the White House, and appoints himself interim leader of the United States.
    • Ironically, while he's shown to be very good at plotting to accumulate power, once Moretti has killed Nissen and appointed himself interim leader "until new elections can be held," everything falls apart as without Nissen's leadership most of the United States promptly secedes from the union. Moretti's obsession over Martha doesn't help matters.
  • Manly Gay: The Aryan Thrust.
  • Mutants: There's a big (as in "several US states big"!) "radioactive zone" in the center of the western USA. What exactly happened there isn't explained. The mutant humans don't live very long. Their music is very popular among kids.
    • The center of the zone is a extremely nice terraformed place where they are rebuilding the environment and planning to do the same for the rest of the world.
  • Named After Somebody Famous: Martha was the name of George Washington's wife.
  • A Nazi by Any Other Name: Beluga. The flag of the East Coast Capitalist Dictatorship is red, with a white circle and black letters.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: Moretti falls victim to the villainous version of this trope. He skillfully manipulates the drunken, seemingly incompetent President Nissen into committing an act of genocide, manipulates Nissen's cabinet into murdering him Caesar-style, and then blows up the Cabinet, leaving him unquestionably in charge. Unfortunately for Moretti, it turns out that he's better at scheming for power than actually being in power, and that for all his apparent drunken incompetence Nissen was pretty much the only thing holding the country together. The country soon falls apart into civil war and Moretti isn't capable of putting it back together again. The fact that he's pretty much obsessed with getting rid of Martha to the exclusion of everything else doesn't help either.
  • Nuclear Nasty: A big zone in the western USA is irradiated and home of mutants. Their bands are very popular with the kids.
  • Only Sane Man (in the White House): Vice President Estevez, until Nissen murders him in an alcoholic rage and promptly forgets about it.
  • Our Presidents Are Different: Dan Quayle, Erwin Rexall, Howard Nissen, and Rexall again.
  • Playful Hacker: Also Martha Washington.
  • Powered by a Forsaken Child: There are secret experiments with schizophrenic kids. One of them, "Raggy Ann", turns out to be a telepath.
  • Private Military Contractors: The PAX Peace Force, which replaced the Army.
    • They are not private, but a government bureau
  • Punny Name: I mean, there is an Attorney General Sphincter, a General Spank and the Aryan Thrust leader Krotch...
  • Redemption Equals Death: Moretti
  • Rewarded as a Traitor Deserves: Nissen's ministers kill him, Gaius Julius Caesar style. Then, Moretti gets rid of his partners in crime by blowing up the White House.
  • Rushmore Refacement: Not really refacement, but they added Quayle and Rexall.
  • Scary Black Man: One of them works for the "pope".
  • Serious Business: Beef. People are willing to die to get a real burger, fast food companies set up illegal meadows, and Nissen's government fights them (literally). There's even a 94th Amendment outlawing red meat.
  • Shut Up, Hannibal!: General Charles Shock delivers this to Colonel Moretti in response to the latter pulling a gun on him and shouting that he's in charge.
    Charles Shock (pushing the gun away from him): You're no president, kid. And just between the two of us, you'll never make general.
  • Smug Snake: Erwin Rexall. Colonel Moretti also teeters on the verge of this, despite his Magnificent Bastard tendencies, since he ends up being much better at scheming to be put in power than he is at actually being in power.
  • Smug Smiler: The amount of panels that Colonel Moretti appears in without an insufferably smug expression on his face can be counted on one hand. Until things start going wrong for him, that is.
  • The Starscream: Moretti and the rest of Howard Nissen's cabinet.
  • Stepford Smiler: Martha becomes this for a while, under the new identity Margaret Snowden. Rexall's wife may also count.
    • The people who Venus infects with the chip count too.
  • Straw Feminist: First Lady Amanda Nissen, who later sets up the "Confederation of the First Sex". In the Deep South, of all places.
  • Those Wacky Nazis: The members of the Aryan Thrust, an organization of gay white supremacists.
  • Throw Away City: In the sequel, Chicago is nuked. Martha's mother is also killed. Cue the justified angst.
  • Title Drop: "Give me liberty" are Martha's last words in Martha Washington Dies.
  • 20 Minutes into the Future: The comic was published in 1990 and is set in 2009.
  • Unexpected Successor: Agriculture secretary Howard Nissen becomes president after a bomb takes out the rest of the cabinet. Despite his good intentions, it doesn't work out in the long run, arguably because by that point in time the US is simply too broken as a result of Rexall's tyranny and incompetence. This causes Nissen to cross his despair event horizon, which results in him spiralling ever deeper into alcoholism.
  • Up to Eleven: The politics of Rexall are Reaganism Up to Eleven, invading foreign countries and axing social programs. Even the colors are much more colorful than in most other comics.
  • Villainous Breakdown: Moretti undergoes this when state after state begins to secede from the US after his coup, compounded with learning that Martha and President Rexall still live.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: Wonderland. When the US break apart, the mascot androids of the theme parks in South California take power and demand equal rights, taking humans as hostages. What other authors might've turned into a whole comic series barely gets a mention here.
  • The White House: Blown up twice.
  • Wide-Eyed Idealist: Howard Nissen is this, but eventually breaks down. Martha's late teacher Donald also qualifies.
  • Wrong Side of the Tracks: Martha was definitely born there. Cabrini-Green becomes a prison in all but name, and is even called by such by the residents.

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