Follow TV Tropes


Comic Book / Give Me Liberty

Go To

Give Me Liberty is a four-issue Comic Book miniseries that makes up the first volume of the Martha Washington series by Frank Miller and Dave Gibbons, originally published in 1990-1991. The series as a whole 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.

Give Me Liberty was followed by two more miniseries and several one-shots, which comprise a comprehensive Story Arc of Martha's life and death:

  • Martha Washington Goes to War (1994, five issues)
  • Happy Birthday Martha Washington (1995, a collection of shorts)
  • Martha Washington Stranded in Space (1995, a Crossover with The Big Guy and Rusty the Boy Robot)
  • Martha Washington Saves the World (1997, three issues)
  • Martha Washington Dies (2007)

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."

Give Me Liberty 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.
  • Arch-Enemy: For Martha, initially Moretti and later the Surgeon General. Both of them end up getting obsessed with killing her to a degree that causes them to sabotage their own plans.
  • Artificial Human: They exist and are pretty convincing. One of them is taken hostage by the gay nazis.
  • Bald Head of Toughness: 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.
  • Better to Die than Be Killed: Moretti hangs himself in his cell on the day he is to be executed by firing squad.
  • Boom, Headshot!: How First Lady Rexall dies.
    • Also how Martha delivers a Mercy Kill to an impaled soldier.
  • Brain in a Jar: President Rexall, after awakening from his coma.
  • Bury Your Gays: Averted with Lieutenant Pearl, the Valkyrie clone who’s Martha’s loyal sidekick and has an unrequited crush on her. Martha repeatedly saves her from death.
  • Captain Ersatz: Captain Kurtz though he developed his own Super Serum.
  • Child Soldiers: Martha joins the Pax at 13 and is promoted to Sergeant pretty quickly.
  • 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.
  • Crapsaccharine World: It sure is crappy, but it's also damn colorful!
  • Dan Quayle: Apparently the last President before Erwin Rexall.
  • Deadly Distant Finale: The final one-shot comic takes place decades after the previous book, and depicts the final moments of Martha's life. What happened between the two stories is only hinted at.
  • 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.
  • Disease Bleach: After she’s affected by gas (‘Special Sauce’) while fighting against the burger corporations, Martha’s hair turns permanently blonde.
  • 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.) Some cliches of this trope are avoided - the Deep South becomes a hi-tech leftist Straw Feminist gynocracy, while the hardline Religious Right theocracy that most works put in the Deep South is placed in the stereotypically-liberal Pacific North West.
  • Energy Weapon: 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.
  • 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.
  • Fan Disservice: Martha is placed naked into the Surgeon General's torture device and given a Mind Rape.
  • Flooded Future World: In the future, rising sea levels have turned the streets of New York City into Venice-like water canals.
  • Friendly Enemy: Martha battles a female soldier of the First Sex Confederacy and one by one all their weapons fail, at which point Martha's opponent stops fighting and bursts out laughing. They sit down and have a chat instead, and wait to see which one of them will be taken prisoner.
  • 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).
  • 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
  • Ironic Echo: "The grownups always cough." First appears as child Martha is trying to sleep in the projects. Reappears after she’s stabbed Moretti in the chest while dispatching the soldiers he’s assembled to kill her.
  • Lady Land: The Confederation of the First Sex is a separatist Straw Feminist nation set up in, of all places, the Deep South.
  • Little Miss Badass: Martha is just thirteen years old when she joins the PAX militia, at which point she’s already killed Iceman for murdering her beloved teacher Donald.
  • Mad Doctor/Morally Ambiguous Doctorate: The Surgeon General.
  • 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, he turns out to be pretty bad at actually keeping and using it; 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 Mutant: 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.
  • The Peter Principle: Unfortunately for him (and, well, pretty much everyone else), Colonel Moretti turns out to be better at manipulating his way into the presidency-dictatorship than he is at actually being president-dictator.
  • Playful Hacker: Also Martha Washington.
  • Police State: Visually lampshaded in a page depicting President Rexall's motorcade with increasingly militarized security as the years progress.
  • Powered by a Forsaken Child: There are secret experiments with schizophrenic kids. One of them, "Raggy Ann", turns out to be a telepath.
  • Punny Name: There is an Attorney General Sphincter, a General Spank and the Aryan Thrust leader Krotch...
  • Rewarded as a Traitor Deserves: Nissen's cabinet members kill him, Julius Caesar style. Then, Moretti gets rid of his partners in crime by blowing up the White House.
  • Revenge Before Reason: Moretti is unable to let go of the fact that Martha stabbed him in the lungs and almost killed him when she stopped him from burning down the rainforest after taking a bribe from the "Fat Boy" corporation. Despite having blackmailed her into servitude and keeping silent about his involvement, and sending her into hazardous missions from which he takes most of the credit, he stops at nothing in trying to get her killed. This ultimately screws him over, as once he has pulled his coup and taken over the government, he focuses all his efforts on trying to kill her (and the far more important target of Rexall's brain, which is more of an afterthought for him) rather than trying to keep the crumbling US together and consolidate his power.
  • Robotic Reveal: The Surgeon General is revealed to be a robot when Martha shoots him.
  • 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 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 begins 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.
  • 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.