A Future-Oriented Past: Deictic Reformulations of WWII in Contemporary War Comics

Nicola Paladin

Abstract


In recent years, the representation of the Second World War in US pop culture has undergone a radical transformation, especially in war comics. The conflict has indeed ceased to be depicted only in accurate historical reconstructions or on survivors’ personal memories: several recent World War Two comics memorialize historical events only up to a certain point, beyond which they reinterpret history and envision a hypothetical future staged on World War Two but inspired by contemporary elements and preoccupations. In light of this transformation, this essay will demonstrate how one of the main products of post-generational comics about World War Two is a representational mode originated from a multi-layered imagination of the war itself, rooted in historical records but contaminated by post-Cold War era cultural tropes. This examination transcends Marianne Hirsch’s notion of postmemory as strictly activated within familial bonds, but it implies the transfer of World War Two collective memory to a post-generation (broadly intended) of people “who were not actually there.” I will focus on Garth Ennis’ miniseries Bloody Mary (1996), and Kieron Gillen’s ongoing series, titled Über (2013-present). Both texts envision dystopian contemporary societies torn apart by World War Two, which did not end in 1945 but continued into the 21st century, and both narratives present elements pertaining to the official memory, as well as on a constellation of components which are part of a contemporary and deictic war imagination.


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DOI: https://doi.org/10.13133/2239-1983/16837