Anti-Government Superheroes


Earlier this year, as he often does, the Canadian cartoonist Chester Brown attended a Libertarian Party pub night. And there he was egged into running to represent his downtown Toronto district in Parliament. "I reluctantly said yes," he remembers. "But I'm a terrible politician. I'm a cartoonist! I like my solitude too much to enjoy the stuff you're forced to do as a politician."

Brown, 48, has written and illustrated surreal, funny comics for more than 20 years. His 2003 book Louis Riel: A Comic-Strip Biography was nominated for the Eisner Award, the biggest prize in comics. In October reason asked Brown to list three lessons about liberty to be gleaned from comics.

1.) Superheroes act outside the law, so why can't you? "Comic book superheroes don't ask for any official government sanction to do what they do. There is an inherent antigovernment message there: We don't have to rely on the state for law enforcement!"

2.) FDR was no good. "I have some issues of Harold Gray's Little Orphan Annie, in which he really takes on FDR. He popularized anti–New Deal sentiments in the 1930s when doing so was not popular."

3.) Censorship sucks. "Comic fans watched in the 1950s as people like Frederic Wertham tried to ban the books they read. It led to one of the most popular companies, EC Comics, canceling books like Tales From the Crypt. Quite a few outraged fans became suspicious of government power because of that."