Earlier this month ABC News ran a special report called Earth 2100, which imagined a possible "worst case scenario" if the "perfect storm" of population growth, resource depletion and climate change converge, causing catastrophic effects to the planet. The report featured graphic novel-style sequences by Josh Neufeld, Sari Wilson, Joe Infurnari, George O’Connor, Tim Hamilton and Leland Purvis.
It wasn't the first time that comic book creators have taken a look at a possible future where everything has gone to hell, both scaring and depressing you with its bleak look at what might be in store for us. So in honor of the show, here are six of my favorite apocalyptic doomsday scenarios, as presented by comics past and present ...
1. Death by robots -- Geekanerd recently did a post on possible robot apocalypse scenarios and how to avoid them, using Battlestar Galactica, Terminator and The Matrix as examples. Another story that falls into that category is the classic Uncanny X-Men story "Days of Future Past." First introduced in issues #141 and 142, the storyline focused on a possible future where mutants have been hunted almost to extinction by the Sentinels, with the survivors being kept in internment camps. Giant robots = bad, bad things.
I remember reading these issues as a kid and being genuinely freaked out about the fate of the X-Men. It was bad enough finding out that Cyclops, Nightcrawler and many of the others were already dead, but to see Storm, Colossus and Wolverine meet their fates ... I took it as canon, actually, that one day the X-Men comic would end with a similar scene, once it caught up to the future those issues portrayed. Of course, I thought Jean Grey was really dead, too, so ...
2. Death by zombies -- Imagine waking up in the hospital after being a coma for a few months to find that not only have you been abandoned by pretty much everybody, but also that your world has been overrun by zombies. We've seen how similar scenarios play out on the silver screen, but Robert Kirkman's taken us beyond that in The Walking Dead, past the feeling of pure fear and false hope, and straight into the realm of pure survival. It's one thing to watch a group hole up in the mall for a couple of hours and fight off the undead; it's another to watch them slowly disintegrate as human beings over the course of several years.
Although we still don't know what caused the zombie apocalypse, Kirkman has introduced a new character, Eugene Porter, the mullet-headed doctor who could bring salvation. Knowing how the group's luck runs, though, odds are that Porter gets eaten right before we find out how to end the nightmare ...
3. Death by mystical forces -- Back in the late 1980s, Eclipse published the adventures of Emanuel Santana in an America that had seen better days. Once a world superpower, sanctions against the country because of past ecological excesses had left it as a third-world country. Global warming had left most of the United States a desert, the government was run by corporations and the economy was pretty much non-existent.
Tim Truman's Scout featured a pretty grim look at the future of the country, but it turns out it wasn't completely our own fault. Four monsters from Apache legend had taken human form and basically ran the country into the ground, and it was up to Santana to fix things by, naturally, killing the monsters. And the human forms they took were powerful folks within the government, so of course this put our hero at odds not only with his former comrades in the armed forces, but also with himself ... was the country taken over by these monsters, or was he just crazy? Either way, Truman did a great job mixing the geo-political with the mystical to create a compelling story.
If you're curious to check out Scout, some of Tim Truman's finest work, Dynamite recently collected them into two volumes.
5. Death by scripture? -- A couple of years back, Jim Munroe and Salgood Sam did a graphic novel called Therefore Repent!, a post-Rapture graphic novel about what happens to those left behind after all the Christians in the world take the express train to Heaven. Through the eyes of Mummy and Raven, the two main characters, we're introduced to a world where magic is making a comeback, dogs talk, Splitters hope for a second rapture and angels wield machine guns as they start to take out the sinners.
Of course, the real story here is that Mummy and Raven are breaking up -- which, let's face it, can be a sort of doomsday of its own. You can check out the book for free on Jim Munroe's site.
6. Death by mutated animals with opposable thumbs -- Earth A.D., or "After Disaster," is a future Earth inhabited by intelligent, mutated animals and what's left of the Statue of Liberty -- and a lone human. Nope, it isn't Planet of the Apes, even if it does share some similarities. It's, of course, Kamandi: The Last Boy on Earth, which was created by Jack Kirby in the 1970s.
So what happened to Kamandi's world? Well, that was never quite explained. Something involving radiation, which resulted in some animals gaining human-like intelligence and movement. Whatever the disaster was really doesn't matter ... what does matter is that the book, no matter how weird it got, really worked.
Our friends at Comic Should Be Good had ">a great post about Kamandi last year. Alex Cox described it as "something of a masterpiece, and quite possibly the best comic of the Seventies. Against all odds, KAMANDI worked in a way that few comics do. It holds up, conceptually, even today. Despite major flaws, it remains infectious and joyous and a total kick in the ass."
4. Death by Apocalypse -- So what happens when you travel back in time, intent on killing a powerful evil mutant, but end up killing your own father instead? Well, if you're Legion, and your dad is Professor X, you create an alternate history where Apocalypse rules North America and freedom fighters led by Magneto make trouble for him while trying to restore the old timeline. Throw in some genocide, the threat of nuclear war and a new version of the Four Horsemen, and you've got yourself an armageddon.
Luckily this one didn't last very long ... one crossover event and a few surviving strays later, and this world no longer existed except in the pages of Exiles.
So what are some of your favorite end-of-the-world stories?