Just when you think you have seen it all.....today in a comic book store with my son I came across a "graphic novel" by the title "Union Station." It is a 106 page comic book based on the 1933 shootout in Kansas City in which FBI agents and other lawmen were killed. The author is Ande Parks and illustrator is Eduardo Barreto.
I am trying to determine what it means to our society when an event like the Union Station Massacre becomes the subject of a comic book. Thinking about it kind of makes my head hurt.
It's another of those things that make it seem as if we're living in a sick society. On the other hand, in the '40's and '50's comics such as Crime Does Not Pay and many similar titles presented sensationalized accounts of many murderous gangsters and infamous crimes. While somewhat more moralistic in their approach they were still exploiting violent crime to a largely juvinile audience. In the '30's there were even bubblegum cards of gangsters as well as ballplayers. Reading over newspapers of the day one also finds stories of "devil cults," child abductions, mass suicides, scandalous behavior by celebrities, politicians, and evangelists, calls for censorship in the movies, and debates over capital punishment, gun control, science vs. religion, etc. Our society has become more complex and perhaps legalities have subverted simple justice to some extent but in many ways things are just as they've always been.
I haven't seen the specific comic book refferred to, but, after all, the event has been fictionalized dozens of times in other mediums. One of the earliest was the Jimmy Cagney film "G" MEN. Other examples include THE F.B.I. STORY with Jimmy Stewart, and the TV-movie THE KANSAS CITY MASSACRE, with Dale Robertson playing Melvin Purvis.
Within months of the event future Pulitzer Prize winner MacKinlay Kantor fictionalized the event in a short story called "The Trail of the Brown Sedan" that appeared in one of the mystery/detectie pulps that were prominent in the Depression era.
If you're irritated that the Union Station shootout is being fictionalized that's one thing, but, after all, it's been fodder for fictionalization for nearly 7 decades now.
If it's the MEDIUM that's being used as the vehicle for fictionalization that disturbs you, I can't really see why it's more objectionable to depict the event in a comic book than it is in a pulp magazine or a TV-movie. And, as Maddog points out, that's hardly new either. I recall reading a comic book depiction of the Union Station gun battle in a comic book when I was about 10 myself.
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