The Dark Side of Applied Comics

disney_exxon_energyOne of the very earliest comic books I ever read as a kid was an educational comic full of information. Or, perhaps I should say it was “educational” and full of “information”.

It was a comic about “Energy Conservation” starring Mickey Mouse and Goofy, and sponsored by Exxon. Yes, that’s right: Exxon, that well-known corporate advocate of energy conservation. Just how “educational” was the “information” in that comic?

Applied Comics has something of a dark history to contend with. Comics have been used in the service of some pretty dodgy “information”, and been created as tools for some fairly dubious “education”. Just as applied comics as a serious field of study and practice might need to contend with public perceptions of comics as juvenile or dumbed-down, it also might need to contend with its legacy as blatant propaganda.

How do we ensure that informational comics can be used as a legitimate tool for presenting arguments, encouraging debate and changing opinions without allowing them to slip over into something darker?

Check out a snarky review of a comic in the same series over at paleofuture.com

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