Thursday, March 06, 2014

Catcher in the Bunker?

Page 8 of Sheltered #1 written by Ed Brisson and
illustrated by Johnnie Christmas.
Over the past few weeks my students and I have been reading and analyzing that time honored high school classic of teen angst, The Catcher In the Rye by J. D. Salinger. Given its universal appeal to teens and immature teachers worldwide, the novel often results in some interesting and illuminating classroom conversation, and this past school year has been no different. One related source we also invested our time in together while reading and discussing the novel was the documentary Salinger (2013) written and directed by Shane Salerno. Among the takeaways students gained from the viewing was the impact Salinger's novel had on the minds of some less "mentally stable" fans who claimed Catcher's influence in their acts of violence. The hypothesis is that something in Catcher clicked with these slightly unhinged (or at the very least, "ajar") minds resulting in their need to act out violently.

This past weekend as I was re-reading the Image Comics series Sheltered, co-created by Ed Brisson and Johnnie Christmas, I came across a visual nod to Catcher In the Rye in the premiere issue. Bearing the subtitle A Pre-Apocalyptic Tale, Sheltered is a unique distant cousin of the popular zombie-Armageddon-survivalist comic book sub-genre. It is described on Image Comics' website thusly: "The men and women of Safe Haven have been preparing for any and all end-of-world scenarios for years. However, their bunkers, weapons, and training can't save them from the one threat they never could have expected: their own children."

Owing more than a little to William Golding's Lord of the Flies, violence eventually erupts in the secluded community, as teens are pitted against teens with one faction (the "bad guys") being lead by Lucas. As depicted in the page above from issue#1, a copy of Catcher is not-so-subtlety hidden among the computers and survival gear. While later cover imagery more overtly suggests the influences of Flies (check out issue 6's painted skulls on pikes motif below) it is the inclusion of Catcher at this early stage of the much larger story that peaked my interest. Is it intended to serve as an influence for Lucas, who *SPOILER* does violently--though with a cool attitude--lash out at the adults *END SPOILER* in his life setting up the kid versus kid narrative? If he is following Holden's lead in revolting against "phoniness" how is that reflected in this comic book world in which the "real" people are anticipating a hostile government incursion?

As I continue engaging more deeply with Sheltered during this second read-through of its to-date seven issue run, I'm curious to see the additional literary echoes that rattle around the pages.

The cover to Sheltered #6 by series co-creator and
artist Johnnie Christmas.

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