Sunday, January 25, 2009

One more Brick to throw ... viral warfare

In telling us a bit of villain Franz Ego's back story, Dr. Kopak tells us that Ego was responsible for the influenza pandemic of 1918. That statement doesn't mean much to us today, but if you can imagine reading in a Superman comic that Lex Luthor was responsible for the development of the AIDS virus in the 1980's, then you might understand that author William Ritt was putting Franz Ego on a breathtaking level of pure malice that would resonate strongly with any reader old enough to remember those dark days. To quote from Stanford's page on the pandemic:
The influenza pandemic of 1918-1919 killed more people than the Great War, known today as World War I (WWI), at somewhere between 20 and 40 million people. It has been cited as the most devastating epidemic in recorded world history. More people died of influenza in a single year than in four-years of the Black Death Bubonic Plague from 1347 to 1351.
It's human nature to try to pin the blame on someone or some group when a disaster like the flu pandemic strikes. With the world at war, the enemy was especially easy to find. As PBS's American Experience page tells us:
One widely accepted notion -- outside of the medical profession, that is -- had German spies deliberately seeding Boston Harbor with influenza-sprouting germs. Such innuendo was lent credence by statements of individuals who should have known better. On September 17, 1918, Lt. Col. Philip Doane, head of the Health and Sanitation Section of the Emergency Fleet Corporation, forcefully voiced his opinion that the epidemic might have been started by Germans put ashore from U-Boats.
Conspiracy theories, then, fed into Ritt's creation of his strip's villain - a villain who had unleashed death and terror in our "real world" on a global level. Other fictional villains were always threatening to destroy the world, but Brick Bradford's enemy already had.

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