Making Libertarianism Fun: The World of Comics and Graphic Novels

Updated on August 8, 2017
Garry Reed profile image

Garry Reed combined a professional technical writing career and a passion for all things libertarian to become The Libertarian Opinionizer.

The Voluntaryists

The Voluntaryists Versus the NSA: Part I Saving Snowden (left); Part II Shielding Assange (right)
The Voluntaryists Versus the NSA: Part I Saving Snowden (left); Part II Shielding Assange (right) | Source

Fun & Freedom

Are you tired of mucking through mounds of political pap in search of a little liberating sunlight during this palpably unpalatable political period? It’s time to escape into the Libertarian Land of Ink and Artwork: The Comics!

There are no shortages of ways for libertarians to express their vision of what a limited- or non-government post-statist voluntary world might look like and one of those ways is to literally make it visible and fun at the same time, through comic books, comic strips, funny pages, graphic novels and children’s illustrated books.

As a public service the following is presented as a selective overview of libertarian art and artists.

Superhero Comics

The biggest, baddest, brightest action-packed superhero comic characters fighting for Truth, Justice and the Libertarian Way are a collection of slam-bam rock ‘em sock ‘em freedom fighters known as "THE VOLUNTARYISTS – Humanity’s Last Stand Against Government.”

In the previous issue from this ongoing series, “The Voluntaryists Versus the NSA: Part I Saving Snowden,” the Voluntaryist Superheroes simultaneously rescued Edward Snowden from the clutches of Russia’s President Putin and America’s National Security Agency. Now the latest issue of the series is out and its title tells all: “Shielding Assange – The Voluntaryists Versus The NSA Part II.”

That’s right, America’s whistleblowing truth-telling superheroes are saved by America’s Voluntaryist superheroes!

And you’re in luck! The latest issue is available now in digital download or in the full glorious ink and color comic book paper format!

Graphic novel by Author J. Neil Schulman with Illustrator Lee Oaks
Graphic novel by Author J. Neil Schulman with Illustrator Lee Oaks

Graphic Novels

Top tier graphic novels come from the minds of the two libertarian Neils, J. Neil Schulman and L. Neil Smith and the visual virtuosos who transform their published books into colorful works of art.

Graphic Artist Lee Oaks collaborated with Schulman to create a third version of Alongside Night. The first was science fiction writer Schulman’s 1979 Prometheus Award winning libertarian and agorist dystopian novel of a near future "inflation-crippled America on the verge of revolution."

The second incarnation was a 2014 motion picture adaptation starring TV’s Hercules series Kevin Sarbo with direction and screenplay supplied by Schulman. Although released in 2013, before the movie, The Graphic Novel is based on Schulman's movie screenplay. It’s available in Kindle (for digital devotees) and paperback (for fans of the feel and flavor of printed word and artwork).

The story follows a teenager’s search for his missing family believed to be kidnapped by the crumbling police state where he meets up with a mysterious and feisty young woman and discovers the underground world of the Revolutionary Agorist Cadre.

But this is more than just a sci-fi adventure. From the publishers synopsis: “When originally published in 1979 Alongside Night portrayed a futuristic dystopia ending with a fictional Agorist revolution; but decades later Alongside Night as novel, movie and a graphic novel now presents hope for a world ready to be renewed by the real-world agorist movement.”

Graphic novel by L. Neil Smith  (Author), Scott Bieser (Author)
Graphic novel by L. Neil Smith (Author), Scott Bieser (Author)

The other Neil, L. Neil Smith, is a longtime prolific science fiction author. The Probability Broach, his first and perhaps best known novel, was conceived in the 70s as “a summary of all I’d ever learned about libertarianism.” It sounded like a boring political tract even to him so he crammed it with sex, violence and “general silliness” and it was an instant hit, at least with libertarians.

While the prose novel was originally published in 1980 Smith updated his own work in 2004 and teamed up with the talented Scott Bieser to create The Probability Broach: The Graphic Novel.

The storyline is about a cop who gets blown "sideways in time" into “a technologically advanced, fabulously wealthy world where government is nearly extinct and everyone carries guns.” But the underlying theme is the exploration of what a non-statist voluntary society might look like, and how it might work, based on personal freedom and individual responsibility if we could just suspend our conventional assumptions and think imaginatively.

It’s still a great read with great graphics today.

Comic Strip collection by Author Scott Bieser and Illustrators Sean Bieser & Lea Jean Badelles
Comic Strip collection by Author Scott Bieser and Illustrators Sean Bieser & Lea Jean Badelles

Comic Strips

If you want to get your comic fix on a weekdaily schedule the above-mentioned self-described “Cartoonist, illustrator, voluntaryist, know-it-all” toonsmith Scott Bieser is your guy. Over the years he’s been a computer game animator, political cartoonist and graphic artist. In 2011 Bieser launched his self-created self-written self-drawn Monday through-Friday daily web-only comic strip for Big Head Press, a sci fi action-adventurer “Quantum Vibe.”

The series is in its fifth year but fear not, the Quantum Vibe paperbacks Volumes 1 through 3 will catch you up quickly, after which you can go click his website’s Current Strip button each day for his latest vibe.

What you’ll get is the adventures of a brilliant young woman living 500 years in the future, a gal pal robot and a mad scientist with a grand plan for mapping every human inhabited solar system in the universe.

Illustrated guide by Author & Illustrator Zander Marz
Illustrated guide by Author & Illustrator Zander Marz

Illustrated Guides

Perhaps you take your libertarianism a little less loony than an intergalactic gynoid and a bit more seriously than that libertarian lemur on the cover of The Voluntaryists. Then this big-for-a-comic book with an even bigger title may be just right for you: Beyond the Government – Haunted World, a semi-serious illustrated comic book. The pseudonymous author, artist, and philosopher Zander Marz uses the comic book format to explore government’s monopoly on the initiation of force and its libertarian alternatives.

Marz admits that many of the ideas he proposes “are quite challenging to conventional thinking” True Dat! Yet they’re simple since they primarily revolve around the libertarian non-aggression principle against coercion, intimidation and fraud that results in a world of rules but not of rulers.

This is black-and-white writing. It’s also black-and-white art and lettering, all made by Marz. And since illuminating libertarianism requires more speech balloons than artistry you’ll find more of the latter two in this book.

Children's book by Author/Illustrator Kent-McManigal
Children's book by Author/Illustrator Kent-McManigal

Children’s Picture Books

Let’s not forget the kiddies who love pictures more than prose unless it’s Pop or Mom reading it to them. Indy-Pindy is the story of a mouse who grows up in a loving family and leaves home to live on his own. His encounters with other animals become examples of life lessons for little readers, illustrating why it’s better in the end to become self-sufficient and free instead of surrendering to the "protection" and "free food" from others.

The tale is told through 38 pages colorfully illustrated by the author.

“Stories like this are a good starting place for very small children,” wrote every libertarian’s favorite “Mama Liberty” Susan Callaway in her review of “a small book written by a fierce champion of liberty and justice.

That champion would be Kent McManigal, sometimes known as DullHawk, writer of “Kent’s ‘Hooligan libertarian’ Blog” and columnist for the Clovis (New Mexico) News Journal who further self-identifies as MountainMan, primitive survivalist, anarchist, and a few other things as well.

Child's coloring & activity book By Wayne Bell, Publisher, Really Big Coloring Books, Inc.
Child's coloring & activity book By Wayne Bell, Publisher, Really Big Coloring Books, Inc.

And then … get out your Crayons! There’s actually a Libertarian Party Coloring and Activity Book for your little libertarian tykes that feature such Libertarian luminaries on the cover as LP founder David Nolan, Tonie Nathan, Ron Paul, John Stossel and Roy Innis.

They can learn all about the history and meaning of the LP while carefully coloring between the lines like conservative Right-Libertarians or scribbling mustaches and beards on everyone like good little anarcho-voluntaryists.

The activity pages include a political quiz, puzzles, games, mazes and crosswords. While the point of the book is to teach kids to minimize government while seeking more freedom there’s no mention of a connect-the-dots activity to help them get from here to there.

Greatest Libertarian Cartoonist? 2011 Reason interview with Peter Bagge

Questions & Answers

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      • Garry Reed profile image
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        Garry Reed 21 months ago from Dallas/Fort Worth, Texas

        Yep, Bagge self-identified as libertarian in the video above. And you can also get free downloads of the Voluntaryist comics by going to https://volcomic.com/. Do a little reading and scrolling down.

      • Sandy Sandfort profile image

        Sandy Sandfort 21 months ago from Panama

        SSemans, how about free? Check out Big Head Press (http://bigheadpress.com/) for comics by Scott Bieser, L.Neil Smith, me and others. The books are better, but the stories be read online for free.

      • profile image

        SSemans 21 months ago

        Did my homework (ReasonTV interviews) and see he's been bravely out of the closet for a long while. I've fallen way behind as a fanboy.

      • profile image

        SSemans 21 months ago

        Also don't forget "Mr. A" from 1973. It's actually Objectivist, but it kind of set the standard for "libertarian" comics. In other words, baaaaaad. Everything I've seen since then described as libertarian comics or science fiction has been embarrassingly unsophisticated, confirming both the negative stereotypes of these media, and the common critique that the philosophy itself is simple-minded. I admit I haven't read 90% of what you are reviewing above, nor would I bother. Spending money on them would likely be a disappointment, and a malinvestment, and guess what, public libraries don't stock them, citing "lack of favorable review (by liberal media)." But I can't argue. Sorry to blow such a loud trollwhistle here, but as a life-long SF and comics/x reader, and a self-described libertarian for nearly as long, I can't help but vent my disappointment. The sole shining light here is Peter Bagge, and as far as I know, he doesn't call himself a libertarian. Likely with good reason.

      • Garry Reed profile image
        Author

        Garry Reed 21 months ago from Dallas/Fort Worth, Texas

        Thanks for adding that info! I couldn't cover them all of course but hopefully my article will let people know that there's a whole lot more libertarian comics & graphic novels out there than they might ever have suspected!

      • Sandy Sandfort profile image

        Sandy Sandfort 21 months ago from Panama

        Don't forget ESCAPE FROM TERRA, about anarchist societies on Mars, the asteroid belt and beyond. I wrote it, Scott Bieser adapted it and Lee Oaks drew it. It is available on the Big Head Press website. The original prose version, ADVENTURES IN HUMAN SPACE, is available on Amazon.

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