Julia Wros

Televisual Assassination, Virtual Subjectivity, and Digital Alienation

Written by Julia Wros
SDSU History Master’s Student, 2021

In the information age, one of the biggest concerns that we all have is privacy. Exactly who is keeping an eye on our messages, phone calls, and internet browsing habits? And what exactly are they doing with that information? From Amazon and Google looking at your search history, to the US intelligence agencies that have sparked debate in the news in the past decade, threats to personal privacy have cropped up in recent years, often with explosive reveals in news media. In his special lecture “Televisual Assassination, Virtual Subjectivity, and Digital Alienation” (April 20, 2021), co-sponsored by Comics@SDSU, Professor William A Nericcio explored both how governmental intelligence agencies have caused controversies by violating the privacy of citizens and the storm that a newsstory about them can cause.

Nericcio talked about government surveillance, particularly drones and how they are used in intelligence and warfare. In the discussion he used a graphic novel, Verax: The True History of Whistleblowers, Drone Warfare, and Mass Surveillance (2017) by Pratap Chatterjee and Khalil, to highlight the way that drones and other military equipment are used to spy on people, as well as the death that they can cause. 

Nericcio described how the graphic novel opens with a drone doing a flyover of a village, where we see the perspective shift from the drone to the person behind the screen. The people playing are framed first by the screen and targeting, and then by the eye of the drone operator. Not surprising for someone whose Twitter handle is @eyegiene, Nericcio points out the multiple ways that eyes are used as a framing device in the graphic novel, from the screen, the physical eye, and things like the moon framing the sight of the drone in the air. 

Drones not only keep an eye on people, but commodify humans. Information can be gathered, categorized, and sold; all monitored and kept in records by the government. This collection of information by the government is another part of Verax. Verax is not only a discussion of drones and surveillance, but also a tool of investigative journalism. 

Verax: The True History of Whistleblowers, Drone Warfare, and Mass Surveillance: A graphic novel. By Pratap Chatterjee & Khalil. Metropolitan books. Oct 24, 2017.

Focusing on journalist Pratap Chatterjee, Verax contains the struggle to get information, and then to sell stories that contain the breaking news of government surveillance when the government does not want the stories to be released. Figures like Snowden and Assange populate the pages and the struggle to keep all of the information about information gathering secret promotes an interesting irony and strong story. 

Nericcio’s talk brought Verax into communication with another book, Drone Visions: a Brief Cyberpunk History of Killing Machines (2020) by Naief Yehya, and discussed how there is a voyeuristic element to the drones; no one being watched by drones or surveillance is aware that they are being watched even while their lives are being recorded… bringing us full circle to that village flyover in Verax with which the lecture began. Nericcio’s layered juxtapositioning of Verax and Drone Visions was a great lesson in how graphic media can tell a powerful story.

Fawaz Qashat

So Long, Darling

Written by Fawaz Qashat
SDSU Biology Major, 2021

The finale was a spectacular ending to an amazing show. Not only did it establish its own story and style, but it also drew heavily from the comics and gave us fans so many Easter eggs to enjoy. Starting with the scene where Wanda is in the town square and the citizens are all awakened and remember their past life. This is a reference to House of M (2005) by Brian Michael Bendis where the people who were trapped in Wanda’s new reality started remembering their past life.

House of M #2 (2005) by Brian Michael Bendis

Later on, when Vision and the twins were starting to fade because the Hex was being taken down, the use of building blocks as the particles that they are made of is a direct reference to the style of Wanda’s reality in House of M (2005) by Brian Michael Bendis.

House of M #7 (2005) by Brian Michael Bendis

When Wanda casts runes on the walls of the Hex, she tells Agatha, “Thanks for the lesson,” which is a reference to the comics since Agatha was Wanda’s mentor and helped her learn about her powers.

Image of Wanda and Agatha

When the Hex was disappearing around Wanda and Vision, Vision can be seen tearing up which is a nod to a famous line he says in the comics and something that he uses to validate his humanity. “Even an android can cry.”

Image of Vision

Fawaz Qashat

The Scarlet Witch

Written by Fawaz Qashat
SDSU Biology Major, 2021

This episode was what you would call an amplified throwback Thursday. Wanda goes on a journey looking at her past in order for Agatha to determine how the Hex came to be. The comic references still persisted and did not disappoint this episode. When Agatha learns about Wanda’s childhood and the shell that landed in their apartment, she asks Wanda if she used a probability hex. This is a reference to what Wanda’s ability was in the comics as she first started off. She did not know she had any other powers at the time.

Later on, when Hayward is dismantling Vision and Wanda sees it all, this is a direct reference to West Coast Avengers: Vision Quest #43 (1985) by John Byrne when Wanda sees Vision dismantled on a table by a corporation that wanted to render him defective. Furthermore, when Vision is seen in the after credits as being completely white, this is also a reference to West Coast Avengers: Vision Quest #45 (1985) by John Byrne in which Hank Pym rebuilds Vision but he is now completely white and has lost all emotions.

West Coast Avengers: Vision Quest #43 (1985) by John Byrne

West Coast Avengers: Vision Quest #45 (1985) by John Byrne

Towards the end of the episode we see Agatha in her witchy suit floating in the middle of the street. This is a comic reference to her color scheme and outfit in the comics. She wears a dress and a shawl with her infamous brooch.

Marvel Studios WandaVision Image.

Avengers #128 (1963) by Stan Lee

Last but certainly not least, Wanda Maximoff is finally given her superhero name from the comics, the Scarlet Witch!

Image of Scarlet Witch

Fawaz Qashat

It Was Agatha All Along!

Written by Fawaz Qashat
SDSU Biology Major, 2021

Everything is falling apart and Wanda can’t fix it. Episode 7 was one of the most chaotic yet entertaining episodes of the show. Despite this, comic references still managed to make their way onto the screen. Starting off with Monica’s transformation through the Hex into Photon. Her powers were officially revealed and they are a reference to the comic version in that both are blue. Not only that, but the outfit Monica can be seen wearing in Westview, the black and white S.W.O.R.D. outfit, is a nod to her superhero outfit in the comics as well!

Image of Monica Rambeau

Marvel Studios WandaVision Image

Later on, we see Vision trying to make sense of Westview and who he is. This is a reference to Vision in the comics who spends a majority of his life trying to figure out who or what he is. Especially in Avengers #57 (1963) by Roy Thomas in which Vision joins the Avengers, but not before questioning what his true nature is.

Avengers #57 (1963) by Roy Thomas

When Monica tries to warn Wanda of the true intentions of Hayward, Wanda attacks her. Monica tries to convince Wanda to stop the Hex so as to not become a villain. Wanda’s reply of, “Maybe I already am,” is a reference to the comics because after House of M (2005) by Brian Michael Bendis, Wanda is seen as a hero by some but also as a villain by others. 

House of M (2005) by Brian Michael Bendis

Finally, towards the very end, Agnes is revealed to be Agatha all along. See what I did there? Agatha’s pose when she is cradling the bunny is a reference to her most famous pose in her first appearance, Fantastic Four #94 (1970) by Stan Lee, where she can be seen cradling her cat, Ebony.

Fantastic Four #94 (1970) by Stan Lee