Thesis Defence: Brendan Lacy

Tuesday, January 19, 2021 3:00 pm - 3:00 pm EST (GMT -05:00)

The Green Scare: Radical environmental activism and the invention of “eco-terrorism” in American superhero comics from 1970 to 1990

Brendan Lacy thesis image


American environmentalism became a recognizable social movement in the 1960s. For the next two decades the movement evolved representing diverse philosophies, taking on different protest methods like direct-action, sabotage, and theatrical stunts. In the late 1980s, the combination of a dissolving Soviet Union and the threat of nuclear war, visible industrial disasters like the Exxon Valdez oil spill, and scientific experts confirming the existence of Global Warming, led environmentalism to resurge within popular public discourse.

As the movement’s insistence for change increased so did the resistance to change by those comfortable with the status quo. In the early 1990s law enforcement and government officials in America, with support from extraction industries, created an image of the radical environmental movement as dangerous “eco-terrorists.” The concept was deployed in an effort to de-value the environmental movement’s position making them easier to detain and deter through suppression methods.

The concept of “eco-terrorism” enters popular media relatively quickly indicated by the proliferation of superhero comics in the early 1990s that present villainous environmental activists as “eco-terrorists.” This imagery contrasts comics from 1970 which depicted superheroes as working alongside activists for the betterment of the world.

This thesis analyses superhero comics as sites of political and cultural messaging during periods of major influx in environmental consciousness. The representation of “eco-terrorism” in relation to superheroes is understood as an important part of the political repression campaigns aimed at radical environmentalism by the American government. These activists represented a disruption to the “standard view” of understanding relationships between humans and the environment, a change that would impact the profits of extraction industries, and the governments that depend on them.

The examining committee is as follows:

Supervisor: Jane Hutton
Committee Member: Marie-Paule Macdonald
Internal Reader: James Nugent
External Reader: Marc Ngui

The defence examination will take place: 
January 19, 2021, 3:00pm EST, open defence.

Teams link available via the graduate student Learn page or by request.

The committee has been approved as authorized by the Graduate Studies Committee.
A copy of the thesis is available for perusal in ARC 2106A.