Nine years ago today saw 19 terrorists kill 2,977 people and destroy the World Trade Center in New York City.
The comics industry rallied to provide what aid they could to the emergency relief efforts in the only way they could – by producing comics.
The first hero on Ground Zero was Spider-man in Amazing Spider-Man volume 2 #36 – widely known as the Black Issue. J Michael Straczynski's tale split audiences in November, 2001. It was widely agreed paying tribute was a good thing, but critics questioned if this was the best way. Spider-man was chastised for not preventing the tragedy in the story and provided what little help he could on the scene, and the scene was horrific. It was reported that John Romita, Jr found drawing emotional due to his attachment as a former New Yorker but didn't shy away from depicting the carnage of the catastrophe. The biggest contention for some, bar complaints of disrupting continuity, was the assemblage of the Juggernaut, Kingpin, Doctor Octopus and Magneto looking on at the destruction while Doctor Doom wept. (eBay – $36)
Marvel followed up with Heroes: The World's Greatest Superhero Creators Honor the World's Greatest Heroes in December. This 64-page poster book made headlines when it united the likes of Spider-man, Captain America and the Hulk with emergency personnel tackling the aftermath. The book also united comic book writers and artists Alan Moore, Kevin Smith, Kurt Busiek, Paul Dini, Neil Gaiman, Stan Lee, Jim Krueger, George Perez, Sam Kieth, Alan Davis, Frank Miller, Frank Quitely and others. Proceeds went to the Twin Towers Fund. (eBay – 99c)
9-11: Emergency Relief was another multi-talent fundraiser, this time for American Red Cross and published by Alternative Comics in January, 2002. Its 208 pages housed more than 60 pieces and 80 contributors of mainly small-press creators along with Frank Cho, Michael Avon Oeming, Gail Simone, Jeff Smith and Harvey Pekar. The book garnered positive reception from Time for being moving and unafraid to be more abstract in tackling delicate issues. (eBay – $7)
9-11: Artists Respond Volume 1, published by Dark Horse, Image and Chaos comics came out the same month. This 192-page volume contained stories and illustrations including a poem by Frank Miller, an artistic interpretation of the two towers by Dave McKean, Paul Chadwick on the heroism of the passengers of Flight 93, Will Eisner's essay about the souls of buildings and art work by Alex Maleev, Tommy Lee Edwards and others. The volume finished off with its longest contribution at six pages from Alan Moore and Melinda Gebbie. Eric Drooker of The New Yorker created the cover. (eBay – $14)
9-11: The World's Finest Comic Book Writers & Artists Tell Stories to Remember Volume 2 followed in February and was published by DC Comics. This 224-page second volume employed the talents of Neil Gaiman, Brian K Vaughan, Kurt Busiek, Stan Lee, Geoff Johns, Chris Bachalo, Michael Zulli, Jim Lee and others. Alex Ross painted the cover with Superman and Krypto looking up at the emergency personnel who dealt with the crisis. All proceeds from both volumes went to the World Trade Center Relief Fund, Survivors Fund, September 11th Fund and the Twin Towers Fund. (Amazon – 45c)
Marvel released a second 9-11 volume called A Moment of Silence in the same month. Its four stories were written by Bill Jemas, Brian Michael Bendis, Joe Quesada and Kevin Smith and drawn by Mark Bagley, Scott Morse, Igor Kordey and John Romita, Jr. Each tale dispensed with words (and superheroes) and three of them were based on real-life stories. Mayor Rudy Guliani provided the foreword. (eBay $1)
The collapse of the towers was the core of The Unshredded Man in Peter Milligan's Human Target. The two-parter began in issue 2 in 2003 and saw a passerby who was mistakenly counted among the dead on September 11 come out of anonymity to blackmail his corrupt boss. Once his bereaved wife learnt of his secret existence, she insisted he stayed dead rather than deprive their son of his hero image. (eBay – $1)
The first to do an alternative 9-11 was Brian K Vaughan in The Pilot, the first issue in 2004 of his political superhero series Ex Machina. The splash page was of Mitchell Hundred flying towards a commercial airliner before jumping to the present where the ex-mayor of New York lamented over his time in office. The splash at the end showed one of the towers still standing and Hundred wished he were in time to stop the first plane. (eBay – $1)
Garth Ennis' world of The Boys was similarly scarred in part three of I Tell You No Lie, GI in issue 21 of 2008. But in this parallel world the president ordered the shooting down of the first passenger plane aimed at New York City. However, his vice president sent JLA parody The Seven to stop the second plane. After they badly botched the mission, the stricken plane crashed into the Brooklyn Bridge instead. (eBay – $2.29)
Todd McFarlane's Spider-man crossed over with Rob Liefeld's X-Force in 1991 in a team-up between the webslinger and Cable's mutant revolutionaries versus Black Tom Cassidy and Juggernaut at the World Trade Center. Explosives planted throughout one of the towers by the Irish mutant severely damaged its structure before Juggernaut rammed the wreckage down onto the mutant group and Spider-man. (eBay – $2.75)
Adventures Of Superman #596 shipped to retailers the day after September 11, 2001. DC said the issue was returnable, which depicted a heavily damaged LexCorp Towers in the wake of the Our Worlds at War storyline. (eBay – $8)
Uncanny X-Men #189 from 1984 saw Rachel Summers and Magma enjoying a day in New York in Two Girls Out to Have Fun. When the two towers catch the telepath from the future's eye, she remembers her own timeline where they fell and killed thousands. (eBay – $2)
And a 2001 trailer for the following year's Spider-man movie was scrubbed as it depicted bank robbers escaping by helicopter only to be snared between a giant web cast between the two towers. The image of the dual landmark was also taken out of the reflection in Spidey's eyepieces for the poster.
Comics have treated the events with sadness, loss, respect, to make political and dramatic points – but as of yet, not prominently with comedy, unlike most other media. Maybe next decade…