"I realize you've been battling in the sea of comics to try and do better things," wrote science-fiction author Ray Bradbury to EC Comics writer Joe Orlando. "You have certainly succeeded in 'Judgment Day', which should be required reading for every man, woman, and child in the United States. You've done a splendid thing here and deserve the highest commendation."

I can only imagine what it must've been like to find such a bold anti-racist screed as "Judgment Day" in the pages of a1953 science-fiction comic -- Weird Fantasy #18. Segregation was in full effect, the Civil Right movement still several years away, and the allegory in Orlando's tale (with art by Wally Wood) was a shock to the system that created one of comic history's most memorable moments.

"Judgment Day", which you can read in its entirety here, relates the story of Earth representative Tarlton, sent to a world of self-aware machines who discovers that the robots have divided themselves into two class structures based solely on the color of their chassis. It's not a subtle prodding of an old way of thinking; it's a shout to the face of anyone who dares defend an outmoded, wrong-headed school of thought. The final panel drew particular attention at the time for the daring, forward-thinking statement it makes, and that last image lingers on as an iconic reminder of the power of science-fiction to challenge us, socially.
categories Features, Sci-Fi