Malthus meets Green Lantern: comic book representation of Malthusian concerns

Adam Veitch, Laszlo Kulcsar

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


With growing concerns of overpopulation in the developing world in the 1960s, Thomas Malthus’ work was rediscovered as an answer to social problems. Neo-Malthusian thought was centred on the pessimistic view of the coming ‘population bomb’ that would create worldwide ills that even developed nations such as the United States and United Kingdom could not ignore. This pessimistic mood found its way into comic books of the era (1960s–1980s). This coincided with a new interest in problems with society at large, epitomised by Bronze Age comic books such as Green Lantern/Green Arrow. Throughout this era, comic book stories occasionally featured villains and/or social settings based on overpopulation. For the first time, our superheroes had to deal with over-urbanised cityscapes, environmental degradation from humans, and crime as a result of population pressure. The ways that comic book creators dealt with this social problem reveals a great deal about the general mood of this issue.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)140-154
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Graphic Novels and Comics
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2019

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Visual Arts and Performing Arts
  • Literature and Literary Theory


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