It’s been nearly 80 years since Superman made his crime- and corruption-fighting debut in an issue of Action Comics, the 1930s-era precursor to DC Comics. But instead of battling Lex Luthor, nowadays the Man of Steel is fighting against the public officials who caused the Flint water crisis—or cheering on his fellow superheroes as they advocate for the restoration of the Voting Rights Act.
At least, that’s a scene on a recent cover of Activist Comics, a street art series that reimagines several Action Comics covers to portray beloved superheroes taking action against modern-day injustices.
“I like comic books, and I love the idea of making today’s activist feel empowered,” said John Wellington Ennis, the Los Angeles–based author, filmmaker, and street art aficionado who is the brains behind Activist Comics.
Ennis started Activist Comics in 2014 while making the documentary Pay 2 Play, a film about getting money out of politics. “Street art is a subplot in the movie as a visual metaphor about people taking to the streets and speaking up against corporate speech,” Ennis told TakePart. He realized that the reforms his film suggested, such as mandating public financing and ending gerrymandering, easily lent themselves to a street art campaign.
A subsequent internet search led Ennis to hundreds of images of the covers of the old Action Comics—covers that are now in the public domain. With a little Photoshop magic, Ennis has turned characters such as Superman, Wonder Woman, and Aquaman into fierce advocates for modern issues of equality and justice.
Click through to learn more about the project and see more of Activist Comics.