I don’t usually read the Journal of Business Ethics, one sometimes doubts there is enough of it to fill a journal. Yet, when a paper is titled “X-Men Ethics: Using Comic Books to Teach Business Ethics” (2008, n. 77), who can say no? The authors are R. Spencer Foster, a PhD student in Sociology, and Virginia W. Gerde, an assistant professor in Business, that introduces herself with: “When she served in Iraq as a U.S. Army ofﬁcer, comic books helped her to break the ice and build relationships.”
Most of the paper is boring, going about establishing some cultural pedigree for comic books, listing how they have been subject to much serious study and that they are a billion dollar industry. The meat of the paper is in the topics or talking points that the authors outline for a course taught in comics narratives. The list includes: “business ethics”, “leadership”, “diversity and teamwork”, “marketing”, “business and government”, “internationalization”, “technology”, “postmodernism and business”, “employee issues”, “gender equity”, “management”, “consumer and product issues”, and so on, until you conclude with “Japanese ethics.”
Here is a quote which will surely become a classic:
Within the mutant population in X-Men, every individual has a unique mutation or ability. The mutants begin to self-identify as part of the group that wants to take over the world (those with Magneto), those who want to live peacefully with the rest of humankind (those with Xavier), and those who have not permanently chosen a side yet have to make short-term choices on who to support, like Wolverine or Rogue in the X-Men series. Within Magneto’s and Xavier’s groups, the mutants work together, acknowledging their differences while working as a team. The two groups even work together to stop a plot aimed at destroying all mutants, demonstrating a temporary coalition of stakeholders that otherwise would not work together.
Surely there must be something in comics for an historian of economics… Maybe some examples of incommensurability that won’t twist your tongue? Maybe one could say that pre-war economics was like a parallel universe?