Humanity has finally produced what seems to be a truly indestructible entity: the corporation.
In the early 2000s, comics writer Joe Casey took the Wildcats, a generic superhero team known for their gritty adventures and ridiculously proportioned women, and turned them into something unique. Under the title Wildcats 3.0 he placed his heroes in the service of an immortal being that had spread across the face of a planet, worming its way into every corner of people’s lives. A being with all the rights of a living person but none of their responsibilities. A being that could topple governments, transform economies and revolutionize the way that we live.
This was no alien entity from another planet. It was no vision of a monstrous future. It was a reflection of the world we live in now. Because that entity the Wildcats were working for?
It was a corporation.
You people aren’t just readers. You’re consumers.
Casey’s story, which mixed two parts action drama with one part corporate intrigue and a big side of social commentary, was inspired by the power of the modern corporation. Our visions of super powered beings are shaped by decades of Superman and the X-Men, but the people of truly awesome power in modern society are corporations.
Many might balk at the idea that businesses are people, but their personhood has been enshrined in US law since 1886. A precedent set in that year granted corporations the same legal rights as living people, using the concept of the ‘natural person’. And corporations have far more power and wealth than most individuals, and so that precedent has never been overturned.
Corporations are, in a very real and legal sense, people.
They have more rights… more freedoms… more powers than we do
The problem with that precedent is that, even if they are people, corporations are not human. They can’t be imprisoned. They don’t die of old age. They have exactly as much of a conscience as we force upon them.
These are not the superheroes of our childhood dreams. They are the terrifying, unstoppable monsters of our nightmares.
This is a journey we have just begun.
Like all good superhero stories, Wildcats 3.0 offers us hope as well as darkness. Because if corporations are so powerful, if they can reach out and transform the world, then they can be used for good. This is what the Wildcats, led by robotic CEO Jack Marlow (it is a superhero comic, after all), set out to do. To take the corporate power of what was once their cover story, the Halo Corporation, and use it to transform the world. To unleash new technologies that empower, transform and protect people and their environment.
This doesn’t have to stay the stuff of comic books. If we can find ways to shape and direct companies in the right direction then we can transform the world in profound and amazing ways. But if we allow them to simply run riot, if we leave them to become tools of greed and profiteering, then they will destroy us just as surely as any other super villain.
We have created a race of Lex Luthors. Lets see if we can turn them into Superman instead.
All quotes from ‘Wildcats 3.0: Brand Building’, written by Joe Casey, art by Dustin Nguyen and Richard Friend