The United States was working to keep itself out of World War II for some time, but eventually Japan would force our hand when they perpetrated a sneak attack on Pearl Harbor. America’s comic book companies had been using the conflict in Europe as backdrop for months before, though. In November of 1941, patriotic hero Uncle Sam had to battle back a force of German troops as they attacked… Pearl Harbor. This doesn’t sound weird until you realize that the actual Pearl Harbor attack didn’t happen until December, a month later. Sure, the comic got the attackers wrong, but it’s still too close for comfort.
It’s sort of cheating to look at bizarre high-tech devices from comics and say they came true in the real world (like implying that the Apple Watch is just Dick Tracy’s wrist walkie-talkie), but this one is too weird to ignore. In a 1964 issue of Superman’s Girlfriend Lois Lane, which was lowkey one of the most bizarre comics of the decade, the Man of Steel clearly explains 3D printing, as he states “…it’s a processing machine which creates busts from photo-images! See?” Now we see, Superman, now we see.
Some comic book predictions don’t play the long game. Case in point: an issue of Marvel Team-Up that came out in the summer of 1977. Pairing the web-slinger with the winsome Wasp, the plot concerned a villain named Equinox who took out a transformer with an energy blast, plunging the entire city of New York into a blackout. The very same week the comic hit the stands, a lightning bolt hit a ComEd substation… and plunged the entire city of New York into a blackout. It was the first city-wide outage since 1965 and kicked off a spree of looting and chaos.
This one’s a little hinky because the prediction in question wasn’t published in its original form, but it’s still weird as hell. In 1986, DC Comics hired superstar writer-artist John Byrne to revitalize Superman for the modern age in a miniseries called Man of Steel. The book’s mandate was to bring Supes’ power levels down to something reasonable and update his origin for the ’80s. In the first issue, one of the hero’s biggest tests is rescuing a space shuttle that suffered an engine explosion right after launch. As he was finishing the pages, the space shuttle Challenger launched – and suffered an engine explosion, killing everybody aboard in NASA’s greatest tragedy ever. Byrne quickly re-drew the pages, changing the shuttle to an experimental plane. That’s a pretty chilling way to learn you have precognitive powers.
Archie Comics has always been about a generation behind current culture. The corny hijinks of Riverdale somehow continue to be published. But even a blind squirrel finds a nut once in a while, and a 1972 issue of Archie showed us the future of music with terrifying clarity. In the story, Archie travels forward in time to find that his beloved guitar rock is dead as a doornail, with all the kids chilling to “new sounds from the computer.” They’re not enjoying proto-dubstep from a cell phone, though – the magical music box is the size of a sofa and has approximately a million buttons on it. Also everybody is wearing helmets for some reason, but we’ll let that slide.
Multiple comic books have featured the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center damaged by evil villains, but none managed to get as close to reality as an issue of Uncanny X-Men from 1985. The Marvel series had recently introduced the character of Rachel Summers, a telepathic mutant sent back from the future. In this story, she’s battling the Hellfire Club in Manhattan while trying to deal with the differences between the Manhattan of her time and the present day. One of the biggest differences? The WTC is still there – in Rachel’s future, the towers had been completely destroyed. By a mutant terrorist attack. Yikes.
This one’s another timing-related prediction, but by God it’s a weird one. Most people know who Wonder Woman is, but fewer know her secret identity: Princess Diana of Themyscira. There was another famous princess named Diana, right? Remember her? In 1997, an issue of Wonder Woman came out with a fake newspaper cover emblazoned with the headline “DIANA, PRINCESS OF THEMYSCIRA, STRUCK DOWN.” Inside, the titular Princess Di dies. Three days after the comic came out, the real-world Princess Di was involved in a car accident in Paris that claimed her life. Pretty creepy coincidence there.
This one’s a little more light-hearted than some of the scarier entires on the list, but it’s still interesting. Gary Larson’s newspaper comic The Far Side was one of the biggest hits of the ’80s, a daily peek into a surreal and weird world of talking cows and clueless dimwits. In a 1990 panel, Larson made what he thought was a hilarious joke by drawing a newspaper full of classified ads for “Nintendo experts” imagined by parents watching their gamer kids. Well, in 2016 playing video games for a living is a real thing, with popular streamers making millions off of their skills. Let’s just hope this is the only Far Side that comes true, for all our sakes.
Warren Ellis’s sci-fi dystopia Transmetropolitan takes place in a future of rogue journalists armed with “bowel disruptors,” getting stories out against all odds. One of the book’s main antagonist is a President known only as the Beast, a hyper-authoritarian nationalist who wins office by whipping the citizenry into a frenzy against everybody who looks different from them. Sure, it’s a common trope, but given Trump’s many struggles with the press it seems too close for comfort. The Beast got elected in Transmet, but we’ll see if the real world follows suit pretty soon.
Futuristic weaponry has always been a big element of superhero comics. When you’ve got a hero who shrugs off bullets, writers need to raise the stakes. But when a Superman comic in 1944 featured Lex Luthor manufacturing an explosive powered by atomic energy, things got a little too close for comfort. The thing is, this comic was written before the United States dropped a pair of real-world A-bombs on Japan to end the war. In ’44, scientists were still trying to figure out how atomic energy could be harnessed in secret, and when the government caught wind of the Superman comic they sent FBI agents to DC Comics’ offices and ordered them to pull the story before publication. Editors had no idea that they’d accidentally predicted a world-changing superweapon. It was eventually printed in 1946, after the end of the war.