Comic Fodder

The President and Comic Books

Okay, so when I first started my series to help explain how comic books are taking over the world, I mentioned that a former President Reagan used to read comics, and so does the current Prime Minister of Japan. Some of the big news, that even the mainstream media picked up on, is that the newest, current President of the United States, also reads comics. Talk about a timely series, this couldn’t have worked any better if I had planned it (Disclaimer: I did not engineer Obama winning the presidency just so I could have a timely topic. The Filmfodder site should in no way be held liable for any consequences of this presidency).

The topic came up a few times during the campaign, usually when kids were around, but both major candidates did get asked who their favorites were. While McCain picked Batman, Obama chose both Batman and Spider-Man, because when asked to pick “a favorite,” Democrats can’t decide, and so he had to choose one character from each major publishing company in a vain attempt to appeal to both sides (Disclaimer: Okay, I made that up. Obama claimed he chose them both because of their “inner turmoil”). Turns out he used to collect both Spider-Man and Conan the Barbarian, which has caused some of the Press to go out and state that Spidey and Conan were his favorite characters instead of Spidey and Batman (just refer back to the second article in this series, about the press always getting everything wrong).

There has been some crossover between politics and comics lately, with biographical comics of Obama, McCain, and even Sarah Palin coming out on the stands. Then Erik Larsen had Obama on the cover of Savage Dragon, with the Image character endorsing Obama for president. Ryan has recently included some links to the brewing controversy in his new Signal Watch segment here on the site, because Marvel Comics also just released a comic with Obama in it. Not quite so much an endorsement as it was a shout-out fist-bump to congratulate the President, and what better way to do that than to recognize him in a story with one of his self-indicated favorite characters? The ‘controversy’ should die fairly quickly, because outside of the comic industry, almost nobody is aware of Savage Dragon, especially when placed in relative status to Spider-Man; it’s not as if Larsen has some dibs on the use of Obama, he just happened to use him first. Quesada and company decided to add the story in at the last minute, mostly so they could publish it close to the real-life time of the actual presidential inauguration. The idea that Larsen thinks he should somehow have gotten the same or better magnitude of press as Spidey only shows how little he understands popularity and impact.

The appearance of presidents in comic books is nothing new, of course. I remember seeing appearances of just about every president we’ve had, at one time or another, in comic version (although I would be hard-pressed to remember the exact issue I read with the appearance of Calvin Coolidge in it). Luckily, someone has already started a good effort to reference the ones appearing in DC Comics. Mostly the founding Fathers such as George Washington, followed by FDR, Kennedy, and the last six or so commanders-in-chief that have held the position have been featured in titles like All-Star Squadron, Superman, Captain America, the Justice League of America, etc. It would probably take me a year of sorting through my collection to find every presidential appearance, there are so many, which only serves to further reinforce that the way the media are portraying this makes it come across almost as if this is the first time this has happened (but I’m trying to get away from the “press is wrong” stuff from now on, so I’ll try not to mention it again). Part of the hype is actually just the sense of the historic moment, and the comic thing is just the cherry on top of the media’s -and America’s- interest in and hope for our new president to do well (feel free not to include all of the bitter talk-show hosts that can’t give the guy a break, not even for his inauguration day).

The key thing to note is that a fellow comic book fan is arguably now the most powerful person in the world, and what dreamer among us hasn’t had that day-dream? What policies will he enact? For his first act in office, will he deputize masked vigilantes? Order the military to start a super-soldier project? Strap on a sword and invite Arnold to the White House to plead with him to star in the next Conan movie? The possibilities are endless. And this is just one more factoid to help us geeks prove to our friends that comic books are taking over the world.
Tpull is Travis Pullen. He started reading comics at 5 years old, and he can't seem to stop.

For something taking over the world, they sure ain't exactly selling well.

-- Posted by: Nevermore at January 22, 2009 7:15 PM

And that's a peculiar point, Nevermore, because it may be that as the influence of comic characters becomes even more commonplace, the comics themselves may never do much better. That's at least a couple of columns for discussion right there!


-- Posted by: tpull at January 22, 2009 8:45 PM