Comic Fodder

Comics Enter Politics� Sort Of

In the old days, a president might make an appearance in a comic as a plot point, or just for a cameo. Reagan was a popular choice, as was G.W. Bush. Bill Clinton did not seem to make very many appearances. The last presidential election announced a sea change, with the candidates of both major parties receiving bibliographical treatment in comic form. Then we had the Obama Surge.

National news announced that Amazing Spider-Man #583 had a story featuring Barack Obama, and it sold out country-wide (to the ire of Obama fan Erik Larsen, who had already shown Obama in his Savage Dragon comic as a sign of political support). The event was a headache for many small comic stores, who were not informed of the change to the Spidey issue, and spent many hours on the phone explaining they had no copies left, for the rest of the day. It may have been for purely commercial reasons, or it may be that a number of creators in the comic field that lean left were inspired by Obama's message of hope, but the onslaught has remained strong for several months.
The Female Force series by Blue Water Productions portrays strong women as role models, to include politicians or the wives of politicians, and they now have a spin-off, Political Power, that showcases important political figures. In the meantime, First Family: The Obamas will come out as a one-shot in a couple months, and Barack Obama: The Comic Book Biography has actually had five printings already (not so much for McCain's...). Lest we forget, Larry Hama is taking a stab at political satire with his Conan parody, Barack the Barbarian, complete with a Sarah Palin equivalent, clad in chain-mail bikini. And so, the grand tradition of developing heroes and then making fun of them continues, as fast as ever, especially in print.

That�s not all. Mark Powers made Obama the star of his comic Drafted: 100 Days, as a mute warrior. Erik Larsen inserted Obama into Savage Dragon yet again for issue #145, this time so he could make an appearance as the actual president instead of a candidate. He popped up in Youngblood #9, and people may remember he might have been the alternate universe President/Superman in Final Crisis #7. Army of Darkness: Ash Saves Obama is from Dynamite, and Blue Water Productions may have taken the cake with Bo Obama, the president�s dog, an issue complete with a variant cover! Somewhat more reverent, we have an upcoming Harper/Collins graphic novel called �BAM! The 44th President,� by the award-winning Kyle Baker.

My own estimation of the circumstances lead me to conclude that the continual disillusionment with the people in power and the prospect of a chance at a new direction really did fire up the gleam of hope in people's eyes. Whether or not it will pay off in reality is a different topic, and one that would most likely be tinged by whatever political preference the observer has. What is relevant to our comic book hobby is this: does this represent a new trend, yet another avenue where something can be successfully translated to the comic format? Or is this a one-time experiment?

The expanded focus by Blue Water Productions shows some genuine attempt to see how far this new section of political comic genre can grow. It could be useful as a quick handout to people at airports or bus stops, and might be picked up by campaigns and used as marketing literature of sorts. Granted, readers will still have to remain alert for political spin, as the writers of these comics may have their own agendas and leanings, and that can easily be reflected in how the subject is portrayed. We have to maintain awareness of that potential bias in every other format too, though, so interested readers shouldn't be shocked to see a bias leak into the comic, and those types of things are often easy to spot if you're already interested in politics and have followed news events with any degree of regularity.

Last column, I pointed out some areas where comics were intersecting with politics that I didn't like. This is one area where a small amount of public good could take place. It would be interesting to see the personality of a particular person taken out of the arena and see how a comic treatment of a particular policy question might be handled. The vast majority of interest is mostly dominated by President Obama and his persona, so it�s possible this is the only time we will see this kind of coverage. But there are some still-unexplored areas where comic books can conquer. We might be seeing the first attempts at entering that frontier right now.

Tpull is Travis Pullen. He started reading comics at 5 years old, and he can't seem to stop.

How could you forget the appearance of Obama's dog in the Pet Avengers series? OK, it wasn't that memorable, nor was it controversial... and, unfortunately, the story was a complete mess---jumping from scene to scene illogically, the resolution was insane, and it wasn't a fun ride... I'm assuming that the writer is a junior writer who might get better in the years to come. (I'm sure glad it wasn't $3.99 an issue!!!!)

-- Posted by: TonyJazz at August 14, 2009 7:47 PM

will u marry me obama

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