Robot 6

Obama comics could actually evolve into something useful

Comics using current events can do more than reference Watchmen

And so another U.S. presidential election comes to a close. While the incumbent was re-elected, the comics industry didn’t seem to embrace the season like it did in 2008.

Four years ago, the bestselling comic book issue of the year was The Amazing Spider-Man #583, by a wide margin — by such a wide margin that it ended up being the bestselling issue of the decade with more than half a million copies ordered, according to numbers cruncher John Jackson Miller. In fact, this became such a thing that there was nearly a boutique industry of comic books featuring Barack Obama. From Savage Dragon and Army of Darkness to Bomb Queen and Licensable Bear (the first Obama comic), it seemed the president was everywhere. IDW Publishing released an entire line of biographical comics on the presidential candidates, and similar titles were also published by Antarctic Press and Bluewater Productions. The latter’s efforts were so successful that the company continues to mine that niche.

Four years later, this mini-genre has all but vanished. Last year, BOOM! Studios attempted to lead the charge with Decision 2012, the first straw poll conducted through comics: Pre-orders determined which candidates would get their comics published, with the one receiving the highest print run being declared the winner. While a creative idea, the project may have been a victim of poor timing, as the event was held so early in the campaign — it was announced in August 2011 — that there wasn’t a clear line-up of Republican candidates. Despite all of her teasing, Sarah Palin never entered the race, yet she was included among the list of comics. In fact, on the same day the one-time GOP vice presidential nominee announced she wouldn’t be running on the same day that BOOM! revealed the results of its straw poll. Out of the 10 biographical comics offered for pre-order, just four met the benchmark of 1,500 pre-orders: Obama, Palin, Ron Paul and Michele Bachmann. Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney came in fifth, but just below the benchmark, so he and the five others never got their comics.

More recently, Image Comics has been promoting Spawn #225, which will be released later this month. Two versions of the issue were prepared, one in which Obama won and one in which Romney won. Based on last night’s results, expect the “Obama wins” version on Nov. 21. Again, a creative idea. We’ll see how readers respond to it.

But other than those two examples, a smattering of appearances here and there (like Godzilla and Archie), and a few more Bluewater comics, we haven’t seen much over the past year from Obama or any other presidential candidate — certainly not to the degree of the 2008 election.

For a good number of readers, the response is probably “Good riddance!” After all, that was just a novelty trend that got caught up in the buzz of the original Obama campaign, right? Well, yes, for the most part, that’s probably true. But there is a potential that I think deserves to be explored, and BOOM!, IDW and Bluewater are on the right track.

Non-fiction comics tend to focus on the past, but there’s also the possibility of exploring current events or the more recent past. I’m not necessarily talking about political comics, which obviously comment on current events every day, but rather longer-form comics that can engage readers, probably younger readers if Bluewater’s target audience is any indication, on the presidential election or other events. The challenge is that comics are ordered three months in advance, and are created over a number of months before that. So this isn’t exactly comics about breaking-news items, but comics that examine in an engaging way events such as the impact and aftermath of Hurricane Sandy (going on now), the Arab Spring or other Middle East events, the story of the Mars Rover and, yes, the 2012 presidential election. Three Rivers Press released something similar for the last election, 08: A Graphic Diary of the Campaign Trail, so it’s certainly not like this is completely unprecedented or even a new idea. Breaking down a single event into 30 pages might be a little easier than trying to break down someone’s entire life, and it would be a more digestible and entertaining way to teach kids (and adults) about what’s going on in the world.

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17 Comments

I am currently working on a comic book that takes place in the near future around the debt crisis in America. It is just the background for a story about a person finding out if he doesn’t become a hero who will. It is called Madman of Magic (www.madmanofmagic.com) and deals with unemployment, corporate greed, and many topics the Government and the American people are dealing with now.

The problems I have been finding as a comic book writer it is hard to find a balance between keeping the story connected to reality, what is a good story, and how to merge fantasy with reality for the good of the comic book. I am excited about the idea of current event comic books. Especially since there has been some school districts experimenting with the use of comic books in the class room.

It will be interesting to see how it all plays out. I am happy to see the appearance of Obama in random comics becoming less popular as I found it annoying, but if the comic book was created to tell Obama’s story, talk about how the government works, or tell a historical story then I would love to get a copy.

-Jason Love
jasonloveslife.com

As a child I was thrilled when Nixon showed up in Fantastic Four #123! The real President was talking to Reed Richards and giving him a hard time about Galactus like he could have stopped him from coming to Earth! I know it dates the book but that was current when the story was written and it also explains the mood of the time.

Jason Love-

What you’ll want to be careful with is that “deals with unemployment, corporate greed, and many topics the Government and the American people are dealing with now,” will possibly end up seeming too preachy. Like, if you look at Dark Knight Returns, Frank Miller obviously had opinions about labeling criminal behavior as “psychologically deviant” rather than just criminal, and while that book is kind of preachy, it doesn’tt detrack from the story.

Compare that to that one guy’s comic a few years ago that had a Cyborg Sean Hannity fighting against a country run by Hilary Clinton and Michael Moore, who were seen welcoming Ambassador Usama bin Laden to the White House.

In other words, make the book about the characters, and let the commentary be implied by the setting.

Bah! *doesn’t detract

That’s a pretty great homage cover. The last couple have been great as well.

So, what Todd McFarlane is tell ing people is Obama = Nixon? Nixon was more experience, he just made a couple bad decisions it seems like. Obama is treated more of a celebrity, but I understand Nixon was very popular when he was elected.

Years ago, some guy ran into the store and wanted to know if they had any of those Spider-man/Obama issues. I wanted to grab him by the collar and yell in his face. “You’re not a real fan, get out!” :)

Sick of Obama covers. Sick of the industry sucking up to him like he’s the second coming or something.

I always find it interesting how certain presidents have been depicted in comics. In the golden age of comics, FDR was often depicted heroically. Even today, he has been shown as the reason the Justice Society came together. Ronald Reagan, on the other hand, was often depicted as a buffoon. I remember a Giffen/DeMatthies Justice League issue where Ronald Reagan meets Superman, and says, “We meet at last.”, and Superman makes him aware of the fact that they have met many times before. George W. Bush was hardly ever depicted in comics, going so far as DC having Lex Luthor being president during his administration. I do recall that certain decisions Bush made were mirrored by Lex, like in the Kelly Justice League story where he wanted the Justice League to invade a foriegn country without any real proof that this country was doing anything wrong. I have to admit, I have not read any depictions of Obama in any comic, maybe because I just have never read any of the comics you have listed. I hear many are favorable to Obama, though I hear the Bomb Queen issue really made fun of him. Now, it seems Marvel is following suit with what DC did, having Captain America become president. I wonder if his decisions will reflect what Obama is doing, though I suspect he will be a ‘better’ president somehow.

The cult of celebrity around Obama is frightening. That comics would jump on board in understandable due to the liberal bent of most creators, but it really puts me off. And please don’t tell me there is not liberal tilt. The mere fact that we’re even talking about this sub-genre of Obama comics tips the industry’s hand.

Thank you Skott! Nailed exactly how I feel about it.

It’s great to see a generation of Americans not talk poorly about a president–granted I didn’t watch for it when Clinton was in office, but I saw a lot of it with Bush Jr. I can understand why, but it’s still frustrating at points. Individual beliefs notwithstanding, Marvel’s attitude for Civil War was (and this is printed in the mega-expensive Civil War trade with the story, behind in the scenes, and script book that you should find at cons for $40 off cover price) “We don’t want to tie existing Presidents into our books.” Even though Millar was voicing his opinion of the Bush administration with Civil War, it was a fictional president with Brevoort saying how they didn’t want to use the real figure.

Then Obama was elected, and after Quesada’s second jackass cameo on the Colbert Report, Obama was all over Marvel comics (in Secret Invasion, Siege, Captain America’s solo title) because “Here at Marvel, we do all we can to reflect the real world!” Or something equally stupid.

I didn’t vote for the guy, and at times it can feel alienating to pick up a book (in a medium where the American President has the potential to be a great supporting character–or even a villian) and be force fed one side’s opinion. I don’t want to preach Democrat/Republican, but honestly it doesn’t feel wholly fair. I hope that comes across as sincere as I mean it without taking a side one way or the other.

@Bob
Creators are free to publish what they like, and you’re free not to buy it. It is a medium of expression, and if what one wishes to express is “I support the president,” comics are as good a venue as any to say that. I think it’s pretty cool that Image was going to publish a commemorative Spawn issue no matter who won. I wonder which would have sold better? I think you’re correct that most creatives in the industry seem to be on the liberal side, but what about the fans?

Am I the only one who found all the Obama love in comics embarassing? I mean I don’t mind a commemorative cover or something but, especially four years ago, there was an embarrassing amount of hero worship of this guy coming from comic creators. Bob said it best there, it was like a cult.

http://landsharkattacks.blogspot.com/2012/07/comic-books-and-obama-slobbering-love.html

Is there a liberal bias in comics? Well, sure, writers tend to be liberal. For one, all writers believe in freedom of speech, which is usually a liberal ideal. Also, writers, especially now, write about people who fit in the fringes of society rather than the Ozzie and Harriet type families of the ’50s. In fact, it always surprises me when a writer is conservative, like Bill Willingham, since his stories tend not to shove down your throat his conservative ideals. The fact that there are many liberal writers who do this just shows there are a lot of bad liberal writers who cannot help shoving their ideals down people’s throats. In the end, it is not a vast conspiracy that causes more liberal writing to appear, it is merely the nature of what most writers are like.

“Even though Millar was voicing his opinion of the Bush administration with Civil War, it was a fictional president with Brevoort saying how they didn’t want to use the real figure.”

Doesn’t it kind of make sense that they don’t want to portray a sitting president negatively [ie: leading the government against the superheroes], but have less reason to not portray a sitting president neutrally / slightly positively? (I haven’t read any of the Obama issues, but my impression is that he essentially just shows up; it’s not like Spider-Man endorses the ACA or something.)

I have two copies of spiderman 583. I got Obama to sign them at an event held by Earl Stafford. It was very funny. He had NO idea the things existed and only signed them because I already had gotten Joe Biden and Bill Clinton to sign them. Everyone at the event had a big laugh about it.

The President isn’t allowed to me put on a coin until 2 years after his death. In much the same way I think the President shouldn’t be idolized like this until 2 years after his term in office at least. Unless the President is used in some passing sense for nothing more than accuracy.

The president has been prominate in US comics for years, hell, it was a President that gave the order to make Captain America. The problem is people get so tied up in their political ideology instead of just rallying behind “OUR” president, we can’t simply embrace the fact that ,regardless of their political party, no President ever gains the office with the intent of doing anything but help the American people. You may not agree with the how, the fact remains, they have your back, it’d be nice if the American people, for once could have theirs.

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