Wednesday, November 05, 2008

What Impact Does A Presidency Have On Comics?

Whether if it's just guest-starring in an issue, or influencing the tone of a whole event, the president (and politics) of a certain era has some impact on its comic books (and pop-culture).

George W. Bush's presidency spanned such events as 9/11, the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, Hurricane Katrina, and the current financial disaster. On top of that has been the highlighting of a divisiveness in this country over lines of ideology and even religion that threaten to tear it apart. You can call it an Identity Crisis, a Civil War, Our Worlds At War, a Secret Invasion, a Countdown. Captain America is dead. The people clamor for a Brand New Day. Long live the new Captain America.

The GWB years were the fuel that fed storylines in The Authority, Superman, The Ultimates. Who can forget President Luthor? The Thunderbolts in a barely-disguised Gitmo facility? And the "Sub-Diego" storyline in Aquaman -- was that before or after Katrina? Ditto for Our Worlds At War and 9/11 and the subsequent battles. Sometimes the comics do better than merely reflect current events -- sometimes they predict them.

Anyway, George W. has had his Final Crisis. What next? How will comic book stories be influenced by an Obama presidency? And how will the industry be influenced?

-->more thoughts on the subject from a personal perspective, written last year


  1. A good question to ask would be: What impact does a president really have on a country?

  2. Maybe the Avengers and the Justice League will quit being a bunch of paranoid reactionist thugs, and get back to promoting justice and liberty, and fighting for the common good. Maybe now mutants and metas can walk the streets without fear of persecution, each one lending his or her unique talents to the betterment of the world. Maybe even -- and this is iffy, but I'm feeling optimistic -- the two major publishers in our two-publisher system can put aside their differences and come together to make good comic books for the comic book-buying public which has suffered through their bad policies and indecisive directions for so long.

  3. This is slightly tangential, but how many superheroes are there that, lacking the omnipresence of more standard titles, focus on countering and routing specific injustices? Someone like the John Henry character from New Frontier, who specifically fought the Klan?

  4. Under President Obama everyone will be given super powers. And when everyone is special...

    My hope for the new administration is that the editors at DC will "Yes, we can stop screwing up continuity!"

  5. I don't think Obama will have that big an impact. It'll take a while to really fix things. He's not this djinn everyone's, I think, they're expecting. No, "Who summons the mystical, Obama?" Americans:" wish for...", and Obama, "And so it shall be!" Hehe! I think he can help this country in a big way, but there are still some waves of ramifications of the past yet to hit. As for comics, the only thing I can see is the possible hike in price to $4 bucks and, possibly, cancellation after cancellation. IMO.

    Last night was really powerful.

  6. Obama has many challenges and perhaps he will not be able to accomplish as much as he or we would like. However, he is rational, empathetic, disciplined, and inspirational, qualities that I do not associate with W and which should not be underestimated - especially with regard to how those qualities will affect the outlook and spiritual health of the populace.

    I would not be surprised to see this reflected by a tonal change to our entertainment media in a couple years.

  7. The only comic I remember getting that has a president in it is vol. 1 of Ultimate X-Men. It has George W. Bush in it, though they never say his name. Though I may have comics that are politically inspired. In fact I do have the graphic novel of Civil War.

  8. I'd like to see the X-Men get back to being an actual minority group with a distinct developing culture instead of just a genetically unviable collection of handsome people with eye beams and paramilitary organizations. Considering the voters' big "fuck you" to the gay community this election and at the same time Obama including gays as Americans in his speech, there's a lot that could and should be said with the muties. And on the race side you have a ton of people ready to declare that racism is dead because we have a black president, despite all evidence to the contrary! There's nothing but X-stories here.

    ...oh duh! Hank McCoy for senate! How awesome a storyline would that be? He's perfect. He's one of the most visibly mutant mutants but also eloquant, educated, and charismatic. And he's one of the few who doesn't have a criminal record as far as I know. You could easily build him up to be a contender for the 2008 election in the MU. Then think of the tie-ins. Attorney General She-Hulk! Secretary of Education Dani Moonstar! Secret Service X-Force!

  9. I'm actually a little worried personally. I had a six issue series that was supposed to come out last year, but it got pulled from the schedule after the colorist blew us past our "to printer" deadline and my artist slowed to a snail's pace because he no longer had a deadline. It'll come out someday when the whole thing is complete (I've learned that lesson the hard way)... Of course now it's a book that was a direct product of the last eight years. As much as I hope it happens, I worry for my book's sake that all the ideas presented will be considered passe and some of the bigger messages of the work will be moot... Sigh, oh well. If such becomes the case, I guess I'll just have to settle for living in a better world...

  10. Yeah, I feel a renewed sense of American hope. That's one stereotype my students here in Japan have about Americans- we're optimistic.

    Optimism is returning after 8 years of paranoia and giving vent to the worst excesses of the American psyche. We'll have to wait and see if this bears out and like some people have noted, it won't happen over night.

    But I'm old enough to have felt these sea-changes a few times. 70s malaise, 80s optimism curdling into 90s cynicism blossoming into late 90s millenialism crapping into 00's Bushism. If nothing else, I'd like to see America turn happy and sunny again.

    And I'd definitely like to see this new hopeful attitude reflected in comics. I mean I know the Saw movies have their fans but damn... does everything have to be like them?

  11. I was thinking of this last night while washing dishes. Not sure I have a point but some ideas that popped in my head were...
    Over the past 8 to 30ish years our government has been so bad and greed and war have been so accepted that both the storytellers and the audience have been happy to hop on the train to Dark-ville. Then, just as the storytellers and the audience all shake hands and say, "from now on, all dark, all the time, Dark-ville here we come"... Obama rolls up with the train to Hope Town.

    Now, we can't count on every ting coming up roses. All indicators are that the US ecomomy still has a lot of bad news coming. We've got two wars going on and Russia all pissy about our missiles. But still, you can feel perception changing. Will it be harder to tell stories where the government is the baddie? The Dark Knight film might have been a predictor of that. It was a very dark movie but it still showed cops and a city government that really wanted to do the right thing. Yeah, it has dirty cops too but the real leaders wanted to save their city. Even Dent is a heroic figure. I think Nolan and crew correctly realized that we are getting tired of thinking the worst of our leaders. Does that mean people are getting tired of Dark-ville? Do they just want a vacation to Hope Town or do they want to move there? Time will tell but one thought I have is that you can't just make The Dark Knight again. It's not even the same movie today as it was four months ago. Perceptions are changing. If I was Nolan I'd wash my hands of Batman and tell Warners good luck. Bad news for DC Comics is that they have boarded the train to Dark-ville and shot the conductor in the back of his head. (Are they not killing Batman? I really can't keep up.) If their passengers decide they want to got to Hope Town it may be hard to change tracks.
    I'm not saying that Obama is the single catalyst that will change things from darkness to hope. I'm saying he might be the proof that people want hope and are tired of the darkness. If people are tired of the darkness then Warner Brothers may find themselves all alone on the train to Dark-ville.

  12. I'm optimistic that we can return to the days when we used the real President.

    There was a great Deadman story (in Action Weekly, I think), involving Deadman taking over Reagan while the enemy with similar powers took over Gorbechev. At some point, I think they were fighting as Nancy and Raisa.

    I think America is ready for Michelle Obama sucker-punching Putin.

  13. I'm already inspired. I get a whole - 'New Frontiers' Kennedy at the end feeling.

    Here's HOPING for some optimistic stories.

  14. I think I'd prefer that DC stuck to explicitly fictional political figures for their versions of the universe. More freedom to play with the political questions, regardless of the answers proposed by any particular creative team or storyline.

  15. I think there will be a new wave of comics starring flying unicorns and rainbow superheroes depart from the traditional beat-downs of supervillains and, instead, simply sit down and talk with them. Also income redistribution. That seems to be popular in certain quarters.

    Oh, and free superhero healthcare. And green-friendly superhero vehicles. And more IKEA stores.