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Politics And Comics

I had wanted to keep up my daily routine of writing about comic books and films and television and books and comedy, but the parliamentary elections have completely overwhelmed me today. I never thought I would be so caught up in the results – we were listening to the radio last night before going to sleep, even though we were falling asleep; the first thing we did this morning was to turn on the radio and television to find out what was happening; and I spent most of the day watching the BBC website for news (when I wasn’t working very, very hard, if my boss is reading this).

Thinking about politics, my brain made connections to comic books because I’m not that political and I can’t hold intelligent and sensible thoughts in my head for too long. I got to thinking about politicians and politics in superhero comic books. My general impression was that Marvel went for the current American president whereas DC didn’t specify their president (although Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton have apparently appeared, and the older presidents seem to be part of the DC universe history). Famously, Barack Obama became the hardest working president in comic book history with all his appearances on comic book covers, such as the massively selling Amazing Spider-Man #583.

We in the UK have also been allowed the similar privilege, when Paul Cornell famously put Gordon Brown into Captain Britain and MI:13, although it it doesn’t have quite the same allure. Another president who has been popular is Nixon, appearing in Watchmen and implied in the famous Captain America story.

Over at DC, they seem to prefer fictional presidents, to allow them become the story. Most recently, Lex Luthor became president of the USA for a while, although Prez was famously a teenage president. The closest to a blending of politics and superheroes have been in comics by Greg Rucka: his very enjoyable run on Wonder Woman was West Wing in comic book form, and his Checkmate run had a good mix of superheroes working in a political arena.

I was thinking about politics in mainstream comic books, and there were only a few that came to mind, but perhaps I haven’t read enough. V For Vendetta was a very political comic book, even if it blew up the Houses of Parliament. Ex Machina is perhaps the apotheosis of the superhero political comic book, with a former superhero becoming mayor of New York, and is full of the political machinations the real world. Warren Ellis has enjoyed using politics in his stories; I’m thinking about him making Doom the president of the USA in Doom 2099, and following the election campaign of The Smiler in Transmetropolitan. I’m sure I’m missing a lot of examples, but I am rather tired and not thinking clearly. But perhaps it suggests that, although they have a place in comic books (and good comic books at that), politics and comics aren’t natural bed fellows.

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