Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Presidents in Comic Books #16: Abraham Lincoln

ASM SpecialAbraham Lincoln! The man named after the Land of Lincoln, the inventor of the stovepipe hat, and the model for the original Lincoln Logs™! Manhunter from the future, sworn and dedicated to protect the timeline at all costs, even if it should mean the death of his best friend and heterosexual life partner, John Wilkes Booth! Accompanied by his faithful Indian companion, Sanjay Gupta, Lincoln jetskis his way across...wait a minute, I've been reading the wrong encyclopedia.

Star Trek: The Savage Curtain

Ahem. Abraham Lincoln was our sixteenth president and had a beard and was our leader during the Civil War (fifteen, sixteen, seventeen, eighteen words...) until he was shot by an assassin at Ford's Theater where he and his wife, Mrs. Abraham Lincoln (thirty-fove, thirty-six...) were attending a performance of Joseph Hooker and His Amazing Technicolor Union Coat.

Also, he was in comic books.

Bill & Ted's Excellent Comic Book #11

Cover of Bill & Ted's Excellent Comic Book (October 1992), art by Evan Dorkin

Lincoln, at least as he's portrayed in comic books, is one of our more genial presidents, give or take referring to a black woman as a "Negress" once or twice. (Nichelle Nichols just said "Why should I object to that term, sir? You see, in our century we've learned not to fear words." I bet Zoë Saldana woulda kicked him in the Emancipation Proclamations.) Why, he's not even flustered by running into a pair of twentieth-century schoolkids doing their Ralph Kramden impersonations:

Marvel Comics Presents #161
Panels from Marvel Comics Presents #161 (Late August 1994), script by Fabian Nicieza, pencils by Robert Walker, inks by Scott Koblish, colors by Marianne Lightle, lettering by Ul Higgins

It's well known to his biographers like Carl Sandburg, Doris Kearns Goodwin, James M. McPherson and Danielle Steel, that Lincoln was a decisive man. Which certainly helps when he's ordering off the dollar menu. You deserve a break today, Abe!

Teen Titans #73
Panels from Teen Titans #73 (September 2009), script by Bryan Q. Miller, pencils by Joe Bennett, inks by Jack Jadson, colors by Rod Reis, lettering by Sal Cipriano

But even Nancy Hanks, Lincoln's Mom, knew the value of a balanced breakfast and left her bearded tyke with fine eating habits...not to mention a generous spirit at the table...that would last him the rest of his life (until April 15, 1865, to be exact. And you think you hate Tax Day?).

Marvel Adventures: The Avengers #34
Panel from Marvel Adventures: The Avengers #34 (May 2009), script by Paul Tobin, pencils by Matteo Lolli, inks by Christian Vecchia, colors by Sotocolor, lettering by Dave Sharpe

I have but one teeny-weeny question about that awesome panel. Why isn't Spider-Man asking for more wheatcakes?

Still, if we must remember simply one fact about Abraham Anthony Stark Lincoln is that he is totally rad. He is here to chew tobacco and kick ass and he's all out of chewing tobacco!!!

New Advs of Lincoln
Page from The New Adventures of Abraham Lincoln (February 1988), by Scott McCloud

Huh. Maybe Lincoln's just pissed at all the Comic Sans.

Comics often get around the pesky problem that "Lincoln didn't know any superheroes" in two ways: first, trying to convince us that Ulysses S. Grant was the mysterious masked avenger "Whiskey Man." After attempting to discover Whiskey Man's true identity by inviting both him and General Grant to a reception at the White House, by leaping out of a window with a brandy snifter in his hand, and by setting Grant on fire, Lincoln devised a sure stratagem. He asked one of his aides if Grant often got drunk, to which the gentleman, a known detractor of Grant, replied that he often did. "Well," said Lincoln with a twinkle in his eye, "find out what kind of whiskey Grant drinks, because I want to get soused myself because I can't discover who Whiskey Man really is."

The second way comic books have superheroes meet Abe is Elseworlds.

Batman: The Blue, The Grey, and the Bat
Page from Batman: The Blue, The Grey, and the Bat (1992), script by Elliot S! Maggin and Alan Weiss, pencils by Alan Weiss, inks by Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez, colors by Digital Chameleon, lettering by Richard Starkings

Mind you, I don't understand how there could have been a "Bat-Man" in 1865, because, as everybody knows, comic books have definitively proven that The Batman is named after his prowess on the 1923 New York Yankees, alongside his pal, Alfred "Babe" Pennyworth:

Batman: Detective No. 27

"Elseworlds" stories gave clever comics writers a chance to undo the damage to history and overturn the tragic and early death of Lincoln, thus defeating Booth's deadly attack and creating a Golden Age of Reformation and Post-War affluence which would lead to an early technological paradise and...

Batman: Detective No. 27
Batman: Detective No. 27

Panels from Batman: Detective No. 27 (December 2003), script by Michael Uslan, pencils and inks by Peter Snejbjerg, colors by Lee Loughridge, lettering by Kurt Hathaway


Mind you, Lincoln's assassination appointment at Ford's Theatre has been fodder for many, many comic book stories—well, at least a whole lot more than Ford's assassination appointment at Lincoln Center. You think the occasion was a milestone of history already? Well, prepare to have your mind blown because there were Jack Kirby characters there too!

Forever People #7
Forever People #7
Panels from The Forever People #7 (February-March 1972), script and pencils by Jack Kirby, inks by Mike Royer, lettering by John Costanza

Kirby sez: Don't ask! JUST DUCK, MISTER PRESIDENT!

Yes, it's true: time travel and comic books together give us the potent and heady mix that, given a moment's hesitation, a single changed second, or a pair of handy mirrored "Spy-Glasses," Lincoln would have escaped his deadly fate. Because don't forget what I said above: Abe Lincoln is totally kickass:

Plastic Man #9
Page from Plastic Man #9 (October 2004), by Kyle Baker

In fact, comic books seem to have been created specifically to provide us with stories in which Lincoln handily avoids assassination at one point or another. And, oh yes, to show off Power Girl's hoo-hahs. But mostly to provide us with stories in which Lincoln handily avoids assassination...sometimes with the help of time travelers from the future! (uture uture uture)

Fin Fang 4 Return!
Panels from Fin Fang 4 Return! (July 2009), script by Scott Gray, pencils and inks by Roger Langridge, colors by J. Brown, lettering by Dave Lanphear

Oh course, some of these stories sometimes get a little...unbelieveable?

Elseworlds 80-Page Giant #1
Panel from Elseworlds 80-Page Giant #1 (August 1999), script by Mark Waid, art by Ty Templeton

No, no, not that one. This one:

West Coast Avengers #55
Panels from Avengers West Coast #55 (February 1990), script and pencils by John Byrne, inks by Paul Ryan, colors by Bob Sharen, lettering by Bill Oakley

What's so unbelievable about that, you might ask? Well, that John Byrne wouldn't have attributed the assassination to Edward deVere, the Earl of Oxford.

No survey of our sixteenth President is complete without at least mentioning that after his death, he was grown to a great height by Pym particles and then touched by the Grey Gargoyle, so that he could become a literal monument for our troubled country:

Logan's Run #4
Panel from Logan's Run #4 (April 1977), script by David Kraft, pencils by George Perez, inks and coloring by Klaus Janson, lettering by Irving Watanabe

Not many people know that in the Marvel Universe, Lincoln is a Superhuman Class 100 fighter (although each of his battles against the Hulk have proven inconclusive).

JIM #96
Panels from Journey into Mystery #96 (September 1963), plor by Stan Lee, script by Robert Bernstein, pencils and inks by Joe Sinnott, lettering by Artie Simek

You know, I bet this is gonna be the surprise ending of "Siege," doncha think?

Still, pound for pound, dollar for dollar, Ultimate Nullifier for Ultimate Nullifer, I think this is the most brain-melting awesome appearance of the Lincoln Memorial in comic books:

Cap #222 Cap #222
Panels from Captain America #222 (June 1978), script by Steve Gerber, breakdowns by Sal Buscema, finishes and inks by John Tartaglione and Mike Esposito, colors by George Roussos, lettering by Annette Kawecki

Well, there ya go. Abraham Lincoln: lawyer, statesman, President, emancipator, undefeated cage-match fighter, star of the monthly comic book Marvel's Presidential Team-Up. And, as it turns out, a heckuva nice guy:

Herbie #11
Panel from Herbie #11 (August 1965), script by Shane O'Shea, art by Ogden Whitney, lettering by Ed Hamilton

Jennifer Love Hewirt's Music Box ThingeesPromotional consideration (and a comic book image of the Link-man or two) was gracefully contributed by "Cheerful" Chris Sims, who has quite a mega-collection of Lincoln comic appearances himself. And check out the comic book Resurrection #8, in stores tomorrow, with a story by Mister Sims himself! Buy one, buy several, buy some for the dog! What, like you were gonna spend that money on Jennifer Love Hewitt's Music Box #3 instead? Shame on you.


George Salire said...

Okay, shame on me, since I DID buy Music Box #3.

And curse you for getting my hopes up on getting that photo cover instead of normal ones. You are a bad, bad man.

Philip G. said...

I think "epic" is in danger of being over-used, but I don't know what else to call this entry. "Considerable"?

Well done, Little Stuffed Bull.

Also, the Abe Lincoln in Space episode one of my fave Star Trek episodes because Mr. Lincoln gets in a scrap with Ghengis Khan. And that's just cool.

Dave said...

Those Ty Templeton covers are everything that I love about the Silver Age.

Prankster said...

What, no mention of the rampaging Lincoln Memorial in The Umbrella Academy: Dallas? Which is ultimately defeated by a gigantic stone John Wilkes Booth?

Justin said...

Your Byrne burn is absolutely hilarious, but that I got it means I've spent too much time of my life at his form out of morbid curiosity.

COMALite J said...

This a minor Spoiler Warning for Scott McCloud’s “The New Adventures of Abraham Lincoln,” but:

The Abraham Lincoln in the panels that you showed were not actually the “real” Abraham Lincoln (not even in the comic book sense), but rather was an evil imposter (I’ll withhold his “real” identity for now, but he is an historical figure himself — no, he’s not John Wilkes Booth). The “real” Abraham Lincoln shows up later in the story, and eventually does battle of a sort with this imposter.