Wednesday, August 03, 2011

Will the Real Comic Book President Please Stand Up?

So, there I am, readin' USA Today...

...and what to my wondering little black button eyes should appear but an article about Flashpoint. I know that didn't rhyme, but bear with me. I'm goin' somewhere with this.

Here's a snippet from the piece:
...on the first page of the new issue, President Obama calls for everyone to pitch in just as the superheroes don't seem as if they're going to save the day.

With so many characters and events a little different in Flashpoint, [DC executive editor, Eddie] Berganza feels that grounding the series a little bit in realism in that way echoes for readers in the midst of everything being so fantastical.
Grounding the series a little bit in realism.

Grounding the series a little bit in realism.

Grounding the...look, this is a series which has Deathstroke the pirate sailing through the streets of flooded Paris, where Wonder Woman kills Billy Batson in Amazon-occupied London, where the skeleton of a dog from Krypton is kept in a secret underground science lab. I'm not entirely certain that adding Barack Obama to that mix is going to make it more realistic.

If that's the lynchpin between fantastic superhero adventure and real-world verisimilitude, well, then all of comic books oughta look just like the world outside your window! That concept worked really well for an imprint of comic books, didn't it, New Universe? Oh, wait, no, it didn't. Well, let's give Eddie Berganza the benefit of the doubt. If a stark and realistic representation of world history, society and culture can be achieved by tossing in President Obama, then surely we've already seen some of the most realistic comic books of all time over the past couple years. Why, remember the time Obama teamed up with the Savage Dragon?

Or that paragon of ultra-realism, Rob Liefeld's Youngblood! Remember when he teamed up with them?

...and The Greatest American Hero?

...and Ash from Army of Darkness?

...and Veronica Lodge?

Of course, that was after he went to Riverdale to share an ice cream soda at Pop's Choklit Shop with his old flame, Sarah Palin! That all happened, you betcha!

And let us not forget that time when, very realistically, Barack Obama was a mute revolutionary fighting against the alien invasion of Earth?

It's also in every child's history book how Barack the Barbarian fought the savagery of the ancient world!

And this happened: an issue of Marvel Team-Up in all but title that brought together the President and the Amazing Spider-Man!

Why, it was on the front page of every newspaper that is still in business where Obama fist-bumped Spider-Man, without embarrassing him by calling attention to his weirdly misshapen head!

Mind you, this is the same Obama that will go down in true American history as the man who gave control of our country's power structure to Norman Osborn. Psychopathic supervillain with a penchant for tossing blondes off bridges? Why not make him one of the Cabinet, O?

Nixon only had that pesky little Watergate thing hanging over his head. Obama handed over the reins to Cornrowed Hitler.

Why, when they carve his giant head on Mount Rushmore, it's gonna have to be accompanied by a giant asterisk. ("*Completely fooled by insane murdering crackpot.") You can't say that Nick Fury didn't try to give him some warning, though!

Eventually, it grounding the events a little bit in realism when Obama ordered Osborn and his team of murderous supervillains masquerading as America's most beloved heroes without any major news outlet or political commentator noticing, to stop his plans to invade the floating celestial city of Ancient Norse gods hovering over a Oklahoma small town. At last, a return to realism for this series!

Yep, as it says right on the Wikipedia page for the Oval Office, the President has a direct red phone hotline to Batman Captain America. As opposed to just using the usual number, 1-800-CAP-TAIN. Because Steve Rogers seldom clears out his voicemail and has an answering message featuring his impersonation of Sam the Eagle reciting the Declaration of Independence.

But at least, since all these events are real, Obama will be remembered as the President who pardoned the man who'd been given a serum that turned him into America's greatest fighting soldier until he was frozen alive in an iceberg, thawed out by superheroes in a submarine, assassinated by a time bullet and then brought back to life. It all happened and Obama's gonna need at least two chapters in his autobiography to explain that.

Then Cap gets all moody and emo and thrusts his chin dimple at Obama at the attempt to put a positive spin on the upcoming trial of another guy who came back from the dead as Russia's greatest fighting soldier. Man, that's gratitude for you. Cap at least saved Reagan from being a lizard!

All, as real history will tell us, all this is in the middle of bailing out The Incredible Hulk's toned green butt:

How rude, Mister Hulk! But hey, that's not the rudest thing that's ever been done to the 44th President of the United States. (And I'm not counting the time that Iron Man wouldn't even let Obama try out the War Machine armor.) No, that honor goes to Bomb Queen, whose outrageously villainous exploits suddenly became ultra-realistic with the addition of President Obama.

I am not allowed to read Bomb Queen, and neither should you. So let's just sum up this comic book series in one swift easy-to-comprehend sentence describing these historically-accurate events: (inhale) Bomb Queen announced that she was pregnant by President Obama in order to manipulate the media and public opinion while she plotted to take down the government by murdering his advisors, thrashing and maiming Obama, breaking off his right arm and putting out his right eye, blowing up the Washington Monument, the Statue of Liberty, the Hoover Dam, and sinking California into the Pacific Ocean at the same time she nuked her own city while detonating a bomb implanted inside Bo, the Presidential Dog, which destroyed the White House and killed Michelle Obama and the Obama daughters.

Realism in comics!

Yep. She put a bomb inside Bo Obama. Who, by the way, has his own comic book.

My point (and you know the rest of what I usually say when I say that) is that just because you're adding a real President to your comic book events, that adds about as much verisimilitude as a guest appearance by Galactus, The Black Racer, or Paranex The Fighting Fetus do: absolutely none at all. Sure, the genre of superhero comics has often portrayed the President in the same manner usually reserved for Jesus in those 1950s sand-and-sandal epic films: in the shadows, or shown only from the back, or maybe conveniently having Hercules standing in front of him. But that isn't a hard and fast rule of Presidential portrayal. Even the first President of the Golden Age got front and center billing in a comic on occasion:

More recently, President Ronald "The Gipper" Reagan himself had startlingly similar encounters with superheroes on both Earth-1...

...and Earth-616!

Even history's greatest monster appeared in a comic book! And Dick Nixon was very concerned with getting rid of him.

In fact, Nixon appeared to have a hot line direct to the FF, and he wasn't shy about using it!

How important was Nixon in the Fantastic Four's history? So important that he appeared on a comic book cover larger than Sue!

Nixon loved pokin' his unshaved chin into superhero events so much he went on the road to follow the Grateful Dead Incredible Hulk!

Even when Nixon couldn't hang out with Hulk, they were really great phone buddies. Which is great on Nixon's part, because the Hulk usually calls collect. (No coins in those purple pants.)

Oh, and also Nixon killed himself rather than be exposed as the leader of the criminal Secret Empire.

And, he was totally a Skrull.

Well, we've had a lot of fun, and we learned a little lesson. (So did, I hope Mister Eddie Berganza.) You can try to make your comic books feel like they're set in the "real world" by featuring our own President, but as soon as you throw in an alien superhuman, a guy in a bat costume and a warrior woman fighting for your rights in her satin tights ankle-length pants, you're throwing that verisimilitude out of the window like the Scarlet WItch tossing her imaginary babies out with the imaginary bathwater. If you understand nothing else about superhero comics, remember this: they are not accurate historical portrayals.

Except this one. This one totally happened.


Adam Hoffman said...

I still think Prez should be the official president in the DC USA.

chiasaur11 said...

Well, yeah.

But he wouldn't fit Flashpoint, it being a distopia and all.

Also, DC generally feels like it should have fictional presidents more than Marvel. Just a thematic thing.

d said...

what about Superman telling JFK his secret ID? Who then told Marilyn Monroe, who told Frank Sinatra, who told Sam Giancana, who I'm sure told Lex Luthor...

Erik Wolfmann said...

You've missed the ever-relevant Athena/Obama 4-issues from a few years go.