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Sunday, November 09, 2014 

The history of politics in comics

The Albany Times-Union gave some examples of political storylines in past comic history, and there's 3 items here worth commenting on. For example, one of the ideas appearing in Batman's Death in the Family storyline:
[...] In the late 80′s, Ayatollah Khomeini appeared in the pages of Batman, offering The Joker, who had just murdered Robin (Jason Todd) an ambassadorship to the United States as a means to kill the leaders of the world. Batman foils the attempt, but Superman (at the behest of former President Ronald Reagan) to was called in by the CIA as assurance that Batman would not lay a hand on the Joker, thus causing an international incident.
Does that sound like an insult to Reagan? Alas, yes, but just as embarrassing is the notion Supes would go along with it. There are stories out there where you can suspend disbelief at the idea some superheroes wouldn't take the proper action needed in specific cases, thus leaving it up to others to handle the job, but this was going too far, ruining the ability to credit the writers in charge for depicting monsters like the Ayatollah as the evil entities they were. Of all the stories that could've been negative to Reagan in the 80s, this sounds like the rudest of them all, and very few others could hold a candle to this alarming rendition.

The article also brings up 2000's Lex Luthor-as-president story:
In 2000, in the lead up to the most contentious election in history, DC Comics opted to run Lex Luthor, mad scientist, business tycoon, and constant throne in Superman’s side, for president instead of George W. Bush. Superman’s arch-villain ended up winning the Presidency, which caused all sorts of strife for heroes across the DC Universe with the citizens in the country unable to see Luthor for the villain that he truly was. Superman and Batman went to work relentlessly trying to remove him from office since the electorate and Congress were unable to remove him from office. Eventually they were able to expose him to the world as the villain he was and he fled the country in disgrace but there were some interesting stories along the way.
Initially, there were a few, but when Jeph Loeb took up the reins, he spoiled everything; it was around the time of Identity Crisis, after all. That aside, if they're going to bring up Bush, why not Al Gore? Any resemblance Luthor's initial rendition then might've had to Bush was only coincidental, though later on, it did begin to look that way. Then, there's V for Vendetta:
V for Vendetta, written by Alan Moore, is an extremely politically charged story, but it isn’t only a story about a masked revolutionary who stands up to a totalitarian regime; it’s also serves as Moore’s commentary and justification that anarchism is the best for of government. Aside from whether or not you are a fan of Alan Moore ot not, this classic graphic novel can be interpreted in two different ways: the first being that it stands alone as a great story; or it can read it with the thought that Moore very seriously believes that anarchism is the solution to all of our political problems.
If he does think so, that's sad. Certainly if he thinks conservatism or capitalism is bad in every way. His book was written at the time of the Thatcher government, and was pretty much an attack on the Iron Lady's policies. That's not what I'd call a logical story, and Moore wasted a chance to focus on more serious targets.

And that's not the only thing on this article that's a head-shaker. A reader comment posted also tells what the political landscape is like, but then stumbles on a serious issue:
No doubt comics has had a left-leaning creator base for some time. Then again, that seems to be true for most, if not all, of pop culture and the arts. Most comic book writers and artists I know personally tend to be quite liberal. I don’t know if there’s a causality there or just correlation.

As a non-liberal/non-conservative and a fan of comics, it does annoy me when I can tell a writer is trying to insert his or her own political slant into a story. As a Batman fan in particular, it’s quite annoying to see him fighting the same old villains time and time again: drug dealers. We’re seeing marijuana legalized in this country and I predict the federal “War on Drugs” will recede over the next decade or two. I’m curious as to whom they’ll use for villains then.

Personally, I’d love to see someone actually confront Bruce Wayne/Batman over this issue.* So what if people are doing drugs? Why does he care? These issues are never really addressed.

*The D-list villain “Anarky” sort of did this, but he was portrayed mostly as a bratty, whiny, know-it-all and not any kind of political ideologue whose views could seriously be debated.
First off, drug traffickers have never been Batman's sole quarry. He's also been depicted fighting murderers, robbers and syndicates. But even if drug dealers were his only concern, is that wrong? Of course not, and it's terrible that cannabis is being legalized, and worse, that anyone would smoke/eat that disgusting crap. But I can agree it is flawed not to say just why it's crucial to fight drug running, and not just because of how some sickos are making money under the table without paying taxes, but also because of how they're taking advantage of the unwitting, and seriously, nobody should have to be addicted to anything and feel physical pain if they don't keep it up. So I'll admit, it is pretty sloppy not to explain why combat drugs at least once every few stories.

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Oh great, a libertarian superhero to counter Batman.

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