Alternate Cover: Barack Obama in comics
How the US President has managed to make his mark on the comic book world...
Whether you’re a fan of comics or not, it probably hasn’t escaped your notice that Barack Obama might just be the first leader of the free world who is 'out' as a comic fans himself. Certainly, the fact has been noticed by comics publishers and creators, many of whom are attempting to get the man himself onto their pages as quickly as possible. But just how many Obama comics are out there?
Obama’s first appearance was in The Savage Dragon #137. The series is entirely the brainchild of creator Erik Larsen, so there was no editor to tell him “no” when Larsen decided to have the titular Dragon endorse Obama’s candidacy. A few readers balked at the idea, but Larsen was evidently pleased with the response. A few months later, after winning the election, Obama showed up again in The Savage Dragon #145 to offer his thanks on the Dragon’s part in his election win.
Indie publisher IDW were next out of the gate with what remains most legitimate Obama comic appearance yet. Presidential Material: Barack Obama was a biography of the man himself, released some weeks before his eventual win at the polls. Although IDW were initially known for horror comics and licensed titles, an attempt at diversification undoubtedly culminated in the release of a series of biographical comics about candidates in the US election. including John McCain, Sarah Palin and, of course, Barack Obama. The series was an unlikely success, and Obama’s issue alone is sure to be a sought-after collector’s item in the future, both inside the comics world and outside it.
If IDW were the first publishers to notice Obama’s potential ability to shift product, Marvel were the first to properly cash in on it. A short backup story tagged onto the end of Amazing Spider-Man #583 ensure the comic a lasting place in history as the general public clamoured to see their favourite super-hero meet Spider-Man. The story itself was poor, but that didn’t matter – Marvel upped the price of the issue by a dollar and have so far done FIVE printings of the issue. On the strength of Obama’s appearance, ASM #583 topped the sales charts for two months in a row, eclipsing the sales of any other comic for literally the last 10 years.
With the horse now starting to appear weakened, if not yet dead, Obama was quick to appear again in a Marvel comic - this time in a 2-part story beginning in Thunderbolts #128. In this case, he simply showed up in his capacity as President as part of a story that explained why Norman Osborn (former supervillain the Green Goblin) was being allowed to take charge of the US’ security forces. Since the US President in the Marvel Universe is the same as the “real” President, the McCain could easily have featured instead. However, coming hot on the heels of the Spider-Man appearance, the Thunderbolts issues instead picked up some of that reflected Obama glory and also sold well.
A few weeks after the celebrations had begun to die down, Obama popped up again, this time in a comic by industry bad-boy Rob Liefeld, Youngblood #8. In this issue, the President took to choosing a new Youngblood team – after all, they are government sponsored superheroes! Even though the move drew criticism from jaded commenters, who are naturally disinclined to support Liefeld anyway, the issue sold out within a day of release, proving that Obama still brings in the punters. A new variant cover featuring a gun-toting Obama, however, might not be so well-received…
James writes Alternate Cover every Monday at Den Of Geek. His previous column can be found here.