Saturday, November 1, 2008


With the presidential election finally happening, it's probably past time to take a look at how the leading presidential candidates are portrayed in the comics. The most obvious place to find them depicted is in the editorial cartoons. I chose cartoonists who are among the recent winners (past ten years) of the Best Editorial Cartoonist Award from the National Cartoonist Society. I find it interesting that no matter the political viewpoint, John McCain is jowly and usually angry; Barack Obama is skinny, usually with big ears. I think the now retired Borgman has the best Obama, so it will be worse for us if Obama wins (though that will be the least of our worries).

Comic strips have long been political, 'Pogo' and 'Doonesbury' being notable examples. Comic books, though, are an atypical venue for politics. Unlike this overt example to the left, I think most writers and publishers fear alienating readers. I personally have dropped a title or stopped buying a writer based on their politics. It's not that I think politics have no place in comic books, I just don't need a primer from the Justice League on why they think the Iraq war is bad. There are a few political biographies that have been released in the past month. This is territory no one's covered since 1968 with LBJ and Barry Goldwater.

IDW released 'Presidential Material' last month, with an issue for Obama and one for McCain, as well as a two-sided flip book with both stories. Each comic is well-researched and portrays the life story of each man. I think both are fairly balanced, though not without bias. Entire speeches by Obama are reprinted, while McCain's story is told almost totally in narrative. Obama, after overcoming childhood adversities, is almost squeaky clean. McCain, however, is rocked by scandal and controversy, with almost as much ink given to the Keating scandal as it is to his POW term.

I guess the election has captured many imaginations. Alex Ross has given us this image, now available on posters and t-shirts. I guess he's fighting the forces of capitalism, or something. "I'm off to spread the wealth...up, up and awaaaaay!!"

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