Saturday, November 08, 2008

A long, boring post about three of my favorite things to talk about: Superheroes, politics and myself

In the month before Tuesday’s historic election, I did about twenty of these “super-endorsements” sketch/strip things, in which my cartoon avatar interviewed various super-types about who they were supporting in the election. I had planned to do a lot more originally, but due to how long it took me to draw and color, how hard it was to figure out to draw some things, how unfunny the jokes associated with the endorsements were or, in some cases, all of the above, I ended up scrapping a bunch. But as I’m reluctant to waste any comics-related thinking I do—and as desperate as I am to think of something to post on a Saturday when no one’s reading anyway—I thought I’d share the ones I didn’t do. That’s right, as bad as some of the final strips were, there were some that were even worse! And these are what they were…

The Hulk: I first thought of doing these one day while listening to NPR coverage of an Obama rally, and hearing the “Yes we can! Yes we can!” chanting in the background, and thinking it sounded a little like “Yes me am! Yes me am!”, as I was apparently thinking about Bizarro that day (Um, I think about Bizarro a lot). Then there was a day where I was in a very big, very long meeting, with lots of time to do nothing but think and pretend to be listening intently, and I made a list of 30 superheroes and villains, figuring I’d do a theme month sketchblog thing. I ended up doing far fewer, and only about half of the ones I thought to do that day, for various reasons; some of them I ditched when more amusing one’s occurred to me later. One I didn’t think to do was The Hulk, but about halfway through October I did think of a Hulk gag, which I started. That’s the first of three panels above. The second one would have had Hulk’s feet in the upper right-hand corner, and Caleb in the act of falling (Sound effect of Hulk jumping: BOUND!). In the last panel, Caleb would be sitting on the ground, writing in his notebook and sounding out loud, “Lib…er..tar…ian.” Something about it didn’t seem quite right though, like perhaps I’d heard it before. I checked the place I was most likely to have heard it—Dave Campbell’s excellent 2006 post about superheroes’ political alignments—and damn it, wouldn’t you know he did make that exact same joke? I was apparently ripping him off subconsciously, so I abandoned that one. I guess because his Hulk joke was so short, it didn’t stick in my mind quite the way that his other’s did. Anyway, there’s the first panel I did above! Waste not, want not.

Aquaman: Seemed kinda pointless to do Aquaman and Namor, as I imagine they would have similar positions, they’d just express them differently. King Orin was totally pulling for Obama. Like Namor, he was furious over the Republican ticket’s stance on off-shore drilling, and the glib, “Drill, baby, drill chants.” He was also pissed about the Palin pick, as she doesn’t believe global warming is necessarily caused by man (one of several policy differences she had with McCain; “With a team of mavericks, what would you expect?”). Aquaman hates global warming. Not only is it fucking things up for sea life, but if the polar ice caps melt and the sea levels rise significantly, that will only make the ocean bigger, and he’s got enough to do now, thank you very much.

Black Lightning: I think of him as super-sensitive about racial issues, and always ready to argue about them. Not because the character’s ever actually like that in the comics, but just because he calls himself “Black Lightning.” It’s probably more accidental than anything else, but the original Black Lightning came across in conception as a very blaxploitation kind of character, which probably didn’t seem so weird in the late seventies and early eighties (especially since he was DC’s only black hero for a while), but now it seems extra-weird (As we’ve discussed). This strip would have been a long, awkward conversation starting with Caleb saying, “I imagine you’re voting for Obama,” and B.L. would defensively ask if Caleb thought that just because he black, which would lead to discussion of the fact that John McCain voted against MLK Day for so long, or that during the 2000 Republican primary he said he supported South Carolina flying the Confederate flag over the statehouse (he later apologized for it, and called the stance one of his biggest mistakes) or because of all the racist assholes that show up at Palin/McCain rallies. Demographically, Black Lightning is almost certainly Democrat—black, urban, inner-city high school teacher—so I’m sure he would be for Obama. This would have been an “educational” strip, mentioning the candidates’ educational policies and McCain’s less-savory history regarding some racial issues, but it seemed way too long, and I didn’t feel like drawing Black Lighting 20 times in a row. Particularly in his stupid, stupid costume.

N’Kantu, The Living Mummy: I really like drawing mummies. N’Kantu was going to explain that he doesn’t normally vote, as he never identifies with any of the candidates, but since there was a living mummy running this year, he was voting McCain. Ha ha ha, huh? But “McCain is old jokes” seemed way played out, and stopped being funny and started being downright scary around the time he announced his vice presidential pick, so I abandoned this idea. I also considered having Ra’s al Ghul and/or Jonah Hex endorsing Obama/endorsing McCain based on experiences they had with McCain in the past, but, again, old jokes seemed old. (For the record, Ra’s prefers Obama’s environmental policies, and Hex isn’t sure he could bring himself to vote for a colored…especially one whom the NRA says wants to take away his guns…although, when looking at where Obama and McCain are on gun control, there’s almost no difference I can see).

The Riddler: I never gave it much thought before trying to think of something The Riddler might say, but goddam, he must be the hardest Batman villain for Bat-writers to write. I was going to have him be all like, “A question? For the Riddler? Usually I ask the questions” and blah blah blah, and then he’d be like, “Could you phrase it in the form of a riddle?” And Caleb would be like, “Um, no.” And then he’d be like, “Well, I’ll answer it in the form of a riddle then.” And his endorsement would have come in the form of a very complicated riddle, one that was so complicated it wouldn’t actually even reveal which candidate he was, since I don’t know who the Riddler would vote for and honestly couldn’t even hazard a guess. But I couldn’t think of a riddle that the answer to which would be either Obama or McCain. So that’s as far as I got with that. In the last two panels, batarangs would knock both Caleb and the Riddler out, and then we’d see a panel of Robin scolding Batman saying, “Hey, isn’t the Riddler reformed now? And I think that other guy was just an innocent bystander.” In my mind, Batman’s always just running around, sneaking up on people and brutally assaulting them for pretty much no reason. Thus he always errs on the side of knocking someone out with a batarang.

The Spectre/Ghost Rider: As it turns out, both of the major party candidates have identical thoughts on the death penalty, so The Spectre, Ghost Rider and other agents of spiritual vengeance likely wouldn’t prefer one to the other. It’s just as well, as I don’t think I could draw Ghost Rider at all. I like drawing skeletons, but I hate drawing both motorcycles and skeletons wearing jackets. Both the Spectre and Ghost Rider were big fans of President Bush’s though, as our current Commander-in-Chief had a real zeal about executing people, even going so far as to mock a woman begging for her life in an on-the-record interview while he was still governor of Texas. (Campbell offers a very reasonable rationale as to how Ghost Rider would vote, however; seriously, go read the hell out of that post).

Man-Elephant: I believe his party is evident. The only reason I didn’t do a post on him was because I ran out of time.

Storm and Black Panther: The Kenyan-American Storm and Wakandian king are both pro-Obama, of course, although Storm was disappointed she hadn’t heard more from Obama regarding his stance on mutant rights issues. A friend pointed out that Storm’s heritage is just like Obama’s, only the genders of their parents were reversed (Her dad was American and her mom Kenyan; his dad was Kenyan and his mom American). Based on Obama’s speeches, I’m sure the 616 Obama would include “homo superior or homo sapien” in his list of “we’re all Americans” this or that constructions, like “black or white or Hispanic or Native American…gay or straight, disabled or not” and so on. I couldn’t think of a joke though, as Storm and B.P. are both so damn regal and humorless, that it was essentially just three straightmen discussing identity politics. I like drawing the Black Panther though; he’s like a short-eared Batman without a mouth.

Dr. Sivana: I really like Dr. Sivana. I like reading about him, I like looking at pictures of him, I like drawing him and I like just sitting still and thinking about him. I was going to have him vote for the Natural Law Party, which is how I personally wasted my vote in 2000 (I thought Gore had a lock! I followed the election closely, and thought, “Man, there’s no way anyone would prefer this Bush goofball to Gore, I can safely vote Third Party. I was so young and naïve back then…). The Natural Law Party, at least at the time, articulated the belief that government should work according to sound, proven scientific principles (and something about transcendental meditation). That sounds like something that would appeal to a scientist, even (or particularly?) a mad one. When I tried to find out who their candidate was this year though, it appeared they weren’t even fielding one. So maybe Sivana sat this election out; it’s not like he cares who rules America, after all; he was going to rule the whole universe one day anyway.

Captain America: This one was going to be the climactic one, in which Caleb is in a graveyard, staring at Captain America’s grave, and remarking how that would have been the ultimate superhero endorsement; whoever Cap endorsed would have had a good shot at winning. “Too bad I can’t ask him now,” or something like that, and then suddenly Obama and McCain would appear and say something like, “Who says you can’t?” They would produce a Ouija board and we would use it to contact Cap’s spirit. McCain would try to pull it toward the “M” for McCain, and Obama would try to pull it toward the “O” for Obama, and the result would be that it hovered over the letter between those two letters: “N.” And then Ralph Nader would jump out from behind a tombstone to accept the endorsement. It became clear that I wouldn’t have time to do this one though, especially since it would take me quite a while to figure out how to draw Obama and McCain and Nader. I used to sit down with a Newsweek once a week and just sketch things out of it for drawing practice, but I haven’t done that forever, and so I’m not up on drawing any current national figures, I’m afraid. And plus, McCain looks damn hard to draw. Every political cartoonist does him totally different. I really like Ann Telnaes’ and Tom Toles’ McCains, though.

The Red Bee: McCain and Obama have been running for president for at least two years now (this time; McCain’s been thinking about it in an on/off kinda way for at least a decade now), so you’d think they would have both covered every conceivable topic by now, right? Well, would you believe neither of them have said anything at all about bees? I thought at least the subject of the disappearing honeybees and what that might mean for the future might have come up at some point on the campaign trail but, if it did, I was unable to find it after researching the topic online a lot longer than I probably should have (It’s not like my vote was dependent on the candidates’ bee policies, after all; I was just researching background for a lame joke). It got so bad that I asked the American Beekeeping Federation if they were endorsing a candidate, and they responded, “From what we understand, the candidates have similar views on agricultural policies, but we have no knowledge of their views on bees specifically.” So you can imagine how hard it must have been for The Red Bee to decide who he was going to vote for. If I had enough time (I meant to start drawing these in September, but didn’t actually start until October), this would have run on like Thursday or so. Caleb and Uncle Sam would have been sitting at Caleb’s table, where the first in the series started, with Uncle Sam delightedly reading a manga and Caleb in his pajamas in front of the computer. The Red Bee would have appeared, letting Caleb know that he heard he was going around interviewing various superheroes about who they were supporting in the election, and, since Caleb missed him for some reason, he thought he’d stop by. He was temporarily changing his name (and costume) to The Blue Bee, to let everyone know he supported Obama. Since Obama and McCain are equally uninterested in bee policy, and the honeybee crisis, Bee would have voted for Obama because he’s more environmentally friendly. At least, environmental groups like the Sierra Club favored Obama over McCain, so presumably and Obama presidency would be better for wild bees than a McCain one would have.

Above: This was going to be the last panel of the Man-Thing one, but I fucked up Cage and didn't want to redraw it

By the way: I keep saying “Caleb” instead of “me” or “I” not because I am insane and think of myself in the third person, but because it seems more insane to me to say things like, “So I was talking to Uncle Sam the other day…” The Caleb in these things isn’t really me, obviously, as I’ve never talked to Man-Thing or Superman or Batman. But only because I’ve never been to Florida, Metropolis or Gotham City.


Hdefined said...

You're just being modest about all your superhero connections.

Derek said...

I think Riddler was probably planning on voting McCain before the Palin pick.

Nigma likely plans on making $250,000 a year or more, so voting Obama wouldn't make much sense.

But after McCain chose a slack-witted, incurious, anti-intellectual hockey mom for a running mate, Riddler couldn't, in good conscience, cast a vote that would put her a literal heartbeat away from the presidency.

LurkerWithout said...

From what I recall, the current Red Bee is a girl in power armor (from the Uncle Sam & the Freedom Fighters book). The original guy with the trained bees has been dead for a while...

James Eyeklll said...

This was a great series! Loved how you managed to throw in actual information with the jokes both funny and lame. It's too bad the Red Bee one didn't make it through after all that work (and also because he's awesome), but all the info on party platforms and candidate backgrounds in the strips that did get finished made the series more substantial and memorable than the shorter ice cream social strips. Really well done. I eagerly await the next series or one-off comic strip, whenever it happens.

Luis K. said...

May I just say that I enjoyed the heck out of your "super-endorsements" series -- particularly the Batman and Bizarro installments, but I loved them all. Thank you for the amazing posts. :)

Anthony Strand said...

I'm glad to know what you were planning to do with Captain America, as I was hoping he would show up for an installment.

I loved the heck out of the series.

SallyP said...

Caleb, I have to admit that I thought that the N'Kantu the Mummy one was a hoot. I AM old!