Thursday, January 08, 2009

Five thoughts on this Obama/Spider-Man comic book thing

As you've probably already heard, President-Elect Barack Obama will be appearing in next week's Amazing Spider-Man #583, and will be appearing on one of the book's several covers. (If you haven't heard, here's the article in USA Today, and here's Newsarama interviewstress Vaneta Roger's article, which includes more salient info for the comics reader).

Some thoughts...

Thought #1: There's something depressingly crass about this. Not just that Marvel thought it would be a good idea to have Barack Obama appear in a Spider-Man comic—that just seems like smart business. If people will buy the hell out of IDW's plain old Obama-with-no-superheroes comic, or a Savage Dragon comic featuring Obama, imagine the sales of putting the President-Elect in a comic book with a household name superhero! But Jesus, why's it gotta be a variant scheme?

I don't have any insider knowledge on ratios and what not, but if this is a 50/50 variant, then retailers will have to buy a fuckload's worth to all the Obama one's they'll need; that's the cover any civilians rushing in to get this valuable comic book will want, right? (At least there's only one variant I guess; they could have gone really nuts and had a Zombie Obama variant or a Monkey Obama variant...either of those would have certainly gained even more media attention).

The solicitation info's a little wonky, too. The other, non-Obama cover will be by John Romita Sr. (sweet!) and feature Peter Parker with his arms around two ladies while Spidey lurks in the background. There's nothing about Obama, Zeb Wells, Todd Nauck or The Chameleon in it—the only creators listed are Mark Waid, Barry Kitson and Mark Farmer, and the plot points mentioned allude to Peter going on a date and a vague bit about a significant threat gathering.

It also says the book costs $2.99; Diamond's shipping list says it will cost $3.99.



Thought #2: In declaring Barack Obama the "President of Spiderman" (and forgetting the hyphen), Wonkette's Ken Layne notes how awful the art appears: "Jesus fucking christ, could Marvel Comics maybe hire somebody who can maybe draw something vaguely resembling the president-elect, rather than 'random negro dude in a suit who also seems to have neck tumors'?"

If you haven't already, do visit USA Today and check out the art. It is pretty terrible, and I like Todd Nauck. Looking at it more closely, it looks like Nauck, who probably isn't the best choice for a comic featuring Barack Obama, since all his faces look alike, had his pencils computer colored without any inking involved. So if it looks softly-lit, blurry and indistinct, that's probably why. That's pretty unfortunate, considering the extra attention this issue will be getting. I suspect Phil Jimenez, who provided the cover above, would have been a far better choice, given how realistic his art can be (although his art doesn't look so hot up there either).


Thought #3: In his interview with Rogers, ASM editor Steve Wacker said, "In future stories, when you see the president and he's a black male, you'll know who he is. But I don't know that we're doing a Barack Obama Marvel Team-Up book...He's not joining the New Avengers."

Can I ask a serious question here for a second? Why not? Not why not have him join the New Avengers, because that would be stupid: They're all wanted criminals that Obama's agents are trying to kill or capture. But why not have a Barack Obama ongoing set in the Marvel Universe?

Marvel already had him co-narrating half of Secret Invasion #8, one of the biggest, most "important" Marvel comics of late, one which set up the new status quo that is going to be so important to future Marvel stories that it necessitates its own logo and branding ("Dark Reign").

President George W. Bush was in Avengers: The Initative, his Western White House at Crawford being threatened by Hydra terrorists. He got Iron Man, Hank Pym and Reed Richards in his office and asked them to be to capture Captain America and kick off Civil War. He shook Yellowjacket's hand and said, "Heckuva job, Pymmy."

The story that's been dominating the Marvel Universe for the last three year has been all about the passage of a controversial federal law and the men and women who support and oppose it.

While the president has been a mostly off-panel force in these stories, why not go ahead and give him a comic book of his own to focus more intently on this stuff? A Marvel West Wing starring President Barack Obama, Henry Gyrich, Norman Osborn and Tony Stark. Meetings with Doctor Doom, The Black Panther and Namor. Behind the scenes in the war against The Inhumans and The Skrulls. Heated debates about the constitutionality of the SHRA and the 42 prison complex and mutant rights.

Think of the publicity the book would get! Good or bad, it would certainly garner attention.


Thought #4: Why the fuck would the President of the United States of America be seen speaking to and "terrorist fist-jabbing" Spider-Man? I mean, you and I know Spidey's a super-hero, and a decent enough guy under his mask. And anyone who sees Joe Quesada on the news or hears him on the radio or reads an interview with him in USA Today and rushes to their nearest comic shop to buy this sure to be a hot, valuable collectible issue to include in their two comic book collection of the death of Superman issue and the death of Captain America issue know he's a hero, but within the Marvel Universe he's viewed as a dangerous criminal and suspected terrorist.

He's a wanted criminal who is so wanted that the federal government employs mass-murderers to try and catch him; when they do catch him, they will put him into an extra-dimensional internment camp—a sort of superhero Guantanamo Bay—until he agrees to unmask and sign the superhero draft that is the Superhuman Registration Act. Remember that thing? It's the thing that all the Marvel heroes were so passionate about that they went to war over it and beat up and even killed their friends over it, and despite the fact that it was central to the reorganization of the Marvel Universe into a hostile police state, no one ever actually tries to enforce it. Iron Man and Ms. Marvel bump into Spider-Man about once a week, and are all just like, "Oh, I'll let you go with a warning this time, but another twelve or fifteen warnings and you're just going to have to get arrested."

I'm trying to think of the real world equivalent to Spider-Man, but I can't seem to do it, because the Marvel Universe is now so extremely far to the right of the real world. A terrorist probably isn't the right comparison here, even though that's the metaphor Mark Millar was working with in Civil War. Maybe seeing Obama give daps to Spidey in the Marvel Universe would be like seeing him kiss Bernie Madoff on the forehead in the real world? Although Madoff might be too weak an analogy, as his crimes are simply economic, whereas Spidey's are a matter of national security...

At any rate, Obama, who bounced fascist tool Tony "Iron Man" Stark from the job of Guy In Charge of Interring All Super-Heroes Who Won't Play Ball With Uncle Sam for not fascist or tool-like enough and replaced him with mass-murdering psychopath Norman "The Green Goblin" Osborn, wouldn't be all that likely to give Spidey daps in the Marvel Universe.

Oh Marvel, why do you keep trying to sell us all these terrible comic book stories all about politics if you yourselves don't even like to adhere to the depressing status quo you spend years arriving at?


Thought #5: Spidey, dude, how did you confuse Adrian "The Vulture" Toomes with Vice President-Elect Joe "Sam The Eagle" Biden? The former is as bald as his namesake, while the latter has snowy white hairplugs?

14 comments:

tomorrowboy 2.5 said...

Obama is fist jabbing spider-man because the republicans were right, and he _is_ secretly a muslim extremist terrorist!
That is why he is such a big fan! Spider-man's a well known and public terrorist who has avoided capture for like a decade in marvel time, what terrorist wouldn't want to be him?

Phillyradiogeek said...

I think tomorrowboy 2.5 is in fact J. Jonah Jameson!

Hdefined said...

The saddest part is how Steve Wacker came out and said that he'll offer to put any public figure who comes out about their love for Spider-man on the cover of Amazing Spider-man.

It would be like if George Lucas made another Star Wars sequel, but only cast people who had written or directed movies that made references to Star Wars.

zeuscomics said...

It would have been more advantageous to retailers if we were given more of a heads up. It would have been better for us if Diamond made sure to print print print more copies for us to order.

As of right now, it's sold out. It is impossible to order more in time for next week. The reprint wont even be available until February.

Ampersand said...

I think the real-life equivalent, in terms of how the real-life public would view it, is that if Obama is seen hanging out with William Ayers.

Some people consider him a hero or at least a nice enough person (the people of Chicago), but for the most part he is considered a dangerous terrorist.

I know it's not a perfect analogy, because this guy has done some harm in the past, while Spidey is only seen as a harmful person.

Vaneta Rogers said...

I'm amazed by the attention this is getting. I expected it from the mainstream press, but not from long-time Spider-Man fans. It's five pages, for crying out loud. Much ado about nothing.

I'm more interested in what's going to happen in Guggenheim's upcoming storyline.

That said, the variant cover issue is a legitimate one, but not related to this issue only. It's bigger than that. And yes, I do believe I'll work on that one.

And I prefer "reporter," if you don't mind.

Sleemo said...

Didn't everyone forget that Peter Parker was Spider-Man in One More Day? Or has that undoing been undone?

Hdefined said...

"It's five pages, for crying out loud."

It's a decision on the part of Marvel, and it says much about their thinking and values.

Caleb said...

I think the real-life equivalent, in terms of how the real-life public would view it, is that if Obama is seen hanging out with William Ayers.

Some people consider him a hero or at least a nice enough person (the people of Chicago), but for the most part he is considered a dangerous terrorist.

I know it's not a perfect analogy, because this guy has done some harm in the past, while Spidey is only seen as a harmful person.


Hmmmm...I don't know if that actually works either. Ayers isn't a wanted criminal like Spider-man is (which is why I never understood that as a line of attack against Obama; if Ayers was a dangerous terrorist, why isn't anyone, like, arresting him? It's not like he was on the run or anything).

And Obama probably wouldn't be seen giving Ayers daps.


The saddest part is how Steve Wacker came out and said that he'll offer to put any public figure who comes out about their love for Spider-man on the cover of Amazing Spider-man.

And it's totally not true! I know Colbert and Jay Leno teamed-up with Spidey, but where's the Freddie Prinze Jr. Spider-Man cover I've been waiting on...?

That said, the variant cover issue is a legitimate one, but not related to this issue only.

Oh yeah, variant covers in general are the work of the devil, and not just a Marvel thing--DC, Marvel and DC customers are to blame as well. I think this particular one is a little more cynical, however, given the mainstream media attention pushing new readers/speculators toward one particular cover.

Didn't everyone forget that Peter Parker was Spider-Man in One More Day? Or has that undoing been undone?

As far as I remember being explained by various Marvel editors, Spider-Man did unmask, and everyone remembers the fact that he unmasked, but no one remembers who it was under there. (And, oddly, no one seems all that troubled by that).

Pop-Monkey said...

A "Zombie Obama" variant cover?
You mean like this:
http://pop-monkey.blogspot.com/2009/01/zombama-remix.html

Pop-Monkey said...

Jeez, it cut off the previous link.
Try this instead for Zombie Obama:
http://www.pop-monkey.blogspot.com

admiralmattbar said...

Three things to consider about this:

1. Spider-man's a considerable step up from Bill Ayers. But I think it is pretty far fetched (even in a universe where a radioactive spider can give you powers) that a president elect would TFB a wanted criminal.

2. It's my understanding that Marvel generally tries not to have too much of a president-central story because it dates the comic book. A sliding timeline does not work very well when it's obvious what year a comic takes place.

3. The best part about Spider-man is that he generally can't trust the people in charge. That's one of the highlights of the Marvel universe. Granted they generally portray presidents as overall decent people, but also easily misled by their corrupt underlings. It sounds like this is just a short story as a sort of acknowledgment of Obama being inagurated and being a Spider-man fan (maybe Obama should have included a stance on One More Day in his platform) and hopefully won't start a trend of optimism in Spider-man comics, because Spider-man's life is supposed to suck.

ArtF said...

what's up with Spidey's cranium in that fist-bump panel?

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