Tuesday, August 02, 2011

On Obama in Flashpoint...

Yesterday USA Today published one of those weird articles they occasionally do in which a reporter talks to some creators and/or an editor and comes up with an article exactly like the sort you'd read on Newsarama or Comic Book Resources, with the only difference being more "civilians" will read it and whoever assembled the quotes probably got paid somewhere between 10 and 50 times more for their work than the good people at Newsarama or CBR do when they write similar articles.

The lead mentions the fact that President Barack Obama appears in the fourth issue (he did in the third too, actually):
Even in an alternate universe where iconic superheroes are wrecking the world, pizza, juice boxes and President Obama help ground DC Comics' event series Flashpoint in reality.

Obama is also mentioned in the post at DC's PR blog, The Source, that links to the USA Today article.

Glossed over is the infinitely more interesting (probably especially so to people who don't give a shit that Element Woman is a superhero with a sense of humor) question of what the inclusion of the real president in Flashpoint says about DC as a publisher (they haven't included any real presidents since the Clinton administration, with Lex Luthor winning 2000's presidential election) and the decision to put President Barack Obama into the narrative of Flashpoint, about a villain changing the real, true DC Universe from the way it should be to a fallen, wicked world where the greatest heroes either don't exist or are genocidal maniacs, suggests about their view of Obama.

I mentioned this in my review of Flashpoint #3; I'll reprint the salient part here so you needn't wade through my reviews of various aspects of that and a stack of super-comics if you're only interested in this aspect:
...what really stood out in this scene for me was what the accidental politics of it might be. Did you guys see Colin “Too Busy Thinking About My Comics” Smith’s post about gender and race in Flashpoint and Fear Itself last week? (Both Blog@Newsarama and Robot 6 linked to it, so I’m assuming there’s a pretty good chance you did).

Smith points out that while Cyborg seemingly has a plum role in the world of Flashpoint, as its Superman, the story is constructed to constantly remind us that the world is a fallen one, where things are wrong, and the thrust of the series is that the heroes must put the world back together so that it’s the way it should be, again, the right way.

That is, so that Cyborg’s back to being a B- or C-Lister whose best days are behind him, and who is usually relegated to babysitting the new generation of Teen Titans, if doing anything at all. (I know that Geoff Johns himself doesn’t think that, based on the many times he’s written the character, and the many different ways he’s tried to cram him in whenever possible, due to what seems like genuine affection, but that’s what the story he’s currently writing suggests).

Anyway, given the reading of Flashpoint as a fallen world, what does that say about the fact that Obama is president in the Flashpoint DCU, but not the “real” DCU…?
I don't think Geoff Johns or DC as an entity is actually anti-Obama; if they seem conservative as a publisher, it seems to be conservative in the avoid-political-attention-of-any-kind-at-all-costs sort, rather than making political statements.

When anyone does detect a whiff of political opinion in their wares—a lesbian Batwoman, a Muslim member of Batman Inc., Superman renouncing his citizenship in some dumb, non-canonical back-up story, etc.—they generally seem caught off guard by it and, lately, to actively avoid even potential controversy.

Still, when villainous Professor Zoom, The Reverse-Flash changed the heroic DCU into a darker world, where Bruce Wayne was killed by a mugger when he was a little boy, where Superman was taken prisoner by the government as a child and experimented on for years and where Aquaman and Wonder Woman have destroyed Europe and are responsible for the deaths of millions of innocent civilians, he also arranged it so that President Generic Fakeperson was replaced by Barack Obama.

That might have been a more interesting thing to talk to the writer and editor of the story about then whether or not the fourth issue was going to be awesome and, if so, how awesome?


The Lassiter said...

One of DC's worries is that their characters have too much history and look outdated.
Nothing dates your continuity like putting the (then) current President in your comic book.
10 years from now it won't be near as cool as it seemed at the time.

I remember reading old reprints of comics that showed the President in shadows or slightly off panel. That seemed a wise choice, no fixed date to be tethered.

Hyle Russell said...

If Bill and Hillary didn't speak at Superman's funeral in the new DC continuity, then, quite frankly, they've lost a customer.

Anonymous said...

He appeared in action comics #901 as well. They never name him as such, but it is cleary obama.

Randal said...

Eh. Amanda Waller took some swipes at Reagan to his face in the Secret Origins Suicide Squad issue. Back in Cosmic Odyssey Superman was complaining about George HW Bush. Those were pretty overt...I don't know if Clinton or Bush 42 showed up physically, though...not off the top of my head.

Debaser said...

Obama showed up as president in a couple of comics prior to Flashpoint. I know he showed up in one of those crappy Reign of Doomsday comics.