Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Hey, Do You Remember That Time: Political Ambitions Edition

Happy almost-George Washington’s birthday (even though Presidents Day was two days ago and under the Julian calendar his birthday was Feb. 11)!

In honor of our first president – who recently came back from the dead to lead an army of his fellow zombie presidents against humanity – here’s a short sampling of classic characters who have run for or were appointed to American political office.

PRESIDENT LEX LUTHOR: A new millennium brought a new president to the D.C. universe in the form of Superman’s most hated enemy, Lex Luthor. Luthor became president mostly so he could mess with Superman and Batman, having masterminded the earthquake that turned Gotham City into No Man’s Land, framed Batman for murder, brought about the destruction of Clark Kent’s hometown, divided the Justice League and attempted to blame Supes for a kryptonite meteor headed toward Earth.

PRESIDENT CAPTAIN AMERICA: In the early 1980s, Roger Stern and John Byrne (Hey, that rhymes!) wrote a story in which Steve Rogers considered running for president but ultimately turned it down as he considered his superheroics to be apolitical. Roughly 30 years later, in 2012, Cap was elected in the 1610 “Ultimate” universe, accepting the job in the pages of Ultimate Comics: The Ultimates in a story by Sam Humphries and Luke Ross. He has since been killed by good old 616 Galactus.

PRESIDENT GARY “THE SMILER” CALLAHAN: Spider Jerusalem, the bowel-disruptor wielding, cranky journalist star of Warren Ellis’ brilliant Transmetropolitan, starts out antagonizing a president he’d unaffectionately nicknamed The Beast. Enter the devil he doesn’t know. The Smiler becomes Spider’s main nemesis for the run of the series after admitting flat-out that he became president to oppress and punish people and going so far as to have his political director and his own wife and children killed to earn sympathy in the polls. Also, he kinda looks like Paul Ryan.

PRESIDENTIAL HOPEFUL GRAYDON CREED: Creed first appeared as one of the Upstarts, a 90s cabal of mutants (and one mutant-hating human) who got points @midnight-style for assassinating 80s targets like the Hellfire Club, the New Mutants and the Hellions. Starting in ’95, the X-writers put him on a path toward the White House, backed by head Prime Sentinel Bastion. Proving that almost all the good X-ideas were Chris Claremont’s, however, the writers get their Days of Future Past on and have Mystique kill her own son. (P.S.: The DOFP reality was supposed to be last year. And yet here we are: no sentinel overlords, no mutant hounds, no hoverboards.)

NEW YORK CITY MAYOR MITCHELL HUNDRED: In Ex-Machina, the superhero known as The Great Machine was elected mayor of New York City after he saved one of the Twin Towers on 9/11. Some of the best stories in the Brian K. Vaughn series weren't the ones where Hundred uses his powers to talk to machines in green font, but when he deals with everyday issues such as private school vouchers, gay marriage and the death penalty. He makes you wish he was your mayor, you know until the end (no spoilers).

NEW YORK CITY MAYOR J. JONAH JAMESON: After years of lambasting Spider-Man in his rag, The Daily Bugle, JJJ received an opportunity to kick his single-focus Spider-bashing into overdrive as mayor of the greatest city on Earth. That said, the odds were stacked against him, what with Spider-Man being an Avenger and all, and other city officials resigning because of his over-dedication of city funds to hunting the wall-crawler. And in the biggest sign that his decades-long quest is a fool’s errand, he ends up giving him a key to the city.

DEFENSE SECRETARY DELL RUSK: Long before he became DC’s Green Lantern guy (then Aquaman guy, now Superman guy, maybe next Plastic Man guy?), Geoff Johns had a stint writing Earth’s Mightiest Heroes. Part of his run involved a mysterious plague that turned people into crimson corpses. The plague was ultimately linked to Defense Secretary Rusk, who turned out to be the Red Skull in disguise (spoiler, schmoiler, he’s right there on the trade cover). The late, great Disney XD cartoon “Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes” adapted the storyline in the brilliantly condensed manner it adopted most Avengers storylines, managing to work in the Falcon, the Winter Soldier and the Red Hulk for good measure.

DEFENSE SECRETARY TONY STARK: If a man who literally wraps himself in the flag can be elected president, surely one of the nation’s top weapons manufacturers can run defense. Tony took the job to keep an eye on how his products were being used by the U.S. military but ended up being ridden out on a rail during Brian Michael Bendis’ Disassembled storyline when the power-overloaded Scarlet Witch made the recovering alcoholic Stark appear drunk and belligerent during a press conference. Residents of the Marvel Universe must have short memories, though, as just a few years later he became director of SHIELD after Civil War. SHIELD continued its commitment to questionable leadership after Secret Invasion, when Stark was ousted in favor of a man who chases Spider-Man around in purple pajamas.

SEN. ROBERT KELLY: You know the old saying: If at first you don’t assassinate, try, try again. Kelly’s death was first foretold as part of Chris Claremont’s Days of Future Past storyline in 1980. In that storyline, Kitty Pryde, possessed by a future version of herself, saves the senator from taking an arrow through the neck from Destiny. Kelly next almost died in 1989 at the hands of the Sentinel Master Mold but was saved by his wife, former Hellfire Club waitress Sharon, who did die. In 1997, Cyclops saved the senator from Bastion’s Prime Sentinels during Operation Zero Tolerance. Not long after, Pyro, who was dying of the Legacy Virus, attempted to redeem himself by preventing the senator from being killed by Mystique’s Brotherhood of Evil Mutants. But after all those attempts on his life by pissed-off mutants and robots, who should kill him but some pissed-off flatscan named Alan Lewis. FUN FACT: In the 1990s X-Men cartoon, Kelly is elected president, replacing a woman who used a treadmill in the Oval Office.

HONORARY MENTION: KANG/KODOS: Yeah, I know I’m  getting off-medium, but who doesn’t love “Citizen Kang,” the 1996 Simpsons’ Treehouse of Horror vignette in which Kang and Kodos run for president as Bob Dole and Bill Clinton, dooming the human race to slavery regardless of the outcome? “Don’t blame me, I voted for Kodos!”

Dan Grote is the author of Of Robots, God and Government and My Evil Twin and I. He and Matt have been friends since every 25th issue came with a foil-embossed cover, a hologram trading card and free pogs.

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