Pulp Nation

Barack Obama has been a busy man.Propelled to victory by the endorsement of the ex-president, known as the Savage Dragon, Obama helped Spider-Man thwart the villainous Chameleon on inauguration day, met with aides to discuss the future of H.A.M.M.E.R, and reinstated the controversial YOUNGBLOOD program, personally selecting Shaft, Big Brother, Vogue, Diehard, Photon and Sentry to serve on the new team. The real Barack Obama may not have to worry about rebuilding the world after a devastating Skrull invasion, but his fictional counterparts clearly have a lot on their plates right now. Since his victory in the 2008 election, our forty-fourth president has taken the world of super-hero comic books by storm, with prominent appearances in multiples titles from many different companies. Obama’s first entrance into the spotlight was on the cover of Image Comic’s “Savage Dragon” no. 137, in which the eponymous, fin-headed hero proudly introduced his fellow Chicagoan to citizens nation wide. The issue sold through three printings and attracted enough attention to be featured on The Huffington Post’s website. Obama’s subsequent appearance in “Amazing Spider-Man no. 583” was also a tremendous success, burning through four printings and earning coverage from the national news media. According to the Comic Book Resources Web site, the issue was in such high demand that some comic shops required bouncers to protect their entrances from mobs of fans.Presidential guest-stars are nothing new to comic books; Supermea shook hands with JFK and Ronald Reagan mutated into a cobra-man in the pages of “Captain America.”The frequency of appearances by Barack Obama, however, suggests that they are more than cameos designed to cash in on a famous public figure. Obama is routinely depicted as an actual character, interacting with the heroes and participating in the action. Consider his presence in Marvel Comics’ “Thunderbolts” no. 128, in which the new president chews out former Green Goblin, Norman Osborn, while flying on Air Force One. With his dark sunglasses and composed demeanor, Obama is shown to be the essence of cool. He’s every bit the equal of his super-powered nemeses.The reason for Obama’s prominence in comic books may have something to do with his personal story. A man of mixed-raced heritage who built his career around working for others and campaigned for change and responsibility, Obama’s background resonates with the traits and values of super-heroes. The resemblance has not been lost on writers like Grant Morrison, who featured an Obama-like president revealing a Superman-style logo underneath his suit jacket in the opening pages of “Final Crisis” no. 7. Neither has the resemblance been lost on Obama himself, who jokingly compared himself to be the Last Son of Krypton at the Alfred E. Smith Memorial Foundation dinner last October. We’ve all watched Obama’s transformation from man into icon during his rise to the presidency. What we may be witnessing now is the transformation of icon into super-hero. We’ll have to stay tuned to see whether or not this trend continues, but for the moment we should remind ourselves there’s a human being behind the images. Barrack Obama is still a real person, a man capable of mistakes and compromises, and we need to remember that.At the end of the day, underneath the cape, the super is always less important than the man.