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Monday, May 08, 2006

An Odd Thought: Heroes and Politics

I was thinking about something that bothers me a little about comics. I want to see more heroes involved in politics.

When Etrigan ran for President, Superman said something about how careful he was about politics because his opinion could sway a lot of people. Fair enough, but that doesn't leave a whole lot of counter to the politics of supervillains. I mean when you've got *Lex Luthor* running for president, you'd think more heroes would be willing to speak out against him.

Why don't more heroes use their public recognition to run for office? It's not really much different than an actor, professional wrestler, or war hero running. It's still a largely democratic process after all. And while a quick rescue might save one person, new policies, legislation and processes could do a lot more longterm help.

DC's a little better about this. The heroes have a better reception in general. Organizations like Checkmate and the Suicide Squad at least work within the government. Jefferson Pierce was in Luthor's cabinet. Oliver Queen's mayor. And pre-crisis had a Dick Grayson and Barbara Gordon in Congress, if I'm not misremembering.

But why not more? I get that Clark's afraid of influencing the democratic process, but not every hero has the same outlook as Superman. You'd think a few of them would be thinking more long term.

Marvel really gets me though. SHIELD is all well and good. Reed Richard's work is okay. But you have a government whose administration is occasionally actively persecuting a group of people. You have Sentinels and Genosha and the Mutant Registration stuff in the movies and Civil War... Why aren't there secret mutants in politics fighting this crap?

I'll disclaim that I haven't read Civil War, so I might be completely mistaken, but from the sound of it, there are two sides to this whole issue. Those in the government that are for it, and those on the outside fighting against it.

But I haven't heard anything about people in the government/tied to the government being against it and using politics to fight politics.

I suppose it underlines my personal frustration with Marvel Comics. I never had much of a rebellious stage, and righteous rebellion seems to be the underlying theme to Marvel. Which is fine, but does nothing for me.

Maybe I'm too much of an idealist, but I wouldn't mind my wish-fulfillment fantasies to show the political machine working like it's supposed to. I know it's too much to expect in the real world, but if they want to show an America where good folk are running things and making things better (even if I don't personally agree with the politics expressed), I would be a happy comic fan indeed.


  • At May 08, 2006 5:34 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    When it comes to people within the government fighting against Superhero Registration, in the Illuminati one-shot Bendis portrays Iron Man, the figurehead for the pro-SHR side, as disliking the idea of super-hero registration, and only going along with it in order to try and prevent civil war (well, that certainly didn't work) and also under the assumption that once the act has been passed, he can work to change it from the inside the system.

    Here's what he actually says:
    "We should cooperate now, before it gets ugly. Before someone or everyone is made an example of....Half of us will go along with it and half of us won't....And the country will rupture. Sides will be taken and people will get hurt....But if we come to them now as representatives of the most powerful of all the heroes...cooperate and incorporate ourselves into the process...we can diffuse it."

    In Amazing Spider-Man, Iron Man is portrayed in a similar way.

    So there you have it. The essential 'for' figure in the Civil War and he's actually trying to use his clout as Tony Stark to work against the Act.

    As for heroes or mutants actually within the political system and trying to change it, I can't say I know enough about Marvel to say anything worthwhile, but both concepts sound familiar. I'll do some research on that one, I think.

  • At May 08, 2006 5:38 AM, Blogger kalinara said…

    Ooo, if/when you find some info please post it here. I'd love to be proven wrong in this case.

    Then I can go issue hunting. :-)

  • At May 08, 2006 8:53 AM, Blogger CalvinPitt said…

    I think during a lot of the Mutant Registration Act stuff, Xavier used to go to Capitol Hill, and actually have discussions with committee's devoted to the issue.

    Of course those usually got broken up by fights, but it did seem that he wanted to talk it out with the government.

    As for people actually within the government, no one jumps out. I think Civil War could have this, if Marvel takes it to a global scale and looks at how Namor (king of Atlantis) and the Black Panther (king of Wakanda) react to the whole thing. Maybe one of them offers asylum to heroes who don't want to be registered.

  • At May 08, 2006 9:14 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Don't forget the time JFK helped Superman hide his secret identity from Lois Lane!

    But seriously, as for politics... well, can't really think of anything on the Marvel side. But the current Firestorm series has Senator Lorraine Reilly, aka Firehawk, as one-half of Firestorm, and makes some very sensible comments on the whole political process.

  • At May 08, 2006 10:18 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Curses, not able to find anything yet. Honestly, the closest I've come to secret mutants in government are cases where the individual is in fact anti-mutants and is either in denial/unaware/full of sel-loathing because of their own mutation.

    Meh, maybe I'll concede defeat with this one.

    There was a time when people wanted Captain America to run for president of course. Like Superman though, he decided against going into politics for reasons that don't really make sense.

    Maybe the lack of 'positive' politics in the Marvel Universe will be one of the things that the Ultimates universe could remedy. Whilst 616 Cap might not want to go into government and make positive changes, what's stopping Ultimate Cap?

    But yeah, other than that, no results so far.

  • At May 08, 2006 12:32 PM, Blogger Steven said…

    Also, one reason Superman doesn't run for office is because he is a socialist populist deeply distrustful of a money driven government, and he feels that the best way to engage social and political conflict is to remain outside the three branches of government and be part of the Fourth Estate.

    Clark Kent's a reporter, and a damn good one. And he's not going to give that up to become just another talking head.

    Senator Wayne, however, has a nice ring to it.

  • At May 08, 2006 2:52 PM, Blogger kalinara said…

    calvin: That'd be cool. Asylum's a big thing. It's an odd gap though, with all this mutant registration and other issues that there isn't a secret mutant or several in the Senate. I'd do it.

    ununnilium: Hee. I think DC does try a little, the suspension of disbelief for Lorraine as a senator aside. :-) And it has Ollie as a mayor now which is pretty cool.

    jay: aww, well, maybe someday...

    steven: When the wizard Quiz came out I was really hoping Bruce would end up the politician. It would be interesting, to say the least.

    Failing him, Dick. He might have been young, but he was also an ex-cop, with Wayne's connections, charm and competence. He could have been a dark horse candidate unexpectedly victorious... being a fashion model is all I'm sayin'.

  • At May 08, 2006 5:22 PM, Blogger Ferrous Buller said…

    Insert obvious pitch for Brian Vaughan's "Ex Machina," which is all about an ex-superhero who becomes mayor of New York.

    Anyway, the most obvious reason why superheroes don't go into politics (at least overtly) would presumably be to protect their secret identities. Besides, aren't all superheroes basically vigilantes operating outside the law? Which would suggest they have - if not a disrespect for gov't authority - then at least no qualms about doing an end run-around them. There would be a certain irony to having them pass laws they used to break... :-)

    Tangenting off, at its best Marvel's trademark "righteous rebellion" motif gives them a venue for exploring serious themes. Antimutantcy is an obvious parallel to other forms of bigotry; and in a post-9/11 world, I think the themes of "Civil War" take on added resonance. [Which is not the same as saying I think CW will be any good, of course.]

  • At May 08, 2006 6:28 PM, Blogger kalinara said…


    I see what you mean about secret identities, but not all heroes have them.

    You know, I'd really like to see John Stewart go into politics. He's got no secret identity, is something of a crusader, has a very strong social conscience, and is undeniably a hero. And for conflict, there's the possibility of divided loyalties (between the country and the Corps) as well as past skeletons in the closet. And the Lanterns tend to fall a bit more into the hero area than the vigilante area...Hal's current activities or some of Guy's past hobbies notwithstanding.

    Hmm, I may have to blog that.

    I get the Civil War resonance and even the appeal of the righteous rebellion, it just does nothing for me. CW's political relevance is also a bit heavy handed for my taste. But that's personal taste.

    Hmm,I'll have to look at Ex Machina.

  • At May 09, 2006 9:24 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    ENTIRE 1st X-MEN season on FOX, opening of 1st movie, Last white house scene in movie 2, X-FACTOR

    But I digress

  • At May 09, 2006 6:10 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Ooh, yes! Ex Machina! Wunnerful stuff.

    I really wouldn't want Ultimate Cap in politics at all - he seems to be Millar's criticism of America and its politics as they are right now.

    Also, all of this reminds me of the terrible JLA issue that was a criticism of the War in Iraq and Bush. I *agreed* with him and still thought it was horribly unsubtle. (Not to mention arrogant - this guy was putting his opinions in the mouths of characters older than he is!)

  • At May 09, 2006 6:48 PM, Blogger kalinara said…

    green: Well they do deal with politics a little, but not really from an insider/sympathetic perspective IMO

    ununnilium: Yeah, I much preferred JSA's war-critique. Black Adam in Kahndaq wasn't nearly as obvious a situation, which ultimately ended up making it more compelling a story. When it's too "real" or obvious a parallel, I think the story can lose something.

    See also the Outsiders-America's Most Wanted storyline

  • At May 10, 2006 12:24 PM, Blogger Ferrous Buller said…

    I've only read the first volume of Ex Machina so far, but I really liked it. It's not your conventional superhero `verse, though: near as I can tell, our main protagonist is the only superpowered person around - though perhaps Vaughan's introduced more since - who gives up a short-lived attempt at being a superhero to enter politics instead. Pretty nifty series: I like the way Vaughan playfully tweaks the nose of superhero conventions, rather than jabbing them in the eye the way I would. :-)

  • At May 10, 2006 1:35 PM, Blogger kalinara said…

    :-) Sounds like fun.

    And my word verification is "unjab", that's hilarious to me.

  • At May 16, 2006 10:05 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Peter David's original X-Factor run had a mutant who was in a position of power in the government and looking to be President. He was underground while doing so, but it was for personal power gain, not because he was working for the benefit of other mutants. In fact, he was planning to use his hidden position and power to eliminate everyone who could oppose him.

    Okay, just checked the arc: Senator Shaffran, whose power was "event manipulation plus the ability to unsettle the minds of others and cloud their thinking and abilities." Then he tried to shoot Mr. Sinister and that worked out into a gaping head wound for the Senator.

  • At May 16, 2006 2:14 PM, Blogger kalinara said…

    flint: Aww, it sounds like I'd have liked the storyline. I'll have to check it out.

  • At September 24, 2006 10:10 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Ok, so I'm coming in late on this, but...

    Captain America never ran. Someone else nominated him, he thought about it, and decided against it--all in one issue! I wanna say #247, 249, somewhere around there.

    Mystique, as Raven Darkholme spent a good deal of time working in the government, although I couldn't tell you when or what branch.

    Now, as for my favorite bits of politics, Lex Luthor as President is up there, and here's why.

    Supes coulda spoken out against him, but PUTTING LUTHOR IN OFFICE WAS DC'S WAY OF PROTESTING THE "ELECTION" OF W. So, while the character might not have had a good reason for not trying to stop the election, the editors had a great one.

    Around the same time, "Dell Rusk" became Secretary of Defense in Marvel. Dell Rusk is an anagram for Red Skull. One of my favorite bits regarding that (aside from the fact that the higher-ups found a way to equate our current administration with freakin' Nazis!) was when the New Invaders were formed, and Cap and USAgent were fighting. USAgent was acting under the orders of Secretary Rusk, and Cap informed him of Rusk's true identity. Agent said "Well, he still had some good ideas." The drawing of Cap's reaction was GREAT, and I'm not even a fan of that artist (Coipel?).

    Bats wouldn't run for office, at least not until he had no choice but to give up as Bats. In the early 70's Green Arrow/Green Lantern comics, when Ollie considers running for mayor of Star City, Bruce tells him not to in no unclear terms. As much good as it would do, it would occupy too much of his time and he would be unable to stop the likes of Joker, et. al if he was being followed by mayoral/Congressional bodyguards.

    To the person who mentioned that Clark Kent would be unwilling to give up his spot as a member of the Fourth Estate... Props for that insight, although I am not 100% sure I agree with you. I know I have read something about "I believe firmly in the democratic system" in one of Kent's narrations/inner-monologues, so the "socialist populist" part is not quite fitting to me. I could very easily be wrong on this one, though!


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