Comics and politics. The two have always had a relationship that has, for better or worse, impacted public opinion. From it’s beginnings in World War II to the Civil Rights movement of the 1960’s and the Vietnam war to today, comic books have allowed an outlet for creators to express their opinions concerning the issues of the age. In return, the readership can do with this what they desire. Ignore it. Bash it. Embrace it. Spread it. Whatever.
Regardless, these works make an impact on the world around us, and the world around us will inevitably impact future works of media and pop culture. Just look at all the various major events that spawned a wave of patriotic and supportive comics. 9/11. Obama’s election. The Pulse night club shooting.
However, not all comics are in support of the political climate. In fact, some of the most adamant critism of politicians and government is expressed via comic strips, many of which draw extreme scrutiny. It happens constantly, across the nation and the globe, as a way to make our voices heard. Scandals and wars and elections and current events are all fair game, but I believe there has been no period in my lifetime that has seen such an outpouring of dissention as right now. This, of course, can be contributed to election and administration of President Donald J. Trump.
Now, let me preface this with a disclaimer that I am a democrat who not only voted against Trump, but is actively in shock and dismay at how he won the election. He is tarnishing the office of the presidency with his lies, actions, and affiliations and I cannot believe he is not impeached yet. I’m embarassed, quite frankly, but with a GOP house and senate, we’re likely in for the long haul. My views do not necessarily reflect those of Comic Crusaders as a whole or its affiliates, although I know I am not alone in believing our country is in the tiny hands of a dangerous, unhinged man with a vendetta against women and minorities of all color, creed, religion, sexuality, and politial affiliation that differs from his own. Everyone has their reasons for voting how they did and believing what they believe, and you are entitled to whatever opinion you maintain, even if it is based on misinformation and fear and hatred. I choose facts (not the alternative kind) and acceptance and love for anyone willing to return the sentiment.
Okay, now that that is out of the way…
The internet has been a major platform for expanding the distribution and creation of political comics, just as much as it has for sharing infographics and pictures and quotes that may or may not be entirely truthful. Memes and gifs and hashtags are really the modern equivalent to political comic strips, with even the president himself taking part by sharing a clip of him bodyslamming a personification of CNN made from old WWE footage. Twitter is a breeding ground for trolls and arguments, much of which could be avoided if the POTUS had less of a presence and kept his morning rants to a minimum.
Even so, the comic book industry is seeing plenty of action in response to the Trump Adminstration and the low approval ratings. One of my favorites is a strip by Mike Norton (Battlepug) called “Lil Donnie” which he produces on a situational basis and distributes online for free. Needless to say, he has been very busy. The format expands the classic single panel of newspaper cartoons into a 3-4 panel comic strip, like Garfield in that they both feature a fat, lazy, and orange main character. Mad Magazine also had a whole “Mad About Trump” special, so you can imagine the crude, witty publisher had plenty to say.
What really inspired me to write this article was encountering not one, but two different comics out this week highlighting what could potentially happen in America in a dystopian future. The first was Calexit #1 from Black Mask by Matteo Pizzolo and Amancay Nahuelpan, which takes place in 5 years after California secedes from the United States due to issues of immigration and President Trump’s leadership. The second is Divided States of Hysteria #2 from Image by Howard Chaykin that isn’t quite as specific to Trump, but still clings to the ideals of his current presidency.
Now, Divided States of Hysteria has caused quite a stir recently due to some very controversial cover art and story elements that are designed to push readers out of their comfort zone and accept free speech in all its forms. This includes bombings of New York, hanging a pantless minority, racial shootings, a vengeful “chick with a dick”, and a string of assassinations which has left a low level member of the cabinet as president. Howard Chaykin has been very vocal about his work and the outcry against it, and while some of the content toes the line of social acceptance, I agree with his right to do so.
I mention both Calexit and DSH because in each of their editorial letters in the end column of the comic, both writers claim their work was hatched under the impression that Donald Trump would not win the election, and that this is a worst case scenario, “what if” comic for both teams. After the election results and the subsequent shift of control and power, these two comics became way more than that. It’s damn near clairvoyant. Two different men said to themselves in 2016, after seeing the rhetoric and attitude of Donald Trump on the campaign trail, “Gee, wouldn’t it suck if this sociopath ACTUALLY became president?” From there, each created a story that now does not feel far from a real possibility despite being over the top and violent. What are the odds? Well, in Trump’s America, it’s 100%.
You know why comics like this didn’t come out under Obama? Or even Bush? Because no matter how bad things were with war or the economy or healthcare, Americans had a Commander in Chief that assured them everything was gonna be okay and we could believe them. When George W. Bush addressed the nation after September 11th, we knew he was heartbroken with the rest of us but that we would not take this laying down. What happened afterward may have been questionable, but he was a strong leader. Barack Obama said “Yes, We Can” make a difference in the world and overcome adversity and was a respected, responsible, scandal-free president for eight years.
Donald Trump? His whole campaign and now presidency is reliant on fear and bigotry. Building a wall against Mexico and expecting them to pay. Travel bans against Muslim countries. “Bringing back” jobs shipped overseas. Declaring all news, media, and intel is fake unless they agree with his polluted mindset. Cutting funding that help the poor, women, children, and the environment. Not acknowledging pride month and having a notoriously anti-LGBTQ vice president. And that’s not even considering the Russia scandal. The list goes on and on. Who wouldn’t be fucking terrified?
Comic books, to me, have always been a way to escape or to make me feel good or inspire hope. I mean, yeah, it takes all types that also scare me or make me think, but the vast majority involve heroes saving the day and good conquering evil. But now, I fear books like these are legitimately a cautionary tale of things to come. Read them. If you feel offended? Scared? Good. That means you are affected by their work. In the grand political scheme of things, outspoken voices like these are vital to growth and discussion. Do you disagree? That just means I’ve made my point.
Again, don’t hate on Comic Crusaders for this piece. We ALL have varied opinions and views, but most site content is strictly comic related. This is our platform, and I choose to use it how I see fit. Thank you for reading. Comment, share, follow on Twitter (@bamfingbob) if you feel so inclined.
God Bless America