One of the comics premiering at last week's Comic-Con was First Daughter, which features a (thinly-)fictionalized Sasha Obama-alike with superpowers, and it's not the only superheroic commodification of the first family about to hit comic stores. But why?
We all know that Barack Obama has become one of comics' hottest properties, what with his smash-hit team-up with Spider-Man, or his fighting aliens and becoming a politican barbarian, or even just grappling with a much-too-large gun. But, despite the surprising amount of appearances he makes in comics, comic appearances from US Presidents are nothing special; it was George W. Bush that watched Iron Man and Captain America start a superhero Civil War, after all.
But what is unusual is the attention now being given to the Obama family. If you don't want to read about "Tasha Tasker" in Keenspot's First Daughter, you'll soon be able to read Liquid Comics' First Family, about "the teen children of a newly elected American president who try to survive in a most ruthless political arena — high school," pick up Michelle Obama's comic-book biography or even stand by, amazed, as the Obama's dog, Bo, saves the world in Marvel's Pet Avengers. Turning Presidents into comic book heroes is one thing, but we never read Caroline Kennedy Vs. The Martians back in the '60s. So what's changed?
There's probably an argument to be made for cultural shift. I'm not just talking about the cultural shift of Obama's presidency and the wave of euphoric (and somewhat hysterical) optimism that followed his win, although that's certainly part of it - If Obama became the figurehead of a new era for America, it stands to reason that his family would be caught up in that and share in the adoration in some sense, after all - nor am I really referring to the cultural implications of the Obamas being the first black family in the White House (As hard as it is to separate that from the excitement and furor surrounding them, I think the... "novelty value," for want of a better way of putting it, is not what motivates people to look at them as such figureheads and icons). Instead, the Obamas enter the White House in a culture not only of reality shows but superhero stories, where we deify regular people and their problems and watch them overcome the odds at the same time as bringing irregular people overcoming massive odds - and saving the day - down to "our level," all the while working through our issues about whether we're Jon and Kate with less kids or Tony Stark without the armor or somewhere in between. With that mindset at work, who wouldn't want to know as much about the Leader Of The Free World And Those Whom He Loves The Most? It's perfect synergy!
(And, because of that, too, it's not enough for Obama's family to be normal - they have to be flawed icons striving to save the day as well that we can sympathize with and dream of being, hence First Daughter and Bo Obama fighting alongside Lockheed, Lockjaw and Frog Thor. Otherwise, then where's the glamor? What's the point?)
Also, let's face it: Obama sells. Who knows if it's the "First Black President" historical aspect, the "He's Not George Bush" aspect, or genuine appreciation and belief in the message he was selling, but people want Obama, and with comics feeding into the pop cultural zeitgeist properly for the first time in years, it's no surprise that they've joined in the feeding frenzy, or been so successful doing so (All credit to Marvel and their Amazing Spider-Man cover for breaking into the mainstream and facilitating it in the way that they did; without that media coverage and that high-profile character match, Obama's comic presence would've been much more minor). For an industry that knows how to exploit success until it's dead, and how to turn everything into a franchise (More than one Hulk series? More than one Hulk? Really?), it shouldn't come as a surprise that someone realized that there was potential in exploiting more than one Obama at a time.
The question, perhaps, is whether this is all too much. The new comics have all been announced, but none have been released (Save the Michelle bio, which was a moderate success); no-one knows if there is genuine consumer interest to match the headlines, and - to be honest - I doubt that there is. We've had years of The West Wing to give us more mundane (but, arguably, better written) versions of behind the scenes at the White House storylines, after all, and Ex Machina has pretty successfully taken the role of Fictional Superpowered Political Book for a few years now. For someone to really work hard to exploit Sasha and Malia, they'd have to actually feature Sasha and Malia themselves, not Tasha and another fictionsuit analog; otherwise, we're being sold another Chasing Liberty.
I wonder if I can convince DC to let Sasha join the Teen Titans and start up a romance with Static...?