You may be wondering exactly what Sarah Palin's personal policies are, ahead of tonight's Vice Presidential Debate, and we're happy to help you with that: Apparently, she's anti-witch... or, at least, that's the message that we get from this cover from the October issue of the revived Tales From The Crypt. And, as this year's US Presidential election nears, this one previously non-partisan genre staple's move into editorializing against the Republican ticket is only one way in which comics are trying to get in on the action.
Palin is being shown as a Hockey Mom out to return to the infamous McCarthyist censorship of the 1950s (The cover refers to an editorial by the daughter of Crypt creator, William Gaines, where she refers to the rumors of Palin's interest in book-banning; well, it is Banned Books Week, after all). Meanwhile, fan-favorite artist Alex Ross has already portrayed Barack Obama as Superman in a painting that premiered at this summer's San Diego Comic-Con, and Image Comics' superhero The Savage Dragon spent his most recent cover endorsing Obama as well (A move that has led to the series' most successful issue in years, saleswise). Some feel that such bias isn't contained to op-ed pieces like those, however; Conservative comic critic Augie DeBlieck Jr. was unimpressed with IDW's two presidential biographies in their Presidential Materials series:
In the end, the "Obama" comic is a nice piece of campaign literature for the Democrat candidate. The "McCain" comic is an indictment, something to be cherished by the Obama fans... I'm not screaming media bias here, by any means. I just think they had two different writers create two different comics. They didn't attempt to make sure the stories were "fair and balanced." They just wanted general biographies that could be fact-checked appropriately. McCain's is so much longer and so much more storied (both good and bad) that his biographer had more to pick and choose from. Obama's biographer could just follow the same short and sweet message that we've been hearing about through the candidate's two books. It makes for a simpler message to convey. None of it is factually inaccurate. It's all in the presentation of those facts, and which ones are used and which ones are omitted. Emphasis is everything.
So, is it just that the comic industry - like, if certain political figures are to be believed every other facet of the media - is just naturally biased towards Obama? We asked DeBlieck whether he thought that this was a case of genuine passion, or a cynical attempt to ride the political zeitgeist and seem relevant:
It's a bit of both. The comics industry can't help itself. It is, from a creator and publisher level, predominately liberal. That's well established. The fact that they have a Democratic candidate as media friendly as Senator Obama just means they can try to leverage it. It's a bandwagon they're all too happy to jump on. (See, for another example, presidential candidate Bill Clinton showing up at Superman's funeral in 1992.) Let's put it this way: If Ronald Reagan came back from the dead tomorrow and cured cancer, you wouldn't see him glorified on a "Tales from the Crypt" comic cover.
Writer Sarah Grace McCandless disagrees. She's one of the people behind the creation of Comics Industry for Obama. The organization - which aims to raise funds for Barack Obama's campaign as well as becoming a network of comic creators supporting the Democratic Party's candidate - is by far the highest profile example so far of the industry not only politicizing itself but also trying to mobilize its audience into doing the same thing, but that has more to do with personal beliefs than any attempt to be cool, she says:
I can tell you off the bat that my personal support for Obama has zero to do with bandwagon motivations, nor does it have anything to with whether or not the comics industry as a whole is predominately liberal. I'm not aware of any research or polls that have been conducted to measure the political preferences of the comics industry, but I would guess that there are artists, writers, editors, publishers, retailers, fans and the like on both ends of the spectrum.
(In an interview with Newsarama, McCandless explained that the organization was inspired by similar efforts like Artists for Hope and the Manifest Hope auctions.) One attempt to include voices from both sides of that spectrum has been DC Comics' topical series DC Universe: Decisions, which attempts to be fair and balanced by putting together the liberal Judd Winick and the conservative Bill Willingham to co-write a story in which your favorite superheroes start endorsing (fictional) politicians in order to save the world, or something. The resulting comic is fun enough, but ultimately too bland to entertain enough that it wipes away the feeling of pandering to a (possibly fictional) new political potential audience. Of course, Decisions is just following in the footsteps of the highly successful but equally-politically-confused Civil War from Marvel, keeping alive a grand tradition of naive political lip-service from four-color funnies that's seen Superman help JFK make America a fitter place and Captain America socking Hitler on the jaw. Perhaps this latest burst of political activism from the comic industry is simply taking that proud history one step further — going from subtext to text, commentary to endorsement — due less to a desire to sell out to an increasingly dynamic political landscape filled with characters who have captured the public's attention than the simple, laudable desire to engage with it. Or perhaps someone's just trying to tell you that Sarah Palin really does just like to hunt witches from the 1950s. Tales From The Crypt Vs. Sarah Palin [Blog@Newsarama], Comics Industry for Obama [MySpace]