10 October 2009

Comics Industry Applauds as Obama Wins Nobel Peace Prize Friday

Barack Obama is not only President of The United States. He's a staunch supporter of the comics industry, reportedly owning a complete collection of Conan The Barbarian comic books, and as of Friday morning, he's also the recipient of the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize.
"This award is not simply about my administration," Obama said after being surprised when he first learned of the news yesterday morning, of which he said he was "surprised and deeply humbled."
He went on to say that the award "must be shared" with everyone who strives "for justice and dignity."
To the comic book industry, its writers, artists, publishers, and its legion of loyal fans, Obama has already become an icon unlike no other US President in its seventy-two year history.
Obama's publicly acknowledged interest in comic books such as Conan has earned him the affectionate nickname 'Geek-In-Chief' as well as spawned several comic book spoofs (like Devils Due Publishing's Barack The Barbarian) since he took office over nine months ago.
The President has also made several appearances in the best-selling superhero titles of the past year, like DC Comics' Final Crisis Issue #7, where writer Grant Morrison (writing prior to the 2008 November elections) prophetically portrays Obama as a US President on a parallel Earth who also secretly happens to be that Earth's version of Superman.
On this earth, Obama's most popular comic book appearance came in in a stand-alone backstory featured in January's Issue #583 of Marvel Comic's Amazing Spider-Man. In the short tale, Spidey (covering the President's inaugural speech for the Daily Bugle newspaper) gets involved in the action when an evil shapeshifter tries to take Obama's place. The President challenges the impostor to a game of hoops, and with Spider-Man's help, proves his real identity.
Marvel's single issue of Amazing Spider-Man may also prove to be among the best, if not the best-selling single comic book of the year. Publicized in newspapers in the US and abroad, the comic was also the talk of news anchors, political pundits, and even of late-night talk show hosts like Jay Leno of NBC's The Tonight Show.
The publicity resulted with the comic book selling out at the distributor level, leaving many comics retailers unable to secure first printings of the regular title. Since then, Amazing Spider-Man #583 has been reprinted four times to date, with the first printing now being valued upwards of $80 to $100.
Aside from his super hero adventures, Obama as a real-life super hero has been featured in the biographical comics series Political Power from Oregon's Bluewater Comics. Bluewater's most popular true-to-life comics, their Female Force series, has featured prominent female politicians, including Hilary Clinton, Sarah Palin, and the President's wife, First Lady Michelle Obama. I'll be blogging exclusively on Bluewater's impact with their biograhical comics next week, so stay tuned.
On the one hand, Obama's presence in comic books and his popularity with the comics industry at large is understandable as he himself is a comics fan. But on the other hand, and as evidenced by the Nobel Prize the President won Friday, Obama as quasi-superhero speaks volumes not just on how America views its newest President, but on America's need to view its President in this way, as a hero.
Even the Nobel Committee, with their award to Obama, validated the greater need for a hero on a global scale. With the President's nomination, the Nobel Committee made clear its desire to support the President's international peace-keeping efforts. Thorbjorn Jagland, chairman of the Nobel Prize committee, said the committee's decision to select Obama for the was "unanimous", and that it was reached with ease. Indeed, although all final nominations for Prize candidates had to have been postmarked no later than February 1st, 2009 -- just 12 days after Obama's inauguration -- the short amount of deliberation time obviously posed no problem for the committee to reach a decision.
But even the most iconic of heroes like Superman or Captain America have become the supreme targets of opposition. And, at least if super hero metaphors hold true, President Obama will also undoubtedly face similar trials from his opponents as his administration prepares for its second year this January.
As if to support that assertion, one CNN report yesterday quoted a top Republican from George W. Bush's administration who told reporters that Obama's award was, in truth, "a gift to the right" and that, in time, the Peace Prize would "backfire" on the Obama White House.
To me -- as a writer, a storyteller, and a comic book "expert" of sorts -- this statement, appearing at the end of the CNN news story, seems dramatically perfect as well as a source of concern.
A concern of what, I'm not sure. But I'll go to bed thinking about Barack Obama, Barack The Barbarian and the American President Super Hero, and of the challenges and villains that surely await him when next month's new issue finally hits the stands.
Amazing Spider-Man #583 (2009, Marvel Comics)
To see a video of Barack Obama's Nobel Prize
acceptance speech, go here.
Final Crisis #7 (2009, DC Comics)

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