Who would have expected the big surprise bestseller in the comics world this year would be a politician? It’s been a well-documented story for months that any comic book featuring the 44th president sells like hotcakes, but here’s the latest analysis, this time in a piece in the Wall Street Journal, of all places. Here’s a short excerpt on the history of this fad:
It started innocently enough. In September 2008, the independent publisher IDW put out comic-book biographies of the two presidential candidates. They were handsome and told in a straightforward manner. The issue about Mr. Obama was friendly toward the senator, but also clear-eyed. It described his use of marijuana and cocaine in high school and even included a section on the racialist musings of Jeremiah Wright and Mr. Obama’s consequent decision to join Trinity United Church of Christ. And since there was a companion book about Sen. John McCain, IDW wasn’t taking sides in the election.
A month later, another independent publisher, Image Comics, did take sides. In issue #137 of Savage Dragon, the titular character, a green-skinned, super-powered Chicago policeman, appears on the cover with a grinning Obama, proclaiming, “I’m Savage Dragon and I endorse Barack Obama for President of the United States!” Normally an obscure title, that issue of Savage Dragon sold out through four printings.
After the election, the new president put in a guest appearance in Amazing Spider-Man #583. The cover of the venerable series featured Obama in the foreground giving a big thumbs-up to Spidey. Released the week before the inauguration, the issue centered on Spider-Man defeating a plot to destroy Mr. Obama’s swearing in. After Spider-Man saves the day, the buffed-up president says, “Thanks partner” and favors him with a fist-bump. Amazing Spider-Man usually sells about 70,000 copies a month. The Obama issue went to five printings and sold over 350,000 copies, making it the best-selling regular series book in a decade.
Funny thing is, this is still going. Wizard even did a whole Obama issue. I’m weary of the commander-in-chief cameos, covers, etc. It had a bit of novelty at the beginning, I suppose, but it turned into a crass gimmick pretty fast, at least in my view.
– Geoff Boucher
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