Presidents in Comics: Some of the Notables

Presidents in Comics

Regular readers know that we recently commented on some of the most popular celebrity cameos in comics. Among the many celebs that we noted were various presidents of the United States. You may recall Ronald Reagan’s various appearances in Legends, Millennium, The Dark Knight Returns, and Booster Gold (wherein he named the lead). If you've been around comics for a while, you probably remember guest shots by The Clintons, especially at Superman's funeral. It can even be stated that the next president has appeared in comics already, given the McCain and Obama specials from IDW - not to mention Stephen Colbert appearing in the upcoming Amazing Spider-Man #573.

Join us now as we take a look back at a few of the other memorable Commanders-in-Chief that have graced the panels, both real and imaginary.

Lex Luthor: In my book, you have to start with Lex. Superman’s greatest enemy secured the top spot in Lex 2000 #1 on the back of the “No Man’s Land/Cataclysm” event, and used his position to bedevil the heroes of the DCU, not to mention fill the Cabinet with a host of familiar faces from the DC Universe, such as Jefferson Pierce (Black Lightning) as the Secretary of Education. Luthor was in office during the events of “Our Worlds at War”; while the story that led to his removal from office climaxed in the “Public Enemies” arc of Superman/Batman. Luthor was followed in office by his vice-president, and Superman’s old friend, Pete Ross.

Kyle Richmond: This one’s actually fairly complicated. Kyle Richmond is Nighthawk in the mainstream Marvel Universe (the good ole’ 616). He had a double on the world of the original Squadron Supreme, 712. It is with the double that we are primarily concerned. On his world, Richmond (an analog of sorts to Bruce Wayne) becomes a Senator, then President. Unfortunately, he becomes the victim of a plot involving the alien villains Overmind and Null, the Living Darkness. Brainwashed into thinking that he’s the 616 Richmond, he makes the journey to the 616. At the time, 616-Richmond was believed dead. His teammates, The Defenders, believed 712-Richmond to be theirs, and followed him back to the 712 universe. After defeating Overmind and Null, both teams learned the truth. What follows are the events of the classic Squadron Supreme mini-series, as Richmond opposes his team’s Utopia project (a project that includes behavior modification). Richmond and his own super-powered team clash with the Squadron, and he and many other heroes and villains are killed. The surviving Squadron members subsequently dismantle the project.

Richard Nixon: Nixon appeared in many comics, but perhaps none more memorably than in Watchmen . In Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons’ dystopian tale, Nixon is still president in 1985. How’d he manage that? The involvement of Dr. Manhattan in Vietnam turns the tide of that war, ending it in the mid-‘60s. It probably also helps that government-employed costumed-adventurer The Comedian is implied to have killed JFK, Woodward, and Bernstein. With term limits cast aside, Nixon is still in the Oval Office. He’s spooked out an impending nuclear exchange with Russia due to the machinations of Ozymandias. Speaking of alternate Nixons . . .

Number One from The Secret Empire: In a story that concluded in Captain America #175, Marvel stopped just short of an incredibly controversial finish. Recurring Marvel terrorist organization the Secret Empire had embarked on a plan of conquest under their newest leader, the anonymous Number One. Elements of the plan required the capturing of mutants (notably, several members of the X-Men and the Brotherhood) and using their energy to power a flying saucer. The endgame would be to feign an attack on the White House and then hold the world for nuclear ransom. Captain America and a group of allies that included the uncaptured X-Men and the Falcon took on the Empire and won. As Cap faced down Number One, the villain unmasked. Cap was horrified, and the villain took his own life. The intimation here is that Number One was actually sitting president Richard Nixon (who, at the time of publication, was mired in Watergate). Cap was so disillusioned after this that he temporarily took on the identity of Nomad.

Prez: Reminding everyone that lots of people were on drugs in the early ‘70s, Prez was DC Comics’ foray into the world of teen politics. That is, if a teenager suddenly became president due to a change in voting laws. Not many presidents fought vampires (though Teddy Roosevelt may have - Google it - he's had quite the fictional history) and people with the heads of smiley faces, but Prez did. The bizarre series only ran for four issues, but creators clearly have a fondness for the lead. He popped up in Supergirl #10 from 1974, and had a poignant pair of appearances in issue #54 of The Sandman and one-shot Vertigo Visions: Smells Like Teen President.

George W. Bush: Granted, there is some controversy over the extent that he appeared in the first run of The Authority, considering some Bush scenes were apparently redrawn. However, it does seem pretty clear that he was present for the concluding pages of Civil War #1. If you recall, he presided over the meeting wherein Iron Man, Reed Richards, and Yellowjacket (SKRULL!) promised to handle Captain America. Yeah, that went well. While we're talking of Marvel Comics, it should be noted that, generally speaking, and following Stan Lee's original view of the Marvel Universe, the President of the United States in the Marvel Universe has almost always been the real POTUS, something which, until recently, has kept his role small and most often, unseen. Of course, all bets are off if Colbert wins the election.

But little seen/barely heard's not quite the case with DC Comics, which leads us to perhaps the biggest role a President has played in comic books...

Franklin Delano Roosevelt: Though he didn't play an strong role in the formation originally, FDR has been retroactively spun back into playing key roles in the creation of both the Justice Society of America and the All-Star Sqaudron in DC Comics. It was Roosevelt who first summoned Flash and Green Lantern (and Batman, but not anymore - don't ask) in 1940 when he was informed that Hitler had acquired the Spear of Destiny. Heck, he actually was killed once - he got better (the Spectre pleaded with God) - in all of the super-powered attacks on the White House during the war years. Realizing that war in Europe was inevitable, Roosevelt suggest that the heroes remain together to protect the home font during the war. So yeah, FDR inspired the JSA, which then inspired Superman, who then inspired all of the modern age of DC heroes. That is, FDR is responsible for the DC Universe.

FDR's importance in the JSA's history is currently being touched upon again by Geoff Johns and Alex Ross in the ongoing Justice Society of America series with the introduction of Lance Corporal David Reid, FDR's great grandson, who has acquired superpowers due to an artifact. The JSA, recognizing the importance of FDR in their own history, has asked Reid to join.

One last addition - despite Marvel usually not having reali presidents interact with characters, FDR was the guy who gave Captain America his round shield, replacing his triangular version. The two met a few times over the years, too.

All right, citizens. That’s a quick glance at a few of the memorable - Kennedy (who met Superman and Superboy, oddly), Carter and others have been well represented over the years too. Do you have a favorite comic president or presidential appearance? Please discuss.

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