If you pause for a moment and look at the life of Barack Obama and his
ascension to the presidency of the United States, you bear witness to
moments that were uplifting and unprecedented. With no shortage of
colorful people in the form of allies, adversaries, and people on the
sidelines, Obama’s accomplishments have been transformative for his
race, his nation, and himself. Taking it all in is hard, but when you
try it seems almost… unreal.
Just like a comic book about Obama existing in sword & sorcery times, something called, say, Barack The Barbarian: Quest for the Treasure of Stimuli, perhaps.
But that comic is very real. Originating out of Obama’s home city by
way of publisher Devil’s Due, the ongoing series is a political satire
on the surface but as writer Larry Hama explains, it’s more of a
“character piece” in sword and sorcery times.
Although details are scarce, advance solicitations for the first issue
promise a story filled with familiar faces in a distant future where
technology is out but politics remain. The series features Obama as
well as Sorceress Hilaria, her “demi-god trickster husband” Biil, as
well as others that those who lived through the last presidential
election season might find familiar.
For more, we talked with scribe Larry Hama and DDP publisher Joshua Blaylock.
Newsarama: Larry, you’re best known for serious military-style writing with work on G.I. Joe and Wolverine. What led you to get involved with DDP’s Barack the Barbarian?
Larry Hama: Josh Blaylock called me and asked if I was interested in writing Obama The Barbarian. I said, "First off, you should change it to Barack the Barbarian, and second, I'm not interested in writing a Mad Magazine
style parody and that it would have to be more in line with the more
polemical stuff of Swift, Twain and Voltaire (not that I can pull off
anything like they could,) and third, that my own leanings are towards
Barack and that would be reflected in what I write-- and Josh said
NRAMA: And how would you describe your leanings towards Barack Obama?
LH: Well, I voted for him, and volunteered for the phone banks. I don't think he should let torturers slide, though.
NRAMA: Joshua, people may not know this, but DDP is based in
Obama’s home city of Chicago, Illinois. Did that play at all into your
decision to do this?
Joshua Blaylock: Not directly, but I think being a Chicago local
we've known about the President, and heard more about him, for a long
time now. There are newspaper articles with him dating back to the 90s
featuring him discussing the exact same kind of agendas he has now.
It's nice to see that his goals are genuine and not something just made
up for the campaign trail.
And, any chance to put Chicago into a comic book we usually do so. Mercy Sparx lives in Chicago (for now at least), and in a bizarre twist of affection we've also obliterated the city more than once. It was decimated in G.I. Joe: America's Elite, terrorized in Kore, and I'm pretty sure we roughed it up in a couple of other books too.
NRAMA: Have you followed much the various Barack Obama
appearances in comics, and if so, what do you think of the trend
leading into this?
LH: I haven't read any of them. I don't really read comics. I just look at the pictures.
NRAMA: Let’s wade into the comic. Plot-wise, what’s this story about?LH: Way in the future, after the Second Modern Ice Age, an old
hunter is passing on the legends of the past to his grandchildren
inside an igloo in Virginia. The facts about the distant murky past
have coalesced into legends and historical eras have been compressed
together and confused. Everything is infused with magic, heroic
destiny, and the drama of epic adventure. In other words, the old man
is making stuff up as he goes along to fill in the holes.
NRAMA: So how would you describe this Barack the Barbarian character?LH: Cool, conscientious, charismatic, contemplative, and cynosural.
NRAMA: Certainly. Who else will be in the book besides Barack the Barbarian?
LH: The despot Boosh and his evil vizier in their Elephant
Tower, the Old Warrior and his companion Red Sara, and various
tricksters, rogues, brigands, demi-mondes, barbermongers, thaumaturges,
rampallions, and demonic entities.
NRAMA: This goes well beyond standard political satire. What are you thinking when you write this story?
LH: I just think of it as sword and sorcery, only the characters
look really familiar. It's NOT a lot of hoo-ha and jokes. Also, I'm not
much of a plot person. I only care about the characters and making them
stand up and walk around and be themselves.
NRAMA: It seems this story has a bit of in-jokes such as the
“Maddowian Chronicles”, referencing MSNBC pundit Rachel Maddow. Will
there be much of this?
LH: That was the closest I could get to "Nemedian." Robert E.
Howard, J.R.R. Tolkien and H.P. Lovecraft all created fictional
"histories" to support their alternate universes. I can't string words
together with the flair of the aforementioned, nor do I possess their
attention to detail, but I do endeavor to prevent the deus ex machina
drop from descending from the flies.
NRAMA: I have to ask, where did the idea for this come from?
JB: I wanted to do a book a looong time ago about the
hypothetical first few months of the Obama administration (before it
was known if he'd be our President or not). When IDW beat us to the punch
with their biographies I figured it was over, plus I wasn't quite sure
if there'd be enough demand for it. When I saw those books on CNN and
everywhere else, I kicked myself in the nards really, really hard for
about a week. We missed the boat.
Then the cameos came. And again and again and again, they continued to show the demand. When the Spider-Man appearance
was announced, knowing the President's affection for that character, I
joked about his other favorite comic, and asked if they'd be doing a
cameo as well. That led to having Tim Seeley draw what was to be a
one-off gag poster with the Prez as a Frazetta like warrior with Dick
Cheney in the background. Then the gears started turning and Sam Wells
and I looked at each other and just said that this really needed to be
Haters can hate away, but I felt like there was a very unique chance here to do an actual political satire. It could be as crazy as we wanted it to be yet still say
something. I think Tim threw out the idea for hiring Larry, or maybe
just brought his name up in conversation and the light bulb went off.
But that was the clincher. We knew that would bring an element the book
needed to make it the real deal.
NRAMA: And what kind of response have you received on the local front to doing Barack The Barbarian?
JB: The press here has been huge. We not only had an article in The Chicago Tribune, but the third
page of the Saturday paper. It was about half of the page. That's what
really got the word going in the national and international press.
We've been contacting the local retailers making sure they're aware of
the PR we've gotten (like SnL), so they're not caught off guard with
people walking in off of the street.
I think we'll go drop off some copies to the 15 cop cars that are
stationed right outside the Obama house at all hours of the day.