Politics is one of those subjects that's taboo in mixed company.
But not in comics, apparently.
The political arena has become a boom for Bluewater Productions, the publisher whose biographical titles about real politicians have become a staple in the world of comics. Although the original success of the line seemed to be based on the buzz surrounding the 2008 election, Bluewater has continued to churn out new titles under the title "Political Power" even after the elections.
Now the company is refocusing its efforts in the genre, hiring a new editor for the line, getting more serious about the biographies themselves, and targeting media pundits like Bill O'Reilly, Glenn Beck and Rachel Maddow.
"For now, except for few exceptions, pundits are more well-known and have more influence than most politicians," said Jerome Maida, the comics journalist who recently took over the "Political Power" line. "This is true for both sides of the aisle. His own family might buy a comic about Chris Dodd, for example, but few others would. But Michael Moore would be of interest to both the masses and the people who receive our press releases. Same with the Republicans. John Boehner is the most powerful Republican in the House of Representatives, but most people don't know who he is. Somebody like Bill O'Reilly has more name recognition and arguably has more political influence right now."
Maida, who will be writing most of the biographical comics himself, said he's also making the comics more straight-laced by eliminating the "personal" approach taken by former writers on the line.
"I can guarantee you there will be no more authors inserting themselves in these bios or a 'narrator' for them," Maida said. "If you only have 22 pages to read about Hillary Clinton's life and you've paid to read about Hilary Clinton's life, guess what? You want to read about Hillary Clinton's life. You don't want two pages dedicated to her battle for universal health care and how it led to the GOP taking over Congress for the first time in 40 years while the author spends panel after panel talking about how her efforts sound good to him because he can't afford to see a doctor. Not to be rude, but who cares? People paid to read about Hillary, not the author."
"This stuff was thought to 'break up' the biographies, but the stories are only 22-26 pages. They shouldn't need any breaking up," Maida added, "and all it does it take space away from the featured subjects and cause unnecessary problems."
One of those problems came in May when Rush Limbaugh heard about his comic and ridiculed it on air for "taking liberties" -- all because of the author's "personal story" about his cat being inserted into the biography.
"It was 'broken up" by the author inserting himself into the story and talking about Limbaugh's cat and his cat," Maida said. "So when Limbaugh was on his radio show, talking to his 20 million listeners, he said...Bluewater had gotten the name of his cat wrong. That wasn't true. It was the author talking about his cat.
"So an opportunity was lost for some good buzz unnecessarily so," Maida said. "Never again."In fact, Maida's dream is to get the stories so accurate that he's given the opportunity to promote the comics on networks like Fox and MSNBC. "Anyone we feature, we offer to donate 10 percent to the charity of their choice," Maida said. "Shows like The O'Reilly Factor would give us more awareness to the general public, more cachet, more legitimacy and hopefully more sales. Maybe I can even get on Red Eye with Greg Gutfeld. That would be a lot of fun.
"I feel we've just scratched the surface sales-wise," he added. "I think if we can generate some mass media attention, these books can sell like gangbusters."
As the new editor of the line, Maida said he also wants to make sure "we tell substantive stories we can all be proud of." He said he has to touch upon the most substantive moments in the person's history, which isn't easy to do with so few pages.
"The unique challenge is fitting an extraordinary life full of accomplishment into 22-26 story pages in a comic, having it have universal appeal to the layman while also ringing true for those familiar with those we are featuring," he said. "I want them to be accessible to kids in school and someone who may pick up our trades in a library, while also being comprehensive and sophisticated enough to be taken seriously by those who know these subjects well. It's a tough balancing act."
Maida is also responsible for choosing the subjects covered by the comics, and admitted they've been "eclectic recently to say the least." He's hoping to one-day write comics about Ann Coulter, Keith Olbermann, Michael Moore and Michael Savage.
Of course, some new political heroes may emerge next month, and Maida will keep an eye on the popularity of the winning candidates in the media."This November, there will be many stars born," he said. "It will be like Christmas for me in terms of new people we can cover. Either Meg Whitman becomes a political rock star or Jerry Brown adds to his long, fascinating legacy in California. Either Sharron Angle becomes a star propelled by the Tea Party in Nevada or Harry Reid completes a comeback and stays one of the most powerful people in America."
Whatever party ends up winning, Maida said he's always fascinated by the subjects, whether he agrees with their politics or not.
"Researching them is always a blast and quite enlightening," Maida said. "Unless you are a hard-core fanatic on either side of the ideological spectrum, there is something to admire about each of these individuals."