So far in 2009, the President of the United States has been sworn in, made moves to close the prison at Guantanamo Bay, oversaw the bankruptcy of two auto giants, met Spider-Man, went on a Barbarian rampage, fired a laser rifle with Youngblood, and fended off an alien invasion.
Well, okay…maybe some of those only happened in comic books, but even in the fictional world of four-color heroes, Barack Obama has proven to be the most popular U.S. president in decades.
The Obama train roles on in comics shops this August as the President helps fight off a Deadite attack in Dynamite Entertainment’s “Army of Darkness: Ash Saves Obama.” And if you’re thinking the teaming of the President of the United States and Sam Raimi & Bruce Campbell’s snarky cult hero sounds silly….well, that’s kind of the point.
“I totally poke fun at the ‘Obama Effect,'” series writer Elliott Serrano told CBR. “And not only that, but all the other trends that have occurred in comics over the decades. This whole thing with Obama-mania is not the first time a trend has hit comics. In fact, I can think of several just within the past few years. So hey, why not take some shots at them just as I’m taking shots at myself? Spoiler alert: Obama will be given adamantium claws and appear in just about every book Dynamite publishes! You heard it here first, folks!”
“But that’s just window dressing on the house,” Serrano continued. “In the end, this is an Army of Darkness story that has all the ingredients that AoD fans will enjoy: action, humor, deadites and Ash getting the crap kicked out of him.”
Serrano was quick to note how the challenge of including a standing president in his series came with a certain kind of burden, especially considering today’s glut of Obama comic book product. “Honestly, I had – and still have – a bit of apprehension that this was/is a story involving one of the most popular Presidents since John Kennedy. Having Obama in your comic has both its advantages and its drawbacks. The advantage being that he gets your book more attention, especially in the mainstream media. The drawback is that you can set off a cry of ‘What? AGAIN!?’ throughout Fanboy Nation, who will automatically dismiss the book as another make-a-quick-buck sort of stunt.
“But, Joe Rybandt, my editor at Dynamite Entertainment, expressed confidence that I could tell a good story using our current president in the AoD universe; one that was faithful to the spirit of the ‘Army of Darkness’ title and yet didn’t push the readers’ suspension of disbelief too much – as if that were possible for an AoD story. In the end, I keep reminding myself that I’m not trying to draft the Geneva Accords, just craft an entertaining narrative.”
That narrative takes Obama and Ash to a comics convention in the heart of the clef-chinned hero’s hometown of Detroit, which brings a slew of fun all its own. “Real AoD fans know that it’s not that big of a stretch to have Ash at a comic convention, since they would remember that scene in the film where he gets the chemistry books out of the trunk of his car and we see that he also has copies of ‘Dark Horse Presents’ in there as well. So, yes folks, ASH IS A FANBOY! ” Serrano explained. “But for the purposes of this story arc, he’s a fanboy-in-denial. When he first arrives at the ‘Detroit City Comic Con,’ he carries himself with a ‘too cool for school’ attitude that I quickly dissuade him of as the story progresses. With any AoD story, you have to ask yourself, ‘How is Ash going to be tortured in this time?’ As the Deadite curse starts making itself known and taking shots at our favorite Chosen One, Ash goes through a series of humiliations that only total evil can inflict.”
Joining Serrano on the series will be previous “AoD” penciler Ariel Padilla, who the writer described as “no slouch” when it comes to action and humor. “I tried to write my set-pieces to let him have fun with it.”
The book also includes covers from “Amazing Spider-Man” artist Todd Nauck, who drew the bestselling issue that featured Barack Obama. “True story: I didn’t know that Todd was doing the covers to the miniseries until I saw the cover to #1 on CBR! Seriously! That’s just Joe’s way of toying with me,” laughed Serrano. “As for collaborating with Todd, a restraining order keeps me from actually speaking with him (just kidding!), so my scripts include my cover suggestions and Joe passes them on to Todd. Todd is welcome to use them, or come up with something better, which he most certainly does.”
Long term, the four-issue miniseries will swing across a few different levels, both in tone and story, as Serrano plans on taking the President into some directions even the most ardent AoD fans might not expect. “It’s a challenge, of course, because we’re not just talking about the undead coming to life, but this irreverent tone that all AoD stories tend to have,” the writer said. “How much will a reader accept Obama doing a Three Stooges bit with Ash, or better yet, Obama becoming a deadite! You have to consider both the tone of the story and the dignity of the characters…not that Ash has any, but you get what I mean. In the end, I think I struck a fair balance with the plot and situations I put everyone in.
“If this were a one-shot, it would focus on the world of comics and fanboys colliding with the evil dead, but since it’s a four-issue mini-series, I get to expand on that for sure. Now I get to explore the theme of having an obsession and how sometimes we let our obsessions take over our lives. And it’s not just comic books. It can be money, fame, power, any of those things. The Necronomicon, or at least the version of it that we see in this story, feeds on obsession. So some characters will be affected differently than others, just depending on how consumed they are by their obsessions.
“I also get to poke fun at the ‘team-up/crossover’ scenario. Ash meets some characters along the way that you normally wouldn’t see in an AoD story. I thought ‘what the hell, people are getting all uppity about him meeting Obama? Why not have him meet some other unlikely characters as well?’ And wait till they see who else he meets!'”