If it’s one thing that everyone in the world can agree on, it’s that 2016 has been a crazy year for politics. Britain has voted for Brexit and the US Presidential Election has two of the most unpopular candidates ever to run for the White House. Donald Trump has insulted his way to the Republican nomination and Hilary Clinton had a serious challenge from a 74-year-old outsider to run on the Democratic ticket.
Despite politics being wacky at the moment, the world of comic books, as is often the case, continues to outdo real life. Some strange characters have held high office on the pages of our favorite funny books, from the corrupt, the stupid, the evil and the maniacal. With that in mind, let’s take a look at some of the worst politicians that comic books has to offer.
10. Richard Nixon (Watchmen)
In Alan Moore‘s seminal work “Watchmen,” Richard Nixon is a lot more successful and powerful than he was in real life. In “Watchmen,” superheroes have existed since 1938, their presence having ramifications on America and the rest of the world. The biggest was the accidental creation of the God-like being Doctor Manhattan, who turns America from superpower to hyperpower, as he is propped up as the West’s countermeasure against the Soviet Union’s nuclear weapons. Doctor Manhattan also helped propel President Nixon into an unassailable position when the president asked the omnipotent being to intervene in the Vietnam War.
That one action allows America to win the Vietnam War and annexes the southeast asian nation to become the 51st State. The military victory leads to Nixon winning the 1972 election on a landslide (with a little nudge from The Comedian, who helped cover up the Watergate Scandal). Nixon’s position allows him to change the constitution and become the country’s first four term president. However, Nixon was up a creek when Doctor Manhattan puts himself into exile, and America and the Soviet Union look like they are heading towards nuclear war. Nixon is low on this list because, despite his failings, he does show concern for the American people after Doctor Manhattan leaves and his advisors tell him about the impact of a potential nuclear strike.
9. J. Jonah Jameson (Spider-Man)
J. Jonah Jameson is best known as the editor-in-chief of the Daily Bugle, a position that normally gives someone a lot of political clout. But Jameson is not the shy, retreating type, and in 2009 he was elected Mayor of New York City. Jameson famously has a hatred for Spider-Man, of course. As mayor, he was able to turn his unending vitriolic smear campaign into active policy. Ignoring the advice of Captain America and The Avengers, Jameson sets up the Anti-Spider-Man Squad to hunt down the web-slinger throughout New York City.
This policy makes Jameson unpopular with the electorate because they see it as a waste of taxpayers’ money, made worse because he makes them work overtime to capture Spidey, no matter how many times the webslinger saves New York. As well as trying to hunt Spider-Man, Jameson also had a controversy bailing out his old newspaper, and during the “Ends of the Earth” story arc, he has to use his Anti-Spider-Man Squad to place New York under martial law. Tyranny is not a great look for any dictat… er… “mayor.”
8. Jennifer Brown (Y: The Last Man)
When we think of terrible fictional politicians, they are often associated with the right, so to ensure some political balance in this list, may we present a terrible comic book politician from the left. Jennifer Brown is a Democratic Congresswoman from Ohio in “Y: The Last Man” and the mother of the series’ protagonist Yorick Brown. In “Y: The Last Man,” a mysterious event kills all male mammals, except for a man and his monkey. During the crisis, Congresswoman Brown helps rebuild the government in Washington DC, a seemingly noble cause.
Her failing comes when she makes a deal with Alter Tse’elon, a hawkish Israeli general. Congresswoman Brown asks Alter to find her son, who was travelling through America with Agent 355 and Dr. Allison Mann, and bring him back to Washington. In return, Brown would help sneak Alter and an Israeli team of Special Forces into America. However, Alter has her own agenda, trying to capture Yorick because he is a valuable resource, which could be used to start a Cold War between America and Israel.
7. Adam Sutler (V for Vendetta)
Not all terrible comic politicians are Americans. Brits are also able to produce insane politicians (both real and fictional). In the world of “V for Vendetta,” Britain has survived World War III, but it comes at a cost: anarchy and environmental destruction. In this vacuum, a fascist party called Norsefire rises to power led by Adam Susan, who renames himself Adam Sutler, a portmanteau of Susan and Hitler. Under Sutler’s leadership, Britain becomes a dictatorship, ruled with an iron fist and fueled by a sophisticated and sycophantic state apparatus.
His civilians are so poor that teenage girls try to prostitute themselves to survive, Scotland has turned into a war zone and, early in his regime, non-whites, non-Christians, homosexuals and political dissidents are rounded up and experimented upon, including the mysterious figure known only as “V.” Sutler is shown to be incapable at handling a crisis after V disrupts his regime and equally loses his grip on reality. He may be portrayed more sympathetically in the graphic novel then in the movie, but no matter what medium he appears in, he is definitely a crooked arrow.
6. The President (The Dark Knight Returns)
The unnamed President in “The Dark Knight Returns,” who looks a whole lot like Ronald Reagan, is more of a dimwit than outright malicious or power hungry. That doesn’t stop him from being a terrible politician and leader, though. The President plays a background role in Frank Miller‘s classic work, ordering Superman to take part in a conflict on the island of Corto Maltese to support the government against the Soviet-backed rebels.
This action leads to the Soviet Union launching a nuclear missile toward the United States, and even-though Superman is able to divert the missile, the resulting EMP knocks out all electricity in the nation. It was during this blackout that Gotham falls into anarchy, and Batman and the Man of Steel have their most gruelling battle ever. So while you could argue he set the stage for one of the best comic book fights in history, you still wouldn’t want to live under his rule.
5. Sir Jim Jaspers (Captain Britain)
Another nefarious fictional British politician is Sir Jim Jaspers from Marvel Comics. Sir Jaspers — also known as Mad Jim — was created for Marvel’s British Imprint, first appearing as a villain against Captain Britain and then against the X-Men. In the Captain Britain story, Jaspers ran as a Conservative and wins a landslide victory, doing so with an anti-superhero manifesto so he can take out any threat to his scheme to alter reality.
Jaspers orders S.T.R.I.K.E. (Special Tactical Reserve for International Key Emergencies), a British intelligence agency, to arrest all British superheroes, with Jaspers using his powers of reality manipulation upon London. Incredibly, Jaspers’ hunger for power was positively pan-dimensional, with multiple versions of the villain creating bids for power that almost always involved the (often very successful) murder of superheroes, either via his trusty murderbot, The Fury, or simply through his immense powers. Just think what would happen if a certain American politician had that kind of ability. We’d all be in serious trouble (well, more than we are already).
4. Robert Kelly (X-Men)
Robert Kelly is one of the most well known politicians in Marvel Comics history, most often associated with the “X-Men” series. First appearing in issue 135 of “Uncanny X-Men,” Kelly is a Senator from an unnamed state, though the movies suggest he’s a Republican representing Kansas. Kelly stands on an anti-mutant platform, which calls for Mutant Registration. His assassination is the spark that causes the events of the “Days of Future Past” storyline, where the Sentinels take over America. Even after the X-Men saved his life, Kelly still supports the Sentinels program. After his initial hostilities towards mutants, however, Senator Kelly’s opinions eventually begin to soften towards Mutants. This may seem noble, but in American politics he would have been painted as a flip-flopper. Unfortunately for him, his change in position leads to Kelly being assassinated by an anti-mutant activist, Alan Lewis.
In the ’90s animated series, Kelly is elected President of the United States, running on an anti-mutant ticket, but changes his stance after the X-Men save his life, making him a very unpopular leader early in his administration. “X-Men” writer Chris Claremont based Kelly on the real-life senator Joseph McCarthy, who of course became famous for his anti-Communist witch hunt; this representation of the character found its way to the first “X-Men” film in 2000. FUN FACT: Kelly’s first scene in the movie, where he states he has a list of dangerous mutants, is a reference to McCarthy standing up in the Senate with a list of “communists” in America.
3. The Smiler (Transmetropolitan)
Gary Callahan, or The Smiler as he is also known, originally appears in the 13th issue of “Transmetropolitan” and is often considered the main antagonist in the series. Stuck with a permanent grin on his face, The Smiler wins a presidential election in the first story arc, defeating the Richard Nixon stand-in, The Beast, who only ever looked to gain political power. The series’ main character Spider Jerusalem supports The Smiler, seeing him as the lesser of two evils.
Unfortunately, The Smiler is even worse than The Beast, admitting in private to Spider that he hates people and only seeks political power because he wants to control and oppress the population. The Smiler uses the apparatus of the state to try and assassinate Spider. In fact, whenever his support dips, The Smiler has someone close to him killed to ensure loyalty from his followers. At the end of the series, Spider exposes The Smiler, which results in his arrest. In a fate befitting such a vile tyrant, his successor refuses to give him a presidential pardon.
2. Ethan Roark Sr. (Sin City)
In Frank Miller’s “Sin City,” the Roark family is shown to be the overarching group of antagonists in the series. One of them is Ethan Roark, who is the senator for the state and is so powerful that he could kill a cop in a hospital and the police wouldn’t arrest him. Senator Roark mainly appears in the fourth book, “That Yellow Bastard,” using his power and influence to protect his evil-to-the-core son. After Detective John Hartigan beats Roark Jr. to a bloody pulp and shoots off his manhood, Senator Roark does everything he can to humiliate the cop, fixing his angina so he can live longer and prolonging his suffering to try to break him.
Roark has Hartigan framed for his son’s crimes, locked in solitary confinement, and makes Hartigan confess to the crimes to gain parole, laughing at Hartigan at the hearing. Senator Roark also uses his wealth to allow his son to have his genitals back, which has a side effect of turning him into the titular “Yellow Bastard.” Because of the Roark family’s power and wealth in the state, Ethan is a senator for life, which is always a sure sign of a true dictator.
1. Lex Luthor (Superman)
Lex Luthor has been many things over the years, from a mad scientist who blames Superman for his hair loss to a Machiavellian industrialist. Obviously, as power hungry as he is, the logical trajectory for Lex was to become President of the United States. In DC Comics‘ “No Man’s Land” storyline, Lex comes to power after Gotham is destroyed, giving him an opportunity to seem like a benevolent leader by helping rebuild the city (as well as making a profit from the land deals). As the President, Lex frames Bruce Wayne for murder and allows an alien known as Imperiex to invade Earth, so he could look like the hero who led Earth’s defence in “Our Worlds at War.”
Actions he took to ensure victory in the war were dubious to say the least, and included giving Darkseid the alien monster Doomsday in exchange for weapons. The arc “Public Enemies” saw Lex’s inevitable (and inglorious) downfall. He offered a billion dollar bounty for the capture of Superman and even injects himself with the super-steroid Venom, which makes him super strong but also super-duper insane. With all of this as a legacy, it’s no surprise that his administration only lasted three years.
Who do you think are the worst politicians in comic book history? Rock your vote in the comments!
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