Every four years, the entire United States of America (and heck, most of the rest of the world, as well) turns their attention to the election that decides the next President of the United States of America. It is practically an all-encompassing event, as there is nowhere that you can go to escape discussion of the election. With so much attention paid to the event, it’s unsurprising that other areas of popular culture have tried to latch on to the election coverage, as well. Numerous comedians have run presidential campaigns to get attention, from radio stars like Gracie Allen to TV stars like Dick Gregory. Naturally, the world of comics made sure to get in on the action, as well.
The very first comic character to run for president was Augustus Mutt, from the popular comic strip “Mutt and Jeff” by Bud Fisher, which was one of the very first comic strips in the United States. Mutt ran for president in 1928. He would be the first of many comic strip candidates, with some of the more famous examples being Pogo from Walt Kelly’s “Pogo” (who ran for President every four years between 1952 and 1980), Snoopy from Charles Schulz’s “Peanuts” (who ran in 1968) and Bill the Cat from Berkeley Breathed’s “Bloom County” (who ran in 1984 and 1988). It would not take long for comic books to also get in on the action. Here are 16 notable comic book characters that ran for president in their respective comic book universes.
“Prez” was a fascinating, short-lived comic book series from DC Comics created by Joe Simon and Jerry Grandenetti about Prez Rickard, the first teenage President of the United States, as the United States government had passed a Constitutional amendment lowering the eligibility for President to just 18 years of age. Prez was chosen by the political opportunist, Boss Smiley, but Prez struck out on his own and became his own man. He even named his mother his Vice President. Prez had to deal with a lot of strange problems during his presidency, but the biggest problem was low sales, as the series was canceled after four issues. Recently during its DC You initiative, DC Comics put out a new “Prez” series by Mark Russell and Ben Caldwell, now starring a young woman named Beth Ross, who ended up getting elected via Twitter in the year 2036. Her Vice President? None other than Prez Rickard.
15. Howard the Duck
The first established comic book character to run for president was Steve Gerber’s Howard the Duck, who found himself the improbable candidate for the new third party, the All-Night Party, in 1976’s “Howard the Duck” #7 (by Gerber and Gene Colan). Howard ran on a campaign of reform and truth-telling. He was a divisive candidate, with 30% of the people willing to vote for him while 48% of the people wanted to see him assassinated (and Howard did have to avoid more than a few assassination attempts). Howard was ultimately done in by a sex scandal in “Howard the Duck” #8, but the campaign overall garnered a great deal of attention. Gerber even produced campaign buttons that did a nice bit of business at the time.
The Squadron Sinister were introduced as essentially evil analogues of the Justice League, with Hyperion being the evil Superman, Doctor Spectrum the evil Green Lantern, Whizzer the evil Flash and Nighthawk the evil Batman. Nighthawk eventually reformed and became a member of the Defenders. However, later on Marvel then introduced another Squadron, the heroic Squadron Supreme, with all of the same Justice League analogues, just as heroes. So there were two heroic Nighthawks, both named Kyle Richmond in their secret identity. The heroic Squadron were noteworthy in that they kept on getting mind-controlled by bad guys. That was the case in 1982’s “Defenders” #112 (by J.M. DeMatteis, Don Perlin and Mike Gustovich), where we learn that Nighthawk retired as a superhero and instead became a politician and even ended up elected President on the Squadron’s world — where he was promptly brainwashed by the evil Over-Mind and turned on the rest of the Squadron. Hyperion came to the main Marvel Earth to enlist the help of the Defenders, who saved the Squadron’s world from Over-Mind. Richmond eventually resigned as President.
13. Walter “Wally” Sheridan
One of the major characters in Jean Van Hamme and William Vance’s classic Belgian comic book series, “XIII,” was Walter “Wally” Sheridan, whose brother was the president that was allegedly assassinated by the star of the comic, the amnesiac operative known only by the tattoo on his collarbone, XIII. Sheridan is elected in the series, and he assisted XIII in exposing the mysterious organization known as XX, who were responsible for the murder of Sheridan’s brother. However, in the second set of “XIII” comics, we learn that the head of XX was actually Sheridan himself, who orchestrated the murder of his own brother to set up his rise to power. He exposed his own organization because he believed that the power of the Presidency outweighed the power of XX, plus the secrecy of the group would keep his identity hidden. Sheridan then then became the main antagonist of the series from that point forward, using the office of the Presidency to strike at XIII.
12. Robert Redford
The political world of Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons’ “Watchmen” was a lot different than our own. The President of the United States in 1986 was still somehow Richard Nixon. At the end of the story, Rorschach is killed because he cannot keep quiet about what Ozymandias did to “save” the world, faking an alien invasion so that the United States and the Soviet Union would stand united against this otherworldly threat. However, at the end of the book, we discovered that Rorschach had mailed out his journal to a newspaper before he left for his final confrontation with Ozymandias. The book ends with a low level newspaper employee needing to fill a two-page column (the original column was anti-Soviet, so now had to be pulled) and was about to pick up Rorschach’s journal from the mail pile. Before he picked up the journal, however, he suggested doing a column about Robert Redford running for President in 1988. His boss was aghast at the absurdity of a “cowboy actor” running for President. This, of course, was a shot at then-current U.S. President Ronald Reagan, a former film actor who had done his fair share of Westerns.
The main antagonist of the New Universe title “DP7” (by Mark Gruenwald and Paul Ryan) was Philip Nolan Voigt, also known as Overshadow. Voigt was one of the most powerful beings on Earth due to being closer to the mysterious “White Event” than everyone else. He gained the ability to adopt the power of any paranormal being he encountered, only with greater powers than the other person. So if he encountered a super-strong person, he would become stronger than that person. He formed the Clinic for Paranormal Research, with the intent of forming his own super-powered army. Seven of the individuals at the clinic escaped, they became the stars of the comic book, with Voigt continuing to try to hunt them down. Eventually, it seemed like they killed him in battle, but he showed up a year or so later, now running for the Presidency of the United States. He was elected and played a major role in the final events of the New Universe. His name is often misspelled, even in the comic itself, as Voight.
10. Etrigan the Demon
In 1992, Dwayne McDuffie, Val Semeiks and Karl Kesel delivered a four-part piece of political satire in “The Demon” #26-29, where Etrigan the Demon decided to run for President. At first, his campaign was considered a joke, but eventually people found his abrasive approach refreshing. Etrigan was not hiding who he was, he was clearly evil but he copped to his evilness. An assassination attempt by a religious zealot (not pleased with the idea of an actual demon from Hell trying to become President) led to souring popularity. Superman got involved and rumors surfaced that Superman would be Etrigan’s Vice President. When Superman refused to comment, Etrigan made the astute observation that things like him becoming President occur when good men don’t get involved. In the end, he is stopped by being transformed back into Jason Blood, who then promptly dropped out of the race. In the end, though, the rhyming demon warned Superman, “I offer this tidbit, to add to your fears: the lessons I’ve learned I’ll apply in four years. The problem I pose YOU can’t possibly fix. I’m here to serve notice: I’ll be back in ’96!”
9. Graydon Creed
A major plotline in the “X-Men” series of titles in 1996 was the campaign of Graydon Creed for the Presidency. Creed was the human-born son of Sabretooth and Mystique. His hatred for his parents led to a general hatred for mutants and he used anti-mutant hysteria to help gain support for his candidacy among the public. He preyed upon their fear of homo superior. The X-Men placed two of their members, Cannonball and Iceman, undercover in Creed’s organization. They discovered that his plans after being elected involved bringing about the events that would lead to the dystopian future of “Days of Future Past.” Iceman had to leave when his father, whom Iceman had always known to be an anti-mutant bigot himself, was attacked after protesting Creed’s policies. In the end, Creed was assassinated before he could be elected. The identity of the assassin was a long-running mystery, with it eventually being revealed that it was his own mother, Mystique, who did the deed.
The primary antagonist of Warren Ellis and Darick Robertson’s classic series “Transmetropolitan” was Gary Callahan, the politician known as “Smiler” due to his, well, propensity to smile a lot. At first, Spider Jerusalem begrudgingly threw his support to Smiler, considering him at least an improvement over the Nixon-esque President at the start of the series known as “The Beast.” However, Spider is proven wrong as Smiler turned out to be a much worse President. Smiler was a sadist who detested the American people, but craved the power to control and oppress them. Spider did his best to expose Smiler, which led to Smiler using more and more aggressive tactics against Spider as the series went on. Smiler was not shy about using lethal approaches to problems. One of his most popular techniques whenever his popularity faded was to have someone close to him killed to garner sympathy. At the end of the series, Spider succeeded in exposing Smiler’s corruption and Smiler was set to actually face real justice.
7. Lex Luthor
Probably the most famous fictional United States President in comic books was Lex Luthor, whose campaign for the Presidency was a major storyline in the Superman titles of 2000. Luthor helped restore Gotham City to its former status following the devastating earthquake that had let to Gotham City being cut off from the rest of the United States. Luthor used that publicity to begin his run for President. He twisted the knife on Superman by selecting Clark Kent’s best friend growing up, Pete Ross, as his running mate. Luthor ultimately was elected, and had an early triumph when he helped coordinate the defense of the world against the invasion by Imperiex in the “Our Worlds at War” crossover. Ultimately, Luthor fell from grace due to his obsession with destroying Superman, as he arrogantly confessed to his many crimes, not knowing that Batman would record and broadcast the confession to the world. Luthor ended up not even finishing a single term in office.
6. Robert Kelly
One of the most famous anti-mutant politicians was Senator Robert Kelly, whose assassination by the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants was the impetus for the implementation of the policies that led to the future seen in “Days of Future Past.” The X-Men saved his life, but he remained staunchly opposed to mutants. While opposed to mutants, Kelly was not portrayed as an outright bigot. When his wife was killed in a battle between the X-Men and the Master Mold, Kelly’s views grew even harsher. However, when he ran for President in 2000 (like Creed, he campaigned on an anti-mutant platform), the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants tried to kill him again. This time, his life was saved by former Brotherhood member, Pyro, who was dying of the Legacy virus. Pyro’s sacrifice opened Kelly’s eyes and after debating with the X-Men member known as Cable, Kelly decided to openly denounce his former positions. Tragically, he was then murdered by one of his own supporters, disgusted at Kelly for “betraying” their ideals. As he died, he asked Cable not to judge humanity too harshly. This marked the end of Chris Claremont’s second run on “X-Men” and boy, was it depressing.
5. Savage Dragon
In 2004, Erik Larsen came up with a plotline for his “Savage Dragon” comic book series where a corrupt politician, Ronald Winston Urass, began pushing Dragon as a write-in candidate for President against George W. Bush and John Kerry. Dragon intentionally kept himself out of the campaign, which irritated his wife, Jennifer, as she felt that he should vocal in his opposition to the campaign instead of just silently ignoring it. Even after a George Bush impostor attacked Dragon, Dragon remained silent. Urass then created a Dragon robot to campaign for the job. When the election results came in, Dragon was the winner! As Dragon debated whether to even accept the job, it was ultimately revealed that Urass had fraudulently manipulated the system and the votes for Dragon were thrown out by the Supreme Court. Dragon later got involved in Presidential politics again in 2008 when he publicly endorsed Barack Obama for President.
4. Arcadia Alvarado
The short-lived Vertigo series “Saucer Country,” by Paul Cornell and Ryan Kelly, followed the campaign of New Mexico Governor Arcadia Alvarado as she ran for President of the United States. The catch was that Arcadia believed that she was abducted by aliens and therefore, her run for the White House was driven in part by her desire to expose the truth of her alien encounter and to help protect the United States from the aliens. So the main narrative of the series was Arcadia and her staff trying to determine what really happened to her while keeping it quiet as she runs for President (and still has to govern New Mexico, as well — not to mention keep an eye on her alcoholic ex-husband). Just recently, it was announced that the series will continue in 2017 at IDW Publishing, now called “Saucer State,” and will depict now President Alvarado as she pursues her alien agenda.
3. Jack Northworthy
Jack Northworthy is the star of Sam Humphries and Tommy Patterson’s Image Comics series “Citizen Jack,” about a pathetic jerk from Minnesota who has his own personal demon — a demon that will do whatever it takes to get Jack elected as President of the United States. Despite being a foul creature, Jack somehow struck a chord with the American people. His campaign began as a bit of a joke, but Jack’s willingness to speak his mind and say all the things that no one else would bother voicing made him very popular. He eventually wins the primary and goes on to win the White House, despite admitting to murdering his own father! The American people responded well to the news as, heck, who hasn’t wanted to murder their father, right? The initial series ends with Jack in the White House, but his demon is really in control, and he plans on using this to help him win control of Hell itself.
Marvel’s current series, “Vote Loki,” by Christopher Hastings and Langdon Foss, is a satirical look at American politics that is very reminiscence to the aforementioned Demon storyline from 1992, with Thor’s evil sibling, Loki, running for the Presidency through a campaign that embraces his evil nature. His campaign began as a joke, but he knew that all he needed to do was get a foot into the door and then his charming ways would be able to manipulate the people into seeing him as more than just a joke. His sacrificial rites? Religious freedom! Him being a “god”? Separation of Church and State! He is being opposed by a reporter who got involved in the campaign when she wrote a piece tearing Loki’s campaign apart, but he made it so that the headline of the piece was an endorsement, and the public are too dumb to look past the headline. The series is ongoing, so we won’t know for some time how Loki’s plans turn out. It’s been a fun campaign so far.
The latest comic book character to enter the Presidential arena hasn’t actually entered just yet, as Dynamite’s “Army of Darkness: Ash for President” one-shot debuts in August. It is written by Elliott Serrano and drawn by Diego Galindo. Serrano was the writer of the earlier Dynamite series, “Ash Saves Obama,” which mocked the extreme levels of merchandising that surrounded the initial election of President Obama. In this upcoming story, Ash Williams receives a warning from the Necronomicon Ex Mortis that leads him to a psychic, who tells him about The Great Darkness, an evil force that threatens not just humanity but also the demon world, as well. The only way Ash can stop The Great Darkness, as it turns out, is to run for President! While the previous series was about the merchandising of the Presidency, this one turns its satirical eye on all the crazy promises that it seems that politicians seem to make when they are running for office.
Who gets your vote as the best comic book Presidential candidate?
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