As election day looms on the horizon, DC Comics makes a non-partisan bid for your vote with politically charged stories featuring some surprising characters.
"The Flintstones" #5 from Mark Russell and Steve Pugh sees Fred and Barney haunted by prehistoric war amidst a fraught election cycle. Meanwhile, Selina Kyle pussyfoots into the Gotham mayoral race in "Catwoman: Election Night" by Meredith Finch, Russell, and Shane Davis. That same special features the return of Beth Ross in her role as "Prez" in a new story from Russell and artist Ben Caldwell.
Both issues hit shelves this Wednesday, November 2, just less than a week ahead of the United States' Presidential election.
CBR: What’s important to Selina right now. Is she interested in justice? What informs her decisions?
Meredith Finch: Selina takes care of herself, always. In this issue, someone who’s had a postive impact on her life—and I don’t think there are many who have—is being threatened by the success of a mayoral candidate, should he be elected. Selina decides to do whatever it takes to protect that person. In the course of doing that, she uncovers more than anybody anticipates.
Tell us a bit about the Cobblepot platform and getting into the head of the Cobblepot speech writer. That’s either a really fun or really sinister scene -- or maybe both!
Finch: I’m a Canadian, so I sort of get to watch what’s going on in the American election scene with a bit less investment than I might have if I were American. I wanted to take the key points being set for by specific candidates and reflect those, make them as outrageous as I could. Penguin is an outrageous character and there are some outrageous things happening anyway. I wanted to reflect that because the worst war criminals in history have said outrageous things at time, quite publically. I didn’t want readers to look on Penguin in any way as a good guy in this.
In both the Catwoman story and the Flintstones story, history plays a prominent role. The ironies, the tipping points that inform so much of the future. Is history just a flat circle? Are we just trying to keep ahead of the past?
Finch: Definitely, I do feel like we tend to repeat history. It feels like even for ourselves, our personal history, you feel as if something’s resolved only to find you haven’t and end up repeating that. It’s a lesson learned constantly throughout one’s life. I tried to reflect that in this issue and in Selina, too. What’s authentic for her arc is that constant reminder not to trust people.
Mark Russell: As far as “The Flintstones” goes, that’s exactly what we’re seeing, history as a flat circle. The electorate seems to ignore the mistakes of the past in voting for leaders of the future. There are real consequences to that. Most of the policies being proposed, the rhetoric used in an election cycle has been used before. Very little of it is new, much of it recycled, rehashed, reworded. We don’t have to look very far in our past to see the consequences of this nationalist or militaristic rhetoric used to excite rallies in a campaign.
What was the realization, the eureka moment, that helped you understand these characters and their motivations, particularly Selina, Beth and the Flintstones ensemble?
Finch: I know it took me a bit to get into Selina’s head since she’s so different from Wonder Woman. I really tried to look at it in terms of what she wants, her motivations. It really does come down to protecting herself. At the end of the day I think that’s something we all can relate to and understand. It’s very difficult to let people in, and when you do let people into your life and do invest in them, you extend that circle of protection out to them. As a mom, I recognize that motherlike role in safeguarding someone from her past who did that for her. “You can’t protect yourself, so I’m gonna take care of you now.”
Russell: In terms of Beth’s motivations in the “Prez” portion of the issue, I think it’s about her realizing the limits of idealism. You have to be willing to win a battle when it presents itself to you, and that’s really what democracy is. Democracy is governing by compramise, governing by getting what you can today and getting something more tomorrow. That’s sort of the lesson she has to learn. Even in defeat there’s victories to be had. Sometimes you have to use your failures as an advantage in creating change where you can. For the Flintstones, I think the motivation is largely about the personal. Family. Wanting to create a home for you and the people you love. Even in something horrible like war, we are all the sum total of the tragedies that effect out lives. Even tragedy gives birth to our families and the things we really treasure in life.
Mark, is it difficult to write political pastiche more absurd than what’s already going on in the meat space, in actual reality?
Russell: Yeah, I’m constantly being outflanked by how crazy things really are. I feel, in a way, it’s been liberating though. Nothing I write is too crazy or too off-the-wall, too hyperbolic. All bets are off in 2016.
This chapter of Prez focuses on birth control and second ammendment issues. Is there anxiety in even approaching those issues, or in getting it right.
Russell: I didn’t have much anxiety in either sense. I’m kind of a loudmouth; I just say what I think. If there’s any anxiety, It’s probably on the part of DC or anybody publishing or buying my work. I think if I have any anxiety at all, it’s that maybe I’m not being blunt enough. I’m not being clear or forceful enough. Winston Churchill once said that you don’t use subtlety to make a point; you use a sledgehammer. That’s been my philosophy.
What do you say to those who suggest politics have no place in fiction, that they just want escapism?
Finch: I think that throughout history, what we do, part of the way we defuse intensity of our feelings politically is to put them into satire, put them into whatever the mainstream media type is today. I think that’s exactly what we’ve done. Certainly the “Catwoman” issue, while it’s got some political aspects to it, it’s also meant to be fun and hint at what’s going. We utilize aspects of the [real life] election, but funadamentally it’s about the character.
Russell: I feel like it’s kind of naive to suggest that politics shouldn’t be incorporated into writing fiction because fiction is writing about life. It’s writing about things that effected you or wounded you personally. Politics is a big part of life. It’s like saying you shouldn’t write about romance or sex or disappointment. Of course you should write about politics if that’s what you have something to say about. You shouldn’t have to write about politics, but you should write about things that are meaningful, things that are really troubling to you. That’s where your authenticity as a writer comes from.