Archive for Howard Porter

Political Image vs. Political Issues in a Four-Color World

DC Universe: Decisions #2

DC’s superheroes are still trying to track down the telepath who’s mind-controlling people into trying to kill the four presidential candidates, and Green Arrow’s endorsement of one of the Democratic candidates has thrown a spanner into the works. Not long afterwards, things get worse when Guy Gardner endorses one of the Republican candidates, and after that, the floodgates are opened, as just about every superhero starts endorsing their favorite candidates — Vixen, Power Girl, Wildcat, Hawkman, and Plastic Man lean Republican (though Plas is mainly exercising his libido in endorsing the lone female candidate), while Dr. Light, Beast Boy, and Firestorm favor the Democrats. There are still more attempts on the candidates’ lives, and there’s one more surprise endorsement, as Bruce Wayne announces his support for one of the Democrats.

Verdict: A little from Column A and a little from Column B. On one hand, I’m enjoying the story, with everyone trying to track down the would-be assassin. Character interactions seem pretty good — the fight between Green Arrow and Green Lantern is familiar, but it hits all the right notes. And the art for this issue is provided by Howard Porter, one of my fave DC artists ever since he drew Grant Morrison’s “JLA” series. (And speaking of Porter, here’s a really interesting interview about why his work has been so hard to find lately.)

So what are my quibbles about this issue? Well, the entire point of the story is supposed to be about politics, and just about everyone has really shallow reasons for supporting their candidates. Plastic Man likes one of the Republican candidates ’cause he’s a horndog. Beast Boy cites a candidate’s “gravitas” while Wildcat praises another’s toughness. In most cases, all they’re talking about is the candidate’s image — which is, of course, how a lot of folks really do pick their preferred candidate — picking the guy with the best slogan, who looks best on TV, who has the best public relations flacks.

But most of these characters aren’t saying they support a candidate because they agree with their political platform. No one says, “I’m pro-choice, so I support Candidate X” or “I dislike gun control, so I support Candidate Z.” People care about politics because they care about issues, and most of the superheroes don’t appear to care about any issues at all. The closest we get are Hawkman, who prefers his candidate because he has a military background, and Firestorm, who favors one candidate who has experience in international matters.

And one more thing that particularly irritated me — Power Girl’s reasoning for supporting her candidate is “He’ll keep us safe.” That’s a perfectly legitimate reason for someone to support a candidate, but it just doesn’t make sense coming from Power Girl. She doesn’t need a presidential candidate to keep her safe — she’s superstrong and bulletproof, so depicting her as someone who’s been suckered by the “Candidate X will keep you safe” routine is just crazy.

Heck, in Comic Book Land, who keeps you safe? It ain’t a strong military that repels alien invasions, it’s superheroes like Power Girl. Someone launches a nuke at New York? Power Girl’s up there swatting it down. It’s a minor point, sure, but it’s another piece of poor characterization that shows that the writers weren’t really thinking that hard about the sound bites they had the characters spouting.

I reckon I’ll keep reading this series, because I am enjoying the story, but the political content is, so far, just plain dorky. I hope the next two issues improve some in that regard, but I suspect they’ll remain fairly embarrassingly poor…

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