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Ever since Captain America first punched Hitler in the ‘stache back in 1941, getting political has been an essential element of superhero comics. Every once in a while, however, a character will take that theme a bit more literally. Over the years, all sorts of characters have tried to gain political power to match their superpower, with varying degrees of success. So, in honor of Blastr’s Comic Book Month — and a fairly cartoonish election cycle off the page — we’re lining up some of the best four-color candidates in superhero comic book history for your consideration.
From grouchy waterfowl to demons, supervillains and former Jon Stewart employees, the diversity of the nominees spans the Marvel and DC universes, and even includes a few from their alternate universes. There's nothing more important for democracy than being an informed voter, so read up on the choices and let us know who you’d cast your ballot for in the comments.
HOWARD THE DUCK IN ‘76: GET DOWN, AMERICA!
(Howard the Duck (1976) #7-9, by Steve Gerber and Gene Colan)
There are few Marvel characters with a greater resentment for authority than Howard the Duck. But when strapped for cash, he stumbled into a job as the security guard at the highly-contested convention for the All-Night Party, and soon uncovers a plot to kill their candidate. Upon foiling the bomber’s plans, Howard is hailed as a hero and is suddenly finds himself the party’s nominee — whether he wanted to be or not. Sadly, his campaign was unsuccessful, hampered by Howard’s frankness, general disorganization and a series of assassination attempts orchestrated by the Beaver, a supervillain who had been manipulating events in order to humiliate the USA and pave the way for its annexation into Canada. It didn’t work.
LEX LUTHOR IN 2000: VOTE LEX!
(Elected in Superman: Lex 2000 #1, by Jeph Loeb, Greg Rucka, Tony Harris, Dwayne Turner, Doug Mahnke, Ed McGuinness, and Todd Nauck)
In an already heated race in 2000, a surprising third-party candidate emerged to seize the Oval Office, and he was none other than Lex Luthor. Riding a wave of public support following his investment in rebuilding Gotham after the No Man’s Land event, Lex took to the White House like a Kryptonian to a yellow sun, surrounding himself with a rather colorful cabinet that included his running mate and Clark Kent’s childhood friend Pete Ross, General Lane, Black Lightning, Sgt. Rock, the Daily Planet’s Cat Grant, and Amanda Waller. In classic Luthor fashion, however, his term was cut short by over-reaching in his power, when he tried to pit a team of superheroes against Superman and Batman, only to have them turn on him. He tried to take matters into his own hands by giving himself powers using a cocktail of Kryptonite and Bane’s Venom, but he ultimately just exposed himself as a villain to the nation while battling the heroes. Luthor was a president ahead of time — as I’m sure he’d be the first to tell you.
CAPTAIN AMERICA IN ’80: HE’S THE PEOPLE’S CHOICE!
(Captain America (1968) #250, by Roger Stern, Don Perlin, Roger McKenzie, and John Byrne)
After Captain America stopped a hostage situation at the campaign headquarters of the New Populist Party, its Convention Chairman, Samuel T. Underwood, tried desperately to convince Cap to run for the presidency as the party’s candidate. Cap politely declined at first, but Underwood was persistent, so Steve told him he'd think about it. In an attempt to nudge Cap in his direction, Underwood leaked the story to the press, and by the time Cap arrived back at the Avengers Mansion, it was already swarming with reporters. He ducked inside and got the full spectrum of reactions from his teammates, from Vision telling him he’s unqualified to Beast volunteering to be his campaign manager. After sitting on it for a few days, Cap gave a speech to a huge crowd of supporters, turning down the nomination. But what’s true of one Captain America is not true of them all…
ULTIMATE CAPTAIN AMERICA IN ’12: AMERICA IS HIS WHITE HOUSE!
(Takes office in Ultimate Comics Ultimates #16, by Sam Humphries and Luke Ross)
Following the utter destruction of Washington, D.C., the America of the Ultimate Universe became divided and violence broke out across the country. Hoping to reunite the country, a special election is called, and the winner is a write-in candidate: Captain America. Cap accepted the responsibility and was sworn in, then walked straight from the podium to a fighter jet, which he flew off on his way to quash his country’s violent conflicts personally. Cap proved to be an incredibly hands-on president, leaving much of the delegating to Carol Danvers while he continued to work with the Ultimates. He ended his administration in the best way a president possibly can, by sacrificing himself in a battle with Galactus.
CALVIN ELLIS FOR PRESIDENT ON EARTH 23: THIS LOOKS LIKE A JOB FOR SUPERMAN!
(First appearance in Final Crisis #7, by Grant Morrison and Doug Mahnke)
Another alternate universe character who became the Commander-in-Chief, President Calvin Ellis is also the Superman of Earth 23. Visually based on President Barack Obama, Ellis first appeared in Final Crisis as a recruit for the Supermen of the Multiverse (who you can learn more about here), and has since played a role in Grant Morrison’s Action Comics run and in Multiversity. Delegating in a super-presidential style, Ellis utilizes robotic bodies controlled by his A.I. helper Braniac to take care of presidential business while he is off doing Superman-things. As president, he has unified his country and his world by establishing an Alliance of Nations, a skill that he put to use in Multiversity as well, when he put together the multiverse-monitoring team known as Operation Justice Incarnate. But taking on more responsibilities of multiversal importance doesn’t seem to have prevented Ellis from continuing as president. Super-multitasking at its best.
STEPHEN COLBERT IN ’08: SOUTH CAROLINA’S FAVORITE SON!
(Endorsed by the Daily Bugle in Amazing Spider-Man (1999) #573, by Mark Waid and Patrick Olliffe)
Current Late Show and then-Colbert Report host Stephen Colbert made a go at the presidency in 2008, but was cut short following a disappointing result in his home state of South Carolina. However, ours wasn’t the only world he was running in. Colbert was also a candidate— for the same Populist Party that tried to get Steve Rogers to run — in the Marvel Universe, and kept his candidacy going for a bit longer, though not much more successfully. Colbert campaign ads appeared in the backgrounds of a number of Marvel comic books before Colbert, himself, appeared in a back-up story in Amazing Spider-Man. He received an endorsement and a giant check for $100 from notorious cheapskate J. Jonah Jameson and, discouraged, walked away and wandered right into the middle of a battle between Spider-Man and The Grizzly, who he immediately assumed was there to assassinate him (he wasn't). Stephen and Spidey stopped the Grizzly, but even a superhero team-up wasn’t enough to boost his support, and he lost to Barack Obama.
ETRIGAN THE DEMON IN ’92: THE LESSER EVIL!
(The Demon (1990) #26-29 by Dwayne McDuffie and Val Semeiks)
When political pollster Phil Harrity used a supercomputer to find the model presidential candidate, he put in traits like “commanding physical presence” and “good communicator with lyrical speech patterns,” and came up with a surprising result. He triple-checked to make sure, and in doing so accidentally summoned the candidate: Etrigan, the Demon! After a good amount of wanton violence, Harrity and his political team swayed Etrigan by telling him about the military might and nuclear arsenal he’d have command over — which Etrigan found appealling and intended to use to take over or destroy Hell. He was eventually forced to settle for the vice presidency, but even that didn’t last long, as it quickly became clear that he only accepted the position with the intention of killing the president.
DOOM IN 2099: ONE NATION UNDER DOOM!
(Takes power in Doom 2099 #29, by Warren Ellis and Pat Broderick)
If America lasts for another 83 years, we can at least take comfort in knowing we have a President Doom to look forward to. As you’d expect, Victor Von Doom took a vulnerable White House by force and overthrew the existing administration. It’s not Doom’s first rodeo with world-leadership, though, and he puts his extensive experience in iron-handed ruling to good use, throwing his political weight against the corporate power of Alchemax and establishing Halo City as a haven for mutant-human peace, among other things. He was eventually overthrown, himself, and replaced by a man claiming to be a resurrected Captain America, but he proved that America being doomed might not be such a bad thing.
PREZ IN ’73: VOTE THE COOL TICKET!
(Prez (1973) #1, by Joe Simon and Jerry Grandenetti)
Over thirty years after co-creating Captain America with Jack Kirby, writer Joe Simon was still using comic books to tap into the political zeitgeist, but this time he did it for DC. Along with artist Jerry Grandenetti, Simon created a new character named Prez Rickard, a teenager from the small town of Steadfast who was destined to become the first teenage president of the United States. In the real world, the 26th Amendment had lowered the voting age to 18 only a couple of years earlier, and so the world of Prez took it a step further by also allowing people of that age the right to hold public office. This led the corrupt Central City mayor known as Boss Smiley (who literally had a smiley face for a head) to take advantage of the new youthful energy by manipulating Prez into running for senate. The plan quickly backfired, however, as Prez used his support to turn against Smiley and win the presidency for the New Flower Power Party in a landslide election. The teenage president concept has been revisited by DC multiple times since, including a 2015 miniseries starring Beth Ross, who was elected to office via Twitter in the 2030’s.