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America's Newest Superhero
originally posted 01-18-2009

On Tuesday, the United States of America gets a new superhero. To be honest, we've had him for quite some time, as proven by last week's sales bonanza of Amazing Spider-Man #583. (Fanboy Planeteer Mother - "You mean that was a real comic book?") He's so powerful, he might even be able to get comics fans to read another issue of Youngblood. (Rob Liefeld's Youngblood #8, if you must. And you're welcome, Joe.)

Okay, nobody's that powerful.

Within hours, the variant cover of Amazing Spider-Man #583 had gone into its third printing. A few shops sold the variant at cover price, but many boosted it up, having no problem selling out first print copies at up to $50 a pop. On eBay and Amazon, it was going much higher than that. And even the regular cover, with a rather stupid but at least not Obama-related joke on it, sold out.

Aside from being the most effective part of the economic stimulus package so far - boosting a few comic book shops' fortunes for an extra week or so - President-elect Barack Obama's appearance has spawned intercompany fighting, perhaps, but also shown how desperately the American public wants a president who can be our hero.

No undue knock against the outgoing president, but it's time for America to shift from an ideal of cowboy justice to those espoused by one of America's most lasting contributions to world culture. We needed to move beyond the idea that we will smoke out the bad guys, wanted dead or alive, as if we were somehow surrounding them in a canyon with our trusted Indian guide. That just wasn't working.

Instead, we've elected a man whose opponents might wish to consider him a man from nowhere (and everywhere), not a man with no name. He calls many places home, and has demonstrated time and time again that he has a respect, if not always an understanding, for other cultures.

Like we do Spider-Man, we project the best of ourselves into what Obama seems to be, and in turn he exhorts us to be better than we've been. How often this past weekend have you caught a commercial with him calling upon us to serve this country? It won't stop there.

He grew up reading comics, but Obama also has a cool clear understanding of reality, not a head buried in fantasy. But he's calling upon us to do what our fictional heroes do for justice - not just being able to fight when the bullets might start flying, but using our abilities to help because we can, not because we must.

Oh, sure, we may still have crappy times ahead. Politics are politics, and we've grown jaded in believing that any politician really stands for Truth and Justice. The nation's love affair with the new president will hit the rocks the moment he proves - and he will prove it - that he's not superhuman. Despite having good-naturedly gone along with artist Alex Ross portraying him as Superman, Obama's not even Batman, though he might have a mechanical dinosaur somewhere in his basement. And if you noticed last week, Batman's dead anyway.

On January 20th, I doubt he'll say it in his inaugural speech, but it's pretty obvious that Barack Obama understands that with great power comes great responsibility. And it feels like he's going to ask all of us to take some of that power and responsibility. We'll have no magic word to effect change, no rings, no super-soldier formula, not even the genius of Tony Stark.

But if feels pretty good anyway.

Derek McCaw


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