Today marks the 100th anniversary of the birth of Ronald Wilson Reagan, America’s first Movie Star President, and our fortieth Commander-in-Chief overall. Befitting his celebrity status, Reagan was all over the comic pages. I’m not talking about political cartoons, MAD Magazine send-ups, or his frequent appearances in Doonesbury and Bloom County. I’m talking about bonafide pulse-pounding action/adventure comics! Decades before Barack the Barbarian was inflicted upon this country, there was Reagan’s Raiders, a comic where the President and his cabinet were recast as ass-kicking warriors:
But that’s only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to Reagan x Funnybooks: 2009’s Obama issue of Amazing Spider-Man has nothing on the barrage of Reagan appearances in superhero universes.
And while it’s not a capes-and-tights title, his origin story appeared in 1950’s Miss Beverly Hills of Hollywood #8 by unknown creators.
Reagan’s Secret Origin is that he’s secretly Reed Richards! Or Maybe Henry Peter Gyrich, I’m not sure. His next documented comics appearance was in, believe it or not, Brother Power the Geek #2! When the innocent “Brother Pow” convinces a group of hippies to take jobs at a space missile factory, the evil industrialist Lord Sliderule sabotages his own products to make the hippies look bad! Then-Governor Reagan has no choice but to issue the command: “BRING IN THE GEEK!”
Don’t worry folks, Lord Sliderule and his cronies are violently assaulted by the hippies, which results in Reagan arresting him and promising a “long time in the pen” on some sort of charges. A happy ending for everyone but Pow, whose book was canceled after two issues, and whose rocket does not land until a Neil Gaiman penned Swamp Thing Annual twenty-one years later.
Brother Ronald the Gipper also has a bit of a comics drought, not appearing again until 1977’s Fantastic Four #177. The Fantastic Four are being held hostage by the Frightful Four for a billion dollar ransom, but the city of New York is teetering on bankruptcy and can’t foot the bill. So Mayor Abe Beame tries to call in some favors:
Completely unrelated to Reagan, Jonathan Mahler’s Ladies and Gentlemen, the Bronx is Burning is a tremendous account of this moment in NYC’s history, weaving together the strands of the city’s financial crisis, its contentious mayoral race, the summer’s massive blackout, Reggie Jackson and the Yankees’ World Series bid, the rise of punk, disco and hip-hop, and the headline-grabbing Son of Sam murders. Sadly this book doesn’t address the Fantastic Four’s plight, but something tells me everything was resolved in Fantastic Four#178.
Four years later Reagan was a victorious presidential candidate, and the floodgates opened. Perhaps his most famous appearance came in Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns, where in 2006 Ronnie’s in the midst of his seventh term.
But reader, were you aware that Dutch nearly presided over two of the decade’s most venerated graphic novels? Alan Moore initially planned on having Reagan be the president in Watchmen, but feared popular backlash:
I also wanted to write about power politics. Ronald Reagan was president. But I worried readers might switch off if they thought I was attacking someone they admired. So we set Watchmen in a world where Nixon was in his fourth term – because you’re not going to get much argument that Nixon was scum!
Don’t cry for Ronnie, because he got into plenty of other comics throughout the 1980s. Many of these appearances boiled down him sitting in the White House receiving a phone call about a cataclysmic event elsewhere in the comic book universe, but plenty of the World’s Greatest Superheroes rubbed elbows with the Gipper:
He was threatened by Magneto!
He laid down the law to Aquaman!
He stole an airplane-mediated kiss from Rogue!
He got possessed by Deadman! And later Satan himself!
He reluctantly accepted the help of Superman!
He conferred with the Vision on matters of national security!
He had his deepest desires scanned by the Beyonder!
He pardoned a whole gang of Green Lanterns, including C’HP!
He even gave Booster Gold his superhero name!
This barely even scratches the surface of what Reagan got up to in the funny pages, but a Super Bowl beckons. The Gipper wouldn’t want me to miss the game, so come on back tomorrow, Reagan’s 100.002439th birthday for the Further Adventures of Ronald Reagan, America’s Comic Bookiest President!