What Does the Obama Era Mean For Comics?


Well-Known Member
Feb 16, 2005
First: This is not a thread designed to imply that Obama's term is the dawn of a new paradise or whatever... or exploring the political implications his term will have for the industry itself.

Second: This is a thread exploring what implications a new political zeitgeist has for comics themselves, particularly superheroes, but necessarily limited to them.

Anyway, one of my pet obsessions is how the zeitgeist affects what kind of fictions get ultimately written in movies, TV and other forms of popular culture... so I found it really interesting when sci-fi group blog io9 posted "Clinton Era Science Fiction: The Return of Clinton Futurism."

It mostly enumerated the different ficto-traits of science fiction that was produced during the Clinton era, but ultimately it hypothesizes that the last time science fiction was characterized by multiculturalism, optimism, technocracies, white anxiety and subversive narratives was when Democrats controlled both the White House and Congress.

io9's Charlie Jane Anders said:
The last time the Democrats controlled the White House and both houses of Congress, Gillian Anderson wore pants. There were two Star Trek series at once, which promoted women and minorities and looked at the dark side of the Federation. Cyberpunk reigned supreme. The future was a shiny place — but with dread lurking just beneath its polish. Now that the Democrats have finally scored another grand slam, are we going to see the return of sunny-but-questioning science fiction?

The question they ask then is to what extent these traits will return to science fiction now that Democrats have 'grand slammed' the elections. So here's my discussion question: What is the future of mainstream comic narratives now that Obamarama has brought Democrats back into power?

I have no clear thoughts on this yet, but I think it's a fertile discussion ground! :)
I think Obama will destroy comics, just like he'll destroy traditional family values.
I'm guessing he won't. I mean the biggest money crisis in years hasn't effected comics like it should. And yes I'm been serious about that. The money crisis should have had a lot effects on the comic universes but didn't, Here's a few I can think of :

- Peter Parker normally finds making money hard and barely gets by. This should have meant that he is forced in to poverty, Maybe even has to live on the streets. Now sure you can fix it later something like "Aunt May dies and leaves him a lot of money" or something, But Peter been the every-man should have been used to show the negative effects of the money crisis as everyone is effected in some way.

- Lex Luthor , Bruce Wayne and Tony Stark
: These 3 are huge business men and are very wealthy because of it. But during this time I find it hard to believe all 3 are still doing great business wise. Lex ok he has crime as well to make money but both Tony Stark and Bruce Wayne o not use crime and any extra money they get basically fuels their hero counter part.

I think one of those two or even both should have suffered huge financial loses and take Iron Man for example he is unable to afford to run his suit now so switches back to the old grey suit as it's cheaper to fix and more cost efficient over-all.

- Clark Kent,
Are you really trying to tell me that during the credit crunch that his parents somehow were able to keep the farm a float and that the Daily Planet didn't need to make some cuts to save money? but yet everything is fine just with the others

So I gues my point is besides what the president looks like in comics and any new rules he makes been in effect there will be no real change I feel as now days the distance from reality to comic universes are really a lot bigger than they once were and so are not really effected by anything unless it's something huge.
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Guys. I'm not asking about how Obama himself will affect the comics industry.

I'm asking about how narrative themes and tropes will change to reflect a different zeitgeist.

Observe how shortly before September 11 and the years following it, we got The Ultimates, The Authority and stuff all being explicitly geopolitical worldchanging force, whose ethical and moral framework were rendered questionable.
I understand what you are asking, but I have nothing to add to your discussion, though I wish I could.

I hadn't seriously read a wide range of comics until well into Bush's presidency, so I really can't compare or contrast anything yet.

I'm sure within a year or two, we should see if there is a difference in narrative then. Then I'll be able to contribute to the discussion more.
Observe how shortly before September 11 and the years following it, we got The Ultimates, The Authority and stuff all being explicitly geopolitical worldchanging force, whose ethical and moral framework were rendered questionable.

This is probably an obvious and dumb thing to say, but it really depends on what kind of policies he (Obama) is able to implement. Obama is heavy on technology development so maybe, years from now, things that are showing up in comics are reflecting more of the technology-based initiatives instead of, say, biological ones.
I dunno, comics may have to become a bit more optimistic in an era of hope and change, the cynicism of the last few years may something that people will want to kinda leave in the Bush era of fear and paranoia.
Yeah, if people's hope for Obama continues then I think we're going to start losing the more cynical heroes and start getting some true superheroes that also inspire hope.
Overlord and Proj are looking at the angle I'm interested in.

One thing C.J. Anders notes in the article I linked to is that while Star Trek's rise to pop cultural ubiquity coincided with the end of Bush, Sr. and the span of Clinton's term(s), Star Trek was very different from The Original Series in very specific ways that resonated with the times.
  • The original Star Trek was just casually optimistic about how technology was used and used it conservatively resorting mostly to logical reasoning, bluffing, intuition and fisticuffs to solve problems. But TNG, DS9 and VOY were really gadget-happy and the scripts were filled with faux technical gobbledygook.While TOS used very basic methods to solve problems, TNG used a fuzzy New Age attitude of using empathy and psychology to resolve conflicts, DS9 used a lot of diplomatic wheeling and dealing and VOY was (almost maddeningly) improvisational.

  • The cast of Clinton-Era Trek was also painfully diverse in race and gender (though not in sexuality) featuring loads more Asian-Americans and African-Americans, pansexual symbionts and metamorphs, higher-ranking female officers a handicapped engineer, and even a Negro-Vulcan! It still struggled and failed to reconcile itself with homosexuality, yet finally began to hypothesize the political flaws of a galaxy-spanning Federation most notably in DS9.

  • Anders argues that 90s Trek evoked the feelings stirred by America going out into the world, but confronting the limitations of its own power resonating directly with its failed interventions in Haiti and Somalia. But more importantly, Clinton-era Trek was about furthering the ideals of diversity and plurality, while recognizing that trying to do so will not be a smooth and perfect affair, just as America struggled to REALLY become inclusive of blacks, homosexuals and Asians.
But beyond Trek, the Clinton-era spawned other kinds of directly resonant strains of science fiction. In an age of political correctness, Demolition Man showed how a bland, politically correct and sanitized Los Angeles is the insane logical extreme of that ideal. A utopia city where everything has gone pansy.
  • We also had more films about the Internet: Hackers, The Net, Virtuosity, Johnny Mnemonic. Some of them were total BS, but in those movies, the Net was a central plot conceit when today they're part of the landscape of everyday life. This is because the technological issue of the Clinton era was the Internet and the computer. What about Obama SF? Will we see other futuretechs take center stage and become part of the conversation of pop culture? Already geo-engineering was featured in Quantum of Solace.

  • I think the reason why we got the superhero comics we got is because they were designed to articulate neuroses about The Republican sociopolitical condition. Now what will our future comics be like, when 'change' is what is being promised? When that change being promised is one Americans are being asked to help realize --- a 'collaborative' rather than 'managed' future --- and when it is change meant to be about diversity, sustainability and community?
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