Author: Jeff Mariotte
Penciller: Tom Morgan
Author: Andy Helfer
Penciller: Stephen Thompson
Colourist: Len O’Grady
Letters: Robbie Robbins
Cover Art: J Scott Campbell
Cover Colours: Edgar Delgado
Editor: Scott Dunbier
Publisher: IDW Publishing
Date Published: 8th October 2008
Today I had a strange experience. Whilst in a comic book shop in Newcastle, Australia, I realised that an illustrated version of President-Elect Barack Obama was staring down at me, whilst posing majestically in the power stance usually attributed to Superheroes. A little taken aback, but mostly intrigued, I quickly took down the comic. Given the ‘underground’ nature of the comic book industry, it was possible that this was the highly biased product of a fanatical Obama supporter. But, as I flipped the book over, I realised that it was a double feature. John McCain’s wide grin adorned an equally majestic power stance, with an American flag waving behind him. It was this confident grin that sold it to this ‘not-particularly-interested-in-american-politics’ girl; I knew that the illustrators could have presented McCain in some form of geriatric parody – an image that certainly seemed to circulate in the media. Yet they hadn’t, he was stood as proud and Presidential as Obama.
The ‘Presidential Material’ comic series is a biography of both candidates, based on their self written biographies (‘Dreams From My Father’ and ‘The Audacity of Hope’ – Obama, ‘Faith of my Fathers’ and ‘Worth the Fighting For’ – McCain), professionally published biographies and various news sources (these are cited in the epilogue and a blurb at the front of each comic stresses ‘based on true events or the prior reporting of true events’). Being published in October 2008, the results of the Election were still not clear, and both candidates life stories had been told, spun, regurgitated, exaggerated and embellished. Strangely enough, ‘Presidential Materials’ straight foreword manner eventuates into a comic that is largely unbiased and easier to digest than the roaring maw of the media.
You see, the ‘Presidential Material’ series takes on a ‘warts-n-all’ approach to both candidates. Obama’s cocaine stint and McCain’s infidelity are presented in a matter of fact way, without disparaging either of them. Yet neither are their achievements and humanity underplayed; Obama’s community work and thoughts about conflicting heritage are presented sympathetically and McCain’s agony and bravery in the ‘Hanoi Hilton’ are shown tastefully, without using the torture to create dramatic scenes. Their family history, childhood, family relations, political history and final run for nominee in each party are outlined. There is an edge of ‘realness’ in these simplistically presented stories that sometimes seems to be lost by the camera. In essense, ‘Presidental Material is also a brief ride through the last 50 years of American political history; particularly McCain’s story.
Stylistically, Obama’s rendition reads a little easier. This is due to Obama describing actual conversations in his biographies and as such they could include these conversations in the comic. McCain’s story is not so fluent, as there are no conversations, just clever narration and quotes. I would have preferred if both comics had been written by one author, rather than two separate authors. This would have quieted my worries about stylistic differences leading to bias. If I had to pick, I would choose Jeff Mariotte, as he remained the least opinionated (Andy Helfer had the habit of letting an occasional sarcastic nuance slip into his writing). In one way, the lines between truth and fiction are walked very dangerously (as is the nature of all biographical texts, being subject to point of view and personal manipulation). The reader has to keep this in mind whilst intellectually digesting the content.
The artwork in McCain’s edition, by Stephen Thompson, was very realistic and detailed; though the work of Tom Morgan in Obama’s was also befitting the challenge whilst being tightly controlled. A pencil version of the cover art is included after each story. The cover art itself is exceedingly fantastic; it is attention grabbing, humorous and will appeal to the comic book crowds.
I found it to be an educational, enjoyable experience. Each life, though vastly different, was interesting to read about (and made me think ‘How do these people do so much?’). I would suggest anyone interested in politics or the recent election buy this duo, not only for the reading experience and novelty, but the history as well.
♥♥♥♥ – 4/5