With the 2016 U.S. presidential election less than a year away, campaigns are in full swing, dominating the news cycle and daily discourse. Syndicated cartoons and comic strips have a long and rich history as players in the political arena, while presidents and politics have also provided fertile ground for graphic novels. Here are 12 comics about modern presidential (or at least vice-presidential) politics, from workaday minutia all the way through Machiavellian schemes.
Weapons of Mass Diplomacy (originally Quai d’Orsay)
Abel Lanzac and Christophe Blain. 2010, 2014 (Dargaud, SelfMadeHero)
A French speechwriter is thrust into high stakes international politics when he is part of a team that must draft a UN response to President George W. Bush’s “war on terror” after 9/11. Lanzac pulls back the curtain on the frenetic political scene in France during the run-up to the Iraq War, capturing the tense atmosphere but also finding humor in the entire process. The second volume of the French edition won the Fauve d’or award at the Angoulême International Comics Festival in 2013.
Joe Simon and Jerry Grandenetti, Mark Russell and Ben Caldwell. 1973, 2015 (DC Comics)
When a Constitutional amendment lowers the age of eligibility, teenager Prez Rickard is voted in as president in this short-lived miniseries that was inspired by the counter culture of the early 1970s. Prez appoints his family to cabinet positions and battles an assortment of enemies including “Boss Smiley,” vampires, and an evil descendant of George Washington. In the decades since his eponymous title, Prez has only been referenced to intermittently in the DC Universe, but the series was officially revived in 2015, starring a teenaged girl who’s elected to president via Twitter in the year 2036.
What If #26
Mike W. Barr, Herb Trimp, and Mike Esposito. 1981. (Marvel)
In the Marvel Universe, Captain America seems like a natural fit for president, and after refusing the nomination in Captain America #250, one of Marvel’s “What If?” storylines sees Steve Rogers accepting and subsequently being voted in as commander in chief. After prevailing against Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan in 1980, President America sets up orbiting satellites that provide the US with solar power. However, a plot involving the satellites, the Red Skull, and South American rebels ultimately leads to his demise.
The First President of Japan (Nihonkoku Daitouryou Sakurasaa Mantarou)
Hidaka Yoshiki and Tsugihara Ryuki. 1998–2000, 2003 (Shinchosha, Raijin Comics)
In the year 20XX, the Japanese people reject their ineffectual government and instead elect a prime minister with powers comparable to a US president. Sakuragi Kenichiro promises to shake up the existing system, but is immediately faced with both domestic and international crises involving the economy and US, North Korea invading South Korea, and aggression between China and Taiwan.
DMZ Vol. 6: Blood in the Game, Vol. 7: War Powers
Brian Wood and Riccardo Burchielli. 2009 (DC Comics/Vertigo)
Embedded reporter Matty Roth becomes embroiled in a local election for leader of the Free States within a war-torn, demilitarized New York City. A local charismatic figure, Parco Delgado, runs on a populist, revolutionary platform and wins Matty over as he is swept into office after a tumultuous election. Although once Delgado’s in power, his actions begin to stray from his campaign rhetoric, causing friction and an eventual break with Roth.
Brian K. Vaughan and Tony Harris. 2004–2010 (DC Comics/Wildstorm)
Civil engineer Mitchell Hundred used his mysterious mental link with machines to become the Great Machine, a modern day superhero who ends up saving one of the Twin Towers on 9/11. Riding this public goodwill, he is elected as mayor of New York City, and must simultaneously deal with the everyday mayoral politics as well as his superhero past catching up with him. It won the Eisner Award for Best New Series in 2005.
Sho Fumimura and Ryoichi Ikegami. 1990–1995, 1995–1997 (Shogakukan, Viz)
Two former child slaves decide to usher Japan into a new age by conquering both the political arena and criminal underworld. Chiaki Asami achieves success as a young member of the Japanese government, while Akira Hojo rises through the ranks of the local, and later regional, yakuza. The two face existing power structures that are determined to tear them down and maintain the status quo. A live-action adaptation as well as a one-shot anime animated version were released in 1995 and 1996, respectively.
08: A Graphic Diary of the Campaign Trail
Michael Crowley and Dan Goldman. 2009 (Three Rivers Press)
While every presidential election has its share of colorful characters, memorable quotes, and outlandish moments, everything about the 2008 race seemed amplified. The historical significance that came with the possibility of the first female or black president seemed to raise the stakes, with the media playing a more outsized role than ever before. Crowley and Goldman get down and dirty with all the ups and downs on the campaign trail, and the result is an exhaustive chronicle of the landmark election.
Eagle: The Making of an Asian American President (Iguru)
Kaiji Kawaguchi. 1997–2001, 2000–2002 (Shogakukan, Viz)
A young reporter follows the rise of Japanese-American senator Kenneth Yamaoka in his quest to become the Democratic nominee, and later president of the Unites States. Kawaguchi immersed himself in the controversial 2000 presidential election and used it as inspiration for the story of a second-generation immigrant overcoming longstanding prejudices. Characters based on real-life figures, such as Bill and Hillary Clinton and Al Gore, populate the story, which offers Japanese readers a view of the wild world of American presidential politics.
Sam Humphries and Tommy Patterson. 2015–ongoing (Image)
This new ongoing series follows Jack Northworthy, a small town political with big ambitions, namely, the presidency. But he’s also got one hell of a secret: he’s inhabiting a power-hungry demon that will stop at nothing until Jack’s in the Oval Office. Humphries and Patterson lampoon modern politics by seeing what would happen if someone truly evil were able to hold the reins of power.
Barack Hussein Obama
Steven Weissman. 2012 (Fantagraphics)
Despite its name, Weissman’s surrealist take on the first black president and his tenure is not overtly political. In a series of one page gag strips, characters including the Obamas, Joe Biden, and Hillary Clinton are involved in bizarre situations which eventually tie into a larger narrative. The irrational and intentionally abstruse imagery offer an entertainingly warped take on the presidency, but also perhaps the most unique political commentary available.
The Amazing Spider-Man #583
Zeb Wells, Todd Nuack, and Frank D’Armata. 2009 (Marvel)
One week before his inauguration, Barack Obama appeared alongside Spider-Man in a back-up story in the series’ 583rd issue. In it, The Chameleon disguises himself as Obama and attempts to sabotage the inauguration, but Peter Parker, there as a reporter for the Daily Bugle, is able to save the day. The issue, prominently featuring Obama on the cover, sold over 350,000 issues, making it the best-selling single issue of the decade.