TCS Daily

From Reagan's Raiders to Tex!

By Joshua Elder - October 28, 2004 12:00 AM

In a year when the publishing world produced oodles of anti-Bush agitprop, Joshua Dysart and Brad Rader, the respective writer and artist of the independent comic book Tex! have penned the most unique anti-Bush polemic yet. Tex! portrays the president as an evil, bumbling dullard who also happens to be a superhero complete with a secret origin (9/11 was just a convenient excuse to unleash the warmongering Tex upon an unsuspecting world.), costume (cowboy hat, jetpack and flight suit festooned with an ever-changing roster of corporate logos) and sidekick (a miniature Donald Rumsfeld who rides in a special compartment on W's back).

Karl Rove is presented as a Machiavellian carnival barker and the true power behind Tex's throne along with the perpetually scowling "Iron Dick" Cheney in his armored chest plate and high-tech command chair that would make a Bond villain green with envy. Colin Powell gets re-imagined as an impotent lackey clad in leopard skin and carrying a spear. Funny, I thought "house slave" was the preferred pejorative for black Republicans. Guess I must be out of touch.

At any rate, Tex! contains the requisite Bush-hater references to Halliburton, 9/11 conspiracy theories and the "stolen" 2000 election. Katherine Harris makes an appearance, as does that other bete noire of the Left, Ann Coulter.

Tex! ends with an unintentionally hilarious page of writer Joshua Dysart literally banging his head against his keyboard in impotent rage over the horror that is the Bush administration. This is followed by a lengthy recitation of the administration's various sins as a pair of fevered, bloodshot eyes glare out at the reader from an otherwise blank and empty background. Not exactly the kind of reasoned discourse that wins over swing voters ...

While Tex! May be uniquely fevered in its Bush-bashing, it's not the first of its kind. The president-as-superhero polemic was a common rhetorical weapon in the Left's war with President Reagan -- and with good reason. Like Bush, Reagan talked about notions of good and evil without a trace of irony or sarcasm. He spoke the language of superheroes and shared their sense of moral purpose. Contrary to the beliefs of many, this didn't make him a simpleton. He simply recognized evil when he saw it and believed that America -- for all its faults -- was a force for good in the world. He was also such a larger-than-life figure that he didn't seem out of place in the company of colorful characters like Superman, Wonder Woman or Captain America.

Of course in many of these stories the president was no hero. In the pages of Marvel Comics Captain America, the villainous Viper transformed Reagan into a snake man and made him do battle with the eponymous star-spangled hero. In Frank Miller's dystopian Batman tale The Dark Knight Returns, Reagan is portrayed as a doddering old fool who literally wraps himself in the flag when giving press conferences in order to deflect criticism over his ever-escalating war with the Soviet Union. The inevitable nuclear holocaust is averted only through the deus ex machina intervention of Superman.

Perhaps the most egregious use of the 40th president's name and likeness in a comic book came with the publication in 1986 of Reagan's Raiders by Solson Publications. The spiritual ancestor of Tex!, this biting work of political satire featured Reagan and his senior staff undergoing an experimental "physo-nuclear conversion" treatment invented by Professor Cashchaser which gave them superpowers and outrageously buffed up bodies. Donning poorly designed patriotic costumes and wielding M-16s, the GOP's finest fought a series of woefully uninspired and unfunny foes like the World Terrorist Organization and Bolivian cocaine factory workers. Thankfully this train wreck of a comic lasted only three issues before ceasing publication.

Still, no one made the Reagan/superhero connection more explicit than singer/songwriter Phil Collins in the lyrics and video for his hit single "Land of Confusion" where he asks: "Ooh Superman where are you now?/When everything's gone wrong somehow?/The men of steel, the men of power/Are losing control by the hour." In the video, a grotesque puppet caricature of Reagan parades around in a Superman outfit trying to fix the world but failing because he's so feeble, inept and out of touch with reality. Of course it all ends with yet another nuclear apocalypse courtesy of the Gipper.

To Reagan's critics, his simplistic superhero morality was the product of a limited intellect and a twisted personal philosophy. It came as no surprise to them when he revealed that when reading his morning newspaper he always turned to the comics first -- and that his favorite strip starred Mr. With-Great-Power-Comes-Great-Responsibility himself, Spider-Man. This black-and-white moron was the leader of the free world? The idea was so absurd as to be utterly horrifying.

Except Reagan prevailed. His policies brought peace, freedom and prosperity to millions at home and abroad. Defying the expectations and predictions of the liberal intelligentsia, this simple-minded superhero changed the world for the better. Perhaps history will judge President Bush the same way.

And to all those polemicists who think portraying a president as a superhero is an insult ... I just want to know what they find so funny about truth, justice and the American way.


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