Calling Captain America!
A new comic book series aimed at young conservatives envisions a dark liberal dystopia
PROPAGANDA OR SATIRE? In ''Liberality for All'' (above), a comic book series due out in October, conservative radio pundits Sean Hannity, G. Gordon Liddy, and Oliver North battle Osama bin Laden and his liberal allies in the year 2021. ((C) 2005 accstudios.com)
IT USED TO BE that Superman and friends stood for traditional values, the triumph of good over evil, and the American way of life. But these days, not even superheroes are safe from attacks on their patriotism. Icons like Captain America--who fought Nazis between paper covers during World War Two--are now being accused of undermining US foreign policy and the war on terror.
In an April 2003 white paper for the conservative Foundation for the Defense of Democracies titled ''The Betrayal of Captain America"--which caused a stir in comics circles--writers Michael Medved and Michael Lackner claimed that ''Marvel Comics and other publishers are disseminating comic books that actively promote a destructive cynicism and distrust of the United States government."
But have no fear! A new comic series bearing the unwieldy title ''Liberality for All" is coming out in October from ACC Studios, a recently formed one-man publishing venture in Kentucky. Advertised as ''an Orwellian nightmare of ultra-liberalism," the series features radio pundits Sean Hannity, G. Gordon Liddy, and Oliver North as biomechanically tricked-out members of a conservative underground resistance called F.O.I.L. (the Freedom of Information League). Writer and creator Mike Mackey, an affable comic book aficionado, says it's the conservative movement's first comic book series (unless you count the three 1987 issues of the exquisitely low-camp ''Reagan's Raiders") and the only series put together specifically for a right-wing audience. (A story synopsis and sample panels are online at accstudios.com).
Set in the year 2021, the eight-book series imagines an alternative history in which Al Gore won the 2000 election and liberals went on to create a grim dystopia, with Chelsea Clinton as president, Michael Moore the vice president, a hyper-active Department of Political-Correctness, and the United States under the thumb of a corrupt United Nations world government. Meanwhile, Islamic terrorists no longer consider the kinder, gentler US government a threat, and have focused their energies on assassinating their true enemies--the arch conservatives who make up the resistance. Osama bin Laden, now the Afghan ambassador to the United Nations, plans to wipe out New York with a nuclear device, and it's up to our dynamic talk-radio trio to save the nation.
In other words, ''Liberality for All" is a compendium of loopy, high-decibel conservative paranoia--or is it? Bloggers discussing the sample panels can't seem to agree whether the intention is ham-handed propaganda or more subtle ridicule. And many of the e-mails Mackey has received aren't much help either. ''My hats [sic] off to you for putting it to these self-absorbed idiots," one reader told Mackey recently. ''Keep up the good work!" Was the writer praising the attack on liberalism-gone-wild or the send-up of conservative pet anxieties? ''I have no idea," Mackey admits.
And that's fine with him. Mackey says he deliberately wrote the comic with a degree of ambiguity.
''Liberals and conservatives see the same thing and at the same time see two entirely different things," he says. ''But I'm hoping the humor can be uniting. I hope the book gets people to laugh and raise questions on both sides and gets them talking about issues again."
Still, since he put the preview panels online Mackey, who describes himself as a proud red-state conservative, has received many sarcastic e-mails from liberals and even a few threatening ones from ''non-partisan" sources. ''Someone who sends a threat over this is just a nut," he says. ''I mean, look at the medium--it's a comic book!"
Jamie DiBattista, the assistant manager at Million Year Picnic, a comics store in Harvard Square, immediately noticed ''Liberality for All" among forthcoming fall titles. DiBattista thinks its sales will depend on more than just politics. ''The curiosity factor might pique people's interest at first, but if it's poorly done it'll get put down," he opines. ''Comics aren't cheap, and comic book people don't have much tolerance for a bad series, no matter what political side they're on."
Christopher Dreher is a writer living in Plymouth.