Superheroes Are Being Recruited Into The Anti-Trump Resistance


Artist R. Sikoryak has been illustrating quotes by Donald Trump in the style of vintage comic book covers. Image via R. Sikoryak.

Since their inception in the depths of the Great Depression, American superhero comics have always been about standing up for the little guy against the arbitrary power of bullies and malevolent power-seekers. They are also largely the product of first-generation Jewish American creators who had no affection for fascism, either European or homegrown, and little sympathy for anti-immigrant sentiment. With all of that coded into their DNA, it’s no surprise that comics have been a vehicle for anti-authoritarian themes over the years, rarely veering into outright political advocacy but nevertheless standing for cultural values associated more with tolerance, hope and inclusion than fear, bigotry and nativism.

The tumultuous first 10 days of the Trump administration, following an unsettling transition after the election, have moved increasing numbers of creators and even long-standing corporate-owned properties off the sidelines and into the political fray. In many cases, the visual style and substance of superhero comics are being appropriated by fans and artists to criticize the approach of the new president and his team.

This Machine Kills Fascists. 

Over the past several months, artists have been adapting Jack Kirby’s iconic cover of Captain America Comics #1 (1941), showing Captain America punching Hitler in the face months before America officially entered World War II, with Hitler’s face replaced by Trump, Steve Bannon or other members of the incoming administration. One popular version of this depicts Ms. Marvel, a current-day teenage Muslim Pakistani-American heroine, delivering the punch.

The politics of superheroes were never clearer than this, from the debut of Captain America by Jack Kirby and Joe Simon, 1941. Image via Marvel.

None of this work is sanctioned by Marvel Comics, whose President, Ike Perlmutter, is a prominent supporter of Donald Trump. However Marvel has been teasing a storyline called “Secret Empire,” which will apparently be the basis for a cross-company publishing event later this year. The original Secret Empire storyline by writer Steve Englehart and artist Sal Buscema, took place in Captain America during Watergate, and featured a massive conspiracy that eventually led all the way to the Oval Office. The stunning finale led Captain America to question the basis of his patriotism and hang up his trademark red-white-and-blue costume until his faith was restored. Marvel has been characteristically quiet about details of the new Secret Empire story, so it is not clear whether it will dig into the same thematic territory as the original, but the timing of the revival seems significant.

Marvel is heavily promoting a storyline for 2017 that shares a title with a politically-charged thriller from Watergate-era Captain America. Image via Marvel.

Imagine an Evil Billionaire as President. DC Already Has.

Another superhero-based meme circulating over the weekend showed DC Comics’ headliners Superman and Wonder Woman, captioned “refugee” and “immigrant” respectively in solidarity with protests of the Executive Order banning entrants from certain Muslim countries, including refugees fleeing the civil war in Syria. Both Superman and Wonder Woman have taken positions supportive of refugees and immigrants many times over the decades, and with DC’s current focus on presenting “classic” versions of its characters in its Rebirth initiative, it seems likely that political themes may emerge, at least subtly, in books whose characters are so closely connected to issues of being “strangers in a strange land.”


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