Suddenly, the entire 2012 presidential race made more sense when I saw Todd McFarlane leaving the Arizona Democratic Party’s election night celebration.
On Tuesday night, my wife and I were watching the election results, and we noticed that the local Republican and Democratic parties were gathering in downtown Phoenix for their Election Evening Extravaganzas. Since we live in downtown Phoenix, I blurted, “We should just go over there!” So we did.
After a few minutes of aimless wandering, we waded through a sea of parked news vans to find the Democratic Party’s party, and I’m pretty sure Todd McFarlane passed us on our way in. The collision of my interests in politics and superheroes spawned an epiphany: politicians and superheroes have a lot in common.
Now, before your Election Day fatigue shrouds your take on my epiphany, let me finish. Both politicians and superheroes adopt a public persona under the guise of doing good for mankind, with the accepted subtext that they spend their “off hours” doing things a little less altruistic. They at least have that in common. Further, both draw hard lines between their side and the opposing view. Then, both spend quality time campaigning against that view — politicians just do it from the podium, while superheroes do it from rooftops and alleyways.
Of course, the superhero genre is a definitively American one, and its most popular characters were created in the midst of an era saturated with patriotism — World War II. That superheroes haven’t achieved the kind of success in other countries that they have here in the United States begs the question: Is the very concept of “superhero” a natural byproduct of the great American experiment? Is the superhero in fact the very epitome of democracy? I digress . . .
I guess the biggest difference doesn’t lie in the definition of a superhero, at all, but in that of a super villain. In comics, the bad guys are very clearly the bad guys. Everybody knows the Joker is a bad guy. Even the Joker knows he’s a bad guy. In politics, both sides think they’re the good guys, and as we know from decades of comic crossovers, when two good guys fight, it usually ends in an inconsequential draw. We’d like to think that bipartisan cooperation is the answer for moving America forward, that the political line between “good” and “evil” isn’t so harshly drawn that one side can actually be defined as one or the other. If that solution ever comes to pass, the real mark of heroism will go to the side that extends the olive branch first.
Until then, I’ll continue to follow superheroes and politicians fervently, whooping when one side strikes a blow against the other. Unfortunately, that just might be the greatest commonality between superhero stories and politics — at the end of the day, for the average Joe, both are just a spectator sport.