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Friday, November 23, 2007

The Ongoing Adventures of Ronald Reagan

Every collector of comic books has a speciality, or a niche, as I like to call it - it's virtually impossible not to. A niche is a set of specific criteria that a comic collector sets out when looking for comics: they might only be interested in comics featuring a specific super villain, or it could be something as general as collecting the entire run of James Robinson's Starman. Regardless of how much or how little material there is to find, every comic fan does this - it would simply be too unsatisfying, not to mention expensive, to simply collect everything, or to collect a bunch of stuff without rhyme or reason. Some amount of selection is required to satisfy that little part of our brains that just loves patterns and gestalt sets.

Bahlactus has a niche. Chris Sims has an unhealthy obsession with Rom. And myself? Well, in addition to my interest in Canadian superheroes, I have an odd fascination with graphical representations of Ronald Reagan.

It began innocently enough with this post, regarding DC's Legends miniseries:

And then I found those panels from Phantom Stranger (1987) #3 drawn by Mike Mignola.

I came across many more that I didn't bother cataloging, but now I really wish I had: you see, I am now compelled to find out exactly how far Reagan had his filthy mitts into DC continuity in the 1980's. Why did he keep showing up in this company's product? Did any other contemporary president enjoy nearly as much face-time as he did, in contrast to the merely metaphorical appearances that George W. Bush now inspires?

This is my mission, nay, my quest. And I'm going to share it with you.

The next chapter in Ronald Reagan's apparently awesome life begins as any good story must, with the Legion of Superheroes. In Booster Gold (Vol. 1) #8, Brainiac 5, Chameleon Boy, and Ultra Boy are summoned by Chronarch, a cockroachy-looking guy, to look at this really awesome thing he found: the time machine of Rip Hunter, a time-travelling hero who will become intimately involved with Booster Gold in the pages of 52 and Booster's subsequent 2007 series. For now, though, Booster Gold is simply the guy who stole Rip's device and used it to travel back to 1985, where he would become a superhero in an attempt to find fame and fortune.

Chronarch informs the trio that pieces Brainiac 5's force-shield belt were discovered in the damaged time-machine. This is impossible, thinks Brainy: the machine has only gone from Booster Gold's time of the 25th century straight back to 1985, and Brainiac's belt is from 500 years past the 25th century. In a monumental feat of intellect that would amaze even Jimmy Olsen, Brainiac 5 completely fails to even consider that the reason that the very belt he is wearing ends up back in 1985 is because he brought it there, and the three Legion amigos decide to head into the past to solve this grand mystery.

After that, we're treated to what might fittingly be called Booster Gold: Week One (note to DC: Booster Gold: Year One? awesome idea, don't you think?), wherein Booster and Skeets discover the smells of Metropolis '85, take part in their first act of super-heroism by helping an old lady home with her groceries, and fail to understand the subtleties of the economy circa 1985:

But all that's just diversionary tourist stuff: the real reason Booster and Skeets travelled back to this particular time is because they know that there'll be an assassination attempt on the DCU's favorite president. Behind the hit is the villainous organization called The 1000, who's grand plan is to kill the original vice-president Bush and president Reagan, have the shape-shifting alien, Chiller, replace Reagan, who will then appoint the leader of the 1000, a senator, as the new vice-president. "Reagan" will then resign, which will leave the senator as the President of the United States. Where he thinks he'll go from there is anyone's guess, as the POTUS can't really accomplish anything without the approval of congress. Maybe he's just really eager to throw an awesome party aboard Air Force One.

As Booster Gold and Skeets prepare to save the president from his killers, Booster screws up royally thanks to that time-honored tradition of super-hero team-ups: if the heroes have never met before, they must mistake each other for the bad-guy and immediately throw down. Specifically, because Skeets tells him that the would-be murderer of Ronald Reagan is a shape-shifter, Booster thinks that Chameleon Boy is the criminal, and the Legion thinks Booster's the criminal because...well, he kinda is one, seeing as how he did steal a bunch of artifacts and a talking robot from a museum in the future.

The story was simply too epic to fit into but one issue, so the dastardly plot to kill Bush and Reagan is continued into Booster Gold #9.

Chiller escapes with the politicians by mimicking one of the Secret Service agents, but Skeets isn't far behind, trailing the limo like he was programmed to catch a shot of Bush Sr's drunken crotch. Meanwhile, the Legion and Booster realize that they aren't each others' enemies and head over to Skeets's location, where the combined might of a washed-up football star from the future and a group of kids from even further into the future allow the Prez and VP to be rescued safe and sound.

But Reagan's legacy does not end here:

(click to enlarge)

Yes, we have Ronald Reagan to thank for Booster Gold. And did you see that? He's so respected that even Booster Gold, saviour of the 52 universes, cannot bear to embarrass him by making a correction. Ol' Goldie is willing to be known by the wrong name for the rest of his life just to keep Reagan happy. Yeah, DC knows where its bread is buttered.

How many superheroes do you know that have the honour to be named after a president's verbal gaff? And with pride? Even Booster Gold knows that you just don't fuck with the Gipper.

(And don't forget, fans of Reaganomics: Booster Gold #8-9 will be reprinted in next year's Showcase Presents: Booster Gold)

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