"Invasion of America" Reboot: The Prescience of Prez
| In January 2021, an armed mob invaded the Capitol (really). In January 1974, an armed mob invaded the White House (fictionally). |
When I started this blog, I did so with the intent of commenting on new, emerging, or developing comics and related media relevant to politics - texts that came out after the manuscript for Politics in the Gutters was completed. But, as I watched the events of January 6, 2021 unfold in Washington, DC I realized that this blog also needs to accommodate new, emerging, or developing political events relevant to comics.
As Congress counted the electoral college votes from the 2020 presidential election, supporters of President Trump, angry and/or in denial about Trump's loss to former Vice President Joe Biden, gathered in DC to protest the election. The protest quickly escalated to an attempted coup on the U.S. government as actors violently invaded and took over the U.S. Capitol and armed standoffs brought Congressional proceedings to a halt.
A similar scene can be found in the somewhat obscure DC Comics title Prez, which lasted just three issues from 1973 to 1974. Starring a teenage president, it was premised on the youth movement and the enfranchisement of 18-20 year olds with the passage of the 26th Amendment. Prez, and its 2015 reboot, are discussed at some length already in the forthcoming Politics in the Gutters, but its relevance to the modern political milieu was heightened when costumed defenders of the Second Amendment invaded the seat of American government in 2021.
Issue 3, released in September 1973 with a cover date of January 1974 featured the story "Invasion of America" in which a group of protestors, dressed in Revolutionary War uniforms, march down Pennsylvania Avenue and launch an armed attack on the White House. The invasion is designed to dramatize their objection to a bill to outlaw firearms and to protest the peace and love administration of President Rickard.
In the end, the protesting "Washington Minutemen" are defeated - but Washington, DC and the Prez presidency takes a beating. When the fighting has stopped President Rickard addresses Congress to admit that he hasn't been a particularly good president and that he needs to do more to unite the country which has been deeply divided by generational differences. At last, the older Congressmen start to accept the youthful president, but the younger ones see him as a traitor.
Jumping ahead to the real invasion of Washington, DC 46 years later, President Trump similarly accepted defeat after the attempted coup did not stop nor change the results of the 2020 election. Unlike President Rickard, however, Trump denied any responsibility in or for the discord, saying, "Even though I totally disagree with the outcome of the election, and the facts bear me out, nevertheless there will be an orderly transition on January 20th."
Moreover, whereas President Rickard fought the insurrection of the Minutemen, President Trump enabled the January 6 invasion. This really highlights how comics (and other fictional or fictionalized political stories) can serve as models of civic behavior. Superhero comics are often heralded for this, with superheroes seen as proxies for particular geopolitical identities, civic virtues, and community beliefs, enacting "correct" civic behavior, feelings, and thoughts, embodying the ideals and environment of their communities. But, as demonstrated by Prez, they are not alone in comics' ability to do this.
Comics, like their creators, have much to offer political discourse. Multiple studies demonstrate that the public receives political information and democratic sensibilities from a variety of news and entertainment content; pop culture artifacts open broader dialogues on civic matters and thus motivate, educate, and connect the public to political issues and systems. Fictional or fictionalized presidencies engage real-world issues and define idealized presidential leadership.
Likewise, symbolic performance of the presidential office helps to constitute the collective nation. And that's what makes Trump's final words following the real-world invasion of America by America - "it’s only the beginning of our fight" - scariest of all.
~Christina M. Knopf
07 January 2021