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This year’s presidential election has divided the country in a way that few other elections in U.S. history have managed. However, throughout it all, the fictional heroes of the Marvel and DC comic book universes have remained above the fray in all but the most coded of ways. This wasn’t always the case, however; as recently as 2008, DC’s heroes took very specific political stands — including declaring which party they stood beside.
DC Universe: Decisions was a four-issue miniseries published in the run-up to the 2008 election, written by Bill Willingham and Judd Winick, with art by Rick Leonardi and Howard Porter. The plot, such as it was, was slight — a killer targets each of the candidates in the primary races for both the Democratic and Republican parties, meaning that each candidate is given superheroic bodyguards to protect them — but the real appeal of the series was seeing favorite superheroes express their political opinions in a manner sure to upset at least half of their fan bases.
In many ways, it’s an idea that seems unthinkable today. For all that Captain America is an inherently political figure, it’s hard to imagine Marvel allowing him to endorse Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump today despite the obvious reasons Cap would feel uncomfortable with the latter. Why risk upsetting half of your potential customer base?
That’s not to say that endorsements wouldn’t come following the election — President Obama famously appeared in a best-selling issue of Amazing Spider-Man released a week ahead of his inauguration in January 2009 — or that other, independently owned, superheroes would declare their allegiances; the September 2008 issue of Erik Larsen’s Savage Dragon featured an alternate cover where the hero stood beside Obama, declaring “I’m Savage Dragon and I endorse Barack Obama for President of the United States!” But the big-name, company-owned characters? That would be way too risky.
Of course, Decisions didn’t go so far as to use real-life politicians. Instead, the fictional universe that had once elected Lex Luthor to the Oval Office — it didn’t go well, unsurprisingly — was choosing between Davis Brewster and Martin Suarez on the Democratic side, and Katherine McClellan and Bob Ridgeway for the Republicans.
Of the top-level DC characters, the Republicans came out on top, scoring two separate Green Lanterns, as well as Lois Lane and Wonder Woman. The Democrats, meanwhile, got the support of Batman and Green Arrow. The Flash and Superman went undeclared throughout the entire series — the speedster because of a joke that went viral, leaving him responsible for PR cleanup instead of sharing his opinion, while the Man of Steel purposefully kept his decision to himself, leading to a climactic speech where he explained his thinking.
“It would be unconscionable of me to share [my endorsement] with you,” he explained. “Whoever is elected to the highest office in the land should not think that they will not have our full support. That our allegiances are stronger with a defeated candidate. We don’t take sides. The battles we fight are larger than those on the political spectrum. It would pain me to think the president would believe that he or she couldn’t count on us, turn to us, or rely on us.”
It’s a meta moment, with Superman explaining another (less cynical) reason why politicizing superheroes might not be a good decision — while there’s a certain fun to creating a personal canon where Wonder Woman joins Beyonce in supporting Hillary Clinton as a fellow female warrior, superheroes really should be for everyone, regardless of whom they choose to vote for.
Sure, Superman personally might not want to vote for a politician who lies, or makes hateful remarks, but it only makes sense that he wouldn’t speak out against him publicly — especially as he wrestles with the idea that the country he loves has chosen a leader he can’t stand. And, sure — I’m talking about Lex Luthor here. Definitely.
If there’s one fault with DC Universe: Decisions, beyond the arguments one might have with the political leanings of any given superhero (Plastic Man as a Republican? Nah), it’s that there isn’t a scene where a superhero explains that each and every person who votes is just as much a hero as they are — or one where Spider-Man swings by from the Marvel universe to remind people that, with great power must come great responsibility. A small oversight, perhaps, but a noticeable one. Perhaps good enough reason for a Decisions 2 in 2020?
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