The fourth issue of the Michele Bachmann comic book — produced by local detractors of the reigning Congresswoman of the Tea Party right — is now shipping. As we’ve done with the past issues, here’s our review.
The publisher’s letter to me, which came with the review copy, sums up what you’re in for with this installment. It reads, in part: “I hope you’ll find time to review this one; it has Jesus Christ with googly eyes on it, and God the Father on the back cover.”
The Bachmann comic creators have chosen to structure the issues of the series thematically, rather than chronologically. That is, instead of telling Bachmann’s story as a sequential, serialized saga, beginning with her humble roots and ending with her in Congress, each issue has instead explored how some particular themes have run through her whole career. Last time around, it was how she has built and mobilized her support base by fear-mongering against various groups and issues, especially gays.
And as the cover (and the amusing letter) shows, this issue explores Bachmann’s claims that her political career — indeed, her entire political career — has been guided by direct revelation from God.
And, as with that cover, the scan below doesn’t quite do it justice. The googly eyes are real, three-dimensional objects, with the pupils moving around if you shake the cover — the sort of gimmick that graced (or disgraced, depending on your perspective) the covers of many comics in the early 1990s.
As with previous issues, the cover by itself presents some amazing statements about Bachmann. At first glance, Jesus can be interpreted as looking so pained and intense either because he is the right-wing fanatic of Bachmann’s imaginings — or perhaps it’s because even she drives him nuts. But, with the Wizard of Oz motif, we see Toto the dog pulling back the curtain to reveal that this Jesus is just a magnificent humbug, with Bachmann behind the curtain, using his image to fool other people into thinking that she is great.
Instead of the omniscient third-person narrator of the previous issues, this one features a special guest — God Himself. And he’s narrating the story from a celestial bar, drinking. In fact, he’s getting progressively sloshed as the story goes on. This seems to me like it’s probably drawn from the late, great Steve Gerber’s depiction of God in the 2002 Howard the Duck mini-series. (A credit to Gerber would have been nice — or perhaps to some other prior source that both the creators and Gerber were drawing from.)
Unlike other issues, this issue does not explore all of Bachmann’s claims of revelation — but a particular one from October 2006, with God taking apart then-candidate Bachmann’s claims that God had in the past guided her by visions to her marriage, going to law school, running for state Senate, and then running for Congress. Bachmann’s speech was officially not a campaign appearance — that would have run afoul of tax law for the church — but was about her giving a testimony of her Christian experiences.
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As this comic-book God explains to us, Bachmann’s claims of revelation, made in front of a mega-church audience, have a clear political message: “—She’s also, hint-hint, telling people that I want her to be in politics, that she’s having all these supernatural experiences where I tell her, ‘Michele, you just gotta run for office, it is my will.’ — So, hint-hint, how are you going to vote this Fall, congregation, if you’re in church hearing the ‘fact’ that God personally told her to get into politics? Get it?”
But as God points out, Bachmann left key details out of the story — she only talked about the previous races she ran for state Senate, as having been commanded to her by God out of the blue. “I had no idea, and no desire to be in politics. Absolutely none,” she said. But of course, she neglected to mention that she had previously run with a Republican Party-backed slate of candidates for school board — and lost. As “God” says here, her claim of having had no desire to be in politics was false, a lie, and made in church no less.
God explains to the reader why he’s drinking — because Christians don’t call out Bachmann on false statements about direct contact with God, which are made in order to advance her political career. “So what’s the moral of the story? That Michele Bachmann and her fans, and the conservative evangelical leaders that endorse her — don’t fear me, don’t love me, don’t respect my commandments If her breaking of commandments and regular lying really does upset any evangelical conservatives — they’re not standing up for me. They’re standing up for her, and the lies.”
And now, taking advantage of the physical medium of the comic — color covers with black-and-white interiors — the back cover is now used as the final page of the story. God has sobered up, and is manifesting his power and rage. The artwork takes on a whole different quality, with no more black line-work, only color and shape:
So what’s my verdict?
The most intriguing thing about the Bachmann comic, of course, is that it exists at all. How many other second-term members of the minority party in Congress have attracted so much fame and controversy, so much veneration on one hand and disdain on the other, to merit this treatment? After all, there aren’t any comic books about Rep. Gus Bilirakis (R-FL).
As for this issue, I sat down intending to write a bad review — but my opinion changed as I actually kept writing towards being quite a bit more positive. As it is, I still see a major flaw in the comic: Bachmann is reduced to being a supporting character to a very special guest narrator, who walks us through the negative, controlling mindsets of the modern religious right. Indeed, Bachmann doesn’t turn up until six pages into the thing, out of a 26-page story. But as I’ve also discovered, the comic explores a lot of interesting tricks that can be played with the medium, and makes some fun points along the way.
So all in all, it’s a decent read — but could have still have used a lot more of Bachmann. After all, the point of this comic is to cast light on a real person and her bizarre exploits. But the God featured in this comic, while cleverly approached, remains a fictional character.