Monday, June 22, 2009

Marvel at This D.C. Superhero

You can’t possibly imagine how excited Matt and I were the other day to discover that Bluewater Productions, the company behind the smash hit Sara Palin and Michelle Obama comic books, has decided to produce a comic about none other than Joe Biden as part of their “Political Power” series. After Colin Powell in July and a Barack Obama comic some time after, Joe Biden’s comic comes off the presses in September of this year. We’ll both be first in line.

I sat down with the Darren G. Davis, President of Bluewater Productions – that is, I assume he was sitting down as well, since I was interviewing him over the phone from LA while he was in his office in Washington State – and talked with him about making politics palatable to the youth, and making the Vice Presidency just generally palatable.

Jason Klamm: How long has the company been around?
Darren Davis: We’ve been self-publishing for three years now. I’ve been producing comics for ten. I worked for DC comics and I published for Image.

JK: When was the decision made to go political?
DD: We decided just right before the election, right after Hillary Clinton didn’t get nominated. People were really starting to slam Hillary, Sara Palin, Barack Obama and Joe Biden. They were making their decisions just based on headlines. We thought – we have a voice in comics. We have twenty-two pages, why not tell a story? I’ve learned a lot about politics from doing this.

JK: What were the first ideas thrown around for political comics?
DD: Those were the ones we wanted to start out with. From there, that’s when we decided to expand the line. The books turned out to be about female empowerment. Then we decided to spin off to everyone in politics, starting in July with Colin Powell.

JK: How well has the Palin comic done?
DD: We’re on our third printing, we’ve sold 20,000 copies. Michelle sold over 55,000, it’s now the top-selling independent comic.

JK: What is it about Palin’s comic that is selling so well? Kitsch factor?
DD: I think it’s a bunch of different things. One, they became, in a sense, about female empowerment. We didn’t know the demo at first. A lot of women who want to learn about these women, might not like them, but respect where they come from and what they do. We’re also getting people collecting political memorabilia. People who just want to know. Like kids.

Bios can technically be really boring. We didn’t want them to be stale. Added extra little characters in it. The writer is the narrator. In the Clinton book, the writer hates her. After doing the research on her, the writer begins to respect her. That’s the point of the series – the journey of knowledge. She is dressed up as the devil, but we also have the narrator talking to this Jiminy Cricket character.

JK: When did you decide on making a Biden comic?
DD: We were trying to think along the lines of who to do, and you there’s been a Barack Obama comic book, but no one’s ever done Joe Biden. We should honor that. As I said, people may not like them, but you have to respect them.

JK: How much do you know about the Vice Presidency?
DD: I’m gonna’ learn a lot from my Bo Obama (the First Family's dog) book – he talks about the VP, too. Once again, I’m the demo – I don’t know a whole lot, I got frustrated. I got passionate about this election, as many people did for the first time. So with the VP – I am a part of American society that doesn’t know. The VP does have a role, he’s just on another plane.

JK: What is it about Biden that makes him a good character in a comic?
DD: I think his personality kind of lends to it. As Sara Palin has a strong personality, Joe Biden – some of the things he does and says goes along those lines. Palin’s a bit more out there than Joe Biden, shooting wolves and having a turkey killed in the background… Joe Biden has said some pretty harsh things, like in the election when he was saying if Obama was elected there would be a crisis in six to eight months.

We really want kids to pick these things up. We want kids to think “I could be the Vice President,” or Secretary of State, etc.

JK: Do you know much about other VPs?
DD: No. Basically I know what there is in headlines, the Dan Quayleisms… I think Al Gore has become more vocal after being Vice President. One reason people are so tough on him is because of what he’s done in the world.

JK: Let me give you three VPs. You tell me which would make the best comic book. First, Charles Curtis. His sister said the Depression was over simply because she didn’t see the effects of it. He called the Marines on protesting ex-soldiers. Or William King, who was likely our only gay Vice President. He lived with James Buchanan for 16 years. He was sworn in in Cuba, and died just days after arriving in the US. John Breckinridge was VP before the Civil War, then when the war broke out, he joined the Confederacy. When the war was over, he was a traitor, so he had to run, hijacked a boat, got out onto the ocean and was hijacked by actual pirates.
DD: I’d say that one, because in this day and age I don’t think people think being gay is relevant – it has to be something that teaches us about them. But then look at who we’re probably doing. I don’t see myself doing a Dan Quayle comic. Maybe Cheney.

JK: Are there any plans to do historical figures?
DD: We are thinking about that. It really depends how “Political Power” takes off. We’re starting with Abe Lincoln in February.

Needless to say, September couldn’t be further away. It’s likely to be worth the wait, however. I haven’t read any of the comics yet (Matt has, and speaks highly of them), but I have hope when I hear that a comic book company is going out of its way to use its medium to educate. Not only that, they’re geared towards keeping it interesting, without patronizing its audience, regardless of age – they’re a company after our own hearts.

We’d like to sincerely thank Darren G. Davis of Bluewater Productions for giving us the interview and the opportunity to meet a like mind in a business equally as tough as ours. In case you're as excited as we are, though, don't line up for the Biden comic right after the Obama book comes out. Biden's doesn't come out until after Bo's.

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