- Category: Volume 83 (Fall 2011 - Spring 2012)
- Published: 15 February 2012
- Written by MATTHEW FISHER | COMICS EDITOR
Abraham Lincoln was many things during his life: a lawyer, a politician, and President of the United States. However, one thing people might not be aware of is that Honest Abe has also been featured as a comic book character. So, to honor the President Lincoln’s 203rd birthday, let’s take a look at how comic book creators have brought a bit of the past to the present.
Seeing presidents in comic books isn’t something new as I discussed last year with my column on President Obama’s appearance in “Spider-Man” and as Barack the Barbarian. Other U.S. presidents that have graced the comic pages include John F. Kennedy, Franklin D. Roosevelt, and George W. Bush. Yet, what is interesting here is to see a U.S. president entering strange adventures and fighting with heroes at a point when superhero comics had yet to emerge.
According to comicvine.com, there are “132 appearances” of Lincoln in comics with his first appearance being, “Real Life Comics” #2.
Now, when comic book readers look to his more recent appearances, one unique title that stands out is “Time Lincoln” from Antarctic Press and written and drawn by Fred Perry. A synopsis on comicvine.com reads as such: “What happens when the Great Emancipator is suddenly freed from the bonds of time to right wrongs throughout history? Taken out of time on the night of his assassination with the help of H.G. Wells’s time machine, Abraham Lincoln finds himself waging war upon the forces of evil in the past, present and future! In his last hour, he lived a lifetime!”
While a time-traveling Lincoln might appear strange, looking at the cover for “Time Lincoln,” with the 16th President wearing time goggles and staring into the distance, it’s hard not to be intrigued by the title’s premise. Additionally, a review on geek-life.com, it explains that Lincoln isn’t alone on this journey. They report “Lincoln assembles a back-up team that includes Albert Einstein, Isaac Newton, George Washington Carver, and Benjamin Franklin, all equipped with a bunch of fun steampunky devices.”
Although this might seem like the first time Lincoln is time traveling, the truth is he’s done so before in Marvel’s “Bill & Ted’s Excellent Comic Book.” [Insert air guitar riffs].
As for superhero comic books, Lincoln has been featured in titles like “The Flash” Vol. 1 #270 and “Weird Western Tales” #33. However, iconic heroes Lincoln has stood next to include Superman and Spider-Man.
To start, Lincoln was featured in “Superman: A Nation Divided,” an alternate world tale told through DC’s Elseworlds series, where Superman’s origin is told during the Civil War. In the story, Lincoln learns about Atticus Kent’s powers but doesn’t believe them until he sees the superman in action. In fact, Kent’s superpowers save Lincoln from being killed by John Wilkes Booth, rewriting history all together.
Lincoln was also was featured briefly in the graphic novel, “Batman: Detective No. 27” (another Elseworlds story).
With Marvel, one of Lincoln’s most current appearances was alongside Spider-Man and Captain America in the 2009 digital comic, “Gettysburg Distress” by writer Matt Fraction and artist Andy MacDonald. The story features Spider-Man and Captain America going back into the past to hear Lincoln present the Gettysburg Address.
According to Dan Buckley, president of Marvel Publishing, on comicbook.com, while the desire to have Spider-Man and Cap meet Honest Abe came out of Spidey’s encounter with Obama, there was another agenda as well. He said, “And in celebration of President Lincoln’s historic Bicentennial, we could think of no better tribute in the Marvel Universe than to have Spider-Man and Cap honoring one of his enduring legacies, the Gettysburg Address.”
“Gettysburg Distress” was later collected as a bonus story in “The Amazing Spider-Man: Election Day” hardcover, which features Spider-Man’s appearance with Obama.
Lincoln was also a character in the Dark Horse Comic, “The Amazing Screw-On Head,” where the titular character is a secret agent for the President who thwarts villains from destroying the country.
Beyond all of Lincoln’s superhero and otherworldly adventures, comic book creators still recognize this historical figure’s role in shaping American history with a number of biographic comics like “Classics Illustrated: Abraham Lincoln” and “Abraham Lincoln: Life Story” from Dell Comics. These biographical tales show that this President’s life was as rich and full of adventure as any superhero comic appearance.
A recent historical graphic novel featuring Lincoln was “Gettysburg: The Graphic Novel,” by C.M. Bultzer, which details this famous battle and its aftermath. While speaking to graphicnovelreporter.com, Bultzer discussed drawing Lincoln giving the Gettysburg address and said, “Some parts of the speech were easy, for Lincoln either directly or indirectly acknowledges specific events or movements. Whereas other sections were more abstract and were clearly my interpretation of his words. Ultimately, I wanted to try to bring this hallowed speech to life.”
So, while films such as Lincoln and Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter work to both honor and honorably portray Lincoln, people should take note that comic books have done so as well whether it’s traveling through time, teaming-up with Spidey, or delivering his famous Gettysburg Address. Happy Birthday, President Lincoln!