What better way to tell the story of a politician as overwrought as Michele Bachmann than as a comic book? After all, if a comic book writer had created Bachmann, she’d be hard to believe. Just a couple of months after Barack Obama’s inauguration (and his swath of guest appearances in comics), Bachmann declared that it was time for the people of the US to have an “orderly revolution” to throw Obama out of office.
Comic book publishers would be pretty bummed to see their cash cow thrown out, so it’s probably a good thing for the industry that Bachmann’s revolution seems to be on the back burner for the moment. But for those of you who want to be prepared in case she manages to pull it off, you could do worse than checking out False Witness! The Michele Bachmann story.
For those of you outside of Minnesota who don’t spend your evenings with Sean Hannity or Keith Olbermann, Bachmann is the representative from Minnesota’s 6th congressional district. Her latest claim to fame is a rather public refusal to fill out the 2010 census forms for nebulous reasons connected to “personal” information. Rather like Sarah Palin, Bachmann is a pretty, populist Christian conservative with a reputation for saying outlandish things and a spectacular ability to mobilize the “base.”
Issue number one of False Witness! is less the narrative of Michele Bachmann and more a story of the religious right’s rise, tied together with the rise of Bachmann. As such, it’s rather text-heavy, and contains contributions by several different artists. The art doesn’t so much tell the story as add to it, turning all the characters to outsize caricatures while telling stories drawn straight from the news (with a “citations” page in the back just in case you doubt). The creators are certainly aware of this–even throwing in a two-page spread in which the comic critiques itself so that you don’t have to–and notes that it is an “important political story.”
The book is worth the $4 cover price just for the page in which Bachmann chants “You Will Pay!” at a fellow Republican who doubted her, in panels growing ever closer to eyes glowing with lunacy and a forehead beaded with sweat (evoking Nixon’s famous debate sweats, perhaps?). Yet like many satires, it is aimed mainly at the converted, and probably won’t be picked up by anyone but those who already know who Bachmann is and find her frightening–or amusing. Though the creators do a good job of illustrating the schisms and splits in the Republican party, when it comes to specific claims of demagoguery or extremism, the book is at its most effective when it lets Bachmann’s own, documented words speak for themselves. Readers who don’t already agree that Bachmann is a fundamentalist extremist will probably never get anywhere near the comic, so I doubt it will have much effect on Bachmann’s popularity at home.
We are promised more issues after this first one, so I’m hopeful that we’ll get more narrative when the creators don’t need to cram years of history of the Republican party into their comic. Perhaps we’ll get some Michele Bachmann origin stories, some more tales of her time in the state senate, or, since unlike Palin she shows no signs of going away, more stories of her newest headline-grabbing antics. Or perhaps Bachmann will prove me wrong and turn out to be the biggest boon to comic retailers since Spider-Man met Obama.
Stranger things have happened.