But I had to bring back the OMF for one special Fourth of July event. After all, what's more American than manga? Okay, yes, everything, but manga can teach us a lot about the U.S. of A. From manga, we learn that America is a magical land of hot gay gang-bangers, Broadway dancers shacked up with underage alien fish, and unashamed racism. Also, everyone has awesome names like "Aslan" and "Wedy."
What else can we learn about America through manga? How about the history of the courageous leaders who have served in the highest office in the land? That's why I'm pleased to present:
The Overlooked Manga Festival Parade of Manga Presidents
Portrayals of early American presidents like Washington, Jefferson and Lincoln are rare in manga because, frankly, Japanese people don't care. They've got 2,000 years of their own history to our pathetic 200 and change, so they don't pay much attention to our historic leaders until you get to the one who bombed the crap out of them. There are several memorable images of Franklin Roosevelt in manga, such as the awesome vampiric FDR on the cover of a 1943 issue of Manga, the official wartime manga magazine, as reproduced in Frederik Schodt's seminal Manga! Manga! For this parade, however, I've selected the affable, cigar-puffing FDR in Osamu Tezuka's Adolf.
Manga FDR has powers beyond those of regular FDR. For instance, as we learn on the next page, he can walk.
Fast-forward to the 1970s, the greatest decade for manga and one of not-so-greatest decades for the American presidency. I'm very sorry indeed that I was unable to find a Manga Nixon for the parade, but I did manage to score a very badly-drawn Manga Gerald Ford, appearing, as so many badly-drawn Manga Presidents do, in OMF pick Golgo 13.
As anyone who grew up in the 1970s remembers, Manga Ford knew he wasn't up to the task of stopping the rogue Damocles offensive spacecraft from starting World War III. He could only take comfort in the knowledge that Manga Kennedy once screwed things up just as badly with the Manga Cuban Missile Crisis. Manga JFK was probably a lot more charming about it, though.
Fortunately, mysterious ellipses-spouting assassin Golgo13 made everything better, and in time we as a nation moved on to more important business: being awed and intimidated by Japan. It's morning in Manga America!
A million thanks to Carl Horn for sending me this appearance of Manga Reagan in the amazing (and unfortunately hard to find in English) Japan Inc., by Shotaro Ishinomori. Ishinomori, a famously nutty manga-ka who built an "energy pyramid" on top of his house and changed his name from Ishimori to Ishinomori because he thought it sounded cooler, is best known for classic kiddie action manga like OMF pick Cyborg 009, but in the 1980s he also drew this batshit insane adaptation of a book about the Japanese auto industry. The United States and its inferior cars were mercilessly savaged, but Manga Reagan remained cheerful.
I couldn't find any manga representations of George H.W. Bush, not even throwing up on the prime minister, but his successor may well be the most mangafied president in American history. Manga from the 1990s are rife with portraits of Bill Clinton. I'm not entirely sure why. Maybe the globetrotting Clinton was more visible to the Japanese than previous presidents, or maybe they just found his big chubby face kind of kawaii. Anyway, from the wide selection of manga Clintons available, I chose this thinly-veiled stand-in from Sanctuary, by Sho Fumimura and Ryoichi Ikegami.
That's not Hillary, by the way, but President Cliff's nudge-nudge personal assistant, who later makes it with one of the Sanctuary dudes. From this sequence we learn that the 1990s in America were a time of political corruption and sexual peccadilloes, but also lovely scarves.
That brings us up to our current presidency, and...What? What's that? You demand that the Parade of Manga Presidents make room for manga presidential candidates who won the manga popular vote? I don't know if I care for your partisan attitude, buster, but I admit it'd be a shame to leave out Albert Noah, the strangely bishonen Al Gore stand-in from Kaiji Kawaguchi's Eagle.
Vice-President Noah was bested in this debate by charismatic Japanese-American senator Ken Yamaoka, but went on to win a Manga Nobel Prize and make a lot of really cool graphs.
And now we come to the end of the Parade of Manga Presidents and its grand marshal, the current Manga POTUS. Before I paste the relevant HTML into the space below, I just want to note that this is not only my favorite portrayal of a Manga President, but one of my all-time favorite moments in manga, ever. It sums up this great land of ours and its leadership with the clarity that only an outsider, an artist observing us from afar, could bring. This, my friends, is from OMF pick Yakitate! Japan, by Takashi Hashiguchi, and this is America.
Isn't it beautiful?
God bless America! God bless you, Manga Presidents! Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm off to eat Budweiser-steamed hot dogs and read some manga with fireworks in them.
Overlooked Manga Festival Archive