Thursday, February 23, 2012 / 5:00 am

All the Presidents’ Powers

Our presidents flex in pop culture.

by Gary Phillips

Super President
Super President

U.S. President James Norcross (voiced by the late Paul Frees, a small man with a mighty voice; I think it’s still his voice used in the Haunted Mansion at Disneyland) gets superpowers as the result of a cosmic storm—a riff on how the Fantastic Four got their abilities. The President gains increased strength and can change his molecular composition at will to any form required like granite, steel, ozone, water and even electricity. Through a secret entrance in the Oval Office, Norcross could get to his hidden lair, a Batcave-like cavern outfitted with goodies beneath the White House. Super President had a sweet sled (made by GM?) called the Omnicar that drove, flew and could go underwater. He could also fly via the little jets on his belt, though how he avoided scorching his thighs wasn’t explained.

Super President was a cartoon show from 1967 on NBC. Apparently it came under fire for depicting the prez as a super-hero, thus diminishing other world leaders. But in celebration of this past Presidents Day, I want to give it up for the various rugged presidents we’ve depicted in popular culture over the years.

In addition to that cartoon series, we’ve had the X-Presidents from the SNL cartoon segments. Originally they were Carter, Ford, Bush the First, and Reagan. Clinton was added later. Super powers such as flight and heat vision were bestowed on them when they were struck by radiated lightning during a charity golf tournament. They wear their blue suits, not spandex, when handing out the smackdown to the dastardly.

“I have lusted in my heart … to kick your ass,” Jimmy Carter says in a word balloon as he kung fu kicks a reptilian villain on the cover of the X-Presidents comic book derived from the cartoon shorts.

Way before them in 1896, Teddy Roosevelt was the police commissioner of New York City—he actually was. In Caleb Carr’s novel The Alienist, Roosevelt teams up with a doctor and a reporter to solve the grisly murders of teenaged male prostitutes being slaughtered in his city. A modernist woman named Susan Howard, Roosevelt’s secretary, turns out to be one hell of a detective in aiding in the unmasking of the criminals.

In The Further Adventures of Sherlock Holmes: The Stalwart Companions (one in a series wherein the Great Detective teams up with, among others, Tarzan and Professor George Challenger—like Holmes, another Sir Arthur Conan Doyle creation first seen in The Lost World) by H. Paul Jeffers, Teddy Roosevelt and Holmes, both twentysomething, work together when the future consulting detective is an actor in a traveling troupe. They solve a “most violent and despicable crime” on our shores.

Teddy’s cousin, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, often appeared in comics in the Golden Age of the forties. For DC Comics, he suggested various super-heroes work together as the Justice Society of America. While over at rival Timely, the future Marvel, he brought together the Invaders, a guerrilla grouping of super-heroes including the Human Torch, Namor the Sub-Mariner and Captain America, who he gifts with his iconic shield. Like juiced up Inglourious Basterds, they’re to rip the Nazis a new one.

Barry Bostwick, who played the bumbling mayor of New York City in the sitcom Spin City, plays a whole different interpretation of the president who ushered in the New Deal in FDR: American Badass. This B comedy effort is a poverty row companion to the big budget Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, also coming to a cineplex near you soon. In the former movie, FDR is bitten by a Nazi werewolf in the calf muscle, rendering his legs useless. When informed of this, as depicted in the trailer, FDR asks with his wife at his bedside, “Does my cock still work?” Once that important matter is settled, FDR gets down to business. Aided by the likes of General Douglas MacArthur, Dougie Mac, and utilizing his tricked out wheelchair outfitted James Bond-style with machine guns, FDR hollers “Fuck polio,” as he blazes him some goose-stepping werewolves

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, is based on the mash-up novel of the same name by Seth Grahame-Smith. In it, Lincoln as a child, a la the young Bruce Wayne, Batman to be, whose parents are killed in a mugging one night before his eyes, swears life-long vengeance on the undead. His mother dies due to being attacked by a vampire. So in addition to being the president during the Civil War, with vampires entangled in it, freeing the slaves (don’t know if there are black fangsters in this flick—and how cool would it be if Frederick Douglass got to stake some Confederate vamps?) and having a hot wife, he’s got to wield his axe like Conan on a tear.

The redoubtable Harrison Ford was an ex-war hero turned president turned machine gun-toting hero again in Air Force One. When Kazakhstan terrorists (led by Gary Oldman) capture the president’s plane, Air Force One, President James Marshall has to show these fools what time it is. The film also boasts a woman vice-president played by Glenn Close—though she doesn’t get to bust no caps as Ford got to do.

In terms of other women presidents, in the future, Battlestar Galactica the cable series gave us Laura Roslin, the president of the Twelve Colonies. This is what is left of humanity after the Cylons decimate it on other planets. She has breast cancer but soldiers on to bring stability and government to the humans who have regrouped on the galaxy-spanning Battlestar space ships. She starts taking an organic drug to counter her illness and begins having visions that guide her in her decision-making, leading the fleet to new planets, possibly back to Earth itself.

Supreme super-villain and Superman hater par excellence Lex Luthor finagled his way into the White House in a DC Comics storyline a while ago on a platform of technological progress. Of course Luther is up to no good, but he deflects criticism by appointing folk like Jefferson Pierce, the super hero Black Lightning, as Secretary of Education. For he’s also an inner city school teacher by day. Luthor also leads the way to defeat an alien invasion, only it turns out he knew the aliens were coming. Eventually Supes and Batman work to unseat the conniving president.

The comics have also used Barack Obama in various ways from him giving a fist bump to Spider-Man, showing up in various cameos and starring in his own miniseries for Devil’s Due comics. In Barack the Barbarian: Quest for the Treasures of Stimuli, as the head of Kickassistan he must do battle with a blonde Ann Coulterish Amazon, and in another tale, takes on the wolf skin bikini wearing Red Sarah. There’s also some soft porn manga with the president, but as this is a family site, I won’t dignify such lowbrow fare here.

This past December, President Obama challenged Jamie Hyneman and Adam Savage, hosts of TV science show MythBusters, and not to authenticate his birth certificate. Obama had them test a version of the supposed death ray invented by Archimedes, a kind of ancient laser that used mirrors and the sun to make its beams. Purportedly he did this to boost kids’ interest in math and science, but we know he was really vetting new weapons for his arsenal. For soon we shall bear witness to SuperBad President as he wages the fight for truth and justice against Robot Man Romney and his horde of screaming, crazed tea’d up berserkers.

Lincoln the Slayer
The Decapitator-in-Chief
Barack bad ass
The President tires of compromise
Gary Phillips' latest is Treacherous: Grifters, Ruffians and Killers, a collection of his short stories.


Heres Jack Johnson, its a little swagger for you daddy, and please Gary, dont discount ‘Act of Valor.’

2012-02-23 by robert hagen

Oh, this is great! Thanks, Gary.

2012-02-24 by Jeff Sherratt

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