Do comic books lean left?

With a comic book aficionado about to be sworn in as the president of the United States, it's no surprise that comic book makers are eager to capitalize on their new inside-in-the-beltway connection. But is it true that comic books are now turning partisan?

It's been all over the news this week that Marvel Comics is planning a special issue Jan. 14 , 2009, issue of Amazing Spider-Man #583 with Obama on the cover. Inside are five pages of Obama-Spider-Man escapades, as Spider-Man stops the Chameleon from spoiling Obama's swearing-in.

Best of all, there's a fist-bump between Spidey and the new president.

It's already predicted that the issue, which will have a face value of $3.99, will be worth as much as $20 the first day it goes on sale – an instant collector's item.

But there are those who suggest that a comic book is not just a comic book but rather a sojourn into partisan politics.

"Even Comic Books Crawling with Pro-Obama Bias?," asks Ken Shepherd at Newsbusters.

He notes that in the USA Today story about the Obama-Spider-Man special writer David Colton says that although US presidents have appeared in comics since the days of FDR,  in recent years, "presidents have appeared as more shadowy figures."

Shepherd quotes Marvel Comics editor-in-chief Joe Quesada who insists that he and his artists and writers "do our best to be completely non-partisan and treat presidents with respect."

But Shepherd then refutes that claim by referring to a story by Michael Lackner on that reports that in late 2001, a Marvel Comics storyline portrayed Bush as "a slobbering belching incoherent drunk, gleefully itching to launch nuclear missiles." In the same story, The Punisher, Marvel Comics’ avenging vigilante, makes a threat on Bush's life – "only weeks after September 11th. "

It may, however, require a deeper reading to truly deconstruct the politics of comic books.

In his blog on American Prospect, Adam Serwer cites another recent storyline in which Obama appears to side with the Green Goblin, "Spider-Man's greatest foe."

"All of which is to say," Serwer concludes, "that while the politics of comic books are often interesting, they’re also often very incoherent, and hard to interpret as nakedly partisan."

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