Politics in the Gutters
American Politicians and Elections in Comic Book Media
A thorough exploration of the political critiques found in a multigenre, historical cross-section of comic books and their transmedia adaptations
From the moment Captain America punched Hitler in the jaw, comic books have always been political, and whether it is Marvel’s chairman Ike Perlmutter making a campaign contribution to Donald Trump in 2016 or Marvel’s character Howard the Duck running for president during America’s bicentennial in 1976, the politics of comics have overlapped with the politics of campaigns and governance. Pop culture opens avenues for people to declare their participation in a collective project and helps them to shape their understandings of civic responsibility, leadership, communal history, and present concerns.
Politics in the Gutters: American Politicians and Elections in Comic Book Media opens with an examination of campaign comic books used by the likes of Herbert Hoover and Harry S. Truman, follows the rise of political counterculture comix of the 1960s, and continues on to the graphic novel version of the 9/11 Report and the cottage industry of Sarah Palin comics. It ends with a consideration of comparisons to Donald Trump as a supervillain and a look at comics connections to the pandemic and protests that marked the 2020 election year.
More than just escapist entertainment, comics offer a popular yet complicated vision of the American political tableau. Politics in the Gutters considers the political myths, moments, and mimeses, in comic books—from nonfiction to science fiction, superhero to supernatural, serious to satirical, golden age to present day—to consider how they represent, re-present, underpin, and/or undermine ideas and ideals about American electoral politics.
"Christina Knopf breaks new ground with Politics in the Gutters: American Politicians and Elections in Comic Book Media. While there are historians who cover comic books and superheroes, Knopf’s writing is far more substantive, going deeper into the real history and politics, making her books unique. "- Marc DiPaolo, author of Fire and Snow: Climate Fiction from the Inklings to “Game of Thrones”
"In Politics in the Gutters, Christina Knopf has made a tremendous contribution to many fields—political science, media and communications, literature, American studies, and comics studies. Clear, detailed, and easy to read, this enormous undertaking skillfully illuminates the intersections of comics and real-world politics. "- Carolyn Cocca, author of Superwomen: Gender, Power, and Representation
"For anyone interested in the intersection between politics and popular culture, Politics in the Gutters is a great resource, examining its topics along several dimensions and drawing from many fields. Because its chapters are short, dense, and can be read individually—they focus on one topic at a time and don’t rely on previous chapters to make their points—it also lends itself to use in the classroom. It could serve as a great inspiration for educators looking for ways to discuss political issues through the accessible and student-appealing medium of comic books."- Christina Wurst, Ancillary Review of Books
"Your local or online bookseller will thank you—and ought to send Knopf a thank-you note, too—since, if you’re anything like me, you’ll want to order a whole bunch of the comics Knopf writes about, read them, and then come back to Politics in the Gutters again."- Damien K. Picariell, Inks