Real-world elections are very important, and we should all strive to be informed and attentive voters. Just as you might have favorite candidates in a human election, there are stand-out political figures in comic books. Here is a definitive ranking of comic book presidents
As perhaps the purest reflection of American culture, superhero comics have always been fascinated with the president and with presidential campaigns. So, I present to you here a definitive ranking of comic book presidents and a list of their greatest accomplishments and most troubling records so that, come November, you might know who to support.
#6: Howard the Duck
Ranking way down at No. 6, Howard the Duck can’t really be called a comic book president because he didn’t win. An anthropomorphic duck from another dimension brought to our universe through Man-Thing’s Nexus of All Realities, Howard ran as a third-party candidate (he was the nominee of the Up All Night Party) and reportedly won thousands of real-world votes, but couldn’t quite manage to get elected in either the Marvel Universe or in this one. But his campaign has remained famous for the earnestness a duck could muster. At the end of the day, Howard’s big ask of the American people was that they think. After running for president, Howard went on to star in a film and become a private detective and no longer appears interested in holding public office.
#5: Captain America
Steve Rogers – Captain America – was a great president, but he gets ranked down here at No. 5 because he only held the office in a couple of alternate realities. In 1980, three parties attempted to nominate him for president, and he might have been the first unanimously elected president since George Washington had he not ultimately decided that his role was to uphold the American dream, and not its complicated reality, and declined to run. However, on Earth-8130, Captain America was elected without ever revealing his civilian identity, winning 51.7% of the popular vote. During his first term, he moved the United States to 100% renewable energy but died before the end of his first term battling his archenemy, the Red Skull.
#4: Richard Nixon
The first real-world president on this list, Richard Nixon has a complicated legacy. The Watergate affair, and ensuing scandal, changed how Americans thought about the presidency forever. In the Marvel Universe, a similar scandal played out, though it was Captain America, instead of Woodward and Bernstein, who investigated the ties of the executive to a scandal involving a grave misuse of power. Captain America tracked the villainous Secret Empire all the way to the White House and discovered that their leader, Number 1, was President Nixon in disguise. The reveal changed comics forever and led to the classic period in which Steve Rogers, disillusioned with the American Dream, became Nomad, Man Without A Country. Nixon and the Secret Empire remain a special kind of Marvel history that diverges from ours but reflects the feelings of betrayal and disillusionment Americans felt at the time in a very superhero comics way.
#3: Lex Luthor
Another supervillain president, billionaire Lex Luthor, ran in 2000 on his record of rebuilding and rehabilitating Gotham City, and avoided questions about this decades-long desire to destroy Superman. It was his desire to kill the Man of Steel, and his own belief that he was above the law, that led to his downfall and eventual resignation as president without completing his first term. Lex has become president across many alternate versions of the DC Universe as well, and his term is nearly always characterized by greed and a disrespect for the limits of his power.
#2: Franklin Delano Roosevelt
Finally, a good president! FDR rises above other real-world presidents featured in comic books for his role as an inspiration for superheroes across universes. As president in World War II, FDR personally helped put together the Justice Society of America in the DC Universe, a team that would go on to centuries of heroic legacies, and the Invaders in the Marvel Universe. It was FDR that gave Captain America his famous round shield. It was FDR who Wonder Woman saved in her first outing as a hero. It was FDR who authorized the Bureau of Paranormal Research and Defense in the Hellboy Universe. Superhero comics were born during his presidency, and superheroes return to his vision of America again and again.
Finally, we come to the comic book character known most famously for being a president – Prez Rikards, the first teenage president. Prez became president in 1973, right after the eligibility age in the DC Universe was lowered to 18, and led a youth-based political revolution with his mother as his vice president. Prez is wild, and the concept was reborn in 2015 for a second volume in which teenager Beth Roos is elected president via Twitter in a future version of the country. Prez represents the kind of off-the-wall story that only happens in comics, and a vision for an inclusive and accepting future where all Americans participate fully in their civic culture. The idea of Prez is the idea of a president who could only be elected in a superhero universe but who reflects changing ideas of what leadership looks like. In the 1970s, that was a growing youth culture; in the 2010s that was a youth culture connected to virality and social media. The idea has shown up time and time again in DC Comics – Prez is a character the universe can never quite figure out what to do with but can’t leave alone – because they represent a kind of cultural reflection and pure, heartfelt feeling that only comic books can provide. For that reason, more than any policy or electoral victory, Prez is the best comic book president of all time.