The Devil Wears Sarah

Lowdown - Interview

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Devil's Due Publishing has released the Barack The Barbarian: The Fall of Red Sarah, a political satire comic about the adventures of Red Sarah Palin and her least favorite barbarian -yet companion- Barack the Barbarian. BF spotlighted an exclusive BF-preview here, wanted to know more and had a word with the book's editor, DDP's own Evan Sult.

BROKEN FRONTIER: Following Obama’s inauguration in January 2009, several of comic companies looked to capitalize on the president’s popularity – the Amazing Spider-Man #583 cover probably being the most well-known exponent. How did the idea of Barack the Barbarian come to Devil’s Due?

EVAN SULT: The idea in its most basic form came from DDP's publisher, Josh Blaylock, and then it was fleshed out by Larry Hama. On its face it sounds like an idea both terrible and inevitable. But actually doing it turned out to be a very different, much more rewarding project.

BF: What made you decide to go through with it? Making a politically-themed comic is something different from what DDP usually does.

ES: Personally, when I heard about the project--"we're going to do a comic called 'Barack the Barbarian'!"--I wriggled to try to get out of it. Because we'd just been through a deeply unfunny, systemic abuse of American power for the last decade. And because I lived in Chicago and had been rooting for him to run for president for more than a year before he actually announced. I thought he would be a great candidate, and the only possible salve for the deep wounds of the Bush years. The last thing I wanted to help do was turn him into a clunky caricature.

But as we started working, I realized a lot of things. One is, there is a fantasy aura built up around Barack Obama that is a permanent part of what he is. Which I'm fine with--and which gives us the room to project some fantasy ourselves.

We all realized, upon seeing Obama actually take office, that this wasn't going to be an easy, or fast, or sweeping kind of change...but those were the fantasies that had gotten him into office.

So, Barack the Barbarian turns out to be a place where Barack Obama is still in full stride--still making gains, still outwitting and dancing around his adversaries. Barack the Barbarian contains a spark--an errant spark, but a spark nonetheless--of the excitement of his campaign. Which I think turns out to be exciting, and valuable.

BF: The "Obama as comicbook hero" is something new in the business of comics. To have a reigning entity in a comic?

ES: I was talking about this with some friends recently: is there a precedent for a presidential hero character, told while that president is (freshly) in office? We couldn't come up with an equivalent.

The thing is, Obama is really and truly inspiring. I'm sure that there were financial incentives to make this particular book (that's not my part of the job), but for me, the interesting thing is that we've got a hero on our side of the coherent universe. We went from having an actively malignant government to electing a man we believe acts from a more common interest.

I don't know how other books use Obama's presence. I did like DDP's Drafted with Obama, actually--I felt like that was an excellent use of a real person's persona to make a relevant point about the world of that comic. I like Barack the Barbarian because I think it's fundamentally good spirited.

BF:  Is the story of Red Sarah to be read as a satire through and through, or should we read some form of political statement into it?

ES:  Hopefully Red Sarah is one of those errant sparks I mentioned. She lives because Sarah Palin lives. She's not Sarah Palin. But there's more to recognize in Red Sarah than her glasses.

BF: Besides Red Sonja being Red Sarah Palin, Conan being Barack the Barbarian and the centaurs being the Senataurs, are there any more obvious riffs in the comic?

ES:  There sure are!

BF: Will the stories of Barack and Red Sarah end here, or do you have any more planned?

ES:  We'll see. I think Barack the Barbarian is a useful construct for the duration of Obama's presidency.   I think that it's useful to have this strange fantasy projection of the man we all want so much to succeed.

Every time his own team lets him down, every time the other team sticks a foot out, every time a catastrophe from the last administration takes a toll on this one--those are the times when I think we might just benefit from having a projection of Barack that is strong, sure, clever, capable, and in a whirlwind of motion.

I'm very glad we have a careful, circumspect president who wields the powers of his office capably. I also welcome this fantasy version derived from his campaign persona, hacking his way fearlessly forward, and I want to keep helping Barack the Barbarian face and defeat his foes. I certainly don't think he lacks for opponents, or sticky situations.

Red Sarah, the Old Warrior, bring em all on. But: I'd love it if there were no need to involve Boosh the Dim or Chain-Knee anymore, I'll tell you that. Onward to new problems!

Check for more information and an exclusive BF-preview here and go to the store right NOW since this comic has hit the stand on the 20th of January!

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