In February I wrote about political punks – who actually have cultural credibility. They appreciate mainstream culture for the power of the parable in furthering a message of liberty. They also understand that unlike the perpetually outraged on both sides, Americans don’t view everything through politics. They are anti-authoritarian. They are punk. They go against the liberal culture scene and the conservative political scene. These punks are our best hope for engaging new audiences on the importance of liberty. They also make a good group for a t-shirt.
At Phoenix Comicon I found several artists who are doing the same kind of things Brett R. Smith, the artist I work with on graphics, and I are doing this on the political side, but in a more subtle way.
One of the first artists I met at Comicon was Rob Ozborne. The prints that caught my attention were George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Ben Franklin and John Adams in outlaw garb. We’re so used to seeing these men presented as old, foppish men and not as the rebels they really were. With the popularity of the History Channel’s Sons of Liberty series, I asked Ozborne how those particular prints have done at Comicon. He said:
The reception at Comicon has been surprisingly strong. I included prints of the iconic Rushmore presidents with my other pop culture-inspired work, and the pieces resonated with a segment of the crowd. Plus, there’s been loads of history teachers who want to snatch those pieces to hang in their classrooms. There’s no reason to cling to the stuffy, old cliché. With this work, I wanted to portray the founders as renegade heroes.
At Denver Comic Con, I debuted the “Be Free” Abraham Lincoln piece. It sold out! That rocked, and showed that even at a comic convention, there are folks who enjoy rebellious, liberty-loving American icons.
Given the common themes of these larger-than-life men and the comic book heroes, I asked him if he saw any similarities between super heroes and the founders. He said:
The founders are like American superheroes, in a sense. They are the Avengers, or perhaps more appropriately, the Justice League. Through time, and with an infusion of myth-making and pop, George Washington and Benjamin Franklin have become towering figures who stood up to tyranny and fought for independence. At this point, Abraham Lincoln is far bigger than just being a former American president. He’s a major player in pop culture. What I like about these guys and Teddy Roosevelt, among others, is that they stand for great American ideals, like liberty and justice. So, George Washington is like an American Superman. Truth, justice, and the American way, but without the cape.
Finally, I asked Ozborne why he chose to reimagine iconic images of the Statue of Liberty and Lincoln Memorial.
There’s just something compelling about seeing these inanimate objects rocking the outlaw bandana. Taking these monuments and putting the stars and stripes bandana over their faces stirs up the revolutionary spirit. The fight for freedom is ongoing, and it requires some rebels, including these stone and steel landmarks. Plus, it looks cool.
So, I put the American flag bandana over the face of Lady Liberty, and her torch burns a little brighter. And she looks like an outlaw. She becomes a renegade for true liberty, and if believing in individual freedom makes her an outlaw, then so be it.
The rebel spirit was strong at Comicon (and I don’t just mean among the Star Wars cosplayers). Here was an audience of 100,000 people who are already demonstrating that they’re willing to go against the grain. They understand the themes that conservatives try to communicate, but don’t often do in a successful way.
Andrew Breitbart famously said, “Politics is downstream from culture.”
Engaging in the culture doesn’t mean criticizing “Hollyweird” (can we please lose this phrase?) and bashing all entertainment. Conservatives don’t gain any points by proclaiming they only watch reruns of Gunsmoke. The reason I wanted to go to Phoenix Comicon is because the success of comic book movies is good for the cause of freedom. They are ultimately about the existence of good and evil, something the Left likes to deny.