AC: Bush43 Daily Week One

Tom Russell milos_parker at
Mon Jun 5 21:45:10 PDT 2006


I'm not sure how many issues of Bush43 I've read, but I know what I
like and I liked what I read.  I know I read the first issue, because
the image that sticks with me after all this time, the one that is
conjured up when I see Dubya referred to as "Bush43", is a guy in a
Bush mask, kicking people in the nuts.

It was irreverent, somewhat silly, and a lot of fun: I mean, come on.
He's kicking people in the nuts.  That's automatically funny, like
tapeworm or Street Sharks.  (Ahhh.  Street Sharks.)

Now Bush43 is back, coming at us on a daily basis.  I was pretty
psyched at first.  Then I read this issue.  And I have to say that, I'm
still pretty psyched.  Just for a different reason.

To start with, this is not the same fun-loving nads-kicker from the
early days.  In fact, in an "interview" (come on, Jason: you
interviewed yourself, didn't you?  Don't worry.  There's no shame in
that.) that was posted recently, author Jason Kenney said as much: the
entire Bush43 saga is made up of three acts.

I caught parts of Act One.  Act Two started to take things a little
more seriously.  And Act Three-- the act that we're currently in--
takes things far more seriously.  In fact, one can slap superhero genre
labels on the three acts.  Act One was the Golden Age of Nut-Kicking.
Act Two, the Silver Age.

Which would make this act Deconstruction.

And here's the thing: me and Deconstruction don't get along.  Now, I
have nothing against the general idea of Deconstruction: after all,
it's just extrapolation, which is what powered most of the Silver Age
Marvel Comics.  But Deconstruction is extrapolation towards the
negative end of the spectrum; Deconstruction is somewhat cynical and
often lacks the moral angle that powers the best superhero fiction,
opting instead for moral ambiguity.

And, yes, there is a difference between these two things.  The moral
angle I refer to is a matter of good vs. evil, right vs. wrong, and
brings up questions about ultimate morality, questions that are
sometimes left unanswered.  In bright, shining moments, it defines the
characters and tells us why they are a hero.

Moral ambiguity, on the other hand, falls into the dirty underwear
school of fiction: superheroes are really psychopaths, superheroes are
really fascists, superheroes are really perverts.  These observations
are not only facile, but also juvenile knee-jerk reactions.  It assumes
that there is no such as altruism, and that people can't do the right
thing simply because it's the right thing to do.  And that, in essence,
is deconstruction.

So I was a bit trepeditious when I came to this first daily installment
of Bush43 and discovered that Jeffery Carter (alter-ego of Bush43) is
in the employ of homicidal gender-bending supervillain(ess) Mayor
Romanov/a as a spin doctor.

You see (and this information I got from the handy-dandy summary of
Bush43 # 1-19 on the Artifice Comics site), Romanov/a has siezed
control of Pacific City, declaring him/herself mayor and establishing
Science Heroes (which is just a fancy please-don't-sue-us-word for
costumed heroes) as Law.

Since Romanov/a employs homicide as a crime deterrent and rules Pacific
City with an iron fist, I was going to write it off as a
super-people-as-fascists story.  And with Carter working for Romanov,
spinning this extreme justice as positively as he can, I was going to
chalk it up to the they're-not-really-heroes idea, which is an
incredibly infantile one that still manages to snare unsuspecting
writers, as diverse as Alan Moore and Jesse Willey, in its tangled web.

For a moment, my heart was sinking: this wasn't the fun-loving
kicker-of-nuts that I knew and loved!  I had been so psyched!

But remember above how I said I was still psyched, but for a different
reason?  Well, here's why:

This story, as far as I can tell from this first chapter, is not a work
of Deconstruction.  Jeff Carter may work for Romanov, but he's been
black-mailed and threatened into it; he may work for Romanov, but he's
not one of them.  He is actively trying to change the way Romanov does
business, he is trying to convince him/her that deadly force is not
necessary, he is trying to cooperate with the legitimate law
enforcement agencies instead of assuming, like Romanov does, that he,
as a Science Hero, is above them.

Bush43 is a hero, fighting (without his mask!) for what is right, and
for what he believes in.  It's going to be a hard fight-- near as I can
tell, Romanov and his/her methods are pretty well enconsed in Pacific
City-- but that's what makes it one worth fighting: it's also what
makes Bush43 a hero.  It is a defining moment, one with that Moral
Dimension of good vs. evil.

Here, in fact, is that moment, in all its wonderfully didactic clarity:

> "Our activity is the law; there can be no questioning of that."
> "There is a justice system for a reason," I said, like I had said many
> times in the past with much the same result.
> "And, we are that system, Jeffery."
> Romanov stood and walked around his desk, stopping in front of me.
> "They have had ample opportunity to stop and leave, Jeffery. Every
> piece of filth in this city is here because they have chosen to be, and
> for that they will suffer the consequences."
> "They are citizens and human beings; they'll get due process."
> "Jeffery, we are this city's protectors and heroes. We are the law and
> those that protect the peace. I will not have our hands tied because of
> a broken system that allows these things to reoccur."

Romanov justifies murder with the same justification that superheroes
and vigilantes use to leap into action in the first place (after all,
vigilantism _is_ still a crime): that the system is broken, that it
lets the bad guys get away.  This argument is, of course, a slippery
slope, and it's one that Deconstructionalists often use to justify
saying that, for example, Batman is no better than the Joker.

Which is ridiculous: the difference is, Batman will never take a human
life.  And much as he works outside the law, he has a respect for it.

I think that my wife is a Secret Deconstructionalist: she doesn't like
comics in the first place, and she thinks it's incredibly stupid that
Batman doesn't just kill the Joker.  I mean, after all, the guy is a
homicidal maniac.  What right, she argues, does Batman have to condemn
those people to die?

It's often a heated argument, but the gist of my answer is that just as
the Joker has no right to kill anyone, neither does the Batman.  And
because he doesn't stoop to the Joker's level, he _is_ different from
the Joker, a hero and not a psychopath.  And Mary's retort is
invariably, so he can claim the moral high ground for himself while he
lets other people die.

Well, no: he doesn't let the other people die.  He'd try to save any
life, whether it's the Joker's or a child's.  Because irregardless of
who that person is, you should try to save that person.

"Even if they're not worth saving?  Even if they're evil?"  Well, it's
that justification that lead to the Punisher, a character I also
despise.  I know I'm digressing here, but it's digression with a point:
Jason Kenny _understands_ the distinction between a hero and a villain,
even if my wife doesn't.  Which is fine, Mary.  I love you, baby.

::smooch smooch::


Bush43, at least from this first daily installment, is shaping up to
be, at least on a meta level, a Deconstruction of Deconstruction: a
refutation of the dirty underwear-and-suffering school of fiction.
While I don't think we'll see Bush43 kick anyone in the nuts anytime
soon, neither are we going to see him become like Romanov/a.  And I
think as this last act of his story progresses, we'll be delving more
and more into the character of Jeff Carter; I think (and hope) that
Jason Kenney will use this last leg of the journey to define the
character in moral terms, and thus also give another definition of

And I, for one, am psyched.


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