LBJ’s Comic Great Society

comic Book Great Society Lyndon Johnson

The Great Society Comic Book was produced by writer DJ Arneson and artist Tony Tallarico, published by Parallax Comic Books in 1966

 

The Comic Tragedy of The Great Society

Holy Satire, Batman, Look! Up in the sky! It’s a bird… it’s a plane….its SuperLBJ!

1966 was a year when comic strip superheroes POP! came to life and real life heroes SOCK! appeared in the comics. While that caped crusader Batman got his own hit TV show and the Man of Steel Superman starred in his own Broadway musical, The President of the United States Lyndon Baines Johnson got his own comic book.

The Great Society Comic Book published in 1966 was a political satire of the Johnson administration and his Great Society programs.Lampooning political figures cast as superheroes, it followed the adventures of SuperLBJ.

Comic books, a place where bright colors forever defeat darkness and good forever triumphed over evil was the  perfect metaphor for the noble venture of  LBJ’s Great Society .

A Great Society

comic LBJ as superhero

Lyndon Johnson wanted to build a great society for all Americans.

His Great Society was a set of ambitious domestic programs aimed at eliminating poverty and social injustice. LBJ’s vision dovetailed thoroughly with the American Dream of a more perfect society, representing the hope and idealism of liberal mid-century America.

With powers and abilities and ego far beyond those of mortal men,LBJ  would pass more bills for his Great Society than any other president in history. In sweep and scope he rivaled FDR’s New Deal, improving the lives of millions of Americans.

In today’s environment of legislative stalemate it is awe-inspiring.

Yet he is best remembered for the tragic debacle of  Vietnam.

History

Hold it Reader! We know the question spinning through your mind How did this turn of events come about? For the answer let’s go back in time.

Like Superman, LBJ was a product of the Depression of 1930s.

comic superman LBJ congress

(R) Cover illustration of Lyndon Johnson as Minority Leader of the senate Time Magazine June 1953 (L) Superman as Clark Kent goes to college

Unlike Superman, who disguised as timid Clark Kent  was mocked as a freshman in college,  freshman Lyndon Johnson rode into Congress  like the wild bronco from Texas that he was, commanding respect.

A New Deal democrat he was in awe of Roosevelt’s progressive programs that included public works projects that moved mountains, changed the flow of mighty rivers and raised buildings that touched the clouds. In many ways it seemed as if anything was possible of Americans.

comic book superman

A true political operator, Johnson rose to power eventually  becoming House Majority leader. The Texas size  6 ft 3″ 204 pound hunk of perpetual motion was renowned for his domineering personality and the “Johnson Treatment” -he was not shy in his coercion of powerful politicians in order to advance his legislation.

Powerful as Senate Majority leader he would be  sapped of his power as Vice President  and presided in the shadow of President Kennedy after JFK’s assassination. Though the hold of the Kennedy legend on the American imagination was still powerful, after November 1964 he was elected to the presidency in his  own right.

JFK had been mythologized into a hero of mythic proportions, but LBJ would be no ordinary hero- he would be a superhero fighting the never-ending battle of truth, justice and the American way.

President SuperLBJ

comic superlbj Lyndon Johnson and Superman as preseident of USA

Art imitates life when (R)Jimmy Olsen imagines Superman as President of the United States in this vintage comic and (L) life imitates art when Lyndon Johnson appears as SuperLBJ in The Great Society Comic Book 1966

Taking office as president with his unlimited super powers and unwavering commitment to truth, justice and the American way, LBJ vowed, like Superman, to spend his days fighting crime, injustice and helping those in need.

Danger and challenge were nothing new to SuperLBJ who warded off all threats with his quick thinking, resourcefulness and his superb legislative skills. But now faced with  menaces so formidable that ordinary powers were not enough, the caped crusader would become superlegislator.

comic book LBJ

Confronted with urban decay, poverty, crime and civil injustice, SuperLBJ  would protect and serve the powerless and innocent becoming the champion of the oppressed.

With supersonic speed he passed more legislation than thought humanly possible with cunning and determination far beyond that of mortal lawmakers, as a blizzard of Great Society legislation swept through Congress.

comic book LBJ Civil rights

Zap! He would eliminate racial discrimination with historic Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Voting Rights Act of 1965  and Pow! Poverty and urban decay would be eradicated with his War on Poverty! Bam! Medicare !Wham! Medicaid! Zow! Education, immigration, environment, the arts!

For a year the world  watched in awe as SuperLBJ   used his amazing array of superpowers.

Vietnam

comic LBJ

While LBJ dreamed of a Great Society his presidency was haunted by the specter of Vietnam. As SuperLBJ he believed he could support both guns and butter, but soon much of the funding he had hoped to spend on social reforms went towards war in South East Asia.

The escalation of bombing in Vietnam was not working. Even Robert McNamara, Secretary of Defense in his administration was losing confidence in the ability of the massive bombing to bring the enemy to its knees.

comic superman king krypton

Superman’s biggest battle with the Super Gorilla from Krypton who appears invulnerable to all of Superman’s attacks

Just as Superman  met his challenge with a super beast who seemed immune to his strength and powers, Vietnam would be the Monkeys on LBJ’s back.

By fall of 1966, the conservative Congress goaded LBJ on passing huge military appropriations bills encouraging him to sink ever deeper in the Vietnam mire.

vintage comic superman

When Superman was president, he solves the National Budget crisis

Behind a veil of secrecy the war escalated and the cost of the war skyrocketed.  The press had sensed a credibility gap between what LBJ was saying in press conferences and what was happening in Vietnam. But LBJ was passing huge amounts of social legislation through Congress. If the true cost of the war were known, LBJ  feared that the Great Society would come to a shuddering stop.

Unlike the comics, there was no hidden buried treasure; even Superman couldn’t pull off guns and butter

comic superlbj map of Southvietnam

Vietnam would be LBJ’s kryptonite sapping him of power, money and dreams

By the end of 1966, Vietnam would turn out to be LBJ’s kryptonite sapping him of his strength, funding and dreams of a Great Society.

Just as Batman’s final episode would be in 1968, so LBJ bowed out of politics by announcing on March 1968 national television that he would not run for a second term as president. His decision was in large part a consequence of declining public support, a credibility gap for his policies in Vietnam.

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2 comments

  1. Pingback: LBJ’s Great Society Was a Great Idea | The Omnipotent Poobah Speaks!

  2. LBJ did what any good democrat does, he stole my Social Security and used it pay for the war on Poverty and now SS is bust and we have more poor than ever.

    Like

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