This Magazine Kills Fascists: ‘Vote Loki’ And The Cult Of Personality
This Magazine Kills Fascists looks at times that comic books and superheroes have dealt with tyrannical, corrupt and outright fascist world leaders — not because we think we can find a solution, but because art can provide inspiration in the face of oppression.
In the 2016 Marvel mini-series Vote Loki, readers see what happens when a strong personality with no real beliefs outside of their own narcissism runs for the highest office in the land, and how easily a large portion of the voting public can be swayed into voting for someone based on buzzwords and a perceived common bond.
The series by Christopher Hastings, Langdon Foss, Paul McCaffrey, Chris Chuckry, Rachelle Rosenberg and Travis Lanham sees the God of Stories decide to write a new one by dipping his toe in American politics and running for office. However, one journalist is convinced that Loki is up to no good, and sets out on a crusade to expose the trickster as the liar and con artist everyone knows him to be.
Loki's platform as a presidential candidate basically amounts to, "At least with me, you know I'm lying," and this twisted honesty wins him a lot of support from the American people. He even has t-shirts printed up with the comic's tagline "BeLIEve", so brazen is he in his forthrightness.
The protagonist of the series is a Daily Bugle journalist named Nisa Contreras, who gained some notoriety several years earlier after exposing a governor for misappropriation of funds and is now working to stop Loki's campaign by exposing them as the trickster god and habitual liar that literally thousands of years of Marvel Universe evidence proves him to be.
However, nothing can stick, and no matter was Nisa does, Loki is able to spin it as a positive. Even when he is exposed as working with foreign agents to extrajudicially squash a Latverian terror cell, the American public instead sees Loki as someone willing to cut through the red tape of bureaucracy and get the job done. The level of exasperation the comic generates as Loki emerges from scandals more popular than ever is all too frustratingly familiar, as real-life events of the last week have begun to feel more bizarre than anything in a comic book.
Loki's baiting of the press and the public in the series is the closest they've come to real life super-villainy in nearly ten years of Marvel continuity. There's a moment, when pressed on the discovery of a sacrificial cult honoring Loki's name, that he turns it on its ear by twisting the meaning of the constitution's protections regarding freedom of religion and lets loose with the most blatant dog whistles to fire up his supporters, and when he literally turns to the reader and smirks, it's hard not to feel a lot of that same anger a lot of us have been feeling for the past year.
The depictions of Loki on the page over the four issues also show the interesting evolution of what a politician "should" look like. Loki starts the series as the scruffy millennial he's been portrayed as in recent years, but as the campaign gets serious, Loki toys with what looks most presidential, and presents as a woman multiple times throughout the miniseries --- but ultimately settles on a more conservative-with-a-lower-case-c male presentation as his idea of what America wants out of its next president.
Loki's undoing is the kind of twist that should have been obvious from the beginning, and is both a satisfying conclusion to his campaign and --- for us in the real world --- a sad reminder that comic books are not real life. After slipping through unscathed, the public finally turns on Loki when they realize he has no specific policies in mind.
The comic explores how easily a person can graft their own political ideologies onto a deliberately obfuscating but charismatic candidate, and when people realize that their, fellow supporters have wildly different takes on why Loki speaks to them, that's when the campaign falls apart and Loki loses the election.
While we weren't that lucky in real life, Vote Loki is an interesting take on the politics of superhero universes, and reads very differently post-election. What may have been written as a tale of how evil will always be ferreted out and exposed now reads as wishful thinking, and a vision of a world in which name-recognition, bully tactics, and the lack of a platform cannot win you the White House.
There are a number of worthy causes that all need help, support and donations now more than ever. If you can, please consider donating to any of the following institutions:
For post-election resources, Holy F— The Election is a great starting point. The website uses some strong language.