Paula Broadwell’s 400-page hagiography of her lover, All In: The Education of David Petraeus, wasn’t enough. Now available for sale is a new type of Petraeus mythology: the retired four-star general as comic-book hero.
On Thursday, Bluewater Productions released Political Power: David Petraeus, a graphic novel that traces the rise and fall of the American military man in 22 pages. David Petraeus looks something like a violent résumé: honors achieved, schools attended, divisions commanded, accompanied by images of bearded insurgents firing machine guns. Nameless terrorists are up against a man who, at West Point, was “remembered for going for it in everything he did.” Naturally, the cartoon terrorists never stood a chance.
It’s no surprise that the graphic novel skews heroic. The affair that ended Petraeus’s career is cast as a male slip-up in the face of “irresistible temptation,” personified in Broadwell (click for a larger version):
The Iraq War is cast as a humanitarian exercise:
But the comic has its nuggets. The general’s father, we learn, was named Sixtus. The name is bolded and italicized, “Sixtus,” fitting of a superhero origin story. Here’s Petraeus skydiving; here, he nails 50 pushups “without rest” in the hospital after an accidental gunshot wound. Hooah.
This isn’t the first time Bluewater has caricaturized a public figure. Other titles include The Cast of Glee and, more recently, Beyond: Edward Snowden. A comic book on Michelle Obama sold around 100,000 copies. And the publisher has released stories on former Rep. Ron Paul, RuPaul, and, yes, Jesus Christ.
If that spread — from RuPaul to Jesus — seems to preclude Bluewater from standing squarely in a single political camp, you’re on to something. “I try to keep everything one-banana, two-banana,” Bluewater founder and publisher Darren Davis told Foreign Policy. “Whether you like Hillary Clinton, Condoleezza Rice, or whoever, you’re going to get a fair, unbiased look at them.”
Bluewater hopes that the book makes it to schools and libraries. “As a kid, comic books really helped my reading skills,” Davis said. “So I try to appeal to that.” As for the future: comics on probable 2016 presidential candidates are likely forthcoming, Davis said. One on New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie has already been released.
But don’t expect Bluewater to delve too deeply into geopolitics. The publisher’s Legend of Isis, according to a description on Bluewater’s website, isn’t about the Sunni insurgency — it’s about a time-travelling “Egyptian goddess” who “must adjust to her new life in 21st century Los Angeles.”
Bluewater’s comic doesn’t tell us much about Petraeus’s adjustment to life after the 2012 scandal. Instead, it leaves us with the possibility of a comeback — “Americans love stories of redemption” — and a reminder of Petraeus’s new digs at Harvard University and the University of Southern California. So there’s room for a sequel, at least in the world of comics. While we wait, we can imagine the former commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan with his feet up, reading and thinking: this is the education of Gen. David Petraeus.
Gordon Lubold is a national security reporter for Foreign Policy. He is also the author of FP's Situation Report, an e-mailed newsletter that is blasted out to more than 70,000 national security and foreign affairs subscribers each morning that includes the top nat-sec news, breaking news, tidbits, nuggets and what he likes to call "candy." Before arriving at FP, he was a senior advisor at the United States Institute of Peace in Washington, where he wrote on national security and foreign policy. Prior to his arrival at USIP, he was a defense reporter for Politico, where he launched the popular Morning Defense early morning blog and tip-sheet. Prior to that, he was the Pentagon and national security correspondent for the Christian Science Monitor, and before that he was the Pentagon correspondent for the Army Times chain of newspapers. He has covered conflict in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and other countries in South Asia, and has reported on military matters in sub-Saharan Africa, East Asia and Latin America as well as at American military bases across the country. He has spoken frequently on the sometimes-contentious relationship between the military and the media as a guest on numerous panels. He also appears on radio and television, including on CNN, public radio's Diane Rehm and To the Point, and C-SPAN's Washington Journal. He lives in Alexandria with his wife and two children.| Situation Report |
Uri Friedman is deputy managing editor at Foreign Policy. Before joining FP, he reported for the Christian Science Monitor, worked on corporate strategy for Atlantic Media, helped launch the Atlantic Wire, and covered international affairs for the site. A proud native of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, he studied European history at the University of Pennsylvania and has lived in Barcelona, Spain and Geneva, Switzerland.| The List |