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.