Published by Parcbench, December 23, 2009.
Building on the success of their Female Force collection featuring biographies of influential women like Sarah Palin and Hillary Clinton; and their Political Power series chronicling the lives of such well-known figures as Colin Powell and Barack Obama, Blue Water Comics will release the 32-page Ronald Reagan comic book biography at the end of December. Here’s how Blue Water describes their latest issue:
“Was the Soviet Union an ‘Evil Empire?’ Was President Ronald Reagan at the right place and right time when it collapsed? Or was he one of the shrewdest occupants of the White House? Find out how this Mid-Western-turned-actor-turned-President went from B-movies to orchestrating the total collapse of the Soviet Union.”
Such were the questions comic book writer Don Smith sought to answer in his brief re-telling of the story of the man countless Americans remember with utmost pride, respect and admiration.
I recently had the privilege of interviewing Don about his latest effort, his foray into comic-book writing from newspaper journalism, and any future Blue Water projects he’s collaborating on.
In the interest of Full Disclosure, I also had the opportunity to read and review the Reagan comic back in October, per Smith’s request:
Love him or hate him, Ronald Reagan is an American icon. What are your thoughts on him as president and human being?
My first thoughts regarding him being a President was that he really loved this country. I mean he constantly was saying, “The United States is a city set on a hill…” He constantly would say, “The United States’ best days are still ahead.” I mean that is amazing!
As for him being a human being, I think he was very much typical of being what is called an adult child of an alcoholic. I think on a public level he connected really well with the common man. On a private level, I know Nancy Reagan probably saw the “true Ronnie.” And I think his two kids from his first marriage had completely different reactions to him then his two children from his second marriage. Both Michael and Maureen are (were in Maureen’s case) conservative and Christian, whereas Patty Davis and Ron Reagan Jr. on different levels at different times took contradictory paths. Was this because Reagan was distant to them as a father? I don’t know and I dare not speculate here.
But the facts, as I said in the comic, speak for themselves. I mean I really wish I could’ve included them in this comic, but I did not have the space. And I really, really wanted to just keep some things private. But all in all, Reagan loved America and he could relate to the common man and he seemed like he genuinely liked the common man, and to be able to do that, takes a man wonderfully rooted to his faith, family and country.
Did you have any difficulty remaining objective during the writing of the comic book?
I’d say about as much as any of the other authors of the Bluewater’s “Female Force” and “Political Power” series. I mean, I obviously have some conservative leanings of my own, and they did come out. But I did not quite want this to be the “Worship-fest” that sometimes can be seen on a Rush Limbaugh show or a Sean Hannity show. But also, I did not want to turn him into the “clueless old fool” that he was portrayed as for years while he was in the White House and afterwards. I did not think that was fair.
How did you come across the opportunity to pen the Reagan Comic for Blue Water? Have you always had an interest in comic books?
Let me start with the second part first, “Sweet mother yes!” My first memory was of being a child throwing a Batman toy up in the air and that just stuck with me. I always loved comic books and I can spend hours talking about my favorites and so forth and so on. But I ended up meeting Darren Davis, the publisher of Bluewater Productions, through my friend Neal Bailey and I wrote a four-issue series for them and then I was on the phone with Darren and he said, “Would you like to write the Reagan comic?”
I said, “Well…” And, “BOOM”! several months later, “Reagan”.
What was the most difficult aspect of the writing process? Was there anything you learned about Reagan that took you by surprise?
The most difficult was hands down the research. I mean I got my hands on DVDs, books and videos and just trying to learn everything I can at such a quick pace. Then I had to cram his entire life: growing up in Illinois, then Hollywood, then first marriage to Jane Wyman, his days as president of the Screen Actors Guild, second marriage to Nancy Davis, his days with General Electric, him running for Governor of California, him getting a second term, him running for the GOP nomination in 1976, him running for President in 1980, his first term, him running for reelection in 1984, his second term, him leaving office in 1988, his post Presidential career, him announcing he has Alzheimers, finally his death in 2004. Try cramming that into a 24 page script!
But what surprised me was how much he cared about kids. He actually had a pen pal in Washinton, D.C. and he would encourage the kid to read. You can see this in one of the books that collected his letters, it was cool.
I also had heard a story about how during one of the peace summits with Gen. Sec. Gorbachev, Reagan was staying in a family’s home in Iceland. One of the fish ended up dying and Reagan panicked. He called in Secret Service, Nancy and everyone to help him out with it. But remember Reagan was in the process of walking away from the table during this trip, so this was pretty funny. Not to mention, when he returned to speak to Congress after he was shot, he read a letter from a second grader that said, “Get well or you will have to smake a speech in your pajamas…”
That was cool.
When will the Reagan Comic be available and how can people get it?
“Political Power: Ronald Reagan” will be available at the end of December and if they wish to purchase it, they can go to my website, where they will find a link to where they can buy it.
Have you written about any other iconic American figures either in politics or culture?
Let me say, yes I have. But I am no hurry to announce it just yet. I though I have to admit, we worked hard to get out fast. We were rushing to finish this comic. Ahem.
Who is the subject of your next comic book and what other projects are you involved in?
Right now, I am working on three different comics. One is a personal super hero story I am hoping to have six issues scripted by the New Year, the second one is an idea I have and I am working with a friend, and the third series is about more American history, and I think that is all I can say.
However, it was announced, and I can talk about this, I worked on a project turning one of S.E. Hinton’s book into a graphic novel. Hinton is famous for “The Outsiders” which was made into a movie with Patrick Swayze and Ralph Maachio, but she wrote a book called “The Puppy Sister” and it was a book about a dog who becomes human. It was a cute story and a lot of fun.
Any thoughts on what Reagan would have to say about our current deficit, radical Islamic terrorism, pop culture and the Tea Party movement?
Let me take them one at a time…Reagan would’ve cut taxes and regulations to help the economic cycle get to an even keel which is what he did in the early 1980s, hence the “greedy 80s.” Reagan’s motto was “The Government is not the solution, it is the problem” would be his battle cry once again with this.
Regarding radical Islam terrorism, I think his philosophy would be “We win, they lose,” just as it was regarding the Soviet Union back in the 80s. And frankly, that kind of moral clarity is desperately needed right now!
I think with pop culture, he barely had time for it when he was President, he would have even less time for the paparazzi-fueld-reality-television obessessed world we live in today. I think he would keep his distance.
As for the Tea Party movement, personally, I think Reagan would’ve loved it. He would’ve been very proud of his fellow Americans. Frankly, the tea parties have been the only thing that the average American has had to retake the power from the socialists and cowards running this country.
Have you received any feedback from Nancy, Michael, Patty or Ron Reagan about the comic book?
No, I have not. And to some extent I don’t know if I would want it. I think they had such a vastly different view of Ronald Reagan than the rest of the world had, I would hate to dredge up anything again for them. But, if say, Mrs. Reagan, saw it and liked it, that would be sweet.
However, I believe in letting the Reagan family enjoy their privacy, and I hope that if they did see it, they would see I treated him respectfully. After all, he respected the country, I wanted to do right by him, as he did by us.