New Reagan Comic Book Chronicles the Exceptional Life of America’s 40th President

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:

“In his own inimitable mixture of wit, creativity and humor, Don Smith pens a striking comic book biography of the man I consider to be America’s greatest modern President,” said author Daria DiGiovanni.
“Both those old enough to remember Ronald Reagan and those for whom he’s simply a chapter in a history textbook will delight in Smith’s vivid recollection of out 40th President’s remarkable life and impressive eight-year tenure. Thank you Don, for introducing him in such a brilliant way to a new generation of Americans, and for reminding the rest of us about Reagan’s patriotism, courage and integrity,” she noted.

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.


A US Navy Vet’s Response to a Seriously Misguided Journalist

Published by Parcbench on December 16, 2009:

In yet another example of a liberal journalist bemoaning the concept of American pride and exceptionalism, Nick Fierro of the Chicago Tribune offers this response to the question, “What sports tradition would you like to see eliminated?”:

The national anthem should be eliminated from all but the most important sporting events in this country, such as Super Bowls, World Series and Ultimate Fighting title bouts.

Just kidding on the last one, but you should get the idea by now that having to stand for this song at every event and every level of sport from T-ball to the pros has become just a little ridiculous.

At one time, such as when this tradition began during World War II, it might have been a good idea to promote patriotism. Now, all it promotes is … nothing. It has become a mindless exercise.

Mindless exercise? Perhaps for people with no understanding of history and no concept of the miraculous circumstances surrounding the birth of a country founded by ordinary, courageous men who took on the world’s greatest power and risked certain death because of an unwavering commitment to freedom.

At great personal peril, our Founding Fathers forged ahead, spurred on by their deep conviction for Judeo-Christian principles and the right of individuals to control their own destiny. Pardon my patriotism, but I am proud to celebrate and acknowledge the fact that — well over 200 years later — I am a benefactor of their passion, determination and willingness to die for the cause of liberty. Singing the national anthem at a sporting event is a privilege, not some meaningless act “promoting nothing”.

Not surprisingly, Fierro caused quite a bit of controversy, particularly among US veterans and active-duty military, who know a thing or two about commitment to a cause greater than self. One of them, a friend and US Navy vet, penned the following to Mr. Fierro:

Nick Fierro,

I am not sure how you could write such a disheartening column/debate today especially while our country is at war. How can you say singing the National Anthem is a waste of time? You obviously have never served in the military, have no pride or appreciation for our veterans, or are simply looking for attention.

Honestly, everyone I attend games and events with are proud of the moment when we are offered the opportunity to demonstrate how proud we are to be Americans. Singing the National Anthem is an opportunity to bring a diverse nation together. Have you ever been to a game when there may be four or five different conversations going on sometimes in Spanish, French, Japanese, English or the many other languages locals and visitors alike share in our community? Yet when the Anthem is played all rise and speak one language or at least respectfully remain quiet. Maybe you are too busy or to weak to stand in the press box?

You wrote, ” having to stand for this song…… at every event has become ridiculous.” Then you go on to say, “all it promotes is…. nothing.”

This song promotes nothing??? This song is our National Anthem! I am disgusted by your words…I think about the meaning of  The National Anthem everyday, as do millions of thankful Americans.

Finally, there are 14 houses on my block. At least half have the American flag waving but only three of my neighbors have your newspaper delivered. It is my promise that by tomorrow, there will be 14 American flags flying, but ZERO tribune subscriptions delivered, thanks to your column.

I can understand your ignorance to a certain degree I guess, but your editors must and will be held accountable. I believe an apology to your readers and all the men and women sacrificing their lives for your freedom is in order.

Should you not, I promise to contact every news source possible regarding this matter. To think of the lives lost for YOUR freedom of speech and this is how you choose to show your gratitude. I am quite disgusted to say the least. I am not in the journalism business and my grammar may not be spot on but I have read youth blogs more profound than your garbage today.

P.S. I have served our country and have also witnessed my brothers die for your freedom, so yes, I am biased.

Ted Burke
Boca Raton

God bless our United States Military during this Holiday Season and always! And may journalists like Nick Fierro take the time to seriously ponder and absorb the significance of The Star Spangled Banner.


The Color Of Adultery

Published by Parcbench on December 15, 2009:

When the news of Tiger Woods’ indiscretions (to put it nicely) initially broke, I made a conscious decision to refrain from writing and posting commentary about it. From my vantage point, it was yet another repugnant, predictable story of an icon with remarkable talent, worldwide adoration, limitless financial resources and  a beautiful family shamelessly indulging in excess simply because he could. Tiger was sadly following in the footsteps of countless politicians, celebrities and celebrity athletes before him who’d abused their power to satisfy their own self-serving ends, regardless of the consequences.

In Woods’ case, his carefully crafted and (up until recently at least) astonishingly lucrative image of  a wholesome, bi-racial embodiment of the American Dream is a case-study in the art of deception, as Lisa Schiffren notes in an American Thinker piece:

Nor was Woods’ behavior unknown — except to the public. In one instance reporters had photos of a “transgression”…committed in a church parking lot, no less. These journalists agreed to keep it secret — if Tiger posed for a cover story at Men’s Fitness Magazine — a cover that would sell huge numbers. Normally Woods wouldn’t have been available, since he had an exclusive contract with Conde Nast’s Golf Digest. With full understanding of the situation, Conde Nast allowed the rival cover because he too profited from having Tiger remain an icon.

In a fascinating compare and contrast analysis, Schiffren offers a parallel between the world-famous golfer and the current White House occupant, in terms of the lengths to which powerful entities like the media were willing to go in order to preserve their own fabrication of a “transcendent” do-gooder with spotless credentials.

As if the thought of reporters deliberately withholding information on cash-cow Woods’ affairs isn’t outrageous enough, along comes Washington Post reporter Eugene Robinson, whose problem with Tiger isn’t so much his indulgence in tawdry, adulterous affairs with a seemingly endless list of women — it’s the fact that none of the women involved were minorities:

No offense to anyone who actually looks like Barbie, but it really is striking how much the women who’ve been linked to Woods resemble one another. I’m talking about the long hair, the specific body type, even the facial features. Mattel could sue for trademark infringement.

This may be the most interesting aspect of the whole Tiger Woods story — and one of the most disappointing. He seems to have been bent on proving to himself that he could have any woman he wanted. But from the evidence, his aim wasn’t variety but some kind of validation.

I’m making a big assumption here that the attraction for Woods was mostly physical, but there’s no evidence thus far that he had a lot of time for deep conversation. If adultery is really about the power and satisfaction of conquest, Woods’s self-esteem was apparently only boosted by bedding the kind of woman he thought other men lusted after — the “Playmate of the Month” type that Hugh Hefner turned into the American gold standard.

But the world is full of beautiful women of all colors, shapes and sizes — some with short hair or almond eyes, some with broad noses, some with yellow or brown skin. Woods appears to have bought into an “official” standard of beauty that is so conventional as to be almost oppressive.

So let me get this straight: the most “disappointing” aspect of the Tiger Woods scandal isn’t the fact that he repeatedly violated his marriage vows in the basest of ways, or willfully demonstrated complete disregard for the wellbeing of his two innocent young children — it’s the fact that he chose to denigrate the sanctity of his family with women who resemble Barbie instead of Oprah?

There’s so much absurdity in Robinson’s take, it’s hard to believe he’s considered a mainstream journalist writing for a respectable paper. I suppose in his mind, Tiger should have — in the words of another mixed race public figure — “spread the wealth around” by expanding his cabal of willing women to include at least a few Blacks, Hispanics and Asians. In Tiger’s defense, the EEOC hasn’t yet proclaimed the act of adultery with multiple partners, an “Equal Opportunity” proposition, mandating “diversity”. Perhaps in light of Eugene Robinson’s article, they’ll reconsider.

From Robinson’s perspective however, there is a positive angle to account for the lack of color among the Woods’ line-up of paramours: instead of being “disappointed” by Tiger’s obvious attraction to the Hugh Hefner standard of beauty, maybe the journalist could view Tiger as having too much respect for non-white women to think they’d put out for a married man just because he happens to be rich, famous and powerful.

Sound crazy? For those of us for whom adultery is adultery regardless of the color of the people involved, it makes about as much sense as Robinson using a tragic and harrowing tale of public infidelity as yet another excuse to  cry racism.