11+ Comic-Book Mayors Whose Outright Villainy and/or Questionable Decisions Put the Antics of Real-Life Mayors in Perspective
(Insert standard spoilers disclaimer here.)
1. Mitchell Hundred (New York City)
So some of you may have heard about how the mayor of my hometown is in a spot of trouble over a video in which he’s allegedly shown smoking crack with drug dealers [NOV. 1 UPDATE: ain’t nothin’ “alleged” about it anymore], and for the way he’s been handling the allegations (mainly by hiding from reporters and firing staff who reportedly urged him to get help). Pretty heavy stuff, and it’s not the first time our mayor has gotten in trouble for something he said, did or ingested. But! I submit to you, my fellow voters, that using crack, groping former mayoral candidates, lying about city finances, flipping the bird to six-year-old girls and praising “Orientals” for their world-conquering efficiency are not the worst acts the mayor of a major 21st-century city could commit. Take Mitchell Hundred, mayor of New York City in Brian K. Vaughan’s and Tony Harris’s very excellent Ex Machina series. Hundred is a civil engineer-turned-superhero in an alternate-reality NYC whose special power is the ability to “talk” to machines and make them do his bidding — a talent that comes in handy on Sept. 11, 2001, when he saves one of the World Trade Center towers from a plane on a suicide run. After he parlayed his newfound celebrity into a successful mayoral bid, Hundred quickly learned super-powers aren’t much help in the political arena, a place where not every crisis can be solved by manipulating machinery or punching a bad guy. Policy-wise, Hundred was probably exactly what the city needed in those unsettling months after 9/11, offering a mix of progressive fiscal policies and a liberal social agenda. But it’s fair to say voters might have had a far different opinion of their mayor if they had known the whole story about his time in the mayor’s office — starting with what he had to do to get there.
2. The Governor (Woodbury)
Yes, his title is “governor,” but he’s a mayor in all but name, presiding over the residents of Woodbury with a firm but loving hand — provided you overlook his occasional foray into rape, mutilation and homicidal rampages. Viewers appalled by the Governor’s actions on AMC’s The Walking Dead might be surprised to learn the character played by David Morrissey is actually a pleasant psychopath compared to the out-and-out monster ruling the post-apocalyptic community in Robert Kirkman’s long-running comic series. When the dead began to rise, the man who would become known as “the Governor” fortified and secured a four-block area of a small Georgia town with the help of the 40 or so survivors who chose to follow him. Life seemed idyllic in their zombie-free town, but that peace came with a horrific price; the Governor’s word was law, and anyone who defied him could find themselves dismembered and fed to his zombie daughter, whom he kept in chains. I won’t get into the specifics of what happens in the book after Rick’s group discovers the town; let’s just say the words “madcap misadventures” don’t quite cut it.
3. Oliver Queen (Star City)
“So what becomes of the rabble-rouser, the troublemaker, the rebel — when he becomes The Man?” That question is posed early in a 2006 issue of Green Arrow, shortly after it’s revealed that Oliver Queen is mayor of Star City. In 2006, most DC titles sported a cover bullet that said “1 Year Later” — the idea being the stories in those books all leapt forward one year in time from the previous issues. In one issue of Green Arrow, for instance, Queen was badly injured in a fight and watched a good portion of his city go up in flames; in the next, it’s revealed he’s mayor of a rebuilt Star City (subsequent issues would fill readers in on what happened during that missing year). Queen uses the media interest generated by his win to focus attention on the sorry state of his city, particularly the plight of people in the down-and-out Glades who are living behind a massive security wall erected while Queen was away. At first, Queen made some good moves; unlike Toronto’s mayor, he shot down plans for a casino complex, welcomed the gay community (and its spending power) to his city by offering weddings at city hall, and proved himself to be no friend to developers intent on profiting from Star City’s desperation (although the fact they hired a hitman to kill him might have had something to do with his stance on that issue). In the end, though, Queen was taken down by a scandal that linked him to “terrorist” activities; specifically, his enemies leaked that he used some of his personal fortune to fund the Outsiders, which at that time was a group known for a proactive, not-always-sanctioned approach to fighting bad guys. Queen stepped down, leaving his city far better off than when he arrived… but one can only imagine how much more he could have done if he had been just a little more discreet about where his money went.
4+. Hamilton Hill/Armand Krol/Sebastian Kady/Daniel Danforth Dickerson III/Mayor Linseed (Gotham City)
Geez, it might be easier to make a list of all the Gotham City mayors who weren’t idiots, a-holes or out-and-out crooks. Some of that blighted berg’s less distinguished office-holders, in no particular order: Hamilton Hill, a corrupt politician elected mayor thanks to the machinations of an even more corrupt city councilor/mob boss, spent most of his time in office firing Gordon, reinstating Gordon, and looking for ways to blame Gordon for Gotham’s never-decreasing crime rate… Armand Krol also gunned for Batman and Gordon until Batman saved his life, after which he turned increasingly to Batman to save the city (much preferring the ’90s take-no-prisoner, not-Bruce Wayne version of the Dark Knight); he later died during a virus outbreak engineered by enviro-terrorist R’as al-Ghul… Sebastian Hady unsuccessfully framed Gordon for murder and blackmailed political opponents to ensure election wins, though hiring a super-villain arsonist to burn down apartment complexes would have made pretty good blackmail fodder for anyone looking for dirt on him… Daniel Danforth Dickerson III, whose name says it all, came into power near the end of the “No Man’s Land” storyline in the late ’90s; corrupt and contemptuous of Gotham’s residents, his term ended abruptly when he was assassinated by the Joker in 2003. Heck, even Mayor Linseed from the 1960s Batman TV show was no big prize; all it took for the villainous Nora Clavicle to get herself appointed Police Commissioner was to bring the mayor’s wife on board her fanatical Crusade for Women. “I’ve worn this shirt for a week! I haven’t had a decent meal in months!” Linseed wailed when asked why he gave in to his wife’s demand to hire Clavicle. (Psst, Linseed — they’re called “dry cleaners” and “restaurants.” Or just do your own damn ironing.)
5. Oswald Cobblepot (Gotham City)
One of the smarter editorial decisions in the Batman franchise has been transforming the Penguin from a waddling, bird-crazed buffoon into a cunning, slightly less bird-crazed “legitimate businessman” who influences Gotham’s criminal activity from behind the scenes. Though Cobblepot showed political aspirations in 1992’s Batman Returns and in an episode of the 1960s Batman TV show, he didn’t actually win the mayor’s seat until 2003’s Batman Adventures, a comic set in DC’s animated universe. For most of the series, Cobblepot’s political actions were seen mostly in the background — though readers did see glimpses of how he used his office to settle petty scores, like the time he kicked Harvey Bullock off the police force for embarrassing him during a press conference — but issue no. 13 revealed how an unlikely fellow like him could get elected in Gotham City, even with the populist bombast he used to get the people on his side. It seems someone with a beef against the incumbent mayor rigged the voting system to generate random results, and Cobblepot (who actually placed sixth in the race) was declared the winner completely by chance. His mayoralty was short-lived, but it lasted long to result in massive demonstrations on his front lawn against (among other things) budget cuts to homeless shelters that he used to increase funding for a city bird sanctuary by 600 per cent. Plus ça change…
6. J. Jonah Jameson (New York City)
Right from the start, media magnate and mustache aficionado J. Jonah Jameson was a consistent thorn in Spider-Man’s side, using his influence as a newspaper editor and publisher to make life difficult for everyone’s favorite wall-crawler. In 2009, he took up residence at Gracie Mansion, adding another soapbox to his arsenal. With the full power of the city behind him, Jameson took his campaign to capture Spider-Man into overdrive, to the point where the city budget took a serious hit because of all the resources he put into his “Anti-Spider Squad.” Then there was his politically unpopular decision to give a financial bailout to the Daily Bugle (which he wasn’t running at the time) to keep it afloat, an act seen by many New Yorkers as greedy corporate types rewarding each other for running the economy into the ground (any resemblance to real-life events is, ahem, entirely coincidental). To be fair, Jameson — generally a fellow who does the right thing when he’s not blinded by his obsession with Spider-Man — did some good as mayor, and had little time for people of any political stripe who offered up simplistic solutions to complex issues. But try explaining that to voters who might be wondering why their tax dollars are being used to hassle a card-carrying member of the Avengers.
7. Thomas Bolt (Star City)
And now, an excerpt from Steelclaw’s entry in 1985’s Who’s Who in the DC Universe, with annotations: “When crime and corruption threatened to engulf Star City, Mayor Thomas Bolt determined to do something about it (“Hire more cops? Start a jobs program for at-risk youth? Offer tax incentives for businesses? Nah, not flashy enough…”) While allowing Green Arrow and Black Canary to handle the more powerful criminals (mighty big of him to do that, it was), he adopted a costumed persona named Steelclaw (because it’s not as if mayors are public figures who need to worry about people wondering what the hell they get up to after office hours or anything). Using the costume and its arsenal to impose himself on common street criminals (“Hey, I’m imposing over here!”), Steelclaw dug for information about underworld activities that he could act on in an official capacity (“Sir, how did a city bureaucrat like you find out about a major drug deal before the cops did?” “Uh… internet?”) What Bolt didn’t expect was to cross paths with Star City’s protectors (I get the feeling he didn’t expect a lot of obvious things to happen; none too bright, is what I’m getting at). He narrowly avoided being captured by them, but in doing so found himself tied in with a gang of criminals. His disguise, however, only worked too well; it led him into a network of criminals who felt threatened by his existence (“AAAH! It’s Wolverine’s amputee half-brother! Killit killit killit!”). At the earliest opportunity, he was executed by gangland hoods. While the criminals lost a threat to their organization, Star City lost a dedicated mayor whose only real fault was caring too much (and also being really, really stupid).”
8. Wesley Fermin (Hub City)
Some mayors are corrupt, some are driven by obsessions, and some are just not too bright. Then you’ve got the real pieces of work who are so clearly unfit for office you wonder how in the hell they ever got elected. While Toronto’s mayor ducks questions about his alleged substance-abuse habits and whether he really was drunk at an official event (much like the time he got too drunk and started screaming at tourists during a Canadian hockey game — which should tell you a lot about how drunk he was), he can take comfort in the fact he could not be as completely pickled as Hub City’s Wesley Fermin. Hub City — a town that would give Gotham competition in a contest for the most corrupt city in the DC universe — is home to the Question, the faceless vigilante who wages a never-ending campaign against the criminals and the hypocritical elites in his broken city. In the Question’s 1987 series by Dennis O’Neil and Denys Cowan, Fermin is introduced as an alcoholic puppet of the real powers-that-be; he was so far out of it, he didn’t object when he was ordered to marry popular TV reporter Myra Connelly for the bump in the polls that their union would give him (for her part, Myra was coerced into going through with it when they threatened her disabled daughter). When it became clear Fermin was in no shape to run for re-election, Myra took it upon herself to run for mayor. Her victory speech was cut short by Fermin, who shot her for holding what he believed to be pro-Communist beliefs. On the plus side, she survived the coma he put her in and went on to become a decent mayor, and Fermin later managed to die a hero for (drunkenly) charging into a hostage situation with guns blazing. So… yeah, at least he had that for his tombstone.
9+. Various Mayors (Mega-City One)
The dystopian nightmare that Judge Dredd calls home has produced several mayors of note over the years, almost all of whom make Toronto’s current leader look better (slightly) by comparison. There was the massively obese Mayor Amalfi, who was implicated in receiving stolen body parts from the morgue, which he used as fertilizer in his private garden… Mayor Jim Grubb, whose stirring last words after his body succumbed to a disease that turned him into a fungus were “Please don’t eat me!”… Mayor Byron Donald Ambrose, in reality a disguised serial killer named PJ Maybe who actually enjoyed high approval ratings and ample time to indulge in a few murders, including his own deputy mayor, during his time in office… and Mayor Denny Oneman, who won the job simply by being the only person left alive and able to vote after massive campaign violence by dozens of candidates. But all other mayors pale in comparison to Dave the Orangutan, a joke candidate who won after voters rejected all the other mediocre options on the ballot. With no specific law forbidding non-humans from running, Dave was probably the most popular mayor the city ever had (right up until his assassination), and even Dredd said the ape was a “definite improvement” over previous mayors. Years later, though, Dredd offered up the example of Dave as evidence for why democracy doesn’t work: “Let the people decide, and they gave you Dave.” Hard to argue with that.
10. Alex Fury (Tranquility)
At the start of Welcome to Tranquility, a 2007 mini-series by Gail Simone and Neil Googe, reporter Collette Pearson is doing a story on the town of Tranquility, a retirement community set up for superhumans after the Second World War. The mayor of Tranquility is Alex Fury, a “maxi” formerly known as Judge Fury and the leader of the Liberty Squad. Together with his wife, Suzy (a.k.a. The Pink Bunny), his top priority is giving heroes and villains a peaceful place to live out their golden years — and yes, you can safely assume it’s a job that requires a lot of patience and diplomacy. Everything changes when Mr. Articulate is killed while Pearson and her crew are in town, and as the story unfolds it becomes clear that Fury is, if not the murderer of the dapper ex-superhero, certainly in cahoots with the person or people who did the deed. But why? Events come to a head as Fury tries to stage Pearson’s suicide after she deduced the motive behind Mr. Articulate’s murder, and he’s taken into custody soon after. Mayor Ford may have a bone to pick with the “liberal elites” in the media who pester him with questions he doesn’t want to answer, but it’s a stretch to imagine him trying to, say, murder a CBC reporter. Wanting to, maybe, but certainly not trying.
11. Conrad Elton (Nordsburg)
As its title suggests, Uncanny Tales was one of the many copycat titles in the 1950s that tried to mimic EC’s highly popular line of horror books; when the Comics Code Authority came into force, Atlas editor Stan Lee switched to blander, blood-free morality tales involving stupid people in highly contrived situations. Take “Power Mad!” (Uncanny Tales #48, 10/56), in which a morally suspect chemist invents “Compound K,” a formula that he believes can make others obey him. After a successful test on his dog, he brings his chemical powers of persuasion to a small European town where he convinces the people to drive out the sitting mayor and install him instead. All is well until he takes advantage of the situation and raises taxes to build a fancy new city hall, and the townspeople send him packing. He later finds out his formula doesn’t actually work; his dog only obeyed him out of love for his master, and the townspeople only welcomed him as mayor because, well, maybe they thought that was the neighborly thing to do. It’s hard to decide which seems less likely: that a scientist would proclaim something a success after only one test trial on a dog, or that a whole town would proclaim a stranger as their mayor after he gives one rousing speech, just to get rid of the current guy in office. Either way, I think we can all agree that my mayor probably wishes he had some actual mind-control chemicals right about now.