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#35 [Apr. 4th, 2010|08:21 am]

100 COMICS TO READ BEFORE YOU DIE (or grow out of them)

#35 DICE MAN #5: YOU ARE RONALD REAGAN – Pat Mills, Hunt Emerson
(2000 AD)

“Don’t say we don’t give opportunities to you layabouts!”

During the Thatcher years British comics became much more politicised than they had been, just like British comedy. The venerable sci-fi anthology series 2000 AD often used its flagship character, Judge Dredd, as a tool of satire and even Dice Man, a short-lived spin-off from the main series that took the choose-your-own-adventure format and applied it to comics, used its final issue to deliver a cutting caricature of Ronald Reagan. In the opening sequence, Margaret Thatcher herself breaks out of the panel boundaries to order the reader, who she assumes is an unemployed layabout, to take over from the president before he foolishly brings about a nuclear war.

It’s not every comic that asks you to choose between bombing Nicaragua, ordering in US troops or sending more aid to the Contras. You also have to aid the buffonish Reagan in his dicey diplomatic dealings with Russia, maintaining his popularity with the fickle American public, defusing a potential nuclear scare and playing with his gunships in the bathtub. Dice rolls add an element of randomness, so that when you try to find connections to the founding fathers in the Reagan family tree to win over the voters you may instead discover you’re related to your pet monkey. During all of this you can’t do too good a job or the CIA will realise Reagan has been replaced by somebody more sane, assume you’re a Russian spy and have you offed. Satire doesn’t get any more pointed than this.

There’s not as much need to exaggerate to make its points as might be expected – as the writer explains, Reagan consulted an astrologer before making important decisions and invited his mother-in-law along on his and Nancy’s honeymoon. Independent of your decisions, the story may well end with a nuclear apocalypse. After reading this, it’s hard not to think it was only luck that saved us from the same ending in real life.