Eye on Comics

Comics criticism and commentary from Don MacPherson

Getting the Colbert Dump

Posted by Don MacPherson on October 21st, 2008

I’m a big fan of the faux right-wing pundit persona of Stephen Colbert and his show, The Colbert Report. One could argue that he’s bound to appeal to the comic-book reader demographic, as he’s shown he’s not afraid to get his geek on. Both The Colbert Report and its parent program, The Daily Show, have frequently incorporated comics and animation references in their political and social satire. Colbert has also had Marvel editor-in-chief Joe Quesada on the program twice, once even “bequeathing” the late Captain America’s shield to the comedian (granting the comic icon surprisingly high visibility in every subsequent episode of the show).

Colbert’s over-the-top persona is no stranger to the world of comics either. Oni Press launched Stephen Colbert’s Tek Jansen last year, featuring the show’s animated sci-fi spoof, and Marvel Comics has been incorporating Colbert’s pseudo-presidential candidacy into the background of its super-hero comics for months. Last week, Amazing Spider-Man #573 featured a backup feature teaming the would-be political figure with Marvel’s best-known, webslinging super-hero.

Those comic-book connections beg the question: why aren’t Colbert’s viewers hearing about them right from the horse’s mouth? I’m a regular viewer of The Colbert Report, and I’ve seen Colbert make no mention of the Tek Jansen comic since its 2007 debut. I expected to see something in the past week about the Amazing Spidey appearance as well. Again, nothing. Now, I haven’t watched every episode since the July 2007 launch of the Tek comic, but I would have imagined there would’ve been online reports about a mention on the show and/or clips posted on at least a couple of major comics blogs. But, as I said, nada.

Tek Jansen #3Oni Press managing editor Randal C. Jarrel says Oni staff haven’t seen any mentions on the show of the Tek comic, but they’ve been told Colbert has acknowledged and promoted it on the air.

“Though I have never seen Stephen mention it on the show, many people have told us he did,” Jarrel said. “In fact, we had a really large, seemingly random spike in orders on our web store for the issues a while back largely because of this.”

Colbert has provided other support for the series as well, appearing for a signing at the New York Comic Con. Tek Jansen has also been featured on ColbertNation.com and other fan sites.

“Would I like him to mention it every night on his show? Sure. But we have been very happy with the sales on the issues and can’t really complain,” Jarrel said. “In fact, the Tek comics are the first pamphlet comics Amazon.com has sold directly, and we have sold a ton of them through this outlet.”

A hardcover collected edition of the five-issue Tek Jansen comic is planned, he said, and Oni is expecting more involvement from Colbert in its promotion.

Amazing Spider-Man #573 Colbert variantStill, it doesn’t sound as though there’s been a confirmed mention of the comic on the show (I encourage readers who might have seen one to sound off in the comments section below). It’s possible that the spikes to which Jarrel refers stem from airings of the Tek Jansen animated sequences on the show or mentions of the fictional, Colbert-penned science-fiction novel upon which they are “based.”

What’s puzzling about Colbert’s seeming silence about these comics is that he’s shown he’s willing to promote and pimp anything and anyone who even mentions his name. Ice cream, hockey mascots, endangered turtles, small-town radio contests — you name it, he’ll tout it. Actually, you name him, and he’ll tout it. Don’t take that comment of a criticism. Ego is part of the Colbert pundit character, and it can’t be easy to come up with so much material for a daily (almost) satire show with a limiting gimmick.

Images of him fighting a super-villain and palling around with the biggest box-office super-hero ever seem like perfect fodder for the show and Colbert’s blowhard character. Sure, as a comics enthusiast with an interest in the craft and the business, I want to see comicdom get the much-lauded Colbert Bump. But as an observer of the show, I’m genuinely confused as to why this connection to the medium hasn’t been tapped. Perhaps it’s the political climate and approaching election that’s blocked the way, as the show’s writers concern themselves with weightier material.

Update: Colbert did mention the Marvel appearance and Marvel’s move to elect then demote Colbert as the president of the Marvel United States on an episode the week of Nov. 10 during one of his “Tip of the Hate/Wag of the Finger” segments. Still no mention of Oni’s Tek Jansen comics, though.

13 Responses to “Getting the Colbert Dump”

  1. Scavenger Says:

    I don’t think I’ve missed a Colbert Report ever and he’s never mentioned the Tek Jansen comic or the new Spider-Man. The Colbert presidential ads were mentioned in the JoeQ interview, but that’s it, to my recall.

  2. tom Says:

    the colbert site has been pretty good with tagging their video clips, and supposedly every episode is online, so this should be everything, theoretically:

    http://www.colbertnation.com/video/tag/Tek+Jansen

    - tom,
    standard design

  3. Don MacPherson Says:

    Tom wrote:
    the colbert site has been pretty good with tagging their video clips, and supposedly every episode is online

    I did a search before posting my article. Near as I can tell, all of the Tek Jansen tags lead to the animated sequences on the show, not references to the comic.

  4. MMike Says:

    Maybe there’s just some bigger news going on and the writers thought to hold the gratuitous self-endorsement for after the election…

  5. Don MacPherson Says:

    MMike wrote:
    Maybe there’s just some bigger news going on and the writers thought to hold the gratuitous self-endorsement for after the election…

    True, Mike, and I suggest as much with the final sentence in my article: “Perhaps it’s the political climate and approaching election that’s blocked the way, as the show’s writers concern themselves with weightier material.”

    Still, I’ve been watching the show regularly, and in the past week, the show has dedicated sequences to non-election-related items (for example, “Movies That Are Destroying America” and monkey waiters). So that argument doesn’t really hold up. Perhaps the Report writers just haven’t been able to come up with anything about the Amazing Spidey appearance. Or perhaps it’s ended up being cut or held.

  6. tim doyle Says:

    I actually have to wonder- there was a GIANT gap between issue one and 2 of the Tek Janson comic…think there was some sort of Legal issues holding the series up? Was there some conflicting agreements between Colbert and Marvel and Colbert and Oni that led to him pimiping NEITHER of the products? I’d say the reason is a legal/rights issue rather than any disdain of either project from Colbert himself.

  7. Don MacPherson Says:

    Tim wrote:
    Was there some conflicting agreements between Colbert and Marvel and Colbert and Oni that led to him pimiping NEITHER of the products?

    There’s no evidence to support that notion.

  8. Randal C. Jarrell Says:

    The giant gap between issue 1 and 2 of Tek Jansen though already a little behind, was caused by the WGA strike. Since the comic was considered a ancillary product in support of the show (which is owned by Viacom – a company on the strike list), neither Stephen nor Rich Dahm (ex-producer and writer) were able to do any work on the project. There was a complete work stoppage. Once the WGA strike ended, we promptly re-solicited the titles… the earliest time being June 2008. All of this has been covered on comic sites, the Oni site, and even various Colbert sites.

    I am amazed that one would incorrectly assume there are legal issues holding things up. If there were legal issues, it wouldn’t have been printed at all. As it is, Stephen and Rich are intimately involved in the Tek Jansen comics and have approval authority over every word and image. After all, it is their toy that they are letting us play with. :)

  9. Don MacPherson Says:

    Thanks for the clarification, Randal. I doubted there was any kind of disagreement that led to the delay. I think the book is written in a way that the delays don’t interfere with the flow of the satirical storytelling. The main features in each issue are connected, but not so strongly that the gaps between issues make it difficult to follow.

    Judging from your comments that I incorporated into the article, I assume the moment when this Tek Jansen project will really pay off for Oni will be the release of the hardcover next year sometime (not to suggest that the title hasn’t done well for Oni already).

  10. john layman Says:

    Good article, Don.

  11. Don MacPherson Says:

    Thanks, John. (For those who don’t know, John Layman is one of the writers on the Stephen Colbert’s Tek Jansen comic.)

  12. yo go re Says:

    Well, with political season over, tonight’s Colbert Report did in fact dedicate a few minutes to ASM #573 and the results of Stephen’s in-universe presidential campaign, so that was kind of fun to see…

  13. Don MacPherson Says:

    I saw that as well. It was amusing yet cringe-inducing at the same time. I’m sure Marvel wasn’t thrilled that the segment ended with a focus on DC Comics. :)