It doesn’t matter where you are, what you’re doing or with whom you’re speaking — it’s next to impossible to avoid references to Donald Trump these days. From social media to social situations, from televised fiction to telephone conversations, Trump is everywhere. Of course, comics — and especially the super-hero genre — have always served as an escape for the masses.
An even safer bet for refuge in comics are back issues. I’ve been poring over dozens of older comics — dating back a couple of years to a couple of decades — as of late, finding some charming storytelling, some impressive work and some clunkers as well. I’ve been making my way through a stack of old Spectacular Spider-Man issues the last couple of days, enjoying the artistry of Sal Buscema.
And then I hit Page 6 of Spectacular Spider-Man #171, published in late 1990, and I was jolted from my escapist reverie.
The issue is the first part of a climactic confrontation between Spidey and Thomas Fireheart, AKA the Puma, an unusual addition to the webhead’s rogues gallery in that he’s something of an anti-hero: an assassin for hire but also a hero to his Native American tribe.
He’s also a business tycoon who injected himself into Spidey’s life by way of a hostile takeover of The Daily Bugle, which eventually prompted a showdown between the two superhuman characters.
If there’s one thing that can be said of writer Gerry Conway’s and artist Sal Buscema’s run on this title in that era, it’s that they delivered traditional super-hero action and soap-opera drama. Marvel’s also known for efforts to include topical references, and this time, that meant name-dropping a certain rising figure in the New York real-estate scene.
Did you catch that? Maybe the metahuman melee in an office setting distracted you. Here’s the relevant quote at the right (as lettered by Rick Parker), isolated and enlarged for your bemusement. It seems odd to see the spectre of the Donald looming over a super-hero comic, not only before his presidential run but especially ahead of his reality game-show hosting duties.
The only solace I take from the reference is that Spidey only seems to comment on the quality of Trump’s attire. I’m certain Peter Parker would take issue with his politics and antics, and I doubt he’d make such a benign remark about the Orange One today.