Listen here, we're hijacking the Cinema Slap Fight column to talk about something short on cinema, but long on slap fights! In all the years we've been tiptoeing through the tulips of pop culture, we've seen a lot of presidents rescued by a lot of heroes in a lot of different mediums.
That being said, it always seems to be an original character playing the president, not any of the actual leaders who have held the office. In fact, we can only think of two specific incidences that involved actual historic presidents needing rescue. The first is our own incumbent commander in chief Barack Obama. A comic book fan, Marvel inserted him into Amazing Spider-Man #583 as a tribute. He's been the official president in the Marvel universe since then.
We have to go way back to 1988 before we get another similar presidential rescue. In Data East's Bad Dudes vs. Dragon Ninja arcade game, Blade and Striker are recruited to rescue Ronald Reagan using only their fists, cans of Coke for energy, and the occasional nunchuck. Which rescue was the greater? That's what we're here to find out.
In This Corner: Your friendly neighborhood Spider-Man. Peter Parker gained spider-based superpowers after being bitten by a mutated spider. Driven to become a hero after the death of his uncle by a mugger he failed to stop, he is one of the world's most popular superheroes. His quick wit and acrobatic fighting style make him a dangerous force to be reckoned with.
His tag-team partner is Barack Obama. Your friendly neighborhood president gained executive superpowers after being bitten by a mutated constitutional law book (Editor's note: Change this. You're an idiot.) While he lacks Spidey's abilities, he is a fair athlete, cool under pressure, and has access to advanced marshmallow cannon technology. A look at his campaign trail restaurant choices indicates he may be immune to heart disease.
And in This Corner: Blade and Striker seem to be identical twins with impressive physiques and fighting skills so amazing that the FBI, CIA, Secret Service and U.S. Military don't even bother getting up to help once they're on the job. They're agile, have a powerful charging punch attack, and are masters of knives and nunchucks. Their game has gone down as a classic of the 8-bit and arcade era, whereas Spider-Man's outings at this time were simply embarrassments.
His tag-team partner is Ronald Reagan, 40th president of the United States. Near deified by conservatives and maligned as a devil by liberals, he remains a towering figure of history. The great communicator presided over the fall of the Berlin Wall, the end of the Cold War and even survived being shot. Reports that he cheated death to become an ax murderer prowling for hippie victims are unsubstantiated.
Enemies of the State: In regards to the odds overcome, the Bad Dudes are clearly ahead of the game. Their six-stage adventure takes them through cities, caves, forests, on the back of trains and on moving 18-wheelers. They fight legions of ninjas, some armed with melee weapons, some that can breathe fire, some that are ON fire, magic, an attack dog squad, and even air support. These are odds that John McLain would call bullshit on.
By contrast, Spidey only has to take down the Chameleon in a five-page special. Granted, Chameleon's ability to impersonate anybody could potentially have wreaked havoc in the world, but as far as fights go, it just isn't nearly as impressive as what Blade and Striker accomplish.
Head of State: On the other hand, the points are reversed on the actual plots themselves. Dragon Ninja kidnaps Reagan in 1988. At this point he's in the final year of his second term, with vice president Bush clearly the favorite to replace him once he leaves office. If Dragon Ninja planned on using the capture of Reagan to influence politics, they're pretty much out of luck since he's already accomplished the majority of what he could, and his power was now waning. We can only assume that their reason was ransom, a pretty pedestrian plot for an attack of this magnitude.
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Chameleon tries to usurp Obama at the beginning of his presidency, which would've given him as much as eight years of power. Coming into office in the middle of a financial crisis, like being elected in times of war, typically lends more power to a president than they would otherwise have. Who knows what schemes Chameleon would've hatched secure at the top of the command chain.
To the Victor Go the Spoils: Spidey gets historically screwed out of any gain from his heroics. As the song says, "Action is his reward." Though it certainly can't hurt Parker to have a friend in the sitting president, it seems like it's actually Obama who got the most out of his own rescue. Appearances in comics and video games have helped cement his place as the pop-culture president, connecting him with voters in ways no president has ever done before. That's fine for him, but Spidey has to go back to his day job.
Blade and Striker? Well, first Reagan takes them out for burgers, which seems like a kind of cheap date, but he's already topped Obama's fist-bump for Spider-Man. If that's not enough, Reagan commissions a statue of the Bad Dudes. It's not as good as money, but food and fame are always sound payments.
Final Verdict: As much as we like having our geek president and one of our favorite superheroes team up, we're going to have to give this one to Reagan and the Bad Dudes. They fought like warrior-poets against an evil horde. Spidey just didn't live up to his reputation. Now, if only Marvel would try again, but have Parker swinging in from Blade and Striker's statue to rescue Obama.