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OMU: POTUS -- Part Two

One of the guiding principles I adopted when constructing my chronology of the Original Marvel Universe within an established historical context was to keep the fictional universe as close to the real world as the stories would allow. It became interesting, then, to see the points where there was significant divergence. Often the impact of the events depicted in the earliest stories did not seem to reach much beyond New York City, and so I assumed that, in general, both realities proceeded largely along parallel lines.

Inevitably, as the storylines grew grander in scope, the differences became more pronounced, as a result either of the direct actions of the superhuman heroes and villains or merely as a byproduct of the Marvel Universe’s superior technology. In the realm of politics, as well, there came a point of significant divergence which will be examined in detail in Part Three—namely, that President Lyndon B. Johnson lost the election of 1964.

As a result, his term in office was limited to approximately 14 months. But during that time, he made numerous appearances in various titles. In some of these appearances, he was drawn to look like himself, and in some, as a result of Marvel’s “sliding time scale,” he looks more like his real-world successor, Richard Nixon, who had taken office by the time these issues were published.

Note: The following timeline depicts the Original Marvel Universe (anchored to November 1961 as the first appearance of the Fantastic Four and proceeding forward from there. See previous posts for a detailed explanation of my rationale.) Some information presented on the timeline is speculative and some is based on historical accounts. See the Notes section at the end for clarifications.


And so, here is an overview of the role played by President Lyndon B. Johnson in the Original Marvel Universe:


November 1963 – When John F. Kennedy is assassinated, Vice President Lyndon Baines Johnson is immediately sworn in as Chief Executive. As President, LBJ continues to promote the moon-landing project initiated by JFK. To honor his predecessor, Johnson orders that Cape Canaveral be renamed Cape Kennedy. Thanks to advanced technology from Stark Industries, the Apollo program is rapidly nearing completion.

December 1963 – President Johnson watches a TV news report about the Hulk having just saved New York City from a rampaging humanoid built by the Leader. Since the Hulk had also recently saved the city from a runaway missile, Johnson decides to offer the brute full amnesty, at the discretion of General Ross. However, after Ross witnesses the Hulk suddenly go berserk, the general decides the President’s offer of amnesty was premature.

January 1964 – President Johnson pays a visit to the S.H.I.E.L.D. Helicarrier to personally congratulate the agency’s senior staff on eliminating the threat of HYDRA’s version of the Overkill Horn, a powerful sonic weapon. Although his schedule does not permit him to wait for Nick Fury’s return, Johnson delivers his speech and shakes hands with acting-director Jasper Sitwell. Then, following Nick Fury’s rescue of Laura Brown, daughter of the Imperial Hydra, the President agrees to offer her amnesty in exchange for information. A week later, LBJ cooperates with Nick Fury in a scheme to flush out a HYDRA impostor within S.H.I.E.L.D. after a new weapons test goes badly awry.

March 1964 – President Johnson orders S.H.I.E.L.D. to send a special taskforce to Vietnam to stop the construction of a hydrogen bomb. Nick Fury recruits the former Howling Commandos to tackle the assignment.

May 1964 – The Apollo moon landing is threatened when the base at Cape Kennedy is attacked, first by the Kree Sentry robot and then by the Super-Skrull. Both times, the installation is defended by a new superhero called Captain Marvel. The Cape’s commanding officer, General Bridges, assures the President that the situation is under control.

June 1964 – Captain Marvel suddenly turns traitor and steals the rocket intended for the moon shot, initiating an unauthorized launch and piloting the craft into deep space. Auxiliary units must be shipped to Cape Kennedy from Texas and the rocket reassembled. Later, the President is alerted when a large planetoid suddenly leaves the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, heading on a direct collision course with Earth at incredible speed. A few hours later, Nick Fury reports that the planetoid has been destroyed after being intercepted by a rocketship piloted by S.H.I.E.L.D. agent Cliff Randall.

July 1964 – President Johnson is frustrated when frequent mishaps and unexplained problems prevent the Apollo moon landing from taking place as scheduled. He suspects sabotage, though no solid proof can be found.

August 1964 – Lyndon Johnson accepts his party’s nomination for President in the upcoming election, choosing Hubert Humphrey as his running mate. Johnson is worried by the rapid rise in the polls of independent candidate Paul Destine, who seems to mesmerize crowds with his fiery right-wing rhetoric, until Destine commits suicide after battling the Sub-Mariner in a television studio.

September 1964 – When an unknown force wreaks havoc with worldwide weather patterns, President Johnson declares a national state of emergency. However, soon after, the crisis ends as mysteriously as it began. The President’s scientific advisors are baffled. A week or so later, when the entire nation of Costa Rica goes incommunicado, the President orders a military taskforce to investigate. The soldiers discover the Hulk working in league with a group of strange beings, led by a madman named Maximus, and manage to drive them off. The country’s inhabitants then awaken from a trance-like state, and life returns to normal. Then, bowing to public pressure, Johnson establishes the Federal Council on Mutant Activities to study the mutant phenomenon. The plan backfires, however, when the Council’s Larry Trask unleashes his father’s robot Sentinels to search out and capture every known mutant in the country. The resulting public debate does not go well for the President. Meanwhile, as the new moon rocket is prepped for final testing, a robot calling itself the Man-Slayer tries to destroy it on the launch pad. Captain Marvel reappears and fights the robot off, but then manages to disappear despite Iron Man’s efforts to apprehend him.

October 1964 – The Johnson campaign stumbles in its response to an attack on New York by the war fleet of Atlantis, since the Sub-Mariner seemed to exhibit divided loyalties. The President slips further in the polls as the Atlanteans then disrupt the transatlantic shipping lanes for the next month. Early one morning, about a week before the election, President Johnson learns that Manhattan has been invaded by the international crime syndicate called Zodiac and is being held for one billion dollars ransom. Fortunately, the Avengers and Daredevil manage to save the city and defeat the villains.

November 1964 – Lyndon Johnson loses the presidential election to his Republican opponent. Polls suggest the President lost primarily on the so-called “mutant” issue. Soon after the election, the Apollo mission launches successfully and lands American astronauts on the moon. While there, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin discover a mysterious globe on the lunar surface and bring it back with them. The government’s top scientists are unable to discover anything about the seemingly harmless sphere, and so it is brought to the Oval Office for LBJ to see. As soon as the President speaks, the image of Doctor Doom appears in the globe and mocks American technology as hopelessly inferior to his own.

December 1964 – President Johnson is alerted when Thor storms the United Nations and declares his intention to conquer the earth, but is later informed that it was only an impostor. When the Sub-Mariner threatens war with the surface world, Reed Richards contacts the President to ask that the Fantastic Four be given the chance to deal with Namor before the armed forces are sent into battle. Now a lame-duck president, LBJ reluctantly agrees to give the FF a shot at resolving the crisis. Not long after, following an Atlantean invasion of New York City, Reed Richards contacts the President again and asks him to be patient, since the FF have learned that Magneto, not the Sub-Mariner, is the real enemy. Though skeptical, Johnson agrees to wait a little longer. His gamble pays off when Magneto is defeated, Namor calls off the invasion, and the crisis is ended with no casualties. A week or two later, as things are winding down at the Johnson White House, LBJ takes a call from General Ross, who asks the President’s permission to turn Project Brain-Wave over to the criminal mastermind known as the Leader. Though it sounds insane, Johnson still has faith in the old soldier and gives him the go-ahead.

January 1965 – Lyndon B. Johnson leaves office as his successor is sworn in as the 37th President of the United States.


Notes:

December 1963 – Lyndon B. Johnson makes an appearance in the Hulk story in Tales to Astonish #88, courtesy of artist Gil Kane.

January 1964 – Although not identified, the V.I.P. seen in Strange Tales #152 echoes Lyndon Johnson’s famous catchphrase “Come, let us reason together,” suggesting it is in fact meant to be LBJ. After a mention in the following issue, the President then appears in Strange Tales #155, speaking with a Texas drawl and bearing a faint resemblance to LBJ, thanks to writer/illustrator Jim Steranko.

March 1964 – The Howling Commandos regroup for a mission to Vietnam in Sgt. Fury and his Howling Commandos Annual #3.

May 1964 – The President remains behind the scenes as Captain Marvel defends America’s space program in Marvel Super-Heroes #13 and Captain Marvel #1–3.

June 1964 – Captain Marvel deals the space program a major setback in Captain Marvel #11. The government’s response to the crisis is seen in the following issue, though the President does not appear. Cliff Randall’s heroic sacrifice is depicted in Nick Fury, Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. #6, in which the President is mentioned in passing.

July 1964 – See Part Three for further discussion of the problems with the Apollo program in the Original Marvel Universe.

August 1964 – Paul Destine’s brief presidential campaign is shown in Sub-Mariner #7.

September 1964 – The President works behind the scenes to deal with the bizarre weather crisis seen in Hulk #109 and Nick Fury, Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. #8. Incidentally, artist Frank Springer draws Lyndon Johnson into Nick Fury’s Psycho-Projector dream depicted three issues later. Next, the President makes a brief cameo appearance in Hulk #119, which features the first of many caricatures of Richard Nixon drawn by Herb Trimpe. The Central American nation is obfuscated as “Costa Salvador” in this story, but is clearly on the Atlantic side of the region. The Federal Council on Mutant Activities is introduced in Uncanny X-Men #57. Captain Marvel returns to Earth to defend the new moon rocket in Captain Marvel #12–14.

October 1964 – The Atlantean incursion occurs in Sub-Mariner #21, and their disruption of sea traffic over their realm is shown four issues later. A silhouetted President deals with the invasion of Manhattan in Avengers #82, but is given Nixon’s distinctive profile by John Buscema, a “topical reference.”

November 1964 – The Apollo moon landing occurred five years earlier in the Original Marvel Universe than it did in the real world, thanks to the advanced technology provided by Stark Industries and others. The landing itself is shown in Fantastic Four #98, and the subsequent exploration of the lunar surface, and the finding of the mystery sphere, is presented in the Doctor Doom story in Astonishing Tales #1. Here, the President, as drawn by Wally Wood, looks like the sort of generic figure often seen in movies and TV shows.

December 1964 – The President remains behind the scenes when Loki masquerades as Thor in Thor #181. Then the President, again drawn to look like Richard Nixon, this time by artist John Romita, appears in Fantastic Four #103–104 to discuss the Sub-Mariner/Magneto crisis. Next, Herb Trimpe continues to refine his Nixon caricature when the President takes a call from “Thunderbolt” Ross in Hulk #139.


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