By Mark Memmott
When President Barack Obama went to work out at a gym in Des Moines this morning, the "pool" of journalists who followed along included NPR's Ari Shapiro. The reporters and photographers were sent to a nearby shop -- Coffee + Comics -- to hang out while POTUS (president of the United States) worked up a sweat.
It was there that Ari spotted issue No. 3 of Barack the Barbarian, a series from Devil's Due Publishing. Here's what Ari reported back about that discovery to the rest of the White House press corps:
"There was only one copy in the store. It's 'Part 3 of the stunning saga! Quest for the Treasure of the Stimuli!"
"The cover shows a shirtless Barack, abs rippling, ax in his right hand and elephant tusk in his left. Atop the elephant is a laughing 'Red Sarah' wearing a gold bikini, gold bicep cuff, and signature Palin glasses.
"Sample dialogue: 'Drat! That pesky Barack and his rat pack have got the lead on us ... but we can still beat them to the top, can't we, Red Sarah?' "
"Also: 'What part of derivatives do you not understand?' "
Ari forked over $3.50 to get that last copy. And later, he got this review of the comic from White House spokesman Bill Burton:
"I liked it because it had few words and lots of pictures, which made it easy to understand."
For more about Barack the Barbarian, see this Broken Frontier interview with Evan Sult, editor of the series. He thinks "it's useful to have this strange fantasy projection of the man we all want so much to succeed."
NPR's Scott Horsley, by the way, reminds us this is the second time this week that the comics world has been in contact with the Obama administration. He says that in a speech Monday to entrepreneurs from around the world, many from Muslim countries, the president made reference to another comic book series:
"I have to say, perhaps the most innovative response was from Dr. Naif al-Mutawa of Kuwait, who joins us here tonight. ... His comic books have captured the imagination of so many young people with superheroes who embody the teachings and tolerance of Islam. After my speech in Cairo, he had a similar idea. So in his comic books, Superman and Batman reached out to their Muslim counterparts. And I hear they're making progress, too."