Thursday, October 25, 2012

Election Fraud


Name This Marvel Villain??

Hopefully this gentleman didn't "stump" those of you trying to guess his identity--because nonrecognition is a fate worse than death for a politician, you know.  He's actually known to his adoring public not as a criminal, but as a crime-fighter:

Meet Richard Raleigh, one-time candidate for mayor of New York City. Raleigh had the charisma to skillfully manipulate the masses, but he felt like he needed some insurance--so he actually engineered events to make it look like the underworld was trying to silence him, in order to gain support from the public.

In addition to rigging events that endangered crowds of people, to enhance the image that criminals considered him a threat, Raleigh adopted the identity of the Disruptor just to stack the deck:

And as another diversion, he also employed this gentle aide:

The Smasher, a hulking bruiser who Raleigh controlled by circuitry implanted in his headband which caused him intense pain when activated. (Beats me why he didn't just rip the damn thing off, as strong as he was. Then again, I guess he wasn't called the Ripper.) Raleigh was, for all intents and purposes, a madman. He felt he was above the masses--that it was his destiny to rule. (Clearly he had aspirations beyond being a mere mayor. Maybe even C.E.O. of Halliburton.)  But none of that came through in his public appearances, of course.  And, naturally, with his promises of curtailing costumed vigilantes, he had the publisher of the Daily Bugle solidly in his corner:

But Raleigh finally overplayed his hand when, in a fit of maniacal fury, he prodded the Smasher with too much pain, pushing his flunky over the edge.  With fatal results:

Curiously, the story ends with Spider-Man disposing of all traces of Raleigh's association with the Smasher, as well as his double identity as the Disruptor--his thinking being that Raleigh was too great a symbol to the city's population to be exposed as a fraud and a madman.  That's certainly not going to do Spidey any good, since Jameson is going to roast him in the next day's editorial; but looking back on this story, it's certainly at odds with our priorities today in terms of exposing the hidden agendas and corruption of our politicians.

Interestingly, the story of Raleigh and the Smasher (sans Disruptor) was originally told in the first black-and-white Spectacular Spider-Man magazine from 1968, and later adapted as a three-part color story in Amazing Spider-Man--adding the Disruptor presumably to give the expanded story more flair.  And the similarities don't end there--those of you who are long-time Spider-Man readers probably see how closely the Raleigh story mimics the Sam Bullit story from just two years earlier:

Bullit, running for D.A. rather than for Mayor, also fanned the flames of outrage with the voters--a man less sophisticated than Raleigh, but more grounded in reality and just as ruthless.  And where Raleigh had the Smasher, Bullit relied more on his power base and cadre of thugs to move his campaign along.  Eventually, Bullit's men betrayed him to the police, and his "crusade" of law and order was exposed as a sham; whereas the Disruptor, one step away from insanity, met a more final end, yet avoided the public humiliation and disgrace that was brought down on Bullit.  It seems the only ones who came out ahead in either instance were the voters.

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