Campaigners is a self-published digital-only comic from writer Brendan Hykes with art by MJ Barros, and nicely done it is too. The synopsis is possibly “love it or hate it” but it caught my interest and I’m glad it did.
It’s 2076 and Presidential debates have been replaced with a fight to the death between the candidates. Kydra is to turn 18 on the day of the election, and a journalist interviews her for a ‘fluff’ piece about how much she must be excited about voting. The feisty Kydra is having none of it, and the interview goes viral after she denounces the “debates” as barbaric. As an overnight online star, Kydra finds herself in the middle of a massive social upheaval that threatens to destroy her.
Campaigners has the sort of outlandish premise you’d find in a cult SciFi movie and I like it. It’s a nice throwback to a time when writers let imaginations run wild. You can take the idea as a metaphor for modern politics where the lines between policies and show business are starting to blur, or have fun with it at face value.
Reading the issue 1 bonus content expands on how the fight “debates” developed. In 2028 two candidates wanted to have a boxing match, the only reason being to fight each other. It was televised and got huge ratings. The winner went on to win the election. In 2032 an older candidate had no interest in a boxing match and voter turnout was so low they couldn’t work out who had won. By 2048 there was no real debate and it was all about the fighting. In 2060 there was an accidental death, but after a pardon from the sitting President, the “debates” became a death match.
Kydra’s best friend is transgender girl Bianca, a sort of laid back punk kid who has more online savvy than the more political Kydra. Bianca suffers abuse from a lot of people but it’s treated with a light touch in the story. It’s just one of the themes of the Campaigners, along with coming-of-age, being best friends, politics and standing up for something you believe in. It’s a credit to the writing of Brendan Hykes and editor Mey Valdivia Rude (herself trans). The MJ Barros artwork is impressive. It’s mostly black and white and very well drawn as you can see from the pages from the five-page tumblr preview.
The first two issues of the five-part miniseries are available from zeropresscomics.com and comiXology. Each episode will be around 12-18 pages and the team are currently halfway through production of issue 3.