DENNIS O’NEIL: The Senator is Golden
If a man is to be judged by his enemies, Patrick Leahy is golden. He was, as was widely reported, told to do an anatomically impossible act on himself by our always-classy Vice President, the Honorable Dick Cheney, and badmouthed by James Dobson, leader of Focus on the Family. Great foes to have.
Mr. Leahy, as most of you probably know, is Senator Leahy of Vermont, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, currently trying to get a couple of friends of The Honorable George W. Bush to obey the law by telling the truth and honoring subpoenas.
I like Pat Leahy’s politics and especially his humanitarianism and I liked Pat Leahy before I knew much about either because he invited me to lunch a few years ago, along with my wife and a number of other comic book guys. Senator Leahy, it turns out, is a Batman fan and not shy about saying so in public. Lunch was in the Senate dining room that day, and although my mistrust of what we’re forced to call The Establishment is reasonably sincere, I have to admit that this butcher’s kid from North St. Louis was pretty impressed with himself, sitting at a big table with a living, breathing senator, surrounded by the nation’s movers and shakers. Later, our host wrote an introduction to a collection of comic book stories and later still, had cameos in two of the Batman movies.
According to the Journal News, my local Gannett paper, and reported by ComicMix last week, the senator will have an actual part in the next batmovie, The Dark Knight, and will donate his acting pay to a children’s library in Montpelier. (No word yet on whether Cheney or Dobson will be in the cast, but don’t get your hopes up.)
I mentioned the senator’s humanitarianism, which brings me to our second encounter with him. In 1996, at the instigation of Jenette Kahn, then DC Comics’ publisher, we did some comic books about the landmine problem. Before Jenette dragooned me into a meeting full of impressive people, I hadn’t known there was such a problem. But there was, and is, and it consists of the existence of millions of small explosive devices scattered throughout the planet. In theory, their targets are soldiers, but in practice, they kill and maim many, many civilians, especially children. So the Superman guys did a book, to be translated into the appropriate languages, which showed what landmines are and what to do if you see one, and we Batman guys did a book, in English, designed to raise awareness. And that’s where we reencountered the senator. Every year, he works to help landmine victims. You don’t hear about this much, and he makes no political capital from it; having spoken with him about those victims, I’m convinced that he does what he does sincerely, because it needs doing.
Anyway, to finish the story, the senator and I eventually found ourselves sharing a rostrum as we worked to publicize our comics and the landmine problem they addressed.
I’ve done nothing about the problem since. Not so the senator, and that’s one of the reasons he’s a genuinely good guy.
I’ll bet he’ll be just fine in the movie, too.
RECOMMENDED READING: The Tipping Point, by Malcolm Gladwell
Dennis O’Neil is an award-winning editor and writer of comic books like Batman, The Question, Iron Man, Green Lantern and/or Green Arrow, and The Shadow, as well as all kinds of novels, stories and articles.