These black and white pages, resembling one of those free zines the nerds among us used to pore through before the days of blogs, are reigniting the debate over tea party racism in the days before the movement's latest diversity-themed event.
Today, some top tea partiers are disavowing the truly impressively bigoted comic books, claiming that they're an obvious plant by tea party opponents. But at the same time, no one seems to know much about them. The mystery is still unsolved and the comics remain.
The books were first flagged by Ethan Persoff, the comic book blogger who brought us the hilarious Defense Department Don't Ask, Don't Tell explanation comic book "Dignity and Respect." Pershoff told Rachel Maddow's blog that he bought the first issue of the comic (there are at least three) somewhere in Corpus Christie, Texas.
Here's a taste of what that looked like:
Each issue of the comic (there are three out on the net) is very, very racist, pulling no punches when it comes to bashing President Obama with the familiar tea party complaints about spending, fears of a biased judiciary and even the infamous death panels (featuring a bonus offensive image of a large-nosed Ezekiel Emanuel.) There's something else interesting about them, one comic book expert at the Atomic Comics megastore in Mesa, Arizona told me today: they're clearly drawn by someone who knows a lot about comics. Each is a fairly faithful parody of a well-known comic book cover. See more examples of the pages here, here and here.
So, what do we make of these images? They're certainly racist — and they certainly pick up on many of the anti-government themes found among tea partiers. But two leaders told me today they're clearly not from the movement.
"This is not something that is floating around Corpus Christi," Kathy Burnette, president of the largest Corpus Christie, Texas tea party group, told me. "This is the first we've seen or heard of it." Burnette said her group "unequivocally denounces" the comic book, and said the "content is in poor taste at best and does nothing but cause more division in a time when our country needs unity." She added "racism has no place in our movement or our nation."
Shelby Blakely, executive director of the Tea Party Patriots' official online publication Patriot Journal said fakery in the comics was obvious. "It's a plant and a bad one at that," she told me. "The truth is in the details."
Blakely said the comic does not have the feel of a tea party "giveaway," which is how one dealer on eBay characterizes it (attempts to reach the dealer today were unsuccessful). Plus, she said, imagery like the Tea Party Comix would raise flags instantly among tea party groups.
"We would have heard far more about it from the surrounding groups, state coordinators, local and national media," if the comics' origin was really from a tea party group, she said. She also dismissed the idea that organized tea partiers in Corpus Christie could have anything to do with it. "I know many people involved with this movement," said. "They are all too busy to waste time on 120 pages of unproductive doodling."
"It sounds more like someone who has time to burn," she added.