A Bird? A Plane? No, The Mayor!

Mexico City Mayor Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador talks to the media at the Mayor's office on Mexico City, Mexico on Thursday March 4, 2004.
First there was Superman. Then Batman and Spider-Man. Now meet the latest comic strip hero: The Mayor.

Mexico City Mayor Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador is a heaven-bound figure besieged by snakes, sharks and dark-hooded politicians in a new comic book put out by his administration: "The Dark Forces Against Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador."

The 16-page book is the administration's most recent attempt to fight off what Lopez Obrador describes as "a plot" by federal officials and other prominent figures to undermine him before the 2006 presidential election.

Holding a hefty lead in all presidential preference polls, Lopez Obrador has seen his prestige battered by widely broadcast videotapes of colleagues stuffing money into their briefcases and pockets and criticism of his reluctance to obey two court orders involving land disputes.

Comic books have long been popular in Mexico, where they are sold at newspaper stands and read by everyone from taxi drivers to schoolchildren.

Other politicians also have used the medium to get their message out to a large audience. President Vicente Fox last year put out a comic book, "Building the Future," which portrayed the president's view of his achievements.

Officials are printing 2.2 million copies of the mayor's book for distribution in the city of 9 million people.

It's the third, and perhaps most lurid, in the irregular series "Tales of the City" putting the city administration's view into comic-book form.

The cover portrays a hooded, shark-like figure threatening a group of clean-cut citizens.

When a youth asks who the monster is, a man replies, "That, Juan, represents the dark forces of society. ... Those who lie to us, rob us, fool us and only work for their own advantage."

The mayor has most recently complained about Sunday's anti-crime march, which drew more than 250,000 people to city streets. Lopez Obrador has suggested the event was meant to hurt him and participants were swayed by biased news media coverage.

In the comic book, the mayor's critics are portrayed as hand-puppets trying to bribe him or as tie-wearing figures with shark-head hoods plotting to undermine justice.

"So began a series of intrigues that the dark forces of evil created against Andres Manuel," it says, noting that the mayor has been distracted while creating highways, schools, housing and jobs, as well as "beautifying Mexico City."

Standing below those words, a girl turns to her mother: "He works so hard. He doesn't deserve to have plots against him, Mama."

"Don't worry daughter," the mother replies. "That way he's going to heaven."

By E. Eduardo Castillo