There are three people on the blue side of the political spectrum who benefited from the selection of the profoundly terrifying Sarah Palin as a vice-presidential candidate: Tina Fey, Bill Kelter, and Wayne Shellabarger. Fey, of course, is doing a Palin impersonation so hilariously incisive as to give the impression that Saturday Night Live is still relevant. Kelter and Shellabarger, meanwhile, are the lesser-known writer and illustrator of Veeps: Profiles in Insignificance, a guide to American vice presidents out this week from local comics publisher Top Shelf Productions.
Veeps is an illustrated compendium of the largely forgotten men who have held the office. In his introduction, author Kelter notes that "for well more than 200 years, the American people have elected a buffoon's gallery of rogues, incompetents, empty suits, abysmal spellers, degenerate golfers, and corrupt Marylanders to the vice presidency with barely a passing consideration that they might one day have to assume the highest office in the land."
The book begins with John Adams and ends with Dick Cheney—but if it sells enough copies to warrant a reprint, Kelter tells me, "We're hoping that [Joe] Biden becomes the 47th chapter. We've been having conversations, 'What's best for the book, and what's best for the country?'" Either Palin or Biden would fit right in to this rogues' gallery, full of fun facts ("LBJ was very fond of his penis, naming it 'Jumbo'") and obscure anecdotes. Kelter describes these men as "really damaged individuals who wind up a heartbeat away from the presidency. Some are sad, some tragic, and all are pretty far from statesmen." In fact, it was former Vice President Thomas Riley Marshall who described the office as "insignificant."
Kelter calls the vice presidency a "bigger factor than ever" this year, given that John McCain is doddering toward death's door—and Kelter and Shellabarger are well positioned to cash in on the uptick of interest in the office. In addition to the book, Kelter writes a political blog (veeps.us), and there's a full-length film about Kelter and Shellabarger in the works, which Kelter explains is "loosely based on our VP obsessions, with a few embellishments thrown in."