My main objective with today’s strip is to make my own version of Charlie Brown writing a letter to the little red-haired girl. Charles Schultz’s work is the landmark that so many cartoonists aspire to. His drawing, writing and characterization are so rich and simple at the same time, and today’s comic won’t be the last time I tell my story with the help of Charles’s inspiration.
The 4-panel comic strip trope of having a character make an observation in the final panel – more or less directly to the reader – is another challenge I set myself in this comic. In trying to become a real cartoonist, you ought to try every trick and tool that’s out there!
I get the feeling that the term “executive order” must be music to Trump’s ears. And he totally is the kind of guy who is seduced by the trappings of wealth and power. These are the themes that inform a lot of this “week’s” comics.
We’ve been wrong before about who is likely to win and to lose an American presidential election. Nevertheless, the Trump After Trump comic strip is a thought experiment in imagining how Trump might react to losing the November 2020 election. I do think that for a man whose brand is “winning,” eleven weeks of lame duck status would be unbearable.
There are many people who think that getting Trump out of the White House can’t happen soon enough, and Trump himself could turn out to be the person who wants more than anyone to get hims out of Washington D.C. ASAP.
The third panel of this comic feels like a little metaphor for Trump’s impact on the world: he waves around the symbols of power and wealth without any awareness that he may be whacking other people – even his own vice president – in the face.
Part of the romance of American history is the idea of the power of the pen. We revere our founding documents and the imagery of the Constitution and Declaration of Independence being peneed by an ink-dipped feather quill.
Trump is not immune to this fascination with quill and parchment, and I’m sure he would love a photo op of him wielding a huge feather pen while he drafts something of great consequence. But, if he were to find himself with a fancy pen, wouldn’t it be funny if something less dignified occurred?
Today’s comic strip is not just a tickling gag, but also a meditation on the very well put-together, very patient Mike Pence, who has suffered being Second Banana to the Big Orange for three and a half years. If he is the level-headed, god-loving man that he appears to be, perhaps he sees himself is a modern day Job, called to endure indignities and suffering so that god can make a point.
I don’t know what point that would be, but maybe Mike does.
In this universe, Trump wants out of office just as much as the electorate who voted against him in November 2020. Of course, I’m making today’s strip in the summer of 2020, so the election has not happened yet. We’re just imagining here, which I find cathartic. After years of making abstract paintings and other traditional art objects, here I am doing art therapy and having a blast!
I originally imagined Trump drafting executive orders on his cell phone, written in the same voice as his Twitter pronouncements. But, as you’ll see in strip no. 9 he ends up using something that is much more fun to draw and (I hope) more fun to look at, too.
As Trump sees it, why be a lame duck when you can just executive-order yourself down to Florida?
The real Trump’s communication style evokes the sleazy salesman. In this first full-color “Sundy” strip, Trump takes us on a showing of the White House, which is just the kind of luxurious property than he can sell with his real estate schtick.
It is true that the real Biden is no stranger to luxury homes, in spite of his working class street cred. The idea of Trump and Biden bonding over the mansion that is the White House is funny and, I think, totally plausible.
Since Trump is not known for adhering to – or even being aware of – governing norms, I just love the idea of his not knowing about the lame duck period between election night and inauguration day, some eleven weeks later. And who better to fill him in on the gist of the 20th Amendment than his replacement?
Trump Is Too Good at Being President to Waste Time Reading
One of the real Trump’s most distressing behaviors is his anti-science attitude, seen in his espousal of anti-vaccination ideas and his related promotion of conspiracy theories.
Even if you want to be charitable and suggest he does not personally believe these ideologies of mistrust, his readiness to deploy them in his public communication is concerning. Science and critical thinking have enough trouble gaining currency in the broad American conversation; having the president undermine trust in science and evidence just makes it harder to manage our Enlightenment-based republic.
The real Trump does, however, use science as a way to bolster his appearance of strength: he likes NASA, for example. And that is the attitude he takes in this comic. He makes a vague attribution to something official that supports his claim that he is just too awesome, but of course he hasn’t read it! (Vague attribution is also a hallmark of Trump’s communication style.)
When Trump Calls to Concede an Election, Guess Who He Talks About
Now that Biden has returned Trump’s phone call to concede the 2020 election, Trump has stopped feeling insulted and can now luxuriate in talking about himself.
You know the people who steer conversation so readily back to themselves and their exploits? It’s fun to write a character who loves to talk about himself and fails completely to show interest in his listener. I know I’ve been guilty of that, myself, but I try to overcome my own ego and be a good listener, which, it turns out, is more interesting and less predictable than running your own mouth all the time. Blowing the idiot wind.
So, when I’m writing this character, I don’t just hear Trump’s voice but the voices of people in my life who only want to talk and hear about themselves. And, I’ll tell you, it feels kind of good, maybe even therapeutic.
I think a lot of voters hoped that Pence would be the voice of faith in this White House, and that may be the case. I also imagine him as a voice of reason, one of many people who can try to advise Trump away from his erratic instincts.
When Trump sees that Biden is calling back, his ego is immediately sated, and now he wants to mess with the new president-elect.
When you’re frustrated by someone not answering or returning your calls, you can always turn to Twitter. “He may not be answering, but SOMEONE is going to hear me!”
When reading people’s posts on social media, you can usually hear the tone of voice that goes with it. I often hear Trump’s posts as a yell, and I imagine the moment of his composing the Tweets as an actual yell that must be alarming for the people near him. Whether or not this is what, in fact, happens is a question for the journalist, not the cartoonist.
Mike Pence made his first appearance in the last strip, no. 2, and he is a good foil for the seething id that is Trump.
It was fun drawing Trump’s wide, yelling mouth and messing up Pence’s hair.
At the time I made this comic strip, Trump had been warning U.S. governors that if they could not quell unrest in response to the latest wave of killings of black Americans, then Trump would send troops to those states and handle it himself.
My hope for Trump After Trump is to keep it less political and more about the narcissistic character of Trump and how he responds to our complex world. But, occasionally, it seems funny to reflect a specific moment in his actual presidency, such as this threat of sending the national guard to states who did not ask for military support.
You know how frustrating it can be to try to call someone and they don’t answer? We all deal with this little feeling of powerlessness, all the time. “Why won’t she answer??” “Where IS he?” We feel slighted when someone doesn’t pick up the phone, as if they are intentionally insulting us. Maybe she’s busy with her own life? Maybe he’s having a loud party because he just won the American presidency?
Trump, in particular, seems to hate feeling powerless, so his mind goes to a solution that can project his power. In this comic it reads as a funny little tantrum. I expect there will be a lot of tantrums in future strips, but I’ll try to keep the punchlines from all being hissy fits!