Trump and Pence have parted ways in this story, and now Trump is left with the only person who really understands him. Don-Don, the little, stuffed Donald-Trump-looking doll whose face is contorted into a permanent yell.
Where do we go from here? Anywhere? Has this comic strip said all it needs to say? Do I want to continue to draw Trump? These are the questions I’m asking myself right now. I have not told a lot of the storylines that I thought I would tell when I first dreamed up this idea.
I wanted Trump to go to therapy and be under the care of a Latina psychologist; I wanted him to try to befriend black people; I wanted him to start an AM radio show about critical thinking. All of these ideas involve bringing in new characters, which is the most exciting prospect. Fifty comics that are laser focused on Trump can wear a fellow out.
In fact, maybe I could continue the comic strip and just call it After Trump, which is really the thing I’m concerned about. Trump can still be in the strip, but we could explore this whole time we’re in and the time we’re heading toward.
That’s what on my mind tonight. And even though today’s last panel just shows some randos that I made up to symbolize Americans sheltering in place and watching the Presidential Inauguration, it was exhilarating to get to draw someone new!
Does anyone call Trump “Don” or “Donald”? It’s hard to imagine. Trump is on record as loving when people call him “sir” or “mister president,” so I don’t see why he should change his mind just because he’s no longer president.
Now that it is Inauguration Day in this comic strip, we can bid farewell to the lame duck period. Mike “Bible Mike” Pence is going his own way to preach his message of hope and comfort to the masses. What’s next for Trump?
One answer to that question could be “nothing.” Drawing 49 comics from one storyline has been a great experience for me, and I am happy with the product. That said, I don’t know how much time I want to spend thinking about and drawing Trump, and it’s not like Trump After Trump has blown up to a point where people would be sad to see it go.
For now, I’m writing and drawing, working toward closure. But, as my friend Sean advised, I’ll be sure not to kill Trump off just in case I find that y’all want more Trump After Trump.
Trump Is Under Stress and Could Use a Healing Message
I hope this comic strip doesn’t set up an expectation that something is going to happen with the box. I drew it to symbolize that Trump is heading out of office soon, now that it’s January 21 in Trump After Trump world.
If the document box is, in fact, a gun in the first act that fails to fire by the final act, at least it jumps off the table in the last panel.
As for the content of this comic, I love using Trump as a vessel for all that I find distasteful about the excessive pursuit of profit. And I think I’ll leave it there. Cheers!
Trump Understands His White, Evangelical Christian Supporters
My Trump loves the letter “T”, and – regardless of what he learns about the cross and its symbolic power – he prefers to see the letter “T” when he encounters crosses as necklaces, tattoos, car stickers, etc.
Pence will soon be moving on to his post-politics life; so, without him as a Christian foil in the comic strip, I look forward to moving on to writing about Trump’s shortcomings as a leader rather than playing in the gulf between Trump as a public figure and his Great White Wall of support from American evangelical Christians.
One of my favorite experiences raising a secular family is when my daughter was little and pointed out the window as we were driving through suburban Las Vegas. “Look! That building has a “T” on top of it!” That is not a direct quote, but I hope the paraphrasing captures her excitement at seeing a letter of her recently-mastered alphabet perched on top of a big building.
And that was the day that she learned what a cross was and what it meant.
So, I return to the fertile cartooning ground of making fun of the gap between Trump and his evangelical base. For someone as egomaniacal and apparently unreligious (at least in his public behavior) as Trump, I wouldn’t be surprised if he recognized his supporters’ crosses as the “T” that indicates Trump enthusiasm.
I hope there is a broad and public reckoning over white Christian support for someone who personifies the opposite of their professed values over the years of the Religious Right.
In the meantime I will make cartoon jokes about that contradiction and hope I’m not the only one laughing.
Trump, Pence and Don-Don Toast 2020, an Unforgettable Year
I am committed to pre-celebration.
Trump After Trump started as a way for me to do a sort of visualization therapy: I imagined the end of the Trump presidency and watched him withdraw from the public eye during the lame duck period, which is not exactly in character, so I tried to keep his need for control and his narcissism on full display.
I still hope very much that he does, in fact, withdraw from the public, but I am not optimistic. We’ll see.
In any case, I have enjoyed spending the past 4 months in a future, fictional lame duck period. And now, with this comic, I am dispatching 2020 early, and moving into 2021. The memes have been declaring 2020 a year that we definitely won’t miss, so lets just get it over with!
Another Christmas Episode: Pence Gives Don-Don His Gift
It was a revelation to invent Don-Don, the little, stuffed version of Trump with yellow yarn hair and a perpetual yell on his face. And, because of how much fun I have with Don-Don, it’s hard not to just make little toy versions of everyone, but today I make an exception.
Wouldn’t it be cool to make fabric doll versions of each of the nine Supreme Court justices? I don’t want to go there in real life, but I like the results in ink.
Today’s comic speaks for itself, I think. I get feedback from time to time that suggests that my comics are not delivering the meaning that I think I’m crafting; but that is a big part of why I’m drawing Trump After Trump: I want to get better at the unique and super-fun language of cartooning.
Introducing Father Michael, the Reinvented Mike Pence
Saul had his moment of transformation on the road to Damascus. Anakin was christened Darth Vader by Emperor Palpatine, who himself is also known as Darth Sidious. Natalie dumps Scott Pilgrim and soon emerges as the Clash at Demonhead frontwoman Envy Adams.
Renaming a character is often part of a greater physical and spiritual transformation. When Mike Pence retires from politics and relaxes for the first time in decades, he grows a spontaneous, full, bushy white beard and seems to be stepping into a new role as an ancient prophet.
I drew and inked this on Election Night 2020 in the United States. Biden has gone to bed and told us to keep the faith. Trump is about to step out and speak to supporters. There is no outcome to this election yet, but that doesn’t mean you still can’t have some fun with the Pence and Trump characters that I’ve been exploring for the past, like, five months.
In fact, the kind of political stress we are feeling at this moment is the reason I started this comic in the first place. This comic is a fictional road map for the actual Donald Trump to conduct himself in the event of a loss. And here are the steps:
make a nice concession call to Joe Biden
spend the lame duck period being self-centered instead of sowing confusion, doubt and resistance
Whether Trump wins or loses this election, I nurture a hope that he might one day – the sooner the better – recede from public life and move on to other interests that don’t include whipping Americans into a divisive, partisan frenzy.
I am writing this on October 31, 2020, on a physically-distant Halloween. On this day of candy, horror films and minimal trick-or-treaters expected, it’s funny to have spent the last week in the headspace of Christmas in a fictional Oval Office, where apparently Trump and Mike Pence spend the morning exclusively in each other’s company. But, comic universes are sometimes compressed for simplicity.
Today’s strip plays around some more with Mike Pence’s Christian identity and public image. It’s also fun to exploit what I see as the large gap between white Christian support of Trump and his words and behaviors which are not Christian in any way that I’m familiar with from my upbringing.
Also, if we have a heavily-bearded Pence now, why not just go all in and make him one of those Sunday School worksheet Bible men!
Did you know that these Sunday, full-color strips take me as much time and energy as it takes to make the 6 preceding black-and-white, four-panel strips? I wonder if I need to streamline, and make the Sunday edition smaller. It’s worth pondering. Every three weeks, I spend about seven days worth of mornings, evenings and weekends making these colorful monsters. I hope they appear easy and fun to you, and that I’ve left not a trace of the labor it takes to put one of these together.
Christmas is two months away at the time that I’m publishing this comic, but it is only four days away in the timeline of this comic strip. So the question isn’t “Why are you already doing a Christmas comic?” but “What has taken you so long to do a Christmas comic if your comic strip is currently taking place in December?”
The first three panels of this strip wrote themselves, but the punchline was hard to write. In the end, I feel like I got to the heart of what I wanted to say – whether or not it’s funny is for you to decide.
And what I wanted to address is how the ideas of Americans coming together, listening to experts, considering evidence and being humble and graceful as we tackle our problems do not seem like things that Americans are likely to do right now. Moreover, I think it’s funny that Don-Don’s wish would be nonsensical to Trump, and that Pence would frame coming together as everyone becoming Christian. I remember being a Christian teen and having similar thoughts: if only every person in the world would just accept Jesus and become Christian, then we would all get along, etc.
Also, if Don-Don is a doll where exactly is his Christmas wish coming from? Is it a subconscious voice deep in Trump’s brain? Is Don-Don real? Is it destined to be a mystery?
Stubble Tells Them You’re Manly and Know How to Cut Loose
There are plenty of times when an aspiring artist feels self-doubt as they continue to stay up late and wake up early in order to create their obscure artwork. One of the great balms for this angst is cracking yourself up.
When I wrote the last panel for this comic, it made me laugh for four days before I finally drew it. By that time, I felt like Mozart: I wasn’t drawing the bearded Pence for the first time; I was simply copying down the drawing from my brain, where it lived, complete and funny.
In therapy, I have talked about the strange resistance I feel sometimes about doing the very thing that I identify so closely with. When the day’s other work is done, and I can sit down and draw, I would feel this aversion to the work, even though I feel the calling to be an artist. In talking through this problem, I decided that I was repelled by the studio because I was putting too much pressure on myself to succeed, and I was buckling under the self-imposed weight of success before I picked up a pencil.
And, therapy is so great because it can lead you to the obvious conclusion that you might not be able to reach on your own. In this case, I chose not to come to the studio to succeed, but to enjoy the moment-to-moment process of creating something. That is what I do now.
So, to bring it all back, the self-doubt slips back into the shadows when I write or draw something that I think is funny. I hope you find some of it funny, too.
Everyone loves tiny things, right? Tiny houses. Tiny dancers. Tiny Tims. Shoot, NPR even has that awesome Tiny Desk concert series! Which brings us to today’s strip.
In celebrating all things tiny, I introduced Don-Don a few weeks ago. He is a little doll version of Trump, and, in spite of his essence-of-angry-sour-Trump face, Trump just loves him. The resemblance is more important to Trump than the fact that Don-Don is not a flattering likeness.
Now we have a tiny Resolute Desk, too! The famous Resolute Desk has been the desk of choice for most presidents since it was gifted to Rutherford B. Hayes in 1880 by Queen Victoria. For half of this country’s history it has been a symbol of the U.S. presidency, a tradition, part of the institution of the office. So it is all the more incongruent to have Trump spend four years sitting at the Resolute Desk, iconoclast that he is.
But, as we’ve known about Trump for decades, he’s the kind of guy who loves being seen with the trappings of power and wealth. And if there is going to be a tiny Trump in his life, then he’s going to need his own tiny Resolute Desk, too.
I think the second panel of today’s comic is one of my favorites that I’ve drawn. So I’m just going to enjoy that for a minute before I figure out what to write for the next comic…
One way to illustrate a dysfunctional White House is to have the president order the vice-president to assemble a toy for his doll.
One way to illustrate the unfortunate American (and human) love affair with authority is to have a top-ranking government official dutifully do what he’s told, regardless of how irrelevant the task is to citizens and how self-serving it is to the president.
My aspiration for this comic strip as a whole is for it to address problems with human nature, morality and government. Artists, however, can hardly evaluate how successful their art is; we need public feedback for that. And public feedback is hard to come by when your publishing outlet is the internet, where billions of pieces of content are competing for people’s attention each day, much of that content much more targeted to appeal to people than a comic strip like Trump After Trump.
These are my reflections this morning as I publish my 38th comic strip and wonder what it is doing in the world beyond me.
I feel like Don-Don may soon be Trump’s closest companion – in this strip – replacing Mike Pence for the time being. I think Pence might be moving on to the next chapter of his life, soon.
Also, it’s strange writing a comic strip about Trump set in the near future. In the real world, we’ve just lived through the strange week of Trump coming down with COVID, getting VIP treatment for it, and returning to public activity with an ostentatious show of strength.
Meanwhile, in Trump After Trump, Trump is still waiting out the lame duck period and has never had COVID-19. I don’t know if he’s going to get it in this story or not. He has been very isolated. The only other characters to appear in this strip are:
Biden, over the phone
Don-Don, the stuffed doll
So, as opposed to real life, Trump’s social circle here is very narrow. At this point, he’s not looking like someone who’s going to get the ‘Rona.
But, I still have near infinite opportunities to explore narcissism and all the other flavors of his character!
Looking at two ultrasound prints of two different fetuses is kind of like selecting a nominee to fill a Supreme Court vacancy. Ultrasounds are grainy and low-res. The little outlines suggest the shape of a little human, but the image tells us mostly nothing about who that person might be, how they might behave, what they might do in the future.
So, we project our hopes and dreams, our biases and prejudices, onto that blurry black-and-white image. One day, will this person make a game-winning three pointer or graduate with honors or cast the deciding vote overturning Roe v. Wade? We don’t know.
Trump compares these two ultrasound images looking for anything to distinguish them. And, as we all do, we find what we seek.
And what are ultrasounds? A white image created by sound bouncing off the bone and tissue of the fetus. Trump notes that one of the images is whiter than the other, which means that more sound has reached the fetus and kertwanged right off, where the ultrasound machine reads that signal as whiteness.
Reminds me of the problem of whiteness in the U.S. For many of us, sounds reach us and then bounce right back off, unheard. Have I finally introduced race into this comic strip??? Or did I do it before and just forget… Well, it’s about time. There is so much to say.
Need a Young, Pro-Life Supreme Court Justice? Think Huge.
I don’t know about you, but this is the first time I can think of that I’ve seen an ultrasound drawn in a comic strip. They’re grainy and low-fi as it is – translating that to ink on paper is a tricky endeavor.
I guess I’m having it both ways in this comic strip right now. Today, September 26, 2020, we’re in full Supreme Court mania in the U.S., but I’ve set this comic strip on December 7, 2020, after a Biden win in November. So, the chronology is off, but the spirit is similar: we’re dealing with a Supreme Court nomination during an election period.
I think the story works, even though I’m using a story set in the future to talk about current events.
Trump wouldn’t be the first sad case to find true companionship with someone who can’t speak for themselves. There’s definitely the fascinating question of the extent to which we bond with our pets versus how much we project onto them. Trump doesn’t strike me as a pet owner – you have to do things to keep them alive and healthy. How does that make him money or polish his reputation?
But, what if he had a doll, like Don-Don? No feeding, no trips to the vet, no walks or litterbox maintenance. All you have to do is have someone run Don-Don through the laundry from time to time, and you’re good.
And, Don-Don is the perfect person to listen to Trump, because Don-Don has no ears or language-processing capabilities.
Trump and His Best Bud Don-Don Say Their Night-Night Prayers
I wrote this comic to explore more of the gap between Pence’s Christian faith and Trump’s amoral narcissism. But, when I started drawing, Trump needed to look more like he was ready for bed time.
I dressed him in gold silk, T-covered pajamas, then considered having him hold a stuffed elephant. Trump has never been a big party loyalist – his biggest loyalty being to himself – so Don-Don the stuffed, little Donald Trump doll just emerged from my pencil. I started laughing, and the strip immediately was at risk of being completely hijacked by this little orange guy with yellow yarn hair!
I’m going to enjoy seeing how Don-Don adds to this world. Frankly, he is much needed: thinking about Donald Trump every day for this comic strip is taking a toll on me, so a little toy Trump should help open up the world a bit.