You’ve got to hand it to Trump: he has a face that can be entrancing in its ability to contort and display emotion. If Trump were a mime (and imagine a world where we didn’t have to hear him speak…) his body and facial language would put him at the top of the mime hierarchy. He would win miming. Because he is a winner.
Also, regardless of the outcome of the 2020 U.S. presidential election, who else sees a Pence/Scott 2024 GOP ticket? Can you imagine how persuasive that would be to American conservatives? Pence, the sturdy white Christian man who helped white evangelicals feel like they could publicly support Trump, and the man who will still have Trump’s stench on him so that the MAGA constituency will still vote. Tim Scott, the sturdy black Republican senator who made a passionate case for Trump 2020? Seriously, this is a strong ticket.
It’s strange what circumstance will do to your outlook. If you’d asked me five years ago, the idea of an evangelical Christian as vice president would not exactly have shocked me, but I wouldn’t have taken much comfort from it either. Now that we’ve been living in a world with a president who handles American institutions and values so haphazardly, I have come to see Pence as a voice of decency and even reason.
So, in the brief evolution of my comic strip, it was natural for Pence to become Dean Martin to Trump’s Jerry Lewis. I think it’s funny to give Pence a chance to try on Trump’s cartoonishly angry face and mob boss public persona.
Also, we finally have a strip with a full-black background in a panel! The constraints of the four-panel comic make little moments like this exciting for me. How much can a person do with four (usually) black and white drawings? Each cartoonist is on her own little journey to find out.
I wouldn’t be surprised if face masks that feature Trump’s face already exist; I didn’t check, because for me it’s beside the point whether they exist or not. And I don’t want the comic to be influenced too much by stuff that’s already out there. I think Bill Watterson said that he resisted looking up reference photos when drawing dinosaurs because he was after something bigger than accuracy. I’m paraphrasing big time, and I’m not looking up that quote either, for the same reason!
I like joking about Trump’s narcissism, but it’s just as fun to explore evangelical attitudes as I lived them when I was a kid growing up in the Bible Belt during the Satanic Panic 80s. Mike Pence may or may not share these views, but the Pence in Trump After Trump embodies what I see as the American evangelical’s strange blend of piety and naïveté.
But all of this is just a setup to get to a joke about Trump’s most reliable source of political support, which is the white evangelical. I grew up as an Oklahoma Christian, so this fact about the support base of our amoral, divisive president is both disappointing and not surprising, which is a great source of comic strip punchlines!
One of my top five novels of all time it The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet by David Mitchell. This book is so good that my friend Sean and I both read it twice in a row. If you want to hear more about why it’s such a wonderful book, just read it; I bring it up today because there is a scene in the book that I just love, which inspired this comic.
A colonial-era Dutch ship captain has taken his gout down to the ship surgeon for some symptom relief. The captain’s foot is swollen and tender, and the surgeon prepares a draft for relief. When the captain suggests that Mr. Nash, the surgeon, should consider turning apothecary when they reach the shore, we read this:
“Men of commerce, sir”–Nash counts out laudanum drops into the pewter beaker–“for the most part, had their consciences cut out at birth. Better an honest drowning than slow death by hypocrisy, law, or debt.”
What a searing and pithy summation of the blinding-influence that profiteering can have on otherwise compassionate people! I consider Trump, at best, amoral, and whether the soul-corruption led to a life of chasing dollars and attention or the other way around, I find Nash’s attitude to be on the nose.
I said as much as I have to say right now about masking in the age of COVID-19 and the age of Trump in Trump After Trump no. 15.
On an entirely different note, the practice of daily cartooning is making it painfully clear to me that drawing your characters so that they look the same in each strip – in each panel, for that matter – takes a lot of practice. Way more practice than I have put in, apparently.
My hope for now is that you, my small, scrappy cohort of readers, will bear with me, and maybe even find some charm in the clearly hand-made and aspirational quality of my likenesses!
I’ve made “two weeks” worth of comics – I publish every three days but pretend that I’m creating a highly-syndicated daily – and have not acknowledged that we are all living in a historic and life-changing pandemic. I think the first I heard of the new coronavirus (which has had me working remotely for the past six months) was around Christmas 2019 when there was a news story about an epidemic in China. I did not pay much attention to it, and my guess is that I imagined masked Asian faces and moved on.
That image of masked people in Asia, from memories of the SARS and MERS epidemics, is something I think about these days because I realize that mask-wearing seemed to me like an Asian practice, not something that Americans do. Now that the pandemic continues to batter America, I am wearing my mask, along with most of the people in my community, and I am happy that there is a cheap, easy and effective way to slow the spread. But, I think back to my pre-COVID-19 feeling that wearing masks is something that Asian people do, and I recognize in myself the individualistic spirit that has so defined American history and culture since the Europeans arrived here. It goes something like, “Asian people do what their governments say, but Americans do what we want, damn it!”
I am thankful that the vast majority of Americans support and practice masking, and I also feel disappointed that American individualism contains a strain of egotism and disregard for others. The rhetoric of people who decry mask-wearing as an incursion on their personal freedom and another example of tyrannical government overreach is a bummer. Also, what I just said about American individualism and its egotistical and selfish facets reminds me of someone…
Trump’s public statements and actions about the pandemic say all that needs to be said about the shortcomings of American individualism. So, I give you a “week” of face mask gags!
One of the themes of the Trump era is the overwhelming support that he enjoys from American evangelical Christians, among whom we usually include Mike Pence. Encouragingly, there is also a fun strain of satire that looks at this very odd coupling between an amoral man and a community for whom morality is a core value. One of my favorite genres of this satire is the joke about Trump and the Bible
I will probably write more of these. It’s a great opportunity to use Trump as a way to interpret the Bible in ways that the text supports but that are not the conventional American Christian interpretation.
My goal in the larger story of this comic strip is not to make Trump an adorable, silly cartoon that we can all laugh off, because I don’t want to let him off the hook for the terrible impact he has had on the welfare of vulnerable populations, the environment and climate, race relations, science, and so on. But, to have an interesting villain, sometimes he is going to more like us than we are comfortable with, so there will always be a little of me in him. And the secular history and interpretation of the Bible is an interest of mine, so sometimes that will be channeled through the very unlikely mouthpiece of comic Trump!
Picking up where strip no. 12 left off, Trump reacts to the news that he may have been acting as part of a bigger plan, and he does not like that one bit. This man is nobody’s pawn; no hand but his own guides his actions in this world. Divine intervention is foreign intervention, and Trump will not tolerate such violations of American sovereignty.
This strip offered a chance to draw Mike Pence with shocked manga eyes!
Wardrobe change! Putting on a different outfit can really get you in the right mood, so Trump has sent his suits to the cleaners and now dresses to channel his inner Jimmy Buffet. When he closes his eyes he sees sea gulls, smells salt water surf and hears steel drums. I would love to see Trump in a beach hat, but it would mess up his hair.
If some of these comics have Pence playing the Dean Martin straight man to
Trumps’s Jerry Lewis, there is another fun storyline to explore: Pence the evangelical Christian politician who sees his position in the executive branch as part of god’s plan, no matter how extreme the contrast between Pence and Trump. In fact, from a strictly Christian perspective, “the idea of Trump being part of god’s plan for America is so crazy,” I imagine Christians thinking, “that it just might work.”