Trump After Trump #15

Trump After Trump Comic Strip 4-panel strip

Why Would Trump, or Anyone, Wear a Face Mask?

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!

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Trump After Trump #14 (Sunday)

Trump After Trump Comic Strip 4-panel strip - full-color Sunday comic

Pence Tells Trump a Bible Story

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!

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Trump After Trump #13

Trump After Trump Comic Strip 4-panel strip

Trump Takes a Stand Against Foreign Interference

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!

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Trump After Trump #12

Trump After Trump Comic Strip 4-panel strip

One God, One Vote

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.”

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Trump After Trump #11

Trump After Trump Comic Strip 4-panel strip

Trump Wields the Mighty Pen

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.

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Trump After Trump #10

Trump After Trump Comic Strip 4-panel strip

Not Soon Enough

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.

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Trump After Trump #9

Trump After Trump Comic Strip 4-panel strip

Beautiful Plumage!

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.

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Trump After Trump #8

Trump After Trump Comic Strip 4-panel strip

If You Got to Go, Go Loudly

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?

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Trump After Trump #7 (Sunday)

Trump After Trump Comic Strip 4-panel strip - full-color Sunday comic

Trump Sells the White House

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?

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Trump After Trump #6

Trump After Trump Comic Strip 4-panel strip

What, Me Read?

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.)

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Trump After Trump #5

Trump After Trump Comic Strip 4-panel strip

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.

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Trump After Trump #4

Trump After Trump Comic Strip 4-panel strip

Biden Finally Calls Back

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.

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Trump After Trump #3

Trump After Trump Comic Strip 4-panel strip

Trump’s Twitter Voice Is Tremendous

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.

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Trump After Trump #2

Trump After Trump Comic Strip 4-panel strip

Trump Wants to Send in the Troops

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!

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Trump After Trump #1

Trump After Trump Comic Strip 4-panel strip no.1 - Trump tries to call Joe Biden to concede the 2020 election

Trump Tries to Concede

“What if Trump loses on election night and does not concede?” This was a worry – which turned out to be unwarranted, but not for the reasons many of us expected – back in 2016, and it is a worry I have now, in 2020.

This first Trump After Trump comic strip came out of the context of the COVID pandemic, the killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and other black and brown Americans, and the anti-scientific, anti-environment and anti-humanist Trump presidency. The stresses of this moment in mid-2020 had me particularly worried one evening as I thought about the possibility of a contentious election process this November.

I was in my kitchen, worrying, and the thought just materialized, “What if Trump lost in November 2020 and graciously conceded the election and withdrew from public life?” The thought felt like a fantasy, but it felt good to pretend for a moment that I had fast-forwarded to November and my “what if” was playing itself out. Within seconds, I imagined a comic strip that told this story, and the strips started writing themselves.

This first strip has fun with the idea that the real Trump plays the role of the victim (of the media, for example). So we see him feeling assailed by fate as he attempts to break expectations and do the right thing. He tries to call Biden to concede the election honorably, but Biden doesn’t pick up the phone! The nerve!

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Trump After Trump: the Comic Strip

Trump After Trump comic strip logo

I am announcing the launch of my comic strip Trump After Trump, which I plan to post regularly, though not daily since I only have time for one full-time job. I will be publishing the strips here on the blog, on YouTube and on Instagram.

Read Trump After Trump

Even though I don’t intend to undertake the intense work pace of daily publishing, I do plan on telling this story in the classic Monday-Sunday format, releasing strips in the familiar rhythm of six 4-panel, black-and-white comics then capping the week with a big, full-color “Sunday” strip.

The strip explores one of my favorite questions: can a person really change? I am moved by stories that show a selfish person becoming generous, or an abusive person becoming compassionate, or a close-minded person discovering the joy of learning.

A few weeks ago I asked myself, “What if President Trump were to lose the 2020 election, gracefully accept defeat, and decide in his 70s to become a better person?” Normally, when I wonder about something like this, I just space out for a few minutes; but, this time, out popped a fully-formed comic strip idea that started writing itself in my head! So, I followed the inspiration and here we are.

Trump After Trump comic strip face icon

My goals with Trump After Trump are to become a better visual storyteller, practice the crafts of writing and cartooning, and see what happens when this character tries to change. I’ve seen people in my life make extraordinary changes in their interests, habits, and worldviews when they reached retirement age. The cliché “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks” is not only untrue but kind of presumptuous. Old dogs may not need you to teach them at all; they can surprise you by learning the new tricks on their own. I don’t know where the Trump in this strip is going, but – to mix up our metaphors – let’s have fun watching him try to turn over a new leaf!

This strip has only come into being because of a virtual class on 4-panel comics that Amy Kurzweil gave a couple months ago, which my friend Sean Slattery suggested I attend with him. Thank you, Sean and Amy!