Trump After Trump #41

Trump After Trump Comic Strip 4-panel strip

Pence Has a Beard and He’s Not Afraid to Use It

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?

Finally, Pence’s beard is real. See the last comic.

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Trump After Trump #40

Trump After Trump Comic Strip 4-panel strip

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.

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Trump After Trump #39

Trump After Trump Comic Strip 4-panel strip

Trump and Don-Don: Presidents

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…

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Trump After Trump #38

Trump After Trump Comic Strip 4-panel strip

Big Boy Desk

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.

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Trump After Trump #35 (Sunday)

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

The Next Best Thing to Another Trump

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
  • Mike Pence
  • 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!

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Trump After Trump #31

Trump After Trump Comic Strip 4-panel strip

How to Choose a Supreme Court Justice

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.

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Trump After Trump #30

Trump After Trump Comic Strip 4-panel strip

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.

God, I love fiction.

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Trump After Trump #29

Trump After Trump Comic Strip 4-panel strip

It Feels So Good When Someone Really GETS You

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.

How many people in Trump’s circle envy Don-Don?

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Trump After Trump #28 (Sunday)

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

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.

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