Everything Old is New(s) Again
| Parodied vintage comic book covers resurface in Trump's final days. |
In 2017, artist R. Sikoryak and publisher Drawn & Quarterly introduced a collected edition of a digital and mini-comic called Unquotable Trump, an oversized compilation of parodic classic comic covers, featuring Trump and his infamous quotes. The collection premiered at the 2017 San Diego Comic Con International.
Sikoryak has continued to develop newly reimagined covers inspired by Trump's very own "best words" on his Tumblr page, even releasing an Impeachable Trump mini-comic sequel.
Over on Twitter, artist D.M. Higgins, in his "President Supervillain" (@PresVillain) account, PhotoShops Trump's words into panels of classic Captain America comics.
And in the days following the 2020 election defeat of incumbent Republican President Donald Trump to former Vice-President Democrat Joe Biden, more classic comic book parody began popping up on social media to highlight the unprecedented behavior of Trump and his legal team in their disavowal of the election of the results.
On November 15, 2020, Comics with Problems shared a Tales from the Crypt parody on Facebook that mocked Rudolph Giuliani, Trump's personal lawyer, as the attorney made bizarre press appearances in his efforts to battle the election results.
The cover, featuring an un-dead caricature of the former New York City Mayor as he lurches from behind the grave of his destroyed reputation beneath the title "Tales from the Creep," specifically alludes to Giuliani's appearance in Borat 2 mockumentary, aka Borat Subsequent Moviefilm, in which Giuliani appears to prepare for an inappropriate sexual encounter by lying on a bed and putting his hand down his pants.
Another November 15 Facebook post, appearing on the Dangerous Minds page, went after Trump's belligerent post-election Tweeting. Like the covers to Sikoryak's Unquotable Trump and Impeachable Trump, this parody used Marvel's Incredible Hulk for its parody, showing a saggy, oversized Trump, sorrowfully Tweeting out his rebuke of the election.
As is discussed in Politics in the Gutters, The Incredible Hulk is a very common allusion in Trump comic book parodies. It even appeared in shorter form cartoons by Tom Tomorrow.
The story of the Incredible Hulk is the story of a science prodigy, Bruce Banner. Recruited as a teenager to develop weapons systems for the U.S. Army, Banner’s experiments with atomic weaponry expose him to gamma radiation giving him excessive size and strength whenever he gets angry, and the angrier he gets, the stronger he is. First appearing in Marvel Comics’ Incredible Hulk #1 in 1962, his story has been adapted across media formats. In his review of the 2008 film The Incredible Hulk, sociologist Thomas Scheff notes that even though Banner attempts to control his anger, the emotion is accepted as “a sign of manliness, of readiness to fight,” making anger something to be proud of, if it can be put to good purpose (para. 8). Trump/Hulk comparisons offer commentary on Trump’s personality and temperament, suggesting that Trump has tenuous control over emotions of anger and that his manliness or toughness is rooted in that anger.
On November 23, 2020, Rich Ragsdale posted to the Underground Comix, ETC! Facebook group another classic comic cover parodying the election. This one was based on the romance comics of the 1950s and placed Lady Liberty at the apex of a bad romance love triangle between Trump and Biden. Trump sobs, believing himself jilted or cuckolded by Liberty (the people) who is running off with the better looking, but vaguely creepy, Biden.
Vintage romance comics typically dealt with themes of jealousy, betrayal, and heartache as moralistic stories of socially proper or acceptable behavior and the dangers of violating those cultural norms. This cover, therefore, seems to act as a cautionary tale to the American people about going to bed with the wrong leaders - and to not jump into a new love affair too hastily.
Update: You can read more about Ragsdale's work at https://prospect.org/culture/the-trump-show-comic-book/ and you can see more of his political comic art parody on Instagram at instagram.com/richragsdale.
Comic book parodies like these have great potential to work, as do traditional political or editorial cartoons, to re-frame Trump’s narrative by triggering reflection and suggesting new ways to understand or interpret Trump’s statements. They do, however, reach a fairly limited audience. Satire - and its techniques of parody, irony, and sarcasm - works best when the audience is knowledgeable about the object of the parody and when that audience devotes sufficient intellectual and emotional engagement to understanding the message by rejecting its literal meaning, recognizing its incongruities, and seeking alternative interpretations. In other words, the "Tales from Creep" cover means more if the audience is familiar with Tales from the Crypt and the juxtaposition of Trump with the Incredible Hulk only works as a criticism if one views rage as a weakness rather than a strength.
~Christina M. Knopf
25 November 2020 -updated 09 December 2020-