Following quickly on the heels of Terms and Conditions (also published by Drawn and Quarterly), Robert Sikoryak’s singular exercise in illustrating the Apple terms and conditions using a different iconic cartoonist’s style for each page, comes The Unquotable Trump.
The Unquotable Trump repurposes the garishly quotable blurtings of Trump, from various stages in his campaign to his ‘service’ as the 45th U.S. president, and plays out a similar exercise–only this time playing on iconic covers as opposed to interior pages. Whereas Terms and Conditions made a consistent character out of Steve Jobs (black turtleneck, glasses, facial stubble), The Unquotable Trump makes a similarly Scott McCloud-esque icon out of Trump. He’s present on all of the mock covers: a florid, preposterous, bullying figure in blue suit, possessing a ridiculous 80s sweeping blonde hairstyle.
I’ve been a fan of Sikoryak’s for a long time. Gregarious and lively in person, his parody and comic work can be coy and bombastic, shocking and delightful, loving and scornful, airy and deep. My favourite collection of his is Masterpiece Comics (also by D & Q). I can pour over the lovingly rendered imitative pastiches of literary works crossed with famous comic characters in that work for hours.
The imitations in Terms and Conditions and The Unquotable Trump aren’t as slick or carefully rendered as those in Masterpiece Comics. Sikoryak doesn’t vary the inking style to the same degree towards whichever artist he’s imitating (I think he’s largely working on a digital tablet here). They’re a bit more rushed, and all bear a similar thickness in line and shading. That minor cavil aside, the images are still striking and bear much of Sikoryak’s wit. The power of these faux covers is that they can be read quickly. They work almost like editorial cartoons or those one panel comics in the funny pages.
I like his play between the iconic contents of the covers and the content of whatever ridiculous Trump blurb Sikoryak is capturing. For example, the heavy stylized rain from Frank Miller’s first Sin City trade paperback is juxtaposed with Trump’s claim that God has stopped the rain for his inauguration speech. Another Miller reference has Trump running among the Spartans in 306 Electoral Votes and claiming that he wasn’t going after the popular vote. Another favourite of mine is Black Voter, a play on a Black Panther cover where Trump asks the leaping T’Challa: “Look, what do you have to lose – you’re living in poverty, your schools are no good, you have no jobs. 58% of your youth is unemployed…”
The quality of these cover recreations varies. I’d seen some of these images in one of Sikoryak’s own self-published black and white mini-comics (he regularly puts these out and they are wonderful!) but they’ve been coloured for the D & Q collection. Sometimes I feel that the original black and white images are more striking–the satire seems more sharp somehow. However, there are a few imitations of classic superhero covers (such as the Romita Spider-Man or the Kirby Captain America or the H. G. Peters Wonder Woman) that just pop and are made quite beautiful by the colour and a real enthusiasm for the source material.
All in all, if this is your first introduction to Sikoryak’s work, you’ll probably love it. If you know his work well, you might feel that it’s a bit too similar to the Terms and Conditions exercise and perhaps not as rich as Sikoryak’s Steve Jobs tome in terms of the comic lore it mines. Some may feel that Sikoryak’s method might be becoming a little predictable or rushed.
Trump supporters will undoubtedly claim that Sikoryak is shooting fish in a barrel. I hope that Sikoryak won’t continue in this vein too much longer because it does blunt the edge of what he’s doing when it becomes even slightly predictable. The unexpected directions and slow methodical efforts of the chapters in Masterpiece Comics and the various mini-comics he’s produced over the years are what makes his work fresh and original. Nevertheless, this book has a light, fun, tongue-in-cheek coffee table quality. It’d make a good holiday present for comics enthusiasts and politicos alike.
The Unquotable Trump is currently available from Drawn & Quarterly.