As we neared the event horizon of this nightmarish election, one thing became clear: In the minds of about half of the American electorate, the Republican Party’s candidate for the presidency is more or less a supervillain. A chronic narcissist with dreams of unchecked power, Donald Trump has become a figure much more exaggerated and vivid than any to run for the country’s highest office.
It is, therefore, only natural that Trump fits comfortably in that most over-the-top of American art forms: superhero comics. He's popped up in panels occasionally since the 1980s, and there’s been a massive uptick in his comics presence in the past year, for obvious reasons. Here’s a look at nearly 30 years of the Donald in printed superhero fiction (and a few other comics genres), from cameos and satirical analogues to visual homages and decapitations.
Solid dessert options (Iron Man Vol. 1, No. 227, 1988)
Trump’s political career began in 1988, when he first floated the possibility of a run for the White House. Appropriately enough, that year seems to have marked the beginning of his comics career, as well. In an issue of Iron Man from '88, fellow rich boy Tony Stark walks by Trump Tower during a visit to New York and recalls that he used to own a floor of it at some point. His female companion is more interested in checking out the skyscraper’s Haägen Dazs. As of 2016, it appears that that creamy vendor is no longer in business, but you can stop by the Big T to grab some treats at Trump’s Ice Cream Parlor. No, seriously, it’s called that. They serve “Vanilla Honey Baklava,” but don’t worry, we’re sure that no Muslim immigrants were involved in the creation of that last ingredient.
The Lex of the Deal (Lex Luthor: The Unauthorized Biography, 1989)
The next year, DC published an in-universe chronicle of the life of Superman’s eternal nemesis, Lex Luthor. At the time, Trump’s The Art of the Deal — co-written by the now-penitent Tony Schwartz — was still a hit, so DC saw fit to mock up the Lex bio to resemble that chronicle of another sociopath plutocrat who thinks he’s better than everyone else at everything. At least when Luthor brags about a diabolical plot, he doesn’t sound like an aphasic speak-and-spell.
Hair meets bowl (Hup No. 3, 1989)
Trump, himself, made what appears to be his debut comics appearance in a 1989 R. Crumb strip, and it was quite the brutal takedown. A story called "Point the Finger" depicts the author verbally assaulting Trump, whom he calls "one of the most evil men alive" and whom he compares to the disgusting nouveaux riches of the Roman Empire. Trump is unfazed by Crumb's words and focuses on seducing some young ladies with promises of opulent parties at Mar-a-Lago, only to find his comeuppance when they stuff his head in a toilet.
Super-suit (New Avengers Vol. 1, No. 47, 2008)
Readers had to wait until 2008 for the next significant Trump appearance, but it was a doozy. In this flashback to the early days of the romance between boozy private eye Jessica Jones and bulletproof muscleman Luke Cage, Luke holds a limousine above his head, informing its occupants that they need to sit tight while an ambulance whirs by. He puts the vehicle down and we find out that the primary occupant is none other than the host of The Apprentice, himself. Given Trump’s propensity for overusing our civil-litigation system, it’s unsurprising that he threatens to sue Luke. The erstwhile hero for hire is unfazed and simply yells at the billionaire to get back in the car. His fellow city-dwellers are, of course, pleased — New Yorkers are not, for the most part, big Trump fans.
Everyone's fired (2000AD Prog 1741, 2012)
The first political stab at Trump came in a tale about a weaponized zombie known as Zombo, a recurring character in the U.K.'s longstanding anthology series 2000AD. Here, we find Trump holding the presidency and discussing the world's zombie problem with his terrified advisers. Whenever they give an answer he doesn't like, he fires them. Writer Al Ewing's dialogue is charming, but far more coherent than the verbiage we've since come to know Trump for.
Trump 4 kidz (Political Power: Donald Trump, 2013)
Stormfront Comics is, without a doubt, one of the strangest publishers in the industry, and not just because it shares a name with the world's most infamous neo-Nazi message board. Formerly known by the infinitely better (though still super-lame) name Bluewater Productions, the company's bread and butter is crudely drawn educational comics about public figures. In 2013, it put out a biographical comic about Trump as part of its "Political Power" series. It's ostensibly supposed to focus on Trump's (failed) political career, but just chronicles his childhood in warmly hagiographic tones. Only the last page deals with Trump's political ambitions, and it unforgivably excludes his 2011 crusade for Barack Obama's birth certificate. The cover image, which depicts Trump being sworn into office, more or less makes this a horror comic.
Watch your head (The Walking Dead No. 109, sort of, 2015)
This one wasn’t an official image, but it got viral attention, so we’ll let it slide. There’s a longstanding (and controversial) practice in comics of releasing limited-edition “variant covers” of a given issue, which have different cover images from the main version and which can be sold at a markup. A popular kind of variant cover is, oddly enough, a blank cover — the idea is that you take the comic to an artist and ask them to draw a custom piece of artwork to adorn it. Joe Infurnari, penciler of Oni’s The Bunker, was given a blank cover from an issue of The Walking Dead in 2015 and he, in a fit of pique, decided to draw zombies decapitating the bloviating GOP primary contender. His dying statement seems plausible: “L O S E R S …”
The pool party (Deadpool Vol. 4, No. 1 variant cover)
This one's another variant cover, this time for a relaunch of the popular Deadpool ongoing series. In the image, exclusively available to customers of chain store Hastings, the eponymous foul-mouth stands, golden-wigged, before a boardroom of dummies dressed as various Marvel heroes. “You’re hired!” he cries, and I will fully admit that I don’t entirely get the joke.
Trump/Skull 2016 (Captain America: Steve Rogers No. 1)
You can’t prove that this bit is intended to critique the Trump campaign, but given that writer Nick Spencer is among the most outspoken (and intelligent) Trump-bashers in comic-dom, it seems pretty likely. In this Captain America comic — an astoundingly divisive one, though not because of this scene — Cap’s Nazi arch-foe, Red Skull, recruits some white nationalists in the U.S. His main pitch? Keeping out refugees. Sounds familiar! He manages to avoid mentioning Skittles, but presumably only because he doesn’t want his head to be confused for a cherry one.
I believe in Donald Trump (DC Comics Bombshells No. 38)
One of the most under-appreciated comics on the market these days is DC Comics Bombshells, a digital series that reimagines many of DC’s female characters as women living and working during World War II. In one installment, we see that universe’s version of future Two-Face Harvey Dent running for mayor on a “Return Gotham to Its Golden Age” platform. “Oh, no,” an onlooker says. “This isn’t some heavy-handed-but-uncomfortably-timely political allegory, is it?” Oh, hush.
The road to hell (The Hellblazer: Rebirth No. 1)
DC’s most streetwise mage, John Constantine, has long been used for explicitly political storytelling. So it’s not that surprising that a recent issue of his relaunched comic, The Hellblazer, features some voiceover in which the Englishman laments how out of place he’s felt on this side of the pond ever since “a racist, short-fingered, failed meat salesman began circling the White House.” He’s really gotta get out before the deportation force shows up.
Enter M.O.D.A.A.K. (Spider-Gwen Annual)
Ah yes, the most famous of all the Trump comics appearances. First, a bit of context: Earlier this year, notoriously secretive and eccentric Marvel Entertainment CEO Ike Perlmutter donated $1 million to Trump’s weird, extremely shady fundraising event for veterans. Fans were furious, and Marvel creators were bold enough to speak out against their boss. Oddly enough, they didn’t face any punishment, and it appears that Perlmutter doesn’t really give a shit about his employees criticizing his orange-shaded buddy, so long as they keep making him money for his tennis lessons.
It was against this backdrop that the creators behind the relatively new Spider-Gwen series felt comfortable introducing a supervillain who’s both hideous and troublingly familiar. The comic is set in an alternate universe, and their version of Captain America is depicted as going up against a disgusting homunculus with the face of Donald Trump who goes by the name M.O.D.A.A.K. — an acronym for “Mental Organism Designed As America’s King.” He’s a riff on classic Marvel villain M.O.D.O.K. (“Mental Organism Designed Only for Killing,” of course), and we see him ordering around Mexican workers (and at least one guy from Texas) near the border. The Star-Spangled Avenger beats him and, appropriately enough, this universe’s Cap is a woman of color, which truly makes (Captain) America great again.
Spawning season (Spawn Kills Everyone!)
Todd McFarlane’s Spawn has never been a character who shies away from bloodshed, and as the title of the recent one-off Spawn Kills Everyone! special would suggest, his gory tradition continues to this day. The lighthearted and black-humored comic follows a diminutive version of the undead crusader as he murders his way through the worlds of fiction and reality. At one point, he takes on Trump (clad in fascistic black leather) and the aforementioned Red Skull, both of whom he decapitates. What is it with Trump, comics artists, and decapitations?
Talking heads (Dark Knight III: The Master Race No. 6)
When comics auteur Frank Miller first produced his landmark Batman story The Dark Knight Returns back in 1986, Trump was a staple of the New York City social scene — and, increasingly, one of the city’s more legally embattled real-estate developers. Miller truly loathed what NYC had become, and his hatred of Reagan- and Koch-era depravity fueled TDKR. It’s only natural, then, that his new co-written Dark Knight threequel, The Master Race, should have a little reference to the one fact of New York life that has somehow gotten worse since the mid-’80s: Donald Trump. He appears as an interviewee for a news show, talking about the superpowered goings-on in the story, but the cameo is pretty toothless. It’s just a visage, drawn by penciler Andy Kubert, saying nothing of import. Come on, Frank, we already know you’re a Hillary voter — you can do better than this.
Declaring GWAR (promo art for GWAR: Orgasmageddon)
Oh, GWAR. What would we do without Virginia’s finest shock-rockers? The metal outfit has been doing provocative stunts for decades now, and when they announced they’d be putting out a comic-book miniseries, they decided to do what they do best: drum up attention through tongue-in-cheek boundary-crossing. They produced a promotional image for the comic (GWAR: Orgasmageddon, a title that defies any jokes you might make about it) that features a man clad in GWAR's customary barbarian-warrior chic, holding Trump’s severed head. Seriously, is there some kind of Freudian urge that comics artists have to cut the guy’s head off?
Sinns of the father (Harley Quinn and Her Gang of Harleys No. 5)
If you’re gonna go lampooning, you can’t leave Harley Quinn out of the fun. She remains one of the most popular characters in recent superhero-fiction history, in no small part due to her irreverence and send-ups of culture and politics. In one of her many ongoing series, Harley Quinn and Her Gang of Harleys, we meet Harley Sinn, a Quinn knock-off who’s very loosely based on the daughters of the Trump clan. In Sinn's recitation of her origins, we see her rebel against her Trump-analogue father, then engage in some light incest with a stepsister. Which, y’know, is somewhat appropriate.
Mad Trump: Fury Road (Wacky Raceland No. 4)
One of the most unexpected delights of this year’s comics output has been DC’s strange line of titles based on classic Hanna-Barbera cartoons. One of them is Wacky Raceland, a post-apocalyptic reimagining of the old Wacky Races serial in which the characters occupy a barren America inspired heavily by the Mad Max franchise. In the fourth issue, the protagonists swing by the bustling hellhole that Las Vegas has turned into and drive by a large man with bad hair who’s shouting about building a wall. “Obviously an insane narcissist,” one depraved character remarks. “I like him!”
Blood(shot) coming out of her wherever (Bloodshot U.S.A. No. 1)
Most of these moments we’ve looked at don’t actually refer to the Donald by name, but leave it to the upstarts at Valiant Entertainment to step over that particular line. After all, they're the folks who just dedicated most of an issue of Faith to a story about Hillary Clinton. In the first issue of their latest of many series about tortured super-soldier Bloodshot, we see some shadowy conspirators plotting to install a patsy in the White House, whom they can then manipulate and use to take over the planet. “I hear Trump wants to run,” one of them mentions as a way of brainstorming. Who’s the puppet now?
Make villainy great again (Catwoman: Election Night)
You can’t blame residents of Gotham City for wanting a change of leadership. No metropolitan area has a worse record on clown-related attacks, and these days, that’s saying something. In a recent Catwoman story, we see supervillain the Penguin running for mayor, a thing he is wont to do. In this particular instance, he’s promising to “make Gotham great again,” which only he can do, seeing as the rival candidate, Constance Hill, has committed that most heinous of political crimes — being born a woman. “Constance Hill is a woman,” he says at a rally. “I mean, she keeps telling us that! It’s like it’s all she’s got going for her. Sad.”
Donald Kong (Black No. 4)
Sometimes, you gotta go with something simple. That’s what artist Khary Randolph’s cover for the upcoming Black No. 4 gives us. The image depicts the series’ young, black, male protagonist struggling in a metaphorical video game, trying to get past a murderous cop, a firebombing Klansman, and a hateful judge on his quest to rise. The final boss is, of course, our duck-lipped Birther-in-chief. The comic isn’t slated to come out until a few months from now — here’s hoping the election is actually over by then.