Did This Comic Book Predict the Trump Presidency?

How Sam Humphries' & Tommy Patterson's Citizen Jack Forecasted the 2016 Election

Comics Features Citizen Jack
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Did This Comic Book Predict the Trump Presidency?

People depressed about Donald Trump’s election are still struggling to understand how it happened. Think piece after think piece has analyzed the ignored needs of rural America, flaws in Hillary Clinton’s campaign, Bernie Sanders’ missed opportunity, differing definitions of racism and a zillion other factors. Many articles have linked to Michael Moore’s blog written in July, predicting the Trump presidency via five core reasons.

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But there was at least one other prophecy that was ignored: the Image Comic Citizen Jack, which wrapped in May. Written by Sam Humphries and illustrated by Tommy Patterson, the miniseries follows Jack Northworthy, a bumbling outsider Presidential candidate who may not have ties to the KKK or Vladimir Putin, but is, literally, in league with a demon from hell. Jack blasts traditional politics, panders to the “common” people and opposes a qualified female candidate. He also commits one atrocity after another—even murder, which he confesses to—but nothing can derail him. Ultimately, he wins. Though the details differ, Humphries called the entire arc of our national clown show turned tragedy. To witness this Nostradamus-like feat, and maybe better understand the real world, readers should give Citizen Jack another look.

Jack, the former mayor of Musk, Minnesota, has seen better days. He always dreamed of being a hockey star, but like almost everyone who plays sports in high school or college, it didn’t work out. He’s in the snowblower business, which should be a goldmine in Minnesota, but he can’t even turn a prophet without getting the mayor (which Jack served as, for a while, until the first mayoral impeachment in Minnesota history) to hold back the plows. The new mayor—a woman, to insult Jack’s fragile male pride—won’t help him out. Neither will Jack’s father, who basically runs the town, a situation that Jack has benefitted from until recently. In the first issue, his father says, “You were miserable as a mayor, a disappointment as a hockey player and disaster as a son.” Jack has had enough. He makes a deal with the devil—technically, a deal with a demon named Marlinspike. Goodbye soul, hello Presidency.

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Citizen Jack Interior Art by Tommy Patterson

From this point, Jack takes to the campaign trail. His rhetoric is folksy: “They say I’m just a snowblower salesman from the middle of nowhere! But I say—Washington needs more snowblower smarts!” Humphrey writes Jack as the perfect avatar of working class animosity with lines like, “Truth is, I’m gonna make these smug assholes eat their words! And I’ll serve it to them on fancy White House dishes.”

Humphries captures the anti-elitist rhetoric that (among uglier things) propelled Trump to the White House. The fact that Jack’s campaign began with a botched YouTube video involving shrinkage only adds to his appeal. Trump is the hero of trolls; Jack is the triumph of the little guy who can’t get a break. (Although, just like Trump, Jack had plenty of chances via his father).

And just like a supervillain, Jack has a trademark look, illustrated with glee by Tommy Patterson: cowboy hat, pink bathrobe with a larger boob window than Power Girl’s, flag draped over his shoulders and a gun, bottle of whiskey or hockey stick in hand. Patterson’s art has the energy and purpose of Ralph Steadman’s best work while showing influence from the detailed illustrations of Frank Quitely and the subtle insanity of Darrick Robertson, who illustrated political sci-fi classic Transmetropolitan. Patterson is a smooth storyteller who nails the monstrosity of Marlinspike, Jack and every other ugly aspect of the story.

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Citizen Jack Interior Art by Tommy Patterson

As the improbable campaign continues, the similarities to the Trump-Clinton presidential struggle are remarkable in hindsight. Trump ousted established Republican candidates through insult and demagoguery; Jack stands by while Marlinspike murders the presumptive Freedom Party candidate, then covers it up. Jack often questions his deal with Marlinspike, much like one would hope Mr. Trump may have occasionally questioned his appeals to racism and xenophobia. Jack runs against an establishment-blessed female candidate—Charlotte Pickens of the Patriot Party. Just like Trump’s scandals involving sexual assault, gratuitous insult and online fraud didn’t stick to him, Jack shakes off Jacuzzigate, Methamphetaminegate and Buttergate. Like Trump, Jack confounds the experts, who say things like, “He’s ignorant. Almost proudly so… He has poor impulse control… He’s doing this for all the wrong reasons… His background check is a minefield…” Sound familiar?

The scariness of what people will do for power permeates every pore and hellhole of this comic. Jack is only the most obvious seller of his own soul. Other career politicians in the comic such as Pickens and Timothy Honeycutt succeed thanks to shady maneuvers. Cricket—a talking dolphin and lone liberal voice at a Fox News spoof—is physically assaulted by Jack, but makes a deal with him anyway. Even Jack’s somewhat noble campaign manager and reader-identification figure, Donna Forsyth, sells out: she’s ready to oppose Jack when she learns about Marlinspike…until she has the chance to be White House Chief of Staff. This comic is much lighter than reality—since a fictional demon is far easier to stomach than the real demons of racism and misogyny—but the satire is dark. Just about everyone trades their conscience or dignity for power.

Understandably, Humphries has mixed feelings about predicting the U.S. election so accurately. He recently told Paste, “I feel oddly validated yet also furious and depressed. Never have I been so profoundly chagrined to be correct. To paraphrase James Baldwin, we can disagree and still love each other—unless your disagreement is rooted in the oppression of people, and denial of their humanity and right to exist.”

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Citizen Jack Interior Art by Tommy Patterson

Humphries cited recent history for his prescience and gave credit to Representative Keith Ellison, political activist Van Jones and one other person for foreseeing the real-life outcome: “America doesn’t learn its lessons, it can’t even come to terms with the lessons of 9/11 and act accordingly, and I didn’t see America course-correcting after the Bush and Obama years, either. Donald Trump saw the same things. That’s the other person in this country who saw this coming. When Trump said ‘if I don’t win, the election is rigged,’ we all laughed because we thought he was being a baby. In reality, he knew better than anyone else. He had the numbers. He was telling Democrats, Republicans, the media, the voters, ‘I know something you don’t know.’ And he was right.”

While Citizen Jack is on hiatus, Humphries is writing Green Lanterns, which features two rookie intergalactic ring-wearers who happen to be a Lebanese-American Muslim and Mexican-American. He’s also writing Jonesy, which Humphrey describes as “a comedic book about a teen girl with the power to make people fall in love.” It would be nice if someone, anyone, had the power to instill love on a national level, but until then, we’ll have to settle for the catharsis and insight of sharp, biting, ultra-relevant satire like Citizen Jack.