Comic artists depict their hopes and predictions for the 2020 US elections
Lilkool, Celia Jacobs and Patrick Kyle tell tales of the future presidential fight in four-panel form – with a relatable dose of both optimism and cynicism.
From now until the fateful day of 3 November 2020, one subject that’s sure to dominate headlines far beyond the US is the Presidential Election. At the time of writing, the big names from a huge pool of candidates looking to dethrone Donald Trump include Michael Bloomberg, Joe Biden and Elizabeth Warren, all offering a new trajectory for the country at this momentous fork in the road.
While journalists do their bit to pick apart each candidate’s promises and analyse the inevitable fallout, comic artists are sure to give us their take, in the succinct, satirical way they have done for generations. So, in keeping with these artists’ vital role in the political tapestry, It’s Nice That has invited three idiosyncratic comic illustrators to depict their hopes and predictions for this year’s elections: Patrick Kyle, Celia Jacobs and Lilkool.
In Patrick’s fantasy universe, a new government comes to power with control over gravity, able to dictate that a person’s wealth will now affect their weight. Billionaires are suddenly pinned to the earth’s surface, while those less privileged become weightless, soaring through the air and stomping on organisations that hinder freedom – ending up with a population that stands at equal height, a visual metaphor for a fairer society.
“I wanted my comic to be about wealth disparity and the idea of a future where wealth is redistributed so more people can live comfortably,” Patrick explains. “Changing the way our system works will be a long and difficult process, and involves convincing those who think they are entitled to wealth and luxury to surrender part of it so others might live in dignity and comfort. I would love for some invisible force to come and quickly squish them into submission.”
It correlates with much of the illustrator’s work, which he says touches on abuse of and suspicion of power. “Because, in reality, real social change seems so distant and intangible, the ‘bad guys’ win a lot of the time in my comics and the resolves are bleak. I wanted this comic to be less cynical and hopeful for a more positive, safe future for all of us. I think everyone could stand to be a little less cynical.”
Celia Jacobs’ panels follow a narrative, showing the power of people when they band together and taking particular aim at the current president. “I was trying to think of the most productive and hopeful version of my thoughts about the 2020 election,” Celia explains. “Since 2016, there’s been a lot of anger and fear, and some really terrible situations created by this administration, but it’s also made everyone fired up and politically motivated. I wanted to get into this energised, worked-up feeling, and the power it has to mobilise people and see us demanding change.”
In Celia’s panels, a protest group forms a pact and becomes a literal, physical ball, clambering on to each other and holding on tight, before they roll down a hill to take out Trump. Generally better accustomed to single-image illustrations for editorial, Celia says the narrative and language of a sequential panel format allowed her storytelling to flourish.
“The physicality of it is a little unlikely but my optimistic view for 2020 is that this plays out in every other way,” she says. “Right now the Democratic party is really divided between progressives and moderates, and this division might be making the party weaker and less fit to defeat Trump come November. I hope there’s some way to unite against our common enemy, at least temporarily, so we don’t have to pay the price in the form of another four years of Trump. I guess this goes into the general message of the comic,” she continues, “which is meant to be an energising rallying cry for people to come together and make their voices heard so that we can take the White House and effect political change.”
Lilkool’s panels focus on four subjects that are sure to steer much of the election debate: climate change, border issues, disinformation in the media, and gun control.
In his climate-change illustration, an Uncle Sam-like character is “driving away from the problems created by big business corporations”, says the artist, while flowers slowly droop in the fumes of his exhaust and “money keeps coming and going straight to the top”. Border control is mocked with ducks mooning “as a childish way of saying ‘fuck off’” in front of a menacing White House facade; and the media is depicted as a group of wizards, conveying the “false reality” of the US news media, “saying the same bullshit but for different sides”, Lilkool says. Meanwhile, his panel on gun control aims to show how “everyone has guns” and yet low regulations on who can purchase them means “we will keep having mass shootings and gun problems”.
Across the artworks, Lilkool’s vibrant colours and cartoonish style clash with the morbid and worrisome content. The aesthetic, he says, represents an evolution from the work he is known for. “I’m always trying to progress and try new things,” he says, saying a look ahead to what 2020 holds seemed a good place to apply this. Despite his “obvious” left stance, and the fact he is currently making work for the Bernie campaign, the illustrator also comments that he wanted these panels to be as neutral as possible, to focus on topics more than the political to-and-fro. “Let’s talk about the issues more than ‘the progressives are right and the conservatives are wrong.’ That’s what our new media outlets are doing and our country is more divided than ever. The more we don’t agree, the less anyone benefits.”
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