The presidency of Donald Trump has inspired countless standup comedy routines, nudes, poetry – and now, comic book dialogue. The President Supervillain Twitter account takes quotes from the speeches, letters and tweets of the US president and photoshops them into the mouth of Red Skull, the Marvel archenemy of Captain America. Trump and Red Skull are an alarmingly good match, whether the Red Skull is screeching Trump’s fury at Turkey (“I will totally destroy and obliterate the Economy of Turkey (I’ve done it before!)”) or tying down Bucky Barnes alongside the Trump quote: “I would bring back waterboarding, and I’d bring back a hell of a lot worse than waterboarding.”
The @PresVillain mashups are often so convincing that some people thought Trump was actually quoting Red Skull; in August 2017, so many people believed that Trump’s threat of “fire and fury” to North Korea had first been said by the supervillain that fact-checking website Snopes published an article debunking the misconception.
The creator of the account, who asks to only be identified as DM Higgins, is a lifelong comic book fan and came up with the idea during the 2016 elections when he noticed that Trump’s speeches had a lot in common with the monologues of comic book supervillains.
“His language is self-aggrandising, almost absurdly so, to the point of megalomania,” Higgins says. “He speaks in superlatives, which kind of boils everything down to an exaggerated oversimplification. And exaggerated oversimplification is very much the realm of superhero comics.”
When Trump won the 2016 US presidential election, Higgins started experimenting to “get the idea out of [his] head”. His first tweet in 2017 used a panel showing Red Skull holding a grenade and shouting, “When the achiever achieves, it’s not a plateau, it’s a beginning” – from a 2009 tweet in which Trump quoted himself.
Creating these posts is not as easy as it might appear. Higgins has a folder of images, with those showing Red Skull mid-scream being easiest to match to Trump’s speech.
“I often end up not making a panel I want to make because I can’t find the right image,” he says. “I’m limited by what images are already published – or at least, that’s a limitation I’ve placed on the project. It has become one of the unspoken ground rules that these are both real quotes and real, pre-existing images from published comics. That’s part of the point.”
Since he realised people were struggling to discern if Trump or Red Skull said it, Higgins has worked to make it more clear by sharing the original quote and crediting the artists behind the panels he uses. “As the @PresVillain account began to grow, it got much bigger than I ever expected, and I began to feel more responsibility … I’m not trying to trick anybody,” he says.
Higgins is not the only person to make the link between Trump and Red Skull; back in August, it was revealed that when the renowned comic creator Art Spiegelman wrote that “an Orange Skull haunts America” in an essay for a new Marvel book, the studio refused to publish it unless the dig was removed. (Spiegelman declined and published it in the Guardian.)
Higgins is open to using other villains in the future, but says he needed an unambiguous figure for whom it is impossible to feel sympathy. This condition ruled out Lex Luther and Dr Doom as they were too easy to love, even though later versions of Luther were modelled on Trump. “It’s impossible to root for the Red Skull or to think of him as a misunderstood anti-hero. And in most of the older comics, he also looks kind of silly in his dumb green jumpsuit. There’s nothing cool about the Red Skull,” says Higgins.
The account has the potential to continue forever, he says, or for as long as Trump continues to speak like a supervillain, “a phenomenon that’s unique to Trump. At least, for now … ”
Source: The Guardian