by Alison Lang
It’s hard to think of the right adjective to describe the work of Philadelphia-based alt-comics legend Aaron Lange. Words like “pornographic,” “ribald” and “transgressive” come close but feel insufficient when one looks at Lange’s art, which pushes up so furiously and fearlessly against social and cultural boundaries that they burst apart, oozing all kinds of unimaginable fluids. After learning the results of the presidential election last November, Lange spent the day in bed and then went downstairs and began to draw. The result is HUGE, a published sketchbook of Trump artwork, and it’s a nightmarish, grotesque, disgusting, hilarious and darkly cathartic tour-de-force. We asked Lange a few questions about the comic over email.
BP: I think a lot of Trump parody art needs to step up its game to reflect the gravity of the situation . HUGE definitely does this really well and reflects so much of the vitriol in my own heart. What was the process like as you began to draw? Did these ideas just pour out of you or did you have to think about them for a bit?
Donald Trump is not funny and he never was. He makes a vulgarian like Howard Stern seem erudite by comparison. Trump is a bully with a potty mouth, not a clever class clown. The weak tea we are served from newspaper cartoons, Saturday Night Live, even internet memes, none seemed to be addressing the sheer obscenity of the man and his anti-movement. The hardest bleakest satire seemed, to me, the only response. I think there is a similar sentiment and style expressed in the novel American Psycho. Of course, Donald Trump comes from the same disgusting world as the fictional Patrick Bateman. My illustrations are to “political cartoons” what Hieronymus Bosch is to religious painting.
Has the production of the comic offered any sort of catharsis, or not really?
Yeah, attacking Trump and his lazy followers who are so easily bamboozled and hoodwinked… it’s not my idea of a pleasant Sunday afternoon. I’d much rather be researching the esoteric corners of the Cleveland punk scene in the 70s. But I felt a duty to respond, no matter how humble my efforts. I wanted a record of it, like Otto Dix’s revulsion towards the decadence of the Weimar years. In the past I’ve toyed with political images and rhetoric in an ironic and sarcastic way that could possibly confuse readers and obfuscate my leftist leanings. In this matter I wanted my feelings known and made clear in very certain terms. Making the work was cathartic for me, very much so initially. As I posted the pieces on social media I received a lot of feedback from people asking me to “keep it up”. It was clear I was providing a very needed outlet for their own disappointment and wretched disbelief.
It’s interesting that while the drawings in HUGE are horrifying and monstrous, the quotes that accompany them – so many actual quotes from Trump and his team – are the truly monstrous things here. How did these real quotes influence and interact with your sketches?
The drawing with the barrage of real-deal Trump quotes is probably the closest I got to conventional “political cartooning”. I can actually imagine a version of that in a newspaper. I’m a comic book artist, so I like the interplay between text and image. It gives the reader/viewer something concrete to latch onto. Including text of Trump quotes struck me as an obvious choice. Not much editorializing was necessary. His mouth is a sewer spewing shit. At least Hitler read Spengler, listened to Wagner, painted, had ideas and a vision. Trump is hollow and soulless. He believes only in money and his own vanity.
You can buy HUGE at thecomixcompany.ecrater.com.