Daniel Clowes’s comics often feature intimate depictions of difficult men. Now, the most powerful — and difficult — man in the world has thrown a wrench in Clowes’s plans.
“I was actually all last year pretty much working on writing a long series of stories that would be a big graphic novel,” the Eisner Award-winning author and artist tells Inverse. “But it was completely written with the idea of when Hillary Clinton is president, and how that would feel. And then when Trump won, I was like, I’ve got to rethink this whole thing. Because I know that’s going to be in my head all day, every day, and that’s going to infect what I’m writing and doing. So I’ve got to think ahead and have a comic that could react to that.”
None of Clowes’s comics are expressly political, but his works are often grounded in social criticism and always carry a specific worldview. His new film, Wilson, based on his 2010 graphic novel of the same name, focuses on an unemployed middle-aged man with very strong opinions. The eponymous character is a lefty with the social grace of a cranky right-winger, equally likely to spout off about fighting oligarchs and the collapse of public morality. Ghost World features droll, troublemaking teenage girls who listen to punk rock and reject the traditional paths laid out for them. The Death-Ray mocks adult superhero fans, a comment on the sale of nostalgia and distractions sold to the public.
In that same vein, Clowes’s new project, which he has yet to name, takes on the spirit of a political outlook more than it advocates for any policy preference or candidate — though he’s not opposed to going in that direction, either.
“It was actually set in the ‘60s, a very different time, but just with that feel in the world of this is how it’ll be. You can so imagine what it’d be like if Hillary was president: dysfunction and everything, but muddling along, and that was the feeling I was imagining,” Clowes says. “And now it’s none of that. And it’s the first time in my life that I felt like, if I had an idea that could create some kind of indelible idea of the new regime that would help people to bring it down, I would do that. I don’t know what that is, because I’m not really a political artist, but if that popped into my head, I would drop everything and do that.”
There’s no huge rush on his next book; he released Patience, a smash-hit sci-fi graphic novel, just last year, and he is now working on the script for its movie adaptation. So he has time to re-work the work-in-progress, which may need several re-imaginings as the Trump administration barrels forward.
“I’m not going to rewrite it as much as filter it, look through it and see how it responds,” he explains. “I know that I’ve got to think about in two years, when I’m drawing this 50th page, am I going to have to deal with like, Trump just bombed Rhode Island. And I’ve got to somehow get that in there.”
Wilson is in theaters on Friday, March 24.