Bedford + Bowery interviews R. Sikoryak

“A New Book Imagines Trump’s Words Spoken By Literal Comic Book Villains” / Bedford + Bowery / Matthew Silver / October 18, 2017

Robert Sikoryak, a Jersey-born comic book illustrator, is seated at a desk in his one-bedroom apartment in Stuyvesant Town, his work spread neatly in front of him. The 52-year-old shares an office with his wife, Kriota Willberg, and their work spaces are separated by a tall cluttered bookshelf.

His latest project, The Unquotable Trump, takes Donald Trump’s quotes from his presidential campaign and combines them with old comic book covers. The result is a refreshing historical overview of one of the most bizarre election cycles in presidential history.

“I really just wanted to express my dismay and frustration at his way of presenting himself to the world,” says Sikoryak, who is known for his literary adaptations in the style of different comics.

He’s done Dostoyevsky’s Crime and Punishment in the style of 1950s Batman comics, and Kafka’s Metamorphosis in the style of Peanuts, for example. So, it wasn’t a stretch for him to immerse The Donald in the comic book universe.

“The Hulk may see himself as a hero, but he’s a destructive force that the rest of the world is trying to contain. And I feel like that paralleled my impression of Trump,” says Sikoryak, who teaches at The Parsons School of Design.

The artist uses a diverse collection of covers, from Archie to Captain America, to depict all of the political issues that sprung up during the campaign. The 48-page comic casts Trump as the antagonist throughout, whether as a supervillain or just the neighborhood kid causing trouble.

“It was natural to put Trump in opposition to superheroes. Because – at least traditionally – superheroes tend to have very square ideas of right and wrong, good and evil, and morality. A lot of those are valuable to have.”

Remember when Trump claimed that Senator John McCain wasn’t a war hero? Well, Sikoryak used the cover of Captain America and the Falcon#212, from 1997, to represent the political snafu.

POTUS is put in the place of the Red Skull, complete with his name on a gilded cinderblock “because he’s always putting his name on everything,” says Sikoryak. Making a cover took two or three days on average, between searching for a quote, finding the right cover, and then doing the actual rendering.

In the past, Sikoryak’s illustrations have appeared in The New YorkerFortuneEsquire, and GQ, among others.

From Robert’s side of the bookshelf, the cubbies are stuffed with piles of comic books, their raggedy and lurid spines jutting out to catch your eye. He consulted this collection of physical copies along with the internet to find the appropriate covers.

The project started as a black and white mini-comic, which he made in a “fit of agitation and fury” and was “just kind of putting it out in the world.” But once his publisher, Drawn & Quarterly, saw the idea, they decided to turn it into a full-blown book with color.

At the Oct. 24 book launch at the powerHouse Arena in Dumbo, Sikoryak will present a slideshow on the history of presidents in comic books. He says it should help provide some context for his work.

“Sometimes the president would get a call from Superman, or the Fantastic Four would ask Nixon how they should take care of Galactus,” says Sikoryak.

When asked if he’s worried about Trump seeing himself in comic book form, he doesn’t seem too concerned. “I’m pretty confident he’s not going to see it unless someone on Fox News holds it and waves it in front of the camera.”

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