- Me the People
- By Pia Guerra
- Image Comics
- 112 pages
Odds are you’ve already seen the cartoons printed in Me the People. The new book from New Jersey-born, Vancouver-based cartoonist Pia Guerra collects her blisteringly angry drawings from the first two years of U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration, many of which have blown up into viral sensations.
In perhaps her most widely shared image, Hero’s Welcome, she depicts Aaron Feis – the self-sacrificing football coach killed after throwing himself in front of students during the school shooting in Parkland, Fla., in February – greeted in the afterlife by smiling young victims of other mass shootings. Her other cartoons, though, are often less heart-stirring than they are stomach-turning.
A diminutive Trump sits on Steve Bannon’s lap, signing the “Muslim ban” order like a good little boy; CIA director Gina Haspel taps on the proverbial glass ceiling, standing on the back of a torture victim. These are damning, powerful pictures: Guerra does not see the humour in our contemporary moment, so much as the horror.
Best known for drawing and co-creating the hit sci-fi series Y: The Last Man, Guerra now turns her high-concept ideas and visual invention toward blatantly political ends. “It started out as therapy,” she says of her first few drawings, “venting frustrations following the election, but then I saw how these cartoons seemed to serve as therapy for others who shared [those frustrations].”
On viewing the United States from Canada
“I have family and friends down there and I’m dual, so I vote in both countries. We’re already so heavily immersed in America’s goings-on, the only time I really feel at a distance is in the doctor’s office and there isn’t a massive co-pay waiting on the way out. The cartoons feel like a way of asserting the distance, to delineate the difference between the two countries and show that alternatives to all this negative crap exist.”
Where cartooning wins out over a sketch on SNL
“I think more than anything is its compression of an idea. A single image can convey a lot of information so much faster than waiting for a YouTube link to load. At a convention, a print of one of my cartoons got bumped off my table and went skidding across the floor. The person who grabbed it came up grinning and said, ‘I recognized the cartoon as it flew by! I saw it on TV months ago.’ That’s how well an image can stick in someone’s head.”
On using her realist style as a weapon
“Trump is a very vain person. He’s obsessed with his image and selling his brand. He’s that guy in late-night infomercials trying to sell you on becoming rich like him and, underneath, he’s completely empty. It’s that façade I want to take apart. It’s more effective to make fun of what’s actually there – to reveal the ridiculousness of his mannerisms, his bluster and, of course, his hair, while not forgetting his pettiness, vindictiveness and blatant misogyny."
Her most successful cartoon?
“Hero’s Welcome. I drew it well after dawn; I was exhausted from watching the news all night and it came from a very raw place. The response was like this big emotional bomb went off. I had so many comments from people about how it made them cry. One teacher wrote that she saw it while in class and started crying and then the students asked her what was wrong and she showed them and then the students were crying. I just wanted to hug everyone and apologize."
This interview has been edited and condensed.