When the term “Donald Trump’s hair” comes to mind, most visualize the iconic blonde coiffure adorning the 45th President’s head. For artist Timothy Lim however, the hair in question is actually a hare, and it eschews a comb and mousse in favor of paint and brushes to keep it looking lively. The 35-year-old, Arkansas native’s Trump-inspired lagomorph, Thump, has quickly hopped up the charts, recently reaching number one in Amazon’s Political Humor category.
Thump: The First Bundred Days, now in it’s third printing, tells the unlikely tale of the hero bunny on his quest to ascend to the highest office in the land. Skewering the noteworthy moments of the 2016 campaign (“the basket of deplorables” are now the “adorables”), while presented with the sing-song rhyme and vivid illustrations of a children’s book, Thump is a great memento from this historic election and also makes a great book for your umm… covfefe table.
I spoke with the self-taught illustrator, bunny owner, self-described 80’s kid (read the book to see which left wing villain gets the Inspector Gadget treatment) and Thump mastermind, Timothy Lim to learn more about the man behind the bunny.
How It Came Together
What was your inspiration to do this project? Had you done anything “political” before this book?
My inspiration for this project was fairly simple. Not knowing how long my art career would last, I at least wanted to do something substantive and meaningful for me to show my family someday. I combined two things I loved: rabbits (I have five of them) and President Trump. I noticed that the more I observed the unique character of rabbits, the more that they reminded me of then-candidate-Trump. Thus, Thump was born. And no, I had not done anything “political” previously.
What was the collaboration process like?
I presented the idea and original sketch to my frequent creative collaborator, Mark Pellegrini, weeks after the election. It was a hard sell but he was on board, as it too would be his first published work. Around that same time, December/January 2016-2017, we were introduced to Brett Smith, who had spearheaded and edited Clinton Cash. At first Mark and I wanted to do this independently with a Kickstarter campaign, but Brett brought with him a concrete foundation for publication and marketing from his previous book.
Mark and I finished the first draft in February: we would meet almost every other day and weekends to hammer out the concepts that we wanted to draw, and I would draw them. Brett made editorial changes and some color corrections, and pitched the book to publishers and people willing to give blurbs for the book’s promotion. He also brought in additional help from Colin Madine, who made the crucial observation that more text was needed per page.
President Trump can be an easy target to caricature, but predictably these are almost always done in a negative fashion. How can portraying Trump as the hero and in the form of an innocent rabbit change that perception?
Though I did not intend on using a rabbit with the explicit purpose of softening Trump’s image, Brett has pointed out that it has had an unexpected side effect in doing just that. I reflect on my own observations about rabbits: if you’re a gardener or keep meticulous care of your property, rabbits can be seen as a destructive force. If you own a house rabbit and don’t watch your cables, cords, or furniture, a bunny can chew things of importance.
But bunnies are also clever, mischievous, playful, endearing, and everyone knows what they are– there are just two very different ways of looking at them. The analogy to Trump from that perspective, then, is spot-on and meaningful.
The Response To Thump
Have you heard back from President Trump or Vice President Pence or anyone else portrayed in the book?
Not yet, although we noticed that the Pences seem to be attaching promotions of their Marlon Bundo book (Marlon Bundo’s Day in the Life of the Vice President) to ours on Amazon. It’s great!
How has the book been received by non-conservatives?
A lot of them think that the book is hilarious on its own merit. We wanted the book to be “honest” in the sense that these were true emotions from two guys who are not pundits, professional policy makers, or wonks. We wrote the book based on how we saw it, keeping up daily with the campaign.
Like most entertainment fields,the comic industry can be somewhat left-leaning. What was the reception like within the industry? Has there been any backlash?
Yes, but it’s milder than I thought. Most of it is just disgusting talkback — fairly predictable. But a lot of it is just sad. The most pathetic, repetitive message that I get is “hey you need to stop doing this stuff or you’re never gonna get hired. Just saying, I’m your leftist friend!”.
If you take this kind of message apart, you can see why it’s so disgusting. The Left is so aware of its own intolerance that it preemptively warns me of repercussions for exercising my free speech — the same free speech that they claim to champion so much. Why is it, then, that for the seven years that I worked on predominantly leftist titles and characters that not a single conservative “warned” me of repercussions from the Right?
TheMarySue called me Nazi: sure about that? @douglasernst @DoctorDooomile @DiversityAndCmx @MindOfMicahC @nerkish https://t.co/rCyXeFmtNR pic.twitter.com/BOZmb6MS39
— Donald J. Thump (@POTUSThump) September 12, 2017
One of your harshest criticisms came from the liberal comic site The Mary Sue, who actually labeled you (an Asian) a Neo Nazi. Can you explain how this all came about and how you came up with your retort?
The Mary Sue caught wind of our book from the time they had to open their doors to let the smell of cat droppings air out. Predictably, they called it the work of “neo Nazis” without having ever read it, and without even researching the ethnicity of its creator. They are accurately a coven of childless, mentally-ill-haircut weirdo feminists and soyboys. We chose our method of response based on input from Brett and Colin, who has a nice background in viral marketing.
— Donald J. Thump (@POTUSThump) September 15, 2017
Your book is very funny and makes a lot of wink-and-nod shout outs to the memes and other funny moments along the campaign trail. Why is humor important in this book and also to Donald Trump’s effectiveness/success?
It’s important because of Scott Adams’ “one theater, two movies” analogy. Trump supporters think that his tweets are honest, they’re effective, and they’re funny. His endearing quality is that he does things that we feel like normal people would do: eat fast food, post salty memes, and speak off the cuff. They may be “mistakes” in the eyes of his detractors, but mistakes are also a quality of being human and being real. It was important for us to channel that touch of humor into the book because it was such a powerful weapon that made his campaign — now presidency — so memorable.
I noticed the reference to Dilbert in the book and your interactions with Dilbert creator (and author of the Trump-inspired book Win Bigly) Scott Adams on Twitter. How would you characterize your relationship?
Scott followed me on Twitter on Christmas Day, even though we have been tweeting back and forth. He is a great cartoonist with a keen mind. He didn’t give any advice but he did give us some much-needed attention through retweets and shares.
It’s funny, because I read Dilbert when I was a kid to fill the void left when Calvin and Hobbes went away. I remember an interview he did where he said that he became a cartoonist after having done other work, having never given up on what he felt was the one thing that would bring him a sense of joy and purpose. I was dissuaded at an early age from doing anything artistic, and it’s for that reason that I pursued my doctorate degree. But I always remembered his story and never stopped drawing. It’s a very strange circle of completion for me to have even the slightest acknowledgement from him.
Thump and Academia
Who was your target audience with this book? Is this a “kid’s book”? There’s a lot that will probably go over younger reader’s heads (using the term “pusillanimous” in conjunction with the “pink hatters” was pretty clever).
It was originally intended for adults but done in a “kids’ book” way, but then we received input that adults would WANT to use this to tell their kids about Trump in a very non-threatening or serious way. So we made sure to balance our act by making jokes that only adults would get but weren’t important for kids to understand the overall story.
What is it about Trump makes him so hard to discuss or be treated fairly as a President, especially in academics?
I argue that it’s not so much Trump, but the cultural divide in our country. Trump, remember, won out of a field of 16 candidates. The people chose him. He is the product of a decision made by constituents. If Trump had not won — if we got a Ted Cruz, a Rubio, etc., — the vitriol would be directed towards them instead. And it’s a vitriol coming from a side of our cultural spectrum that is not used to losing and not getting what they want. It’s the “snowflake” generation who are so used to being pandered to, pampered, and given participation trophies. I think that Trump agitates them more, however, by virtue of not being a guy who will just stand by and be anyone’s punching bag. And that’s why we love him.
As both an artist and college professor, you’ve noted that you see a “transparent attempt to suppress conservative thought and opinion” in academia. How was your involvement with Thump viewed on campus by faculty and staff?
I am lucky to be working in a part of academia that is in the medical field, and so we’re more pragmatic. But around campus you get the predictable leftist talking points — safe spaces, hashtag signs, all that nonsense.
Public education is often rife with liberal influence from teaching materials to curriculum,to the actual teachers and administrators. What can be done to counteract this influence when today’s generation is exposed to such bias?
Fight back. Don’t be scared. Learn your rights as a citizen and do anything within legal means to challenge propaganda permeating our education system. The Left likes to think they have cornered the market on academia, but it’s not theirs to corner. Students who are well learned should at least challenge what they are taught: the Left likes to use the Appeal to Authority fallacy to command respect from students, but the reality is that students who know a truth supported by evidence, data, and acumen can speak truth to power.
Can you tell me more about the MY HERO MAGADEMIA, which releases this March?
MY HERO MAGADEMIA is a parody of anime, manga, and video games. It is tonally more like a Mel Brooks movie. Though we are pro-Trump, the book wasn’t written to be an explicitly pro-Trump comic but to be a funny and enjoyable look at how a Trump anime / manga would look like. It’s over-the-top, ridiculous, and definitely not SJW. It’s also my first full 32 page comic and Mark’s, so we’re excited about it.
To see more of Timothy Lim’s work check out the links below and follow him on Twitter @PotusThump