Imagine a universe in which a presidential candidate with a checkered past can go from being labeled “Jackass of the Week” to a serious contender after a tragedy turns into a stroke of PR luck. Well, maybe that’s not so hard to imagine. But imagine the meteoric rise was concerted by a demon named Marlinspike. This is the universe of Image Comics’s Citizen Jack.
Created by Sam Humphries (Star-Lord, Weird World) and Tommy Patterson (A Game of Thrones), Citizen Jack follows the exploits of presidential candidate Jack Noteworthy, a Donald Trump meets Rob Ford–type figure, as he navigates his way up the polls. An unlikely pick for a nomination, he was the mayor of a town in Minnesota until he was impeached after being arrested for cocaine possession and charged with bribing the prosecutor (though all charges were eventually dropped). When we meet the washed-up former mayor, he’s wearing a pink bathrobe and cowboy boots as he rides around town hawking snow blowers and threatening government employees, including the current mayor (who also happens to be his ex-wife). Jack’s desire’s to overcome his scandalous past leads him to seek Internet fame by announcing his run for president while wrapped in a flag, just before jumping into a frozen lake. While the media finds his declaration ludicrous, Jack’s proclamation that “political elites are killing” America and that what the country needs is a “man of action” strikes a chord with voters. Jack’s “man of action” persona further solidifies his electability when, during a press event, the governor of Ohio (a friend of Jack’s) is assassinated and Jack heroically punches the shooter. All of this, of course, is coordinated by Marlinspike, the demon who always seems to be rattling around in the background, whispering (sometimes yelling) in Jack’s ear, making demands, suggestions, jokes, and snide comments.
The first two issues of Citizen Jack (the second issue went on stands this week) set the stage for Jack’s political ascent. While there are no direct references to specific issues plaguing society, and no Democrats or Republicans (instead it’s the Freedom Party and the Patriot Party), the media landscape in this universe, complete with infotainment and loud-mouthed pundits, feels familiar. Humphries focuses on one show in particular: Fire Fight, a Crossfire-type program that features one rational anchor—a talking dolphin named Cricket. Humphries never gives an explanation for the existence of Cricket, nor does he show that there are other anthropomorphized animals in this world. The other Fire Fight anchors dismiss Cricket, not because he’s a talking dolphin wearing a suit, but because they find his comments to be tedious and boring, despite their accuracy.
In a phone interview, Humphries explained that he wanted the world to be grounded in reality—acknowledging the irony of that statement when there’s a talking dolphin involved—saying, “For me, Cricket is the smartest guy in the room, who might be the smartest guy in the entire comic, and I wanted to underline how the media makes people who speak the truth about this stuff…into outcasts and outliers, and they banish them to the nether realms of the mediasphere. I wanted to make that otherness of Cricket completely plain.”