Kevin Bieber and Victor Reynolds Get UnPresidential
The President has gone missing, and America is holding a special election to replace him! But who has the charisma, sexiness, and compassion to lead the free world? Kim Jong Un, the fascist dictator of North Korea, of course! A hilarious satire of American culture, Un-Presidential focuses on the journey of the Un-likeliest candidate of all in his quest to save democracy!
We’re not even a full year into Trump’s reign and writers Kevin Beiber and Victor Reynolds have spoofed him, Kim Jong Un and our entire political system in UnPresidential. Publishing by Z2 Comics, the graphic novel pulls no punches and takes on… pretty much everything.
I got a chance to talk to Kevin and Victor about the comic and their fear of pissing off a certain dictator.
Graphic Policy: Where did the idea for UnPresidential come from?
Kevin Bieber: We looked at all of the serious issues and problems facing America today, and found the one thing that Americans really need most right now: A comic about Kim Jong Un running for President after Donald Trump has gone missing between tweets, the Republican line of succession is lost on a romantic Russian Cruise, and Hillary Clinton is stuck in Mexico after plastic surgery gone horribly wrong…
So in a nutshell, UnPresidential is our attempt to bring the far-right and far-left together through their mutual hate of our book. It’s the first common ground they’ve had in years, and I’m really proud to have played a part in it. If just one Trumper hugs an SJW tonight because they both hate us, we’ve done our job.
As for the industry itself, like everyone else, we got into independent comic books purely because we wanted to be rich. Is it working? You’ll have to ask my creditors, and my neighbors at the homeless shelter I’m currently breaking into.
GP: You easily could have done a book around President Trump, why go with Kim Jong Un?
Victor Reynolds: The answer is actually in your question: the reason we didn’t center our book around President Trump is because it would have been easy, and easy is never interesting. Simply put, we wanted to tell a no-holds barred story about the current state of American society, politics, and media, but needed a lens to capture that absurdity. After making sure that Disney didn’t own the rights to him, we thought that America’s biggest enemy, Kim Jong Un, was the perfect lens to highlight that absurdity.
GP: The satire of the graphic novel is pretty wide taking on pretty much everything. Was there any joke you felt went too far or something you didn’t think was appropriate to make?
KB: UnPresidential is Schrodinger’s Comic: too far and not far enough at the same time. UnPresidential goes after everyone and every possible agenda because, in our view, sacred cows are the most fun cows to slaughter. But other than Democrats, Republicans, white people, black people, Asians, straight people, gay people, Christians, Muslims, Jews, Bono, the military, men, women, and our elected officials, I can’t really think of anyone we’ve offended.
To answer your question about whether we’re hesitant: Not. At. All. We pride ourselves on satirizing everyone and every belief (including our own), and will not change that for anything (except money). To borrow the philosophy of our comedy idols from South Park: it’s either all okay, or none of it is.
GP: It feels like real world politics have itself turned into satire. Did that make things more difficult to write this?
VR: Absolutely. Like myself, UnPresidential was initially conceived at a KFC years ago before Trump even announced he was running for President (true story–the main reason we greenlit the book was because we loved the title). It’s gone through more re-writes and changes than almost every Kevin Spacey movie currently in production.
The fact that real world politics has itself turned into satire is a double edged sword. On one hand, it makes the satire in UnPresidential that much more on-point and topical. On the other hand, things change so rapidly that you can’t possibly keep up, which forced us to constantly re-write and update the book. On the whole, UnPresidential was by far the most difficult project we’ve encountered, but hopefully the amount of work and thought that went into it shows up to the readers.
GP: It’s believe that Kim Jong Un had Sony hacked because he was made fun of on film. Any fears or suspicious North Korean hacks yet?
KB: Nah, because North Korea doesn’t really attack creators; it only hacks the websites that interview the creators…
Seriously though, if we haven’t been hacked after printing the damn book in Korea, I don’t know what it will take. If this book actually gets on Kim Jong Un’s radar, something has gone horribly wrong… or right.
GP: We’re only about 10 months into President Trump’s reign and this is a sizeable book. How long did it take to work on?
VR: The final iteration of the book came together in about eight months. However, the actual concept of UnPresidential came about two years ago before Trump even ran for office–we wanted to create the most absurd election possible with the dumbest, least likely candidate ever and use that as a vehicle to poke fun at American society and the sad state it has become. We settled on Kim Jong Un in part because we LOVED the title UN-Presidential. But the project had no momentum after a year, until Trump was elected, which breathed new life into the project and its possibilities. Luckily, we found a great artist in Jeremy Labib (with amazing contributions by Jared Lamp, Aladdin Collar, and Matt and John Yuan), and a great distributor in Z2 Comics, which will allow UnPresidential to hopefully be taught in preschools someday.
GP: We’re at a point where reality is difficult to suss out from what’s fake. Is it more difficult to create in that environment?
KB: Yeah, and if there is a villain in this book (besides Kim Jong Un), it’s social media. I believe that Thomas Jefferson once said: “the world will end not with a bang, but with a tweet,” and I find that becoming more true by the day.
For all the substantial good that it’s capable of, I think the last few years have shown that social media is, in reality, Prometheus’s fire–it has basically created a cottage industry of abusive click-baiters whose only incentive is to spread misinformation and mobilize an angry society against itself. It’s no coincidence that Russia used targeted Facebook ads hoping to create dissension among Americans (maybe that’s #Fakenews though, who knows anymore?)
GP: The story takes place over a campaign. Have you ever been involved in one yourself? Volunteer at all?
KB: Oh geez, I worked on what was probably the most disorganized local election of all time. It was the Democratic candidate for County Judge, an administrative position despite its title (full disclosure: we consider ourselves neither Republicans or Democrats–we’re just a couple of far-center, radical moderates that have voted for candidates on both sides). I was a wide-eyed college kid hoping to do my civic duty and participate in democracy in action… and all I ended up doing was calling rich people and asking them for their money. Of course, we lost, and my desire to ever participate in another campaign was forever extinguished.
GP: What do you currently see as the silliest aspect of our current political reality?
VR: Two things: There is no longer any such thing as news–it’s all about hot takes, even with respect to issues that should not be partisan in the slightest. It’s Skip Bayless’s world, we’re just living in it.
Also, the influence of special interests keeps growing unchecked. In UnPresidential, we mock this when Kim Jong Un goes to “BribeCon 2017” and raises money by promising lobbyists that under his Presidency, corporations will no longer be people… they will be GODS!
GP: What else do you have on tap that folks can check out?
KB: My wallet thanks you for that question. We have quite a few books out, including a book about a geologist that fights inanimate rocks (called Man vs. Rock), a book about a woman who unknowingly starts the biggest cult in the world (called Cult Leaders Anonymous), and, believe it or not, an all-ages book about a space adventurer and her canine co-pilot (called You Can Sell Out, Too by Kevin Bieber and Victor Reynolds … or its other title, Furry Co-Pilots). Of course, if you’re interested in UnPresidential, you can order it now.
GP: Thanks for chatting!