Leon casino, Decent Don. Illustration by JP Downer
Been a lot of doom and gloom since Donald Trump was elected president. I know because I have penned a bunch of it myself. The recent move towards kicking tens of millions off of their health insurance, and the continued investigation to his campaign’s ties to Russian cyberwar aren’t changing that. Thank god my copay for therapy is low.
Into this miasma of despair comes an unlikely hero, the three-panel web comic called Decent Don by the ironically named JP Downer. It is honestly the most strangely cathartic thing I have ever seen in my life, certainly since the election. Reading it is a weird peek into a world that feels like it should be here, but is in some terrible there instead.
It’s a comic about Trump, but not the one we now celebrate on President’s Day. Downer’s Trump is a decent guy. Not a great guy; just a good one. Here are a few of the more recent ones to give you the idea…
Illustrations by JP Downer
You know what I like the most about Decent Don? It’s a celebration of the bare minimum needed to keep society on an even keel. The character isn’t doing great deeds. He isn’t out there unsnarling peace in the Middle East or the opioid crisis. He’s just doing a collection of the very minor things it would take to make America a slightly less shitty place.
Considering the number of people I have seen recently absolutely gleeful that the fully half of children in Texas who are on Medicaid might suddenly be without healthcare, maybe a little reminder of the minor generosities that it requires to better Planet Texas is what some folks need. Certainly reading it makes me a tiny bit happier.
We decided to talk with Downer about his creation. Here’s that interview.
Free Press Houston: First, the basics. Can you give me a little background on your career and training as a cartoonist, and tell me any of the other work you’ve done?
JP Downer: I am actually a musician first and foremost. I recently started focusing a lot of energy on designing concert posters for myself and my friends in the Portland music scene, which has increased my proficiency with Photoshop and Illustrator. I have always been a doodler, drawing weird faces and little cartoons. So, when I didn’t have any posters to work on, I would work on illustrating cartoons. It’s actually pretty new for me.
FPH: What could have possibly inspired Decent Don?
JPD: During the election, my social media feeds were nothing but negativity. While I wanted to contribute to the conversation, I didn’t want to just bash Trump. It was already being done… and it also opens up the door for people to start fights in the comments, which I think is a bad look. So I decided to take “Love Trumps Hate” to heart and send some psychic love beams his way via the internet. Also, I thought it was funny to imagine him making those phony, smug, self-satisfied [faces] because he feels good about making the right decisions to be considerate to those around him.
FPH: How has the reaction been to Decent Don? This being the internet, I assume at least someone hates it for some reason.
JPD: It’s still pretty small, so I haven’t received much negative feedback besides a couple “hide all posts” on Facebook. I’m not really making a political statement, but I imagine people on both sides of the aisle might be disoriented at first, and then if it doesn’t vibe with them, they move on. I’m sure that can change as it reaches more and more people, but then they just get a “Have a great day. - Don”.
FPH: What does it say about the world that we have to imagine our president just being an okay guy instead of having real world examples?
JPD: It’s obviously a little troubling. If he weren’t naturally so arrogant, insecure, hateful, childish, self-centered, etcetera… the comic wouldn’t work. So, I am not taking any credit for it being funny. It’s all cognitive dissonance. If all I have to do is show him picking up a gum wrapper, and that is funny. That is saying something.
FPH: Boris the cat? I would’ve gone with Vladimir Puddin’ myself. Why a cat and why name him Boris?
JPD: Don having a cat with a vaguely Russian name is about as close to a reference to reality as I am willing to make.
FPH: Which comic you’ve drawn is your favorite and why?
JPD: I guess it would have to be “Cookie,” where Don breaks a cookie in half and offers to keep the smaller half. I like it because it’s simple, but symbolic of something bigger. “I cut, you choose” is a pretty basic protocol to combat greed and unfairness.
FPH: What is the future of Decent Don?
JPD: I am just going to continue putting out two comics per week, interacting with people on social media, and trying to grow my reach. I am also planning to release a print book this year.
Keep an eye on Decent Don at DecentDon.com.