CLAIM

A July 1990 comic strip in Heavy Metal magazine featured a controversial wall in New York City, built by Donald Trump, and a populist "rise to power" by the future president.

TRUE

RATING

TRUE

ORIGIN

In September 2017, there was renewed interest in a 1990 comic strip by the artist Peter Kuper, which appeared to preempt current events by featuring the construction of a large, controversial wall by Donald Trump, as well as a populist “rise to power” by the future United States President.

The artist Peter Kuper confirmed to us that the comic strip, titled “The Wall,” is authentic, and was published in Volume 14 Number 3 of Heavy Metal magazine in July 1990. Its existence has gained new interest because Trump began his 2016 presidential election campaign partially on the basis of a pledge to build a wall along the southern border of the United States. 

After his election in November 2016, Heavy Metal magazine ran a feature article on the then 26-year-old comic strip, offering this summary:

“The Wall” begins with a disavowal of well-known lines of “The New Colossus,” the poem associated with the Statue of Liberty. In this story, we’re living in a divided city [New York] where the haves and have nots can barely relate to each other. In fact, the cultural and economic divide has been made real in the form of a wall to “keep the peasants at arm’s length.”

Law enforcement had been overwhelmed; the cops were running for their lives. So, a wall: The brainchild of Trump and [real estate mogul Harry Helmsley]. But the relationship between these two egomaniacs can’t last, and in a fit of rage Helmsley carries out a purge called the “Night of the Long Skates.” All Trump’s associates are wiped out, and Trump himself escapes into the NYC sewer. But Trump plots his revenge.

…In this story, [a pro-Trump group called the Guardian Demons] band together in their hats, led by a Messianic Trump who convinces his followers that Helmsley is the reason for the unemployment and poverty they face. The mob carries Trump to a humiliating victory over Helmsley, a feat Trump promises to commemorate with a monument…

The “People’s Monument” promised by Trump is yet another wall. The final panels of the comic strip show a graffiti artist spraying “Dump Trump” on the wall – a slogan popular in 2017 among the President’s critics. 

The article goes on:

Ok, so Trump isn’t president in this 26-year-old story, but the man depicted is fully recognizable as the current President-elect. The tactics used to motivate followers, the faith in the power of walls, the goddamn hats — it was all there.

Peter Kuper explained the origins of the comic strip to us:

The idea came to me after a visit to Berlin in 1987 before their wall came down. Trump was a well known real estate mogul at that time. So was Helmsley. The pieces of the story fell into place.

He added: “I wish my pen, instead of predicting the future, would be able to change current events.”