The 'TIME' Year One Trump Cover Is A Mesmerizing Take On 'Fire & Fury'
Sometimes it's hard to remember the days before the 2016 presidential election — before Donald Trump's victory sharply diverted the course of the United States. But if you're able to recall anything from that daze of a campaign season, you may remember two iconic TIME covers of Trump designed by artist Edel Rodriguez. To mark the conclusion of Trump's first year in office, Rodriguez has reprised that visual style and created a new, stunning image that captures the turmoil of 2017.
The new cover shows Trump with a head full of ascending flames. It's a multi-pronged reference that encapsulates Michael Wolff's new book, Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House, Trump's comments about raining "fire and fury" down on North Korea last summer, and more generally, the incendiary drama and chaos that Trump has brought to the United States so far during his tenure as president.
"We used to live where the United States was a pretty steady country, and now you wake up every day and try to figure out where’s the next fire, where do we have to go, what do we have to try to contain," Rodriguez told TIME when explaining his cover. "It’s sort of this president that you’re always trying to contain, like a wildfire that’s moving from one place to the other at all times."
Rodriguez's first Trump cover that shot to fame was published in Aug. 2016, in the wake of the Republican and Democratic National Conventions that led to Trump making headlines for a series of scandals, including insulting a Gold Star family. That cover featured just a single word: "Meltdown."
TIME updated the cover for an October issue later that year after the release of the Access Hollywood tape seemed to rock Trump's campaign even further.
Those depictions of Trump falling apart feel both prescient — considering his current volatility and incoherence, which have led some people to speculate that he could be experiencing some sort of mental decline — and naïve, considering that those campaign scandals didn't actually signify a dip in Trump's power and instead preceded his assumption of the biggest job in the world.
The tone of the latest cover, however, has been appropriately updated for the reality of Trump as president. In the "Year One" image, Trump is in flames but appears personally unharmed. The fire is swelling and rising, undoubtedly posing a threat to the environment around him. The message, it seems, is that Trump is the source of a fire that engulfs the people, norms, and institutions around him but miraculously never weakens himself. That resonates with a major takeaway from Wolff's Fire and Fury, which is that everyone in the White House believes Trump to be unfit for the position of president but won't take steps to remove him from it.
Rodriguez created his own concept for what the Fire and Fury cover could have looked like and posted it on Twitter on Saturday. He says that it's become his most retweeted picture ever.
He purposefully designs all of these Trump images in the same style, using the identical shade of orange and reprising the gaping mouth. "It's sort of like an anti-branding campaign," he told TIME, "where you're branding something so that people recognize it and kind of critique it strongly."
Rodriguez is a Cuban-born American artist whose work is often featured in TIME and has also appeared in The New Yorker, Rolling Stone, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, New York Magazine, and numerous other publications. He told TIME that he illustrates Trump because "I don’t really see that many people visually taking him on. It’s a bit of a responsibility for me to do it."