In 2015, hearing Trump, as a candidate for president, echo Castro’s talking points, Rodriguez felt the need to sound the alarm. He published drawings online and shared them on social media, hoping that magazines or newspapers would pick them up. One editor who did was Klaus Brinkbäumer, who at the time was the editor in chief of Der Spiegel, the German weekly that would publish some of Rodriguez’s most boundary-testing work.
“Edel is one of the very few artists who brilliantly manage to simplify complicated matters while never drifting into clichés,” Brinkbäumer said. When Rodriguez sent Der Spiegel a draft of a cover featuring Trump as a meteorite headed toward Earth shortly after his victory in 2016, Brinkbäumer published it unchanged. “I just had to add the text: ‘The End of the World.’”
Rodriguez jokes that when he’s not drawing he likes to draw, and not all of his work is political. He has created movie posters and playbills, produced a wide variety of paintings and written and illustrated his own children’s books as well as contributed artwork to many others. For the cover of “Island Treasures,” a collection of stories by the author and educator Alma Flor Ada about her own childhood in Cuba, Rodriguez drew the face of a young girl, the flowers in her hair blending into the green of a lush Cuban landscape.
“Without being explicitly a portrait, it is the portrait of an essence,” Ada said. “I can’t look at it without been deeply moved. He has so clearly captured the soul of the child who lived through the experiences remembered in the book.”
Fittingly, the first image from “Worm” that Rodriguez finished, around 10 years ago, was of the book’s cover: the young Rodriguez in red beret and bandanna, looking languidly out at the reader. Life, politics and procrastination, Rodriguez said, slowed the inside of the book from taking shape. Art provides feedback in the moment, he said, whereas writing is more akin to “torture.” He asked writer friends when the process would start getting fun, he said, and they replied, “It won’t.”