Around 2006, Donald Trump was enjoying a run as the namesake of Trump Magazine— a publication that had begun primarily as a marketing vehicle to be distributed at his properties, but had come to be distributed on newsstands nationally. The magazine celebrated Trump’s “opulence and business savvy,” according to press releases. Covers featured Trump, his kids, or Trump and his kids. Articles highlighted other Trump-branded ventures, like Trump Vodka, and profiled comedians and TV hosts.
But the short-lived magazine almost birthed another Trump-branded venture: a TV cartoon for kids, starring The Donald as a wrong-righting, crusading superhero.
The catalyst for that idea was Mitchell Schultz, a former New Yorker who is now a “space tourism consultant” in Florida. Schultz tells Fusion he knew Trump Magazine’s publisher, Michael Jacobson, and had met Trump at a party through their mutual friend. Schultz remembers telling Jacobson that “the way to create immortality for Donald Trump is through the youth of America.” (Jacobson did not respond to requests for comment.)
Schultz imagined a show tentatively called Trump Takeover. Plotlines—which Schultz developed with the help of a writer friend, Louis Cimino—were prescient. They imagined an episode in which America would be “in a state of virtual collapse,” according to draft materials for the show.
Trump and his team—including characters from The Apprentice—would “go to Washington to take over!” In another episode, Trump and team would seize control of the stock market to save the world:
Save it from what? “A global financial conspiracy,” according to the show notes:
“We wrote some stories—’SuperTrump,’ that kind of thing,” Cimino recalls. “I wrote the stories—‘[Trump] solves the gang problem in New York and fights the aliens,’ stuff like that. I just remember the gist. He saves the city; he saves the Yankees. I wrote whole episodes with the dialogue.” Cimino says he “did it as a goof. I did it for fun.”
Schultz went so far as to have some drawings commissioned by a Long Island advertising agency called Creativity Zone, which sketched images of Trump on the Capitol steps. Behold:
Jacobson, the Trump Magazine publisher, loved the concept so much that he paid Schultz for the rights to develop it, Schultz says. They turned to another illustrator to create a pilot for the TV show. That artist—Elizabeth Koshy of California—in turn hired artists in her home country, India.
“He came to us because we were giving the competitive pricing that no one else could give, because it’s outsourcing,” Koshy tells Fusion.
“They wanted to project Donald Trump as a superhero who does all the right things, and he is saving everyone,” Koshy recalls. Her animators designed a Trump with “a magical halo around him,” and started on a TV pilot.But, like so many contractors who’ve done work for Trump, Koshy says she was stiffed on the pay. She said she had to pester Jacobson for payment, and only got $6,000—two-thirds of what she was owed—after threatening to go public with her allegations of non-payment. Unfortunately, she says, neither she nor her colleagues in India kept copies of their drawings.
There’s more to this story: the company behind Trump magazine became a penny stock—part of a notoriously shady marketplace. Our longform article explores how Jacobson’s company, Premiere Publishing, went public in 2006. Investors were cold-called and bought stock because they believed in Trump’s brand. The stock was hyped in a newsletter that touted possible “500 % profits” and promised an animated Trump TV show (with Disney, the newsletter had promised).
But the stock crashed after a year. Investors were out tens of thousands of dollars. Not Trump, though—he walked away with close to a million dollars in licensing fees. (Read the full story here.)
Was the cartoon idea intended solely to pump up financial interest in Trump-branded businesses? It’s not clear. But Schultz still believes. Even though Jacobson, the Trump Magazine publisher, “left my group high and dry,” Schultz says he and Cimino “want another chance” to develop a project with Trump today. Schultz had the Creativity Zone develop a fresh sketch of Trump, complete with tights and a purple codpiece:
Perhaps Trump will call them back next month.