Tim Faust’s life took an odd turn while waiting in line at his Austin credit union, trying to withdraw $80 worth of quarters. It was 5:40 p.m., minutes before the branch was set to close, and the change machine he was using went on the fritz. As tellers investigated, and Faust waited sheepishly nearby, texts started flooding his phone.
The gonzo t-shirt he’d designed on a lark with his friend Rory Blank, “Ted Cruz Was the Zodiac Killer,” had picked up traffic thanks to a link from Jezebel. “While I was trying to apologize for destroying technology, making people find 320 quarters for me, a bunch of orders came through really fast,” says Faust, who, by day, acts as the general manager of Austin-based wrestling league Party World Rasslin'. “That was a complex feeling.”
That was on February 18. In the days that followed, Faust and Blank sold and printed 8,000 shirts, about 7,980 more than they’d originally planned for, so many that their printing press screen distorted. The last of the batch—featuring a sweaty, vacant-eyed caricature of the Republican presidential aspirant—will ship this weekend.
Also stamped is a check for $69,420,69; its recipient is the West Fund, a scrappy organization that helps low-income women in El Paso obtain safe abortions, and the group to which Faust and Blank (an El Paso native) are donating their combined earnings.
It’s easy to see why the silly Cruz meme, with roots dating back at least three years, gathered steam in 2016. The Texas senator, who was raised in Houston, is in the news constantly, and his “atypical expressions” leave even the most staid neurologists “uneasy.”
“Cruz fits the basic serial killer profile,” Vox wrote recently. “His colleagues in the GOP Senate caucus don't like him. He's a loner, ostracized by the key social networks among which he operates.” Cruz is also a spokesperson for specific policies that large sections of the voting population, Faust included, find abhorrent.
“The other descriptions actually lose emotional resonance under the weight of repetition,” he says. “But the Zodiac Killer is a new thing you can call Ted Cruz, even if you you don't believe it’s true, for obvious and factual reasons.”
Faust is an emotional guy. A graduate of Rice University (and former Houstonia contributor), he’d spent a few years in California “making apps to make more money,” when Wendy Davis held her 11-hour filibuster to block Senate Bill 5, in June of 2013. “I threw a party to watch it,” he remembers. “I skipped work around 2 p.m., and by the end of the night, I was throwing shit at my projector screen.”
So disgusted by what he considered an egregious restriction to health care access, he quit his job, hopped in his car, and started working in politics. (The law that so motivated him, not surprisingly, is modifying behavior just as its authors intended.) For now, Faust and Blank have no concrete plans for another print run. “I don't necessarily believe the highest form of politics is name-calling,” he says. “But it sure feels good.”