Friday, October 14, 2016

here's some comics links

Here are some rambling thoughts on the comics things I've been reading and thinking about this week.

1. 164 Days, by Tim O'Neil
  • I read this twice, and the second time I didn't skip the Star Wars parts. That's unprecedented in my life, I think. "Don't read the Star Wars parts" is the closest thing I have to a code.
  • On a sheer technical level I'm very impressed by this writing...not just in terms of the "surprise ending," as Tim called it (though I think that was extremely well done), but the fragmentation, the disorientation, the relentless dreariness, the jumps in time, the circling back, the judicious use of poetic turns of phrase in the central the writing itself evokes the experience of the writer--that is just very impressive to me and relevant to the things I'm interested in talking about. I actually wrote a thing recently where I use fragmentation to much less effect. There's a sort of thread in this piece too, the paradox of "I understand on some level that I'm good at writing, but I feel like all these other people are better" that speaks to my own insecurities, but the difference between this and anything I've ever written is that you could teach this essay in a class. I expect there's something in there that speaks to everyone. A few different things spoke to me.

  • Re: the quote above, the kind of comics writing I like to read is the kind I like to write: personal. Idiosyncratic. And probably my very favorite subgenre within that is one that's totally fascinating to me because it's so far outside my own experience: the "my messed up relationship to comics" confessional. (Remember that little blip that Joe McCullough wrote for Zainab last year, for example? I just thought that was so great.) Anyway this essay was not just that--that's just sort of one theme, one identity among many--but I found those flashes to be some of the most interesting parts of an essay with a lot of interesting parts. (I also liked the part about Swamp Thing very much.) I find a lot of comics writing very clinical, or very boring, or very didactic...just that someone was willing to lay out their life in a piece like this...I don't know, that moves me. Just an incredible piece. People talk about comics criticism as this barren landscape, but it's such a crazy gift that there are people out there writing like this. 

2. Yet another thing on Pepe the Frog
  • NB: This is not that thing where Jeet Heer somehow made it all about Krazy Kat because of course he fucking did. (Pretty sure Comics is basically a Dan Brown book about R. Crumb and Krazy Kat having a child.) It's an interview with a Fantagraphics editor who approaches Ted Rall levels of shrill about the "half-truths" about the Pepe explainer on Hillary Clinton's website.
  • The "take back Pepe" agenda, as articulated by this editor, is super confusing to me. Like, he doesn't want Matt Furie's name erased from history, yet he says his main goal is for people to not associate Matt Furie with white supremacists. Just from a logistical standpoint I feel like these two things are mutually exclusive at this point, even if they shouldn't be? :(
  • Extremely unpopular opinion: I've seen a lot of comics people bang on about the tragic saga of Pepe, and I just...where to start. On an intellectual level I get it. I'm not a monster; I understand why it would be painful for an artist to see his creation become a meme (even a benign one, much less a vile racist one). Also I should probably preface what I'm about to say by acknowledging the possibility that I'm just grossly underestimating this work. I've seen a few panels, read a few interviews. I'm not well informed on the oeuvre of Matt Furie...nor will I ever be, which is sort of the point. How many people who never knew Boys Club are looking at Pepe the frog and thinking, "I've got to know the name of the genius who drew this incredible thing." No normal person is going, hold the fucking phone, can someone please tell me the fascinating history of how some frog peed in a comic book.  Is it me or are there 20 articles out there explaining how that frog pees? "This hate meme is derived from Real Art about a frog pees with his pants down"...I don't know, maybe that's a selling point to someone else, but I guess I'll pass. I guess the entire world assumes that a random on reddit drew it, which is unfortunate, but IMO a completely understandable mistake. Which leads me to my next point...
  • Extremely unpopular opinion II: People keep asking why this happened. It seems like I've read about a dozen articles by comics folks with increasingly histrionic questions about how a stoner frog has been appropriated by neo-nazis. Who will crack this case? Let me float a theory: because it's easy for dumb vacant people to project stuff onto something that itself looks dumb and vacant, even if looking dumb and vacant is purposeful and that's sort of the joke. I saw Michael DeForge tweet something like, 'this whole situation is my worst nightmare,' but the thing is I'm pretty confident that 4chan isn't going to be co-opting the characters of Michael DeForge any time soon. Nor will they be co-opting the characters of Simon Hanselmann, just to pick a more pertinent example. Why? I don't know, just think about it, I'm starting to feel too mean about this.
    • Exhibit A: presented without comment
    • Exhibit B: Here's Furie interviewed in a different piece: "I woke up one morning to a flood of emails and calls from media trying to interview me. I had never heard of the alt-right or any of that stuff—even white nationalism—I don't know about that shit. I'm learning about that stuff with you, about what the hell is going on. And unfortunately I think it's giving this fringe group more attention." He goes on to say that the Pepe appropriation is about "intellectualizing white power." I don't know, is turning someone's piss frog into a nazi intellectualizing it, really? Is it better if the answer is yes or no??
  • I'm not anti-artist, I'm sorry this happened to Matt Furie (truly), I'm horrified by the idea that it's made him lose actual income, I hate myself, I'm trying to erase it, etc. etc. but I submit to you that the fact that Comics cannot  seem to grasp why normals don't care about "taking back Pepe" is maybe the entire problem with Comics. (Well, that and raping.) It's nice to promote Furie's work if you like it, for sure, but i just feel like I've seen a lot of disingenuous chatter. Fantagraphics and their whole 'pepe is love'...okay. Well, what was that fucked-up blog with weird drawings of Muslims that Gary Groth curated last year? Was that about love too? What about that zany classic  Fukitor? From where I'm sitting some of those things don't look so different than whatever Pepe subredditors are up to. 'Pepe is copyrighted.' That's what we're talking about, is it not?
  • I don't know, I hate stoner culture. Stoner culture is not my thing at all. Maybe it's just a matter of taste.
3. Abhay Khosla goes in on Devin Faraci
  • Someone raised the issue of what's to be done with Devin Faraci, and I think that's an important and difficult question. All the points made here about why Faraci hasn't been fired/dropped from existing projects make sense to me. And that's unfortunate, because it then becomes this more diffuse question of what should we as a 'community' be doing...which is a useless question, in my opinion. But maybe we can think about it in terms of what we, as individuals, should be doing. A few thoughts to that effect:
    • The first thing that comes to mind is accountability. Devin Faraci needs to admit what he did and APOLOGIZE for it, and stop framing it in terms of his (inevitable) redemption. Whether it's on Twitter or behind closed doors, his colleagues, friends, etc. need to be raising the question of what the fuck is up with what Faraci said to the victim on Twitter and the statement he made subsequently. Pay attention to the language Faraci uses here: 
    • “This weekend allegations were made about my past behavior. Because I take these types of claims seriously I feel my only honorable course of action is to step down from my position as Editor-in-Chief of Birth.Movies.Death. I will use the coming weeks and months to work on becoming a better person who is, I hope, worthy of the trust and loyalty of my friends and readers.” 
    • Oh sure! Sure. that's Devin Faraci, all right: just honorable as anything, a feminist who believes women even when their experience has no correlation whatsoever with his own lived reality. Someone--everyone?--needs to call this out as the completely unacceptable bullshit that it is. (You know, like no one did with Chris Sims.)  
    • The idea that Faraci doesn't remember this incident...I don't know. I suppose it's possible he had some sort of substance abuse problem, and he knows he did stuff like that, and so just assumes he did any terrible thing someone tells him about? That's the only plausible explanation I can come up with. (Though, if that's the case, say that. Don't say "I have no idea what you're talking about, but I believe women, because I'm a hero.") At the same time...and this is just a hard thing to accept and stomach...I know that there are a lot of men in the world who do things like that and never give it a second thought. The first year I moved to Chicago, I was walking to a show in Wrigleyville right after a Cubs game had just gotten out. A man passing by ran his hand from my crotch up the length of my body, then groped my's not like it's the worst thing that's happened to me, but that's something I think about a lot even now, more than 10 years later. There's the things that people will do to you behind closed doors, and the things they'll do in public, and each is its own kind of horror. I carry it with me, that getting felt up by a stranger is among the things that might happen while I'm walking down the sidewalk. I don't think for a second that guy has even thought about it once, including in the moment he was actually doing it. The inequity of that... I just think about how the incident with Faraci has haunted this poor girl for so many years, and how it clearly hasn't haunted him even a little. I seriously doubt it haunts him now, apart from whatever personal inconvenience it's causing him. What a fucking piece of shit. I guess that's another thing: we, as individuals, should take every opportunity to say what a fucking piece of shit that guy is. 
  • The parallels between the career trajectories of Faraci and Chris Sims are disturbing front to back, but particularly in that they built their reputations in part by vehemently denouncing the very things they were doing behind the scenes. Someone more informed than me needs to have a good long think about the mechanics of how that happens. It's clearly a thing, right?
  • It's been interesting to see some people talk about Faraci as a known entity. I'd never even heard of him. But anyway it's such a fragmented broadcast system, the way we talk about sexual predators in comics. I don't know, that one probably  actually is a question for the "community." 
  • The parts of that rant where Khosla sort of kind of identified with Faraci...that somehow put me in mind of that song where Sufjan Stevens compares himself to John Wayne Gacy. I think the idea that it's bad to like porn and strippers is surely more retrograde than the act of liking porn and strippers? Don't feminists love porn and strippers these days? I don't know, I ask this as someone who recently saw a woman breastfeeding in the candy aisle at Walgreens and almost killed myself. Sometimes it's difficult to parse your own feminist failings. 
4. Speaking of Faraci, I saw a tweet from a locked account that made me laugh very hard. It said: 
Devin Faraci is only one datum in a massive body of evidence that Dr. Fredric Wertham was right about comic books in the 50s.
That just struck me as very funny. I salute you, anon person on twitter.

5. Hey, did you know that Alan Moore “performed a rap about demagoguery…with his face painted to resemble a mandrill” during Brexit? That's just one little fun fact I learned reading this incredible thing a few weeks ago. Finally FINALLY someone has tweeted a photograph of Alan Moore in full mandrill makeup and it (a) far exceeded my extremely high expectations and (b) is definitely what you see before you die.

Jesus Christ.

6. Vulture talks to Walter Mosley about comics stuff
My imaginary nemesis has been working overtime at the Luke Cage #content factory to bring us this interview with Walter Mosley, which I enjoyed. Take it away, Walter: 

7. Finally, while this is not comics, it is literally one of the best things I've ever read. The article's fine but the part I really love is the end, with the quotes from musicians talking about what it's like to work with David Lynch. There are countless gems, but Julee Cruise was definitely my favorite. 

This is sexual. You are coming. What does David Lynch whispering even sound like, given the "real loud, hard-of-hearing way he talks"? (-Trent Reznor) Hold my calls--I'm going to be very busy thinking about this for the rest of my life. 


1 comment:

  1. In addition to your comment about Matt Furie and Pepe, I came across this interview on CBC’s As it happens between Carol Off and Matt Furie. I think one of the most surprising thing was how he was framing the Anti-Defamation League as his oppressor, not the alt-right. It was weird to hear him say that he feels he’s much more a victim of the ADL than the alt-right reappropriation of his cartoons. “They put on their lists and now I’m associated to racist cartoons” seems like a weird take on the situation.

    Like you say, I assumed this was just a random reddit thing before I knew it was an actual comics. But then, even looking at the comics, it’s like this lowbrow terrible simple comic about stoners. I guess I find neither version interesting. As to how it happens, I think you have the best answer, randomly.

    His final point in that interview, if you want to take back Pepe, buy the book. That seems like a common refrain in comics these days…