Tag Archives: drugs

The Solutions to Brian’s Problem

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Here’s another word of advice: if you are a normal human being, you should never, ever Google any combination of the words “12 gauge shotgun” and “suicide.”

A pretty easy text to comic-ize. The only real issue was deciding which 2 of the 7 list items to combine into 1 to fit the 6-panel format. Math! I guess this story would also be considered experimental, in the sense that it really is a list of possibilities. Some of them offer pros and cons. For some of them, the pros and cons are obvious without being pointed out.

It’s not just relevant to drugs: it’s about anyone who’s ever stayed in a terrible relationship with a terrible person because love causes you to see people as you wish them to be, or as you think they could be, or they way they used to be, rather than who they are right now, and who they are likely to be in the future. It’s easier to keep doing the same thing than it is to change. But Brian’s tolerance is crazy high. The line in the book is, “last week your wife stabbed you in the chest while you were sleeping, that she punches you, too, giving you black eyes that you have to explain to the guys at work.” She stabbed him in the chest! (I presume it was with a steak knife.) But his instinct is still to protect her from the rest of the world, if not from himself.

There’s another story in American Salvage that reminds me of this one, “Bringing Belle Home,” where the guy will still do anything for the girl, even though she’s cruel to him, even though she doesn’t even seem to want him anymore. Love makes you crazy. That’s the only explanation.

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The Trespasser

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Can’t imagine what Google must think of me after some of the queries I ran to get source images for this comic. The worst part is that I didn’t get any relevant results for “cum stained mattress” and had to improvise anyway. 

When I told the Fox that I was gearing up to write volume II of Bonnie Jo Campbell Comics, he told me that after I finished the first one I swore I would never do anything like that again. I literally have no recollection of saying that. It’s probably like having a baby, where your brain blocks out the level of pain you experienced so you’re not too terrified to do it again. I’m not terrified at all. After spending 300 hours drawing 8 pages for Linda Addison, an estimated 56 hours to draw 14 pages sounds like a cakewalk.

It seemed important to keep the style consistent between the 2 books, meaning I’m back to hand-lettering, which is very time consuming, but didn’t take as much time as I remember it taking. At any rate, I realize that even reverting to conventions like drawing most of the lines with a massive weight of 4 pixels and making people’s eyes look like tiny dots in any face that doesn’t take up the whole panel, I can’t revert entirely to the style in which I draw last year, because I learned so much in the process of drawing the first book that no matter what I do, the drawings are going to look better.

Another thing I noticed as I wrote the text was that my brain let go of the idea of summarizing. I’m not telling the story the way I did with “My Dog Roscoe.” I think this is Linda Addison’s influence, because everything she does is about poetry, including her prose. This comic seems to have more poetry to it than the early comics in the last set. It’s about “The Trespasser” but it doesn’t exactly tell you everything that’s in “The Trespasser.” It seeks to communicates the feelings and theme of “The Trespasser.”

To my mind, it’s a story that functions through juxtaposition. There are 2 girls who never meet in person, but who are heavily influenced by the artifacts of each other’s lives, and we’re forced to compare and contrast the characters while they are comparing and contrasting themselves, so that dictated the layout of the comic. This story is really rich in symbols, too, and it was hard to choose which ones to use. In particular, Bonnie Jo spends a lot of time describing the objects moved by the 16-year-old, but I think the portrait of the 13-year-old with her gymnastics trophy surrounded by bronze animals gets at the heart of it. I didn’t realize that bronze figurines of dinosaurs and farm animals were common things to collect, but according to Google Image Search, they must be.

A lot of people think of American Salvage as being a more androcentric book, but this story feels connected to the themes of Mothers, Tell Your Daughters. Don’t worry, we’ll get to the plethora of dudes who don’t understand women soon enough.

To You, as a Woman

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I don’t think there’s anything even darkly funny about this one. 

“To You, as a Woman” may be the most difficult story in this book, the hardest luck, the saddest progression. It took a long time to see my way into the comic, and it wasn’t until I took a big step back from the second/first narrative and to a distant, plural, third that it was even possible to reframe the piece into this format. For a while it seemed insurmountable. Just like real life trauma, the story jumps around in time and emotions, jumbling an entire sequence of terrible events together so that each cut runs together while standing alone with its own bright pain, less simple to pull out the threads.

About an hour before I sat down to write the script, a woman who’s been reading these comics asked where she could buy Mothers, Tell Your Daughters, and I sent her an Amazon link, and then, because it’s my regular habit on Amazon, I clicked to see the 1- and 2-star reviews, which are usually hilarious. Not today. Here we have people wholly incapable of engaging with literature on a critical level, disguising their misogyny with crude dismissal of nuance and reality, blithely unaware of their own massive prejudices. These are the people who read a book about 16 different characters and claim that all the stories are the same, not because they are, but because they think all women are the same.

You don’t have sympathy for substance abusers, or unwed mothers, or people who receive food assistance? Maybe you should ask about the myriad, lifelong jabs of physical and emotional pain that led them to make those choices before you judge. You don’t like authors discuss rape too often? The 1 in 3 women who are sexually assaulted in their lifetimes don’t like experiencing it. And let’s face it: if you’re born into poverty and raised up in poverty and struggle through your life in poverty, the odds of being sexually assaulted are probably higher. Go read Fifty Shades of Gray and tell everyone what a remarkable piece of quality fiction it is if you think there should be happy stories about rape and you’re just the informed critic to spread the good news. This book is about the way people actually are: vulnerable, flawed, attempting, every day, to pull themselves out of the miasma of their circumstances despite the constant pain of being alive.

It’s sickening, how easily some people manage to look at huge segments of the human population and decide those people aren’t human. You expect that kind of ignorance in the comments section of YouTube, or Reddit. Not from an Amazon book review. I wonder, what circumstances in your life taught you to be so self-centered, so casually cruel, so unwilling to exhibit empathy? Why do you read literature at all if you’re only content with work that reinforces your narrow beliefs? Isn’t the point of literature to better understand the human condition, one point of view at the time?

 

Silver Bullet

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I gave up yearning for normalcy decades ago, but sleeping at night would be nice. 

It’s been a weird week.

Yesterday I went to the store to buy my favorite kind of chocolate–organic, fair trade, sustainable, yadda, yadda, yadda–and some angel had left a coupon for my brand tucked into the shelf display! Hooray! But then I ate all the, and that made me sad. Contemplating the absence of chocolate pushed me over the edge. And that’s where this comic came from.

 

The History of Rock and Roll

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Everyone wants to feign short term memory loss about all that weed they smoked in college, but no one smokes that much weed.

When I see Facebook pictures of some of the people I went to high school and college with holding their children, looking quite responsible and PTA-friendly, it makes me snicker. I remember what you did! You were crazy in the ’90s! And now you have to look your kids in the eye and tell them not to do the exact same things you had so much fun doing? How?

So this is a long-running joke I have with The Man, and it’s what we actually do, every time the subject comes up, whether we’re listening to old music, watching old movies, or reading current events. History of a brilliant career, et cetera, et cetera, “but then they took too much heroin and died.” I’m absolutely sure these kids will never, ever take heroin. Hooray!

For this comic, I attempted to draw 13 celebrities, most of whom came out looking more or less like themselves. In panel 3, on the left, is Nancy Reagan, the First Lady who famously implored the nation’s youth to “Just say no” to drugs while simultaneously working to ensure that the President of the United States never made any important decisions without first consulting a psychic.

To her right is Bristol Palin, the world’s most fertile argument against abstinence only education.

The dead music and theatrical personalities in panel 4 are Sid Vicious, Kurt Cobain, River Phoenix, Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, John Belushi, Jim Morrison, Charlie Parker, and Billie Holliday. They didn’t all actually die of heroin overdoses, but they arguably all took too much heroin and they all died. If I had more space, I would have also drawn Dee Dee Ramone, Philip Seymour Hoffman, and Cory Monteith, at least.

Finally, in panel 8, Keith Richards, who has taken all the psychoactive substances known to science and lived a long, productive, successful life.