Tag Archives: refugees

Bringing Home the Bones

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The family the exhumes together…blooms together? Zooms together? Resumes together?

That’s a wrap on Women & Other Animals. The great sense of accomplishment I feel is only mitigated by the fact that I still have to draw 4 more supplemental pages to finish this comic book before I convert the pages to black and white, remove the boilerplate text, and send it off to the printer. Along with all the proofread text from the blog. After which I have to prepare 15-20 minutes of remarks on the subject of “I turned every single short story in all of Bonnie Jo Campbell’s short fiction collections into comics” for this presentation I’m giving to the Society for the Study of Midwestern Literature.

Whew.

For “Bringing Home the Bones,” I decided to use Susanna Campbell, Bonnie Jo’s mother, as the model for Charlotte, except I made Charlotte frown in every picture, which Susanna does not do. The more I thought about it, the more right it seemed. First of all, this whole project started with Susanna, with a comic I wrote about Bonnie Jo and Susanna, called “Understanding,” about how sometimes even your mother doesn’t understand you. And second, of course, there is a lot of Susanna in these books. Most people’s mothers influence their lives a lot, but Susanna, I think, influences the work a lot.

And then, only after I worked through all that and finished the page did I realize that I’ve come full circle. This comic actually ends with the line that Charlotte knows the hope of “being understood by her daughters at last.” Maybe your mother doesn’t understand you, but you can understand your mother, and you’ll feel better about the rough edges if you do. I don’t know why that is, but I feel like it’s often the case.

Good thing I’d already worked out how to draw people doing things in the dark when I drew “Storm Warning” or panel 5 might have defeated me tonight and I’d be a day behind schedule again. That ice cream maker in panel 4 is pretty sweet. We had a hand crank ice cream maker when I was a kid but it was plastic and made in the ’80s.

Beyond that, this is just another great story. I could compare many elements of it to Alice Walker’s “Everyday Use.” You’ve got the mom still living the old way, and the daughter who stayed, and the daughter who left and embraced the new and can’t understand the value of the things to which the mother clings. But in “Bringing Home the Bones,” the daughter does come to understand, a little, and in return the mother gives her something back, that piece of herself she had withheld. Not the actual memory, I don’t think, but some emotional availability that she felt compelled to keep hidden away since her parents’ deaths.

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We Have the Lowest Hanging Fruit

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My administration has the best solutions. You’ve never seen any solutions like we’re solving problems all the time, problems that we didn’t create ourselves. No, the Democrats did that when we weren’t looking. Sneaky! But I fixed it. Myself. Tremendous.

Political cartoons were killing me so I stopped but here we are again. Stupid stuff. Blaming the minority party for your unpopular decisions and then very slightly amending those terrible choices and patting yourself on the back for telling yourself not to do the thing you decided to do before you finally found one action so reprehensible that it offended the people who were totally cool with the misogyny and racism.

Still slouching toward the Third Reich, as it were. I’m scared. I’m scared all the time.

That’s a weird-looking bar. I’m tired.

The Weight of the World

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There’s no second punchline, because there is no first punchline. It’s not funny.

Sometimes, words just form in your head and you don’t have any choice but to write them down. I’ve gotten whole phaetons this way, whole pages at times, without any conscious thought. The other day, contemplating the violence, hatred, and pain that seems so prevalent in the 24-hours news cycle, these words fell out of my pen. Well, you can’t make a comic about that, says I, but in my experience, people love depressing comic. And this is the most depressing one I’ve ever written. So it should have at least as much staying power as the one about my post-traumatic stress disorder.

I don’t want to be the person whose privilege is to look away, but the subject matter of this comic was hard to draw. The trash picking kids in India for the first panel were the worst. After I drew it, I went back and erased about 10 pixels around each of them, because I couldn’t stand to have the drawing of trash touching these cartoon kids. The dead African men were a little easier, because they were already dead at least, and not likely to suffer anymore. And then the Syrian refugees…all those Syrian refugees. So many homeless babies. What right do I have to live in a house and eat food, let alone draw comics and write speculative fiction novels, when people are in so much pain all the time?

Meanwhile, so many people around me are going through personal turmoil, or working hard for causes like trans rights and Black Lives Matter, or just trying to overcome heartbreak or pay their bills or not be hurt by strangers on the internet or toxic family or bad relationships.

But that’s the thing about myself I’ve known for a long time. At heart, I am a cynic, full of darkness and nihilism, but I found long ago that the only way for me to exist was to wear a cloak of optimism, to cover myself in rainbows and announce that everything was going to be all right. I wouldn’t be here now, writing this blog, if I hadn’t done this. People freak the hell out if ever they see what’s under the cloak. They don’t like to hear me tell the truth.

This is a true story: in 1997, I was driving from Yellow Springs, Ohio, to Deerfield, Illinois. I had lived in Yellow Springs off and on for 5 years, and had just left behind me 2 of my best friends, the guy depicted as the Bear in Dragon Comics, and another guy who’s too complex to be summed up as 1 single animal, but I think he would be happy if I called him the Faun. They hugged me goodbye as I hopped into my moving van, and as soon as I pulled out of sight, I burst into tears. I was driving toward something good, but I felt such grief over what I was leaving behind.

The road merged onto the highway, Interstate 94, a road I knew well and had driven many times, a road that would take me right to my parents’ house. I looked up and saw the sky above the tree line, and a brilliant circumhorizontal arc splayed out across the clouds. This awakened in me the memory of a dream I had had about 15 years earlier, as a very little girl, about a goddess appearing to a group of children in a rainbow made of clouds, and instantly, I stopped crying. It was as if the universe had opened up to me, or at least one single page of it. This sign was telling me my purpose in life, why I had been left on this planet that always seemed so alien and hostile to me. I was here to serve as an avatar of Aphrodite: the acolyte of love and beauty.

This answered a lot of questions for me, specifically about why I was so unhappy all the time. Depression: anger turned inward. Because I was here with a very specific job to do, but it seemed as if the legions working against my cause were so much more numerous. Serving love and beauty is easy in paradise, but it’s a great and terrible work in a world where so many serve hatred and ugliness. I was angry because the opposition was so great, and I had no choice in my work.

Anyway, the world is terrible. And I keep drawing comics.