Tag Archives: violence

Bringing Belle Home

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So, yeah, I imagine Belle looks a lot like Kristen Chenoweth.

This one was hard! There aren’t a lot of visual symbols to work with besides Thomssen’s perception of Belle as a physical being, and cutting down to the bones of the story required a brutal touch. There’s love and there’s domestic violence and there’s terrible childhood memories and there’s self-medication. It’s about a guy who tries so hard to love but he can’t seem to get it right. She tries to tell him that she’ll never really let him love her, but she’ll keep taking from him. He can’t hear it anyway. They’re both so out of touch. They’re both broken beyond repair.

I spent way too long drawing those liquor bottles in panel 2. The Cuervo isn’t mentioned in the story but the other brands are, and I needed one more bottle to fill the panel properly. The juxtaposition of the “We can change” quote in panel 4 and the implication in the story about Belle keeping the change and never tipping the bartender was unintentional, but now it pleases me. The image in the last panel could have also been Belle sitting in Thomssen’s living room with a broken window behind her and the snow blowing in. She’ll still be wearing canvas shoes with no socks and Thomssen’s sweater with no coat because she doesn’t know how to protect herself from the cold.

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Family Reunion

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I wasn’t sure if I was really going to draw that final panel, but I drew it.

As I recall, there are a couple of pieces of American Salvage that appear in Bonnie Jo’s second novel, Once upon a River, which is apparently being made in a movie even as we speak, and the events of “Family Reunion” are a big part of Once upon a River, which I guess means that in short order we’re going to have a feature film in which a teenage girl shoots off the tip of her rapist’s weapon.

I guess America is seriously ripe for this kind of honesty in cinema. If more rapists got their dicks shot off, maybe there would be fewer rapists in the world.

It’s really only a couple of pixels, but it did seem like a kind of far-out thing to draw. Then again, so are gutted deer and spit roast pigs. And this is the 4th comic in a row that features a gun.

In the story, Marylou finally recognizes the violence that was done to her through the metaphor of a gutted deer. The word “rape” doesn’t appear in the story, and there’s no particular recollection of the actual event, although she describes the details of the moments before and after. The pig makes a vile, but apt metaphor as well.

Selective mutism is a not completely uncommon response to trauma among children. There’s a certain degree of power in willful silence. The way Marylou experiences the world, jumping back and forth between current and past events, is also a result of trauma. In illustrating the story, I jumbled up the images, quotes, and captions, too. Everything is mixed up. But Marylou has a moment of clarity at last. It’s a satisfying ending, the kind of justice that we so rarely see in the real world.

Happy Valentine’s Day 2017

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Like I always say, you never really know what goes on inside other people’s relationships.

You know how I sometimes let my husband write my comic and then I just illustrate it? This comic was not my idea. It was not my idea. It was his idea. The Man’s. The Man thought of this. Not me. Now that we’ve got that out of the way, Happy Valentine’s Day. I guess we’re not exchanging gifts this year for financial reasons, so this comic is our gift to each other.

I wanted him to pose for the reference photo with me but he refused.

You have no idea what goes on in other people’s relationships.

This would have have been an insomnia comic if he hadn’t come up with this idea. I had a couple scripts in varying degrees of completion but none of them were going to get finished before I passed out from exhaustion. Good thing he’s sometimes timely. And funny. And I love him. Happy Valentine’s Day.

A Brief Treatise on Nazi Punching

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I’m not saying that anyone deserves to be punched, but you have to admit, with all that hatred hanging out right where everyone can see, they’re kind of asking for it.

Sorry. I’m an angry person. I’ve always been an angry person. Since I was socialized female, I got to suppress my rage instead of learning to express it in healthy ways. And I do believe in non-violence , but I learned in yoga teacher training that non-violence includes non-violence to the self, which means that sometimes you have to defend yourself rather than acquiescing to immediate threats. And sometimes, the best defense is a good offense.

The Rabbit says, “People tell you who they are.” If someone tells you that they share Adolf Hitler’s beliefs, you should believe them and act accordingly. For example, you could take action to prevent them from annexing Sudetenland and committing genocide. And no, punching Richard Spencer in the face is not the only solution, but you can’t deny that it is an action, or that it makes an impact.

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?

 

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.

If Stock Photos Could Talk

 

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These things had to be said.

Some weird things are going on in my country. We’re having a difficult time being respectful to one another, and it seems like the value of human life has diminished in the eyes of many. People are hurting, but everybody hurts, and really, hurting other people doesn’t help us to hurt any less.

I try to answer hatred with love, but, admittedly, a lot of the time I fail at that and the best I can muster is sarcasm. At least I’m really good at sarcasm. But if I had 100% control over my responses, I would go with love every time.

For example: I saw the Dalai Lama speak in Tucson about 10 years ago. While we were queueing up to get into the convention center, we had to pass a protestor holding a large sign declaring that the Dalai Lama was going to hell. This upset everyone who read it, and no one really knew the right response. We all sort of uncomfortably shifted our gaze away from this person and tried–unsuccessfully, because he was also yelling–to ignore him.

Later, in his talk, the Dalai Lama discussed his own encounter with some protestors in Europe, carrying signs angrier and more virulent than the one we had seen outside. But he didn’t ignore them. He bowed to them. And they were so–surprised? enchanted? shamed?–that they bowed back.

That’s who I want to be. I want to be the person who bows to my detractor, because I know that their anger steals from them, not from me, but that my love builds us both, and that ultimately, there is nothing between me and anyone else on this planet. We’re all the same, once we look past the surface.

Anyway, yesterday was a difficult day. I couldn’t think of anything funny on my own, so I Googled “hilarious stock photos” and captioned the 4 most ridiculous ones.