Just finished this page of a longer and more ambitious Cyrus story than before, which I've now resumed since finishing LULU Chapter 4. This one's getting no greys or colors. This is the completed page.
He's always fun to draw. It had been so long since I'd done him I'd forgotten.
Click image below to enlarge.
This story and art (c)2015 John Linton Roberson.
Uncle Cyrus created by John E. Williams and John Linton Roberson
HANNIBAL: Magnificent But Some Minor Quibbles (Spoilers Maybe)
So often it's the case: when I discover something wonderful, if it's still current, it soon dies.
I came to HANNIBAL as it was entering its final season, and fell in love with it rather quickly. Just the same, I'm glad in some ways it was cancelled: it seemed to free Bryan Fuller to really go all the way with no fear of ruining characters he might need later, culminating in one of the most perfect conclusions I think I've ever seen on a network show. The show, pun intended, had guts. It pushed limits not just in content but even more in emotional intensity (I'd say it rivals TWIN PEAKS for that) and throughout its run seems to have been a taunt to almost every other network show that this is how good TV can be. And overall, I like this show's treatment of Harris' concepts better than every other one--including Harris' own work. But that's not to say it's without flaws, so here are a few. (the Siouxsie song that popped up by surprise in the final episode, her first in 8 years, is not one of those) I think my only beef with the show is illustrated by the lack of backstory for Francis Dolarhyde/the Red Dragon, which is puzzling given that he has a lot of backstory in RED DRAGON, more than Hannibal himself. He's a complex and somewhat difficult character that makes no sense if you don't know about the abuse he suffered at his grandma's hands throughout his childhood. Instead, we only know he had a harelip which left a scar, and that's supposed to be enough to explain why he'd go that crazy. We see him twisting and going mad in his room alone but we have no backstory. So he's a very scary killer, but still just a killer, like a monster, like a vampire or something. This is always a danger inherent in Harris' material, and you could argue this is a central flaw of the series (and really, this goes all the way back to SILENCE OF THE LAMBS), that serial killers are like supervillains, that somehow their madness gives them superpowers, that it's like some cult or philosophy.
Instead of saying this is a fractured person with something missing, in this case because of torment and abuse that made him a monster. Without that you lose complexity. As was emphasized in one of the oldest adaptations of this cycle.
In MANHUNTER we see Graham unstable, vulnerable. But we also see him able to compartmentalize it. As a child, he feels badly for him: someone took an innocent child and turned them into a monster, he says.
As an adult he despises him: he kills whole families to feed puerile fantasies. And Graham can hold on to the need to act with that. We see him absorb it and then throw it off once it's getting too deep. He runs away from Lecter when that creeps in.
Not this Will, who I actually still like a lot and find fascinating. He's like an open wound, all the time. He seems to have no real arc--he just wants to die. He has no will Hannibal does not impart to him. Out of love and pity.
I may though just be describing it, not criticizing it. Because it works, anyway. And oh my god, that epilogue.
(note: the seed of this was a conversation with Jesse Baker) ___________________
For hours in the alleyway Ricky slowly went mad as he realized the preacher hadn't been bluffing. "I love you," squeaked every bloody chunk of the fresh corpse, cut into a thousand pieces as promised. "I love you," over and over again, no matter what he did. In a voice like Jiminy Cricket.
He took them all home and cut them up further but the din of the chorus only grew stronger, stronger.
"We love you, we love you," and the pitch grew higher and higher the smaller the pieces got, till he could take it no more and put it all in a blender.
Then he dumped the mess down the toilet.
But soon it came again. "I love you," it howled in a sickly-sweet warble through the pipes.
It was then that Ricky realized the terror would not end till he accepted Jesus.
At last chapter 4 is done! I'm quite sorry it's taken as long as it has, but life got in the way. (as well as an essay for a book on Dave Sim that's to be published in the near future by Sequart) So now we're back to serializing, and a new page will be released each Friday, starting with this one a little early. (click page to enlarge) And THIS SICKNESS 8, featuring this, Suzy Spreadwell, and the return of Uncle Cyrus, as well as a few surprise guests, will be coming in the near future.
And if you haven't gotten book 1 in print or digital yet, or read the reviews, testimonials and interviews, why then, please click here for all about that.
Also, a Patreon page is coming soon. Keep posted for details.
I was born Jan. 22 1969. This demon was my first look at a president. A fine inoculation against believing them.
Reading(well, technically, listening as it's an audiobook) NIXONLAND, one thing strikes me: that there is no exaggeration in saying his term was terrifying and took NO time whatsoever to become so. That we are all living in the fractured America he deliberately and carefully made and may never be able to escape; that Nixon poisoned America forever. But especially in his own time. He despised us all. Even his friends were only that because they were useful tools, as with every psychopath. He was a truly evil man, and that is a vast understatement only underscored every time we find out more about him. No details ever make him look better no matter how hard you look. We were lesser for letting him be president. My friend Marc, a socialist activist, rarely among "revolutionaries" is careful about who he calls a "fascist" and tries to use it only when it strictly applies. As am I, and for the same reason: trivialize a word enough and it becomes useless. And fascist DOES have a specific meaning. Most of what we call that now may be authoritarian but is not strictly "fascist." (there are equally bad things that have different names) But Nixon? No, that's EXACTLY what he was, at least in technique--but in fascism technique and intent are one. Nixon was our fascist president, and he tore great chunks out of our souls. The fucker was nearly Darkseid. Or, given which one is real and actually destroyed millions of lives, Darkseid is nearly Nixon. Darkseid embodied the concept of Nixon, how he made you feel in that time. The world as nothing but endless war, control, humiliation, submission, and hate. But above all, control. I knew much of this story before, having been obsessed with Nixon pretty much my entire life--the first few years of my life coincide with his presidency from its start. But Perlstein supplies a lot of context and details that make it all fresh, and worse, again. Nixon is a lesson we all need to remember, and he is also a curse upon us. I'm not talking about Watergate as such--though that's even more of what I mean--I'm talking about everything he did in his first term that we only know BECAUSE of Watergate. The man was willing to exterminate his opposition. In fact, it seems that Nixon NEVER considered a decent option even once--he went straight to "kick 'em in the nuts, make them bleed," every. Single. Time. First. Time. He did not seem to be able to conceive any option not based on causing pain. Or maybe he was just a sadist, and now that he had America by the nuts, he did not care about the pretense of considering any other option. He organized lumpenproletariat to streetfight. He used the power of the state in collusion with corporations to destroy radicals and, in fact, everyone who was not specifically pledged as loyal to him, and even then you were not safe. He gave tacit permission and overt encouragement to all law enforcement in America to beat and shoot dissenters in some cases no older than 20. He sent Kissinger to wreck Johnson's peace talks with North Vietnam in 1968 (saying "if you wait till November, you may get a better deal") just to make sure he won the election, and then even more Americans and Vietnamese died, for many more years, for...no real reason.
He was certainly at the least a totalitarian, and imagine if he had ended the war in his term and stayed president. Imagine what he would have done.
Because though his massive domestic war on his own people was linked to the war, the main thing was that Nixon wanted complete control from word one, whether there had been a war or no. Because he was a bitter, truly hateful, dark, dark paranoid man who seemed not to have any humanity in him but the weakest, nastiest parts of being human. He wiped out any notion of consensus. The paradigms of polarization he created are with us to this day; 70-year-olds still warping our lives over a 45-year-old argument. He was terrifying, I am reminded by this, more so than we already knew. That he was removed from office was the luckiest moment in American history. There truly never was, before or after, anything as dark as he in that building.
________________ Except of course. Dick. Cheney. Who learned it all in the master's lap. And was president,and to this day continues to reopen every wound that may have healed and shit in it whenever possible. (By the way, why not watch Dick Cheney watch some TV in 2001? Kicking back with his feet up.) And by the way, whatever the faults of the counterculture, it was still far, far better than having anything to do with the psychopathically, murderously square culture of the time. These people would have killed you to preserve the world as seen in GREEN ACRES. But it can never be said enough:
Richard Nixon was a fucking monster, and that is what it looks like when a true monster is in the Oval Office. The only thing in the government more frightening than him in his time was J. Edgar Hoover, whose infection we also still live with in some ways that are even worse. ___________________
New Sketch: Suzy Spreadwell, Dreamin' of the Devil (NSFW, UPDATED)
New rough sketch, which I might make more finished later, of Suzy Spreadwell, with a familiar motif. I do intend to run this one into the ground. This is prep stuff for a scene written for chapter 3, so yes, this gets even more wrong.
Your Random UK Comedy For Today #19: Chris Morris - BLUE JAM + Some LULU All the episodes of Chris Morris' cult radio trauma, apparently with the songs in between the sketches removed. To be listened to alone, late at night, hiding under your covers with agoraphobia. Humor from the abyss, and it's looking at you. Giggling. Still too busy to blog, but here are some LULU bits I've just done.
SO! Not much blogging. Where have I been? Hard at work on completing the next chapter of LULU--as well as assembling the next THIS SICKNESS, which will include that, Suzy, Cyrus, and maybe even a little Emily Kaplan. Also wrote an essay on Dave Sim and Cerebus for an upcoming Sequart book, and then here's this silly thing I just sketched. Might ink it later. (click to expand)
The Sony Hack: Seriously, Stop Pissing Your Pants, America (UPDATED)
...in their initial public statement, whoever hacked Sony made no mention of North Korea or the film. And in an email sent to Sony by the hackers, found in documents they leaked, there is also no mention of North Korea or the film. The email was sent to Sony executives on Nov. 21, a few days before the hack went public. Addressed to Sony Pictures CEO Michael Lynton, Chairwoman Amy Pascal and other executives, it appears to be an attempt at extortion, not an expression of political outrage or a threat of war. "[M]onetary compensation we want," the email read. "Pay the damage, or Sony Pictures will be bombarded as a whole. You know us very well. We never wait long. You'd better behave wisely."
Oh Jesus. Are we really this stupid? Looks like Charlie Brooker is a prophet.
I'm already sick of the likes of the "New Alec Baldwin Now That The Old One's Broken", George Clooney, intoning pompously about what we "lost" with the Sony hack, as though the United States itself had spread its ass wide for an enemy. As though we gave up our fucking nuke codes.
It was not the US. It was Sony.
Who had an IT dept of 3 people and had laid off most of the rest of that staff, who left their passwords on a single document called "Passwords.doc," on a system that wasn't even encrypted. Are you kidding me? It may not even BE North Korea. For all the evidence they have (which Wired has already explained is damn skimpy, and NK's involvement was a conclusion jumped to long before any kind of evidence) it could turn out to be one very amused kid in a basement somewhere, laughing his ass off at all of you.
Update: and considering North Korea lives entirely by people believing its empty threats--that's how it gets foreign aid, for god's sake--why then, given this worked, would they now deny it? Do you think North Korea would miss an opportunity to seem scary and competent at something? Are you that ready to believe anything you're told? No wonder you never stop our involvement in a single war, Mr. and Ms. America.
You provide the prose poems, I'll provide the war. - Charles Foster Kane
It was Sony. And what did they give up? What did we lose?
One fucking movie. One stupid Seth Rogen comedy. That is all. Sony does not guard your security you're so worried about. Sony has nothing to do with the government. Sony is not even a US company.
There is no reason to believe many others would be stupid enough to leave their systems so insecure(especially not now) and again, these are private corporations, not the nation. We have not lost free speech. One corporation has shown its cowardice.
I just found out from my future stepdaughter, who's 11: kids don't know Sony is a Japanese company. I wonder how many others don't. Everyone seems to think Sony is some beloved institution, some American Mom & Pop corporation.
The honor of Sony is not the honor of the US, and we have none anyway, as you may have noticed from the torture report this distracted you from.
Although Hollywood does serve an important American political function in that it keeps most people in a useful state of childish gullibility, easily manipulated by emotional narratives even if shot through with plot holes.
And do you think this is the first time a movie has been repressed by the studios for any number of reasons? And do you think this was anything but the exhibitors getting scared that people might stay away from the theatres to see other films on Xmas day?
Pick your battles. Get a grip.
Mere hackers probably did this, and because it was easy to do it. Perhaps even members of their laid-off IT staff, and why hasn't that possibility even been broached?
Sony is embarrassed. But now Hollywood smells an opportunity and will try to use this to its benefit, Clooney and Sorkin setting the tone. What you need to watch for is Hollywood calling this its 9-11 & trying to push through a new SOPA-like law to finally yoke that pesky web. A plan the Sony emails indicate they already were trying with other means--this might make it easier. That's why they want you to think this is a crisis.
Personally, I only can be grateful for whatever spares us more Seth Rogen films. But you'll see it, don't worry. It's not like GREED, which the studios actually destroyed. Because they could.
Because that's what happens if you do "art" through a corporation. It's theirs, they can do as they like. Sorry you now find there's two edges to that. If you want free speech, take it, but the only free speech here was that of a corporation and I do not cry for them or for Hollywood. At all.
My bigger issue is how this proves how quickly Americans believe what they're told, especially if war is a possibility. We are an ignorant, stupid people and the most childish "empire" in history.
UPDATE: The hackers now saythe Interview can be released. Yeah, sure North Korea would risk an international incident just over this and say that. You all got played.
If I'm bothered by anything, it's that this scuttled the making of the film of Guy Delisle's excellent graphic documentary about his actual time in actual North Korea, PYONGYANG. But you know what? Hackers have a much harder time killing comics, so buy the book right here and consume something far better than the Interview would have been anyway.
UPDATE: On a couple more viewings, I think this is a little better than I say below and it's fairly well-done, but in general I do think this film is far too much gossip and far too little of Sontag's mind. So I will let this review stand unrevised, because this was my first, unguarded reaction, and it follows:
Saw REGARDING SUSAN SONTAG last night. Well-done enough but I found it shallow. The movie is gossipy and (with only about 90 min to work with) spends far too much time on her ex-lovers and the issue of her never publicly coming out. You barely get any idea of her real achievement and not nearly enough discussion of her work or what it meant, leaving you with a feeling it was "inspiring" or something.
It spends an awful lot of time trying to stick a label on someone who resisted being boxed into ANY labels her whole life, something I admire her for. Ultimately I feel it suffocates her.
Of course it's important to talk about her relationships and her sexuality should not be glossed over at all. It's an important part of her life. But sometimes the film comes off as revenge by the lesbian community at Sontag for refusing to be defined by that or any group. (it's not like she ever wanted to talk much about her personal life anyway) Had she come out she'd have been tagged "lesbian writer Susan Sontag," and her work would have mostly been defined by its relation to gay culture rather than that plus all other culture. (something they're trying to do to her now, this film being part of that) Sontag belongs to all of us and her influence is much bigger than just that. Considering how furious she got whenever introduced as "woman writer" or once (by all-time asshole chauvinist Norman Mailer, and you can see this in the film TOWN BLOODY HALL), "lady writer," I think one can conclude she mainly simply wanted to be considered a "writer" full stop. And why not?
If you know AIDS AND ITS METAPHORS you can't say she abandoned gays. But perhaps she wanted to just be Sontag. (also, though it was mainly women after her divorce, she would more properly be called "bisexual." Why so scared of that word?) In any case, all that would be fine if we got just as much serious talk of her work, but there's so little compared to what there could be.
And it really makes me mad they let so much of her early years be described by a bitter, cackling ex-lover who states without regret she punched Sontag in the face out of jealousy and left a huge bruise. There was a party right after with Allen Ginsburg attending, she says, and he asked, "Why did you hit her? She's younger and prettier than you." And..."That's why," she says she replied. Again, no regret. Presented uncritically. I've admired Sontag since I was in high school; she's a huge influence on my thinking. So hearing that she'd done that to Sontag and seemed to think she was right to do so, frankly, I wanted to punch HER in the face. I think it was seeing her chuckle about it.
To me, remembering what my friend Angel sometimes went through with her girlfriends, I'm reminded how unseriously a lot of lesbians often take abuse within their own community, a real and common problem. This woman's interviews really left me uneasy.
Perhaps had it been longer there could have been more that would actually interest someone not already familiar with Sontag in her work. This isn't that film, sadly. Maybe next time.
A special Thanksgiving treat: Bernardo Bertolucci's grand, messy but incredibly lovely socialist historical epic melodrama, and one of my very favorite films. Not least of which for the brief but memorable role of Stefania Casini, whom readers of this blog & my comics know as the model for my version of Wedekind's Lulu.
It's true the film is very sentimental and over-the-top, sometimes even risking being quite silly. But I think socialists deserve their GONE WITH THE WIND too. Anyway, I like its excessiveness. At least Bertolucci was trying something big and worth doing. Also makes a good complement to THE CONFORMIST.
This is the English version. Watch it before it's gone. I'm sure whoever put it up will be banned quickly. Happy Thanksgiving!
And now a treat for Halloween--My favorite version of Dracula, by Philip Saville & Gerald Savory, which I first saw when I was 8(as mentioned here), starring Louis Jourdan. Any adaptation of Dracula will always be one removed from the original, because the original is an epistolary(told through journal entries, letters, and that kind of thing). This one however manages to be closer to Stoker than any other version. And is quite scary. Also kind of hot. This film has been somewhat of an obsession for me since I was a kid.
It's BBC 1970s, which means it's film outside, video inside. But like many, I think horror works better when it looks cheaper, and in any event they do a fantastic job with the means they have. And I actually like the video effects. Also excellent are Frank Finlay as Van Helsing, Judi Bowker as Mina, Jack Shepherd as the best Renfield since Dwight Frye--and maybe better--and my first movie crush, Susan Penhaligon as Lucy Westenra. Quincy is played with the worst American accent you've ever heard, but try to look past that. Check it out!
Creative Advice Don't look down. You want to, I know. And it's understandable. You feel you should take in the whole experience. It would be easy and quick to look down, surely.
And if you don't, how could you really understand the yawning immensity you're overcoming? How can you really feel the awe you should so you know how brave you are, how great your achievement is while you're having it? If you're really as brave as you think you are, you should be able to keep your footing anyway, and if you can't, isn't it all a fraud? If you don't look down then it's just a walk like any other, and couldn't anyone do that? But you're not trying to prove anything. You decided to walk across that rope, that's all. So don't look down till you have.
I saw ABC's very thorough adaptation of Steinbeck's EAST OF EDEN when it was first broadcast--in a censored and shorter version--when I was 12. And I had the goddamn biggest crush on Jane Seymour for a while after this, till she killed that with DR. QUINN. Hell, you tell me who looks better in those kind of clothes, and only Helen Mirren has a better evil smirk. I think I've always crushed on both for many of the same reasons, come to think of it.
But Jane Seymour as Kathy is one of the sexiest villainesses ever. And she is pure, total evil in Steinbeck, quite explicitly--but here you come to understand(without justifying) why she goes down the road she does, even if she does do evil things to get there. It's more nuanced. And to this day this miniseries is one of my favorite things.
I only saw the better-known Elia Kazan version with James Dean much later, and could not understand why it was considered a classic except that it was one of James Dean's only films. And I still like Sam Bottoms (sadly now deceased) better as Cal. The whole cast is great, and the sweep and scope of the thing is mythic and yet down to earth. This one more or less IS the novel, while that other one is about the last sixth of it, and not really very good.
So, let's see. Was Mike Brown shot for being black and teenage in front of a paranoid Ferguson cop?
Oh no, the cops say, it was for stealing cigars when the store called us about a robbery.
Except the store never called them about said robbery, nor now do the cops claim he was involved in one. And Officer Darren Wilson was unaware of Brown being connected with any robbery. All he saw was a young man with no respect for traffic planners and took action, brave fighter for law that he is.
And it took a whole week of their making war on their own citizens for having a problem with their having shot a young man who hadn't hurt anyone to even float that bullshit story, or indeed even a pretense of needing to explain why. But then they had more, because we all love a story. Robbery didn't take? Well...
Tomorrow they'll say they didn't kill him at all, because like all black teens he is in fact a zombie. Or a vampire. Or a zombiepire.
And I just think about how cops take it when you keep changing your story like you have no respect for their intelligence.
Meanwhile, now that the militarized, reactionary Ferguson PD is off the job and the state PD are there to protect the citizens, here is how things are tonight. Here are said citizens, protesters, guarding a local business from being looted.
So: I'm in the Catalog for the "Wedekind's World: Theater, Eros, Provocation" Exhibition in Munich (Updated) So I mentioned there was other news connected with LULU that I'd tell you about.
Last week the exhibition manager of the Deutsches Theatermuseum in Munich asked me for permission to use two pages from LULU in their exhibition catalog for a show they're doing on Frank Wedekind, the author of the LULU plays. Obviously, I said yes. See below for the pages they asked to use. One is from the story, another is a character design sketch from the appendix. (click each to enlarge)
A pretty big retrospective, it seems. This is rather an honor, even if I'm only a tiny part of this and won't get to see it. LULU
may not be well-known here, but it certainly is in Germany, so to be
included at all in a show about Wedekind is extremely flattering. Of
course, it may have some bearing that there's not much more of him represented
in comics--mine is the first and only attempt to do a full comics
adaptation of the plays. Other than that I only know of Alan Moore and
Kevin O'Neill's brief two-page treatment of the conclusion of PANDORA'S BOX. But hey. I'm grateful they thought of me for whatever reason.
exhibition takes place in late July to mark the 150th birthday of
Wedekind (July 24), which I had no idea was coming up. The title of the
exhibition is "Wedekinds Welt - Theater, Eros, Provokation"
(note: site is in German), and apparently it will be covering many
versions of his work over the last century, as well as works inspired by
his, such as Guido Crepax and his fixation on Louise Brooks, the most
famous Lulu of all.
And speaking of weird fixations on legendary sexy actresses, they say they will be speaking to some degree (not at length, I'm a minor one of many much more worthy adapters of Wedekind covered) about the connection of my version of Lulu to the great and beautiful Italian actress Stefania Casini. As most of you know--because I never shut up about it in interviews--I based my version visually, and to some degree spiritually, on Casini. Not precisely--I think I only relied on photoref directly for one or two panels--but just attempting to catch something of her look and attitude, imagining how she might have played the part. I even had the pleasure of telling, and thanking, her recently, and she's...flattered. Which is something I think is kinda neat. Anyway, there's something for people who think I never talk about anything nice. And looks as though all that money I spent on those years at the Goodman School at DePaul went to something for once. Well, not really. Oh, and here's the latest inked (pre-lettering & greys) page of the next chapter.
Update: just got the exhibition catalog. Very nice, big book, and I'm on 2.5 pages of it I can't read, because it's in German! But a great honor nevertheless. Also nice to be right next to Guido Crepax in the book.
"Eternity with Beelzebub, and all his hellish instruments of death, will be a picnic compared to five minutes with me and this pencil." - E. Blackadder, 1791 Questionable
words & pictures from John Linton Roberson