Thinking about things...

Postby Calamity Jon on Wed Sep 12, 2001 1:51 am

Hey Lee, how you doing?<P>I was going to pose this to you in email, but lord knows the question could probably benefit from a little public airing. So out of curiosity, are you having the same problems I am in continuing the strip after the attacks?<P>Both of us do strips that deal with, perhaps tangentially, death in its most defeatable form ... as gallows humor. Though we approach that from different angles, as I like to think of Jeremy as a celebration of an awkward childhood viewed through that lens, and Chopping Block as an amazingly clever and charismatic take on both the absurdity and the depths of human preoccupation, along with some excellently timed gag humor.<P>But death has never been more real to anyone in America as it is now, at least to my mind. I know I've experienced it before, as has almost everyone in some capacity: pets, loved ones, friends, and even strangers whose plight strikes us somehow. But I doubt that anyone in this nation has experienced it on this scale before ... nor have the implications been so personal.<P>If you'll forgive me a ritual killer analogy, it's like being locked in a room with a hundred people, and above you on a balcony is a man with a gun, a single bullet, and the will to use it. Knowing that one person in that room will be shot at, might be hit, might die ... you wonder if it's you, if it's someone you know, someone you care about ... and when it will happen. Or even if. <P>I forced myself to finish this week's strip on time. If I hadn't been removed from my office early in the day, I wouldn't have had the time, simply because I spent too much time obsessing over the news reports, rather than simply drawing. I had a hard time finishing it. I honestly didn't want to. I couldn't tell if it was inappropriate, considering the little dead boy who stars in my strip. I had lost that perspective.<P>I know it's important to laugh at death, because by that process you're filling life with laughter. It's also important to respect it, and between these two very instinctive reactions to the final inevitability, you have all the elements of life - love, joy, sorrow, creation, union, friends, family ... I like to think Jeremy does both, respecting and laughing at death, in its odd, creepy way. I wonder if it does it enough.<P>I'm probably not ruining any surprise here, but the current "Momma" storyline ends next week on a very sad note. Seven weeks ago, plotting this storyline, I occasionally developed a few tears while writing out the final twist to the tale. I confessed to my wife feeling terribly guilty that I had to make 'my little boy' be so sad, and take his momma away from him. Now, more than ever, I want Jeremy to have his momma. I want everyone to have their mommas. I don't feel I have that right to take her away from him, just as no one has a right to take anyone's momma, or dad, or sister or brother or friend ...<P>And I don't feel I have the right to let the kids at school be afraid of him, or Sara torment him anymore, or have his limbs fall off or the mob chase him or any other dozen ignoble torments I send his way every few weeks. And I want his momma to be beautiful, to look like Ilsa Manchester. And Jeremy looks like a real boy. And they're all happy together, Jeremy, his dad, his mom ... his cat, his best friends, and we close the window to his world, and it's endless days of roofball and wrestling in the backyard and fishing forevermore ...<P>So, it's life's bittersweet pageant, and I visit it on this little Frankenstein boy. It's hard to imagine bringing even one more, single instance of calamity or chagrin to his life, simply because there's too much going around right now. It gives me this pain, like a vibrating wire through the center of my head, to think of all the gags yet coming up in the strip, and the indignities the future holds. Though I acknowledge that, like life, the show must go on ... because it is life's bittersweet nature that makes it worth living, and makes us good men and women in the first place. <P>But I'm having a hard time doing that right now.<P>How you been, chief?<P>-Jon
Really needed to get this off my chest, my apologies for overwhelming the board with this mountainous post ...
Jeremy - <A HREF="http://ape-law.com/jeremy" TARGET=_blank>http://ape-law.com/jeremy</A>
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Postby ConcreteLobotomy on Wed Sep 12, 2001 5:10 am

I can feel where you're coming from. My mother was supposed to fly to DC on an 8 00 flight from Pittsburgh. As soon as I heard about these ongoings I immediately called her cell phone. No pick up. So I left a message. I didn't know this, but she had called the school back less than an hour later to have them tell my sister and I that she was late and therefore missed her flight, was put on a later flight, and was ready to taxi when the pilot told them it was a no-go and that the airport is closing. And that she's okay and at home. However, my school chose not to tell either my sister or myself the message our mom left. So for 5 and a half hours, I moved from class to class, sometimes having to be told that there was even a bell ringing, and drew. I drew because it's an outlet. An instant unplug or off switch from the real world and anything concerning it. I didn't know what I was really drawing at the time. It started out as simple figure work like most of my drawings, but I had no preconception that this one was going to become anything at all. But as the day wore on, it began to take shape and form.<P> <IMG SRC="http://gnarg.slackworks.com/MTimages/Duty%20calls.jpg" WIDTH=400> <P>As I put the finishing touches on it this morning, I was left to wonder if something of this nature was appropriate considering how many people I know of that are going into the armed forces. Or if it's appropriate that hinted violence or an armed soldier are things that people are going to be reminded of. Or whether it's right to draw guns at all. Are my drawings innapropriate? I don't know. This thought echoed through my head for most of the morning as I dabbled with the drawing, not really wanting to finish it entirely. But I realized that it doesn't matter whether or not something like that is inappropriate. It's simply a repressentation of life. And life doesn't exist without both ends of the spectrum. Sure, it'd be great to see Jeremy grow to become something one hundred percent pure, fulfilled in every aspect of his life, from a standpoint of understanding and relating to the character. But if he were what we'd all like him to be, he wouldn't have that kind of relationship with the reader. Because no one can put themselves in the shoes of an emotionally one dimensional character. Butch, too, is a character that I'd love to see not have any problems, or misguidings, but what would he be if not for the problems he faces?<P>As much as it may faze you, and as hard as it may be to do so, I urge both of you to continue doing what you so vividly depict with both your characters. I'm currently working on a comic book entitled "Se7en Days," depicting the immediate downward spiral of society when notified by god that there is one week left before he destroys the world. I asked myself, "Is this something that people are going to want to look at, and read, and get themselves involved in, now that this tragedy has happened?" And I know I can't speak for everyone when I say this, but yes. My answer is yes. And so today, after doubting my artistic endeavors, I picked my pencil back up, and continued on. I wish you both the best of luck, and hope you both decide to take the same route as I.<P>-=ConcreteLobotomy=-<P>P.S. Jon, I haven't taken the signed Gumbo out of it's celophane once. I actually ordered myself another one simply so I could read it. Thanks again.<P>[edited to reduce image width, so text doesn't scroll off-screen---Lee]<p>[This message has been edited by lee.herold (edited 09-12-2001).]
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Postby Lee Herold on Wed Sep 12, 2001 6:11 am

My thoughts:<P>I think at this time the one thing we simply <I>cannot</I> afford to do is allow a senseless act of terrorism to dictate what we think, or do, or create, in a way that makes us second-guess ourselves. We owe it to each and every one of the heroes who died or was wounded (and they are all heroes) to take the shock, grief, and gut-wrenching nausea we all feel and focus them through an internal prism into nothing less than pure determination to continue unimpeded. We owe that to them. <P>For though the acts which took their lives were senseless, we make sense of their deaths by refusing to have the course of our lives dictated to us. Succumbing to the fear and resignation these murders were intended to inspire is akin to validating the acts of murder themselves. But we render the terrorists' point moot by saying, "You have killed our brothers and sisters, and thus made us stronger." We turn the fear back on them. And we honor those who have fallen.<P>Gallows humor and dark fiction are indeed important mechanisms we employ to insulate ourselves against that which we fear most: The mortality of ourselves and our loved ones. We can't let the bastards take that away from us. We <I>MUST</I> render their actions meaningless by refusing to stop doing what we do. It's not inappropriate. We're not mocking those who died. We're shaking our fists at the inevitable and shouting, "You may take us, but between now and then, <I>WE</I> determine what <I>WE</I> think, and there's not a damned thing you can do about it!" I'm not pretending that <I>CB</I> is any great piece of American literature, or a source of inspiration, or a rallying point of patriotism. I'm not even pretending I have anything important to say through it. I'm just saying that I wasn't questioning the appropriateness of my comic before the attacks, and I refuse to do so now in light of them.<P>And I know that if I were among the dead, I would want those who remain to draw strength from my sacrifice, and to go on with their lives. Sadder and wiser perhaps, but ultimately determined to demonstrate through persistence that they will not accept <I>anyone's</I> attempt to subjugate others through any means, especially that of fear and intimidation. <P>These terrorists are cowards. We must show them what bravery is. That's what I think, anyway.<P>Jon, we relate to Jeremy <I>because</I> of all the indignities visited upon him. Being imperfect creatures all, we seek kinship through our tribulations. We indeed pull for Jeremy to reach that idealized state (a state to which we ourselves aspire), but if he ever did, we would no longer have anything in common with him. Just like in Gumbo, when he comes back from Heaven we're sad for HIM, but it's somewhat of a relief for US that he didn't leave us behind.<P>Kevin, you're right that we use our art as catharsis. We work out our inexpressible emotions through our drawings and writing. It's a God-given gift, and if we didn't use it as an outlet, we'd be the worse for it. <P>The show, indeed, must go on. For us, and for those who were taken. And perhaps any guilt we may feel because of our subject matter is good, in that as long as we feel it, those heroes won't be forgotten. The panorama is still playing out before us now, but eventually it will fade into the background. We'll become numb to it. But maybe we won't forget how it made us feel, and everytime we exert our creativity in the ways we do, we'll remember.<P>All I know is, I answer to myself and to God. I don't answer to thieves and cowards.<P>------------------
---Lee
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Postby Calamity Jon on Thu Sep 20, 2001 7:12 am

Thanks, both of you, and Pyromancy as well, who sent me a very stirring letter via email. The events of the eleventh left me feeling raw and sensitive, almost absurdly so considering how acerbic the work on my site normally is.<P>But I feel more in sorts now.<P>In any case, I decided to not change the ending of the Jeremy story. In part, I felt it would be wrong of me to betray what the story had been leading towards, and it would really be taking advantage of my readers. Also, it seemed disingeuous of me to let Jeremy keep his mom while so many others had lost theirs, recently ...<P>So the story is done, next week I get back on track and stay there. Thanks for the good words, folks.<P>-Jon Morris <A HREF="http://ape-law.com/jeremy" TARGET=_blank>http://ape-law.com/jeremy</A>
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