The week in review: No one did anything they didn’t want to


Now that the outrage-o-tron has moved from torture to movie casting, here is a round-up of reactions to the “Torture Cover” post the other day. Actually I don’t even need to write anything, as the Outhouse already summed it up with CROSSED TORTURE VARIANT CONTROVERSY SPARKS SURPRISINGLY CIVIL DEBATE ON INTERNET. It’s true. No one was blackballed, castigated or petitioned. The effects and provenance of disturbing material were widely debated, but it was generally decided by everyone involved that those who like it can like it, those who want to throw up can move right over to the toilet.

Now, I did come in for some criticism for calling people who might like violent misogyny sick fucks. I will stand by my statement on that, but people who just like equal opportunity torture seem to be peaceful, law-abiding folk. New Crossed writer Justin Jordan wrote an interesting rebuttal to my piece on his blog, which was also reprinted on Facebook, where the discussion took place.

What might surprise you is that I don’t actually like gore. I’ve never been a gorehound, and most of the time I don’t find it all that entertaining. Shit, some of the scariest and most disturbing movies are some of the least gore filled. Note that despite their reputation, the first Halloween and the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre are relatively tame affairs from a strictly blood and guts perspective.

But I am a fan of horror, and as mentioned, I do write a lot of extremely violent things, so I’ve had occasion to meet a lot of gorehounds. So I am at least in some position to offer an opinion on what kind of sick fucks they are.

Not sick fucks at all, usually. They are, as most people are, by and large nice and normal people with no particular urge to violently torture and murder people. People that know the difference between real and not real, which seems to be lacking in some people’s ability to imagine stuff.

There was also, if you can believe it, an incredibly civil Reddit thread, of all things. Again, some people were ready to rack the Torture Variants right next to their Cannibal Corpse albums, others thought they were revolting.

The controversy even led Rich Johnston, whose Bleeding Cool site is owned byCrossed publisher Avatar, to write a think piece about the content of Crossed—which he labeled satire. But see more on that below.

Manny people linked to this very recent Warren Ellis piece called Blood in Your Eye: Why We Need Violent Stories which discusses the need for violent material so that we can stop distancing it from ourselves as “The other.”

The function of fiction is being lost in the conversation on violence. My book editor, Sean McDonald, thinks of it as “radical empathy.” Fiction, like any other form of art, is there to consider aspects of the real world in the ways that simple objective views can’t — from the inside. We cannot Other characters when we are seeing the world from the inside of their skulls. This is the great success of Thomas Harris’s Hannibal Lecter, both in print and as so richly embodied by Mads Mikkelsen in the Hannibal television series: For every three scary, strange things we discover about him, there is one thing that we can relate to. The Other is revealed as a damaged or alienated human, and we learn something about the roots of violence and the traps of horror.


While the covers themselves were roundly criticized, publisher Avatar was mostly left alone—and to be honest they’ll probably sell a lot more because of all this so it was all good for them. And it was pointed out that Avatar does publish mostly horror including also works by Alan Moore (the very controversial Neonomicon) as well as Ellis, Garth Ennis, David Lapham and so on. They don’t pretend to be anything other than what they are, so there was no hypocrisy involved. Some wondered about the artists who draw the stuff, but Spanish artist Raulo Caceres (oh just Google it), who drew many of the most lurid covers (including the seesaw one) has a long career as an S&M artist, and his Elizabeth Bathory was published in the 90s at Eros Comix. It’s what he likes to draw and it’s incredibly sick, violent stuff. Another willing participant.

While discussion seemed to waver between the covers themselves and the interiors of Crossed, when they were labeled satire, several of the book’s actual writers disagreed with that. I’ve collected a bunch of the tweets into a Storify, but perhaps the most interesting fact was that at least one writer on the book had never SEEN the covers. So some disclosure was made along the way.

Anyhoo, what have we learned? That free speech is AWESOME. That I will never buy a Torture Variant, and I still find them very creepy as a standalone artifact.

As for the larger sense, I don’t disagree with Warren Ellis, really, in that this kind of disturbing material allows us to process our own horrific impulses and those of others around us. Personally, I look to art as a means to explore the BETTER side of the world, and to see things that expand my own consciousness and hopefully ennoble this already debased flesh. I don’t mean just unicorns and puppies. I’m a huge fan of the work of Renee French, Jim Woodring and Hans Rickheit — all of them turn out work that is very upsetting. Throw in Junjo Ito, and other horror manga creators. Yet, I despise work that promotes suffering for the sake of suffering, or bullying or insult humor that are often used as an excuse for abusive behavior. But that is a topic for another doctoral dissertation.

Let’s leave this with the Hero of the Week, Antoinette Tuff, who used common humanity to save her life and that of many others—even the shooter who she talked into laying down his arms. Was there ever a more human or moving moment than her sobs of “Oh God, oh Jesus,” after she was finally safe? We face up to the darkness without, and are either swallowed by it, or light a candle.

On the Scene: MoCCA Fest 2013, Words from the Market-Wise at the ‘Art as Profession’ Panel

Holding panels in the wood-panelled bowels of the Armory this year at MoCCA Fest did bring a certain gravitas to the proceedings even if the location was a little difficult to locate for the unfamiliar. When I arrived at the “Art as Profession: Creating, Promoting, and Making Money in Comics” panel at 11:30 on Sunday the 7th of April, the room was already packed and couldn’t have squeezed in more than a couple more inquisitive souls. Judy Hansen (of Hansen Literary), Micah Spivak (of the Scott Eder Gallery), George Rohac (of Oni Press and Benign Kingdom), and Boulet (Gilles Roussel) appeared in a discussion moderated by The Beat’s own Heidi MacDonald.

 IMG_5328Early on in the panel, Hansen predicted an “indie comics boom” when iPad and tablet resolution improves and pointed out that we’re currently in a “glitch period” where there’s a gray area and “lack of demarcation” between film, TV, and webisodes that’s blurring with the indie comics market. McDonald agreed, commenting upon this “period when nobody knows where it’s going”. Rohac reframed the situation from his perspective, stating a “steady climb” to “big success” for Oni Press in web comics, citing a commitment during Oni’s “switch over” with presenting digital comics to “putting everything out on time” which have driven sales up to a “really solid position”. His perspective suggested that orderliness is a way toward success during this ambiguous time.

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The Long Dark Eternal September of the Soul


The recent, latest online activism against an online idiot encouraged me to write something which I had been thinking about for awhile.

The philosophical musing began when I discovered the following on Wikipedia:

Eternal September

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Eternal September (also September that never ended)[1] is the period beginning September 1993,[2] a date from which it is believed by some that an endless influx of new users (newbies) has degraded standards of discourse and behavior on Usenet and the wider Internet. [Read more…]

Ron Marz, Mark Millar, Comics Industry Act to Shut Down Cyberbully

Abusive attacks via Twitter aren’t new, but have certainly increased in media visibility over the past few months. Racist and sexist comments and threats have been detailed repeatedly in the mainstream press recently, often aimed at various prominent people in society. It also exists on a personal level, sadly, with personal attacks and bullying on the rise online.

And sadly, this is true for the comics industry as well. I hadn’t been aware of this myself, but today Ron Marz alerted his followers to one Twitter user in particular, who has for the past few months been anonymously attacking prominent women in the industry with gender-specific abuse and threats. Writers, artists and journalists have all targeted by this poster over an extended period of time, whose attacks tend to refer back to rape, submission and misogyny at every opportunity. These were explicit threats made to women simply because they were women.

Mark Millar was one of those who saw Marz’s call for awareness, and made a post to his Millarworld forum in which he not only detailed the comments, but also made plans to take a stand against them. Asking for legal advice and people affected by the poster to step forward, several people contacted Millar via Twitter and his message board with what could be done about the comments.

Following which, he posted again later today, explaining that he has contacted a lawyer with a view to taking legal action against this poster—who has used various accounts over the past few months to attack people, but left behind an IP trail. The police, Millar says, have been informed, and will now be following up on this. Action will be taken within the next few days.

The threats are misogynistic in the extreme. I won’t link to them.

It’s a reminder that while abuse does exist online, they come from the minority voice. For every person who decides to use the internet to try and threaten other people, there are tens of thousands of other people who won’t tolerate prejudice. If you ever find yourself to be a victim of online abuse, please do not suffer it in silence. Let other people know.

The 2012 Hugo Awards will be livestreamed

By Steve Morris

Tonight, Chicago will see the presentation of The 2012 Hugo Awards, at the Hyatt Regency Grand Ballroom. With categories for comics, television, novellas, fanzines and more, the only medium apparently not represented this year will be websites. Hmph! That aside, the Hugos are one of the more prestigious sci-fi awards available, having been active since the 1950s. It will doubtless be a great night for all concerned. Especially the winners! [Read more…]