August 21, 2013
Hey, Let's Talk About Something Called Torture Variants
Heidi MacDonald over at The Beat
pivots from a post about the overwhelming number of variant covers
in the comic-book marketplace at any one time to enter into a little discussion about a series of covers for a comic book called Crossed that show images of torture
. I like that kind of blogging; I think it's good to write about what catches your eye, what interests you, and I would love to see Heidi do this every day. So the idea presented, or at least hinted at, I think, is that whereas most "variant covers" of a comic book feature a different artist or maybe a different character or maybe some sort of printing process element like 3-D covers, these covers show people being sawed in half and the like. So if your special inducement for buying something is to look at stuff like this, logic would seem to dictate that you have a special appetite for seeing images of people being tortured and hurt and oh my goodness what kind of comics customer is that? The pushback is likely along a "hey it's just entertainment/the only difference between drawing the line here and drawing the line where Jerry Falwell would draw it is degree, so suck it you hypocrite" way of thinking, whatever seems to score the most points according to the specific context of the discussion. If nothing else, the Internet has brought to the surface America's deep reserves of rage at being judged for their arts consumption, or, basically, for anything at all, even just by inference.
These covers seem to me to work much the same way that Mark Millar's employment of rape scenes works: Millar uses human atrocities to tweak a genre; Avatar is using human atrocities to tweak a system of sales and distribution. They're both aimed at the bottom line more than they are a lowest common denominator. It's the cynicism of it that seems distasteful to me when I stop and think about it more fully, up to and including the fact that this kind of ploy is only partly
cynical. In other words, I'm sure there are people that process this stuff as meaningful art, and that this includes some of the participants. Somehow that makes the other aspects of it more distasteful, like sticking a live-sex scene into one of your films so that it can be sold as the film that has live sex in it when you know that one of the participants is doing it because they're in love. Mostly, though, it seems to me pretty grim, dull art, with either very little self-awareness or nothing but self-awareness: similar points on the great circle of making stuff. People should be able to make any kind of art they want, and while selling it should probably bring with it different responsibilities, that notion was shouted down in comics decades ago and will never get a lengthy hearing. What's left is a small-c critical framework that demands everything be taken seriously. This is artwork that stares up at you with dead fish eyes. It's not upsetting; it's "upsetting." It's product. Yuck.
posted 5:30 am PST
Daily Blog Archives