Your President – Not Mine

 

Trump, President of the Invisible Empire of the KKK
Trump, President of the Invisible Empire of the KKK

Trump, President of the Invisible Empire of the KKK

It’s not his mental fitness, people. It’s his MORAL fitness that is at issue.

He is evil, filled with hate, greed, racism, prejudice, stupidity – and is satisfied with it.

Worse: The Republican Party put him in power and praises him and supports him.

Worse still: A great number of US citizens voted for him – because he is a mirror of their own shameful prejudices, their hidden – and not so hidden – hatred and nihilism.

Someone argued with me, when I made this, that “you can’t find a picture of him wearing a Klan hood.” No, you can’t. Because it is invisible, but AUDIBLE.
He is the President of the Invisible Empire – how the KKK always refers to itself. It is an empire of idiotic, monstrous beliefs, beliefs that aim to murder and enslave and diminish and declare other humans different than pale & “Christian” &”straight” to be “not human.” Other. Disposable.

This is proto-Nazism. Fascism. White trash supremacy. Trump is NOT my president; and those who keep him in power or put him there are a menace to humanity, truth, justice, mercy, and all good things that make life worth living.

I am a stranger in a strange land. I always have been, but this land has become even stranger over my lifetime. This is not my country – I am, as Diogenes said, “Kosmopolites”: a citizen of the world.

No man or woman is foreign to me. It is “we,” not “I” and certainly not “us.” “We,” in our beautiful variety.

But not in this hatred, this fragmentation, Balkanization, tribalism.

That, I will have nothing to do with.
Nothing. To that sort of person, I am a stranger, indeed, and unwelcome in “their” land. By their choice, I am their enemy. Proudly, I am the enemy of any rejection of my brothers and sisters who are perfectly fine as they are, on their paths, working out their divine destinies in their own ways.

I am a stranger in a strange land. I carry my home within me. I break bread with anyone who seeks justice and true peace.

But I would rather eat my crust alone in a hovel than feast in a palace where injustice is worshiped and meaningless, valueless things are declared, selfishly, more valuable than any sacred human being.

#notmypresident #antitrump #antiklan#amerikkka #antinazi #antifascist

12 January 2018

Richard Van Ingram

 

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Just Because: A Response to a Review of Loser Comix #2

“As learned commentators view
In Homer more than Homer knew.”
Jonathan Swift
from “On Poetry,” 1733

Before responding to the review in question (hence, the title of this little waste of time), I’d like to say an honest thanks to Rob Clough for actually taking some time to look at the book.  No one else bothered to do so, not in any critical sense, and what he said, inasmuch as it is accurate — and, to be sure, there is plenty of truth in what he wrote — is useful for me.

Alien eyes on your work and an honest report back what was experienced and judged is worth more than gold to an artist.  There is no anger or recrimination in what I’m about to say (however slightly sarcastic it may sound).  In fact, I highly recommend his blog, HIGH-LOW and many others do as well.  It received an award for being a top 75 comics blog and I have absolutely no argument with that: he earned it.

The link to the review of LOSER COMIX #2 and other books, 20 March 2017, is here: http://highlowcomics.blogspot.com/2017/03/short-mini-reviews-dzender-tyamamoto.html

By all means, read it and his other reviews.  I do so.

As you can see, gentle reader, I quoted Swift at the start, so one could get some notion that I don’t completely agree with the review.  In fact, it is mysterious to me how it came to be reviewed by Mr. Clough at all.  he reviews mini-comics; this is NOT a mini-comic.  And I didn’t send it to him.

LC #2 was published in 2014 — it is now 2017 and I’ve moved far beyond the  approaches in that set of works… most of which were made prior to 2014.  So, who knows why anyone would send him old, (in some senses) obsolete work that doesn’t fit the category of books he reviews?

Perhaps as a favor; perhaps as a sort of insult.  Who knows?

And who cares?  I don’t.  It’s simply odd.

But it does call for some sort of response as that is now hanging around on the internet and people read it and may have walked away with an impression that, while partially true, is partially problematic.  As I am interested more than bothered, I thought I’d say a few words… with pictures to illustrate my points.

I will quote liberally from the review as this, too, is a review and I make absolutely nothing from these essays… in spite of the donate button.  Internet = “free,” it seems, so, there you go.

Mr. Clough writes:
Loser Comix #2, by Richard Van Ingram. These are underground comics in the tradition of Robert Crumb and Skip Williamson, full of heavily-rendered drawings that parody pop culture and politics. This issue was the end result of a Kickstarter campaign and it shows, with high production values and full color throughout. ”

Yes, these ARE underground comix in that tradition, especially that of Skip Williamson.  Less Crumb whom I find extremely talented yet overrated.  He believes his own press and feigns a sort of self-deprecating humility in his works.  As for sexual weirdness, S. Clay Wilson was so bizarre as to be hilarious – Crumb is a pale imitation and, often, not hilarious but disturbing.  Either way, none of my books thus far contains much sexual weirdness, not that I am opposed to such — it’s just not my shtick.

Feh.  Actually, I am for more influenced by Spain Rodriguez, Gilbert Shelton, Jaxxon, Dave Sheridan, and any number of others.  The list is very long.

Yes, I often crosshatch.  No, I didn’t learn it from Crumb – he didn’t invent the technique.  I’m influenced by Hogarth and Goya’s print work; I have a degree in printmaking as an intaglio and relief printer (and an advanced degree in philosophy, but who cares?).  At this point, I’m pushing 52 years of age.  I learned to draw with pens as a very, very small child, not pencils.  50 odd years with pens in hand.  So, there we go.

The book was printed after a Kickstarter campaign that was more successful than I could dream — so I did have good printing.  As an object, the thing looks good.

LOSER COMIX #2, Richard Van Ingram 2015
LOSER COMIX #2, Richard Van Ingram 2014

[First tip – this drawing was made in 2012.  One can clearly read the date – as one can on all the work in the book.  Many of the things in this book were years old by the time they saw print in ’14.  Welcome to poverty and indie-publishing.  But keep that fact in mind as we go: It’s somewhat important.]

Mr. Clough writes:
“There’s a plague story that’s a thinly-veiled political allegory that has some genuinely funny lines and a densely inked, horrific quality to the art. Van Ingram’s visual sense is perhaps a couple of steps ahead of his ideas,….”

Well, yes, there is such a story — chapter one of “RETURN OF THE PLAGUE.”  I’ve never published the rest of it, so it remains to be seen whether and what I have here is an allegory, thinly-veiled or not, and whether or not, taken all together, what one has is a deeper set of symbols with much more than a simple or simplistic political meaning.  I think that’s a reductionist reading that comes from skimming, not really paying attention to the references in the piece, and not mentioning that it is one chapter, not the whole story.  In fact, I’m afraid one of the drawbacks, if not the main drawback in Clough’s review is that he skimmed the comic and didn’t really read it.

Yes, this may be my fault — perhaps my writing is horrible or trite.  But as comix are primarily a visual medium and the meaning comes from synthesizing any words with the images, I’d hope my visual sense is primary.  Whether it’s ahead of my ideas – as the visuals are the concretization of the ideas — I find difficult to accept.  We’ll see.

[First, a splash page. Yes, there’s a nude. We’ll get back to that.]

OK. There’s “RETURN OF THE PLAGUE” Part One.

Some notes:
On the down side –
a) I experimented with fonts. Some are too small; others not easy to read once printed. There are a couple of mistakes when I typed, and I didn’t catch them, either.
b) The whole thing – this story and the entire book – was an experiment.  A variety show; different styles, different approaches; different techniques.  I keep the styles and techniques consistent, as you will see, within each story or vignette, but there is no overall unification in approach.
c) This was on purpose, but I’m not sure it was good judgment.  I wanted to see, by feedback, what viewers wished to see more of and what they wished to less of in future work. I have no idea, myself, without asking and showing. But it does make the book a sort of 1960s-’70s variety show of comix.. by one person.  This is an inherent weakness.

On the up side –
a) This story is far more subtle than the obvious surface reading.  A closer reading would reveal:
b) There are three major themes at work. 1) The nature of reality as mediated through beliefs (and technology, which is a sort of reified belief system) – e.g. why is this woman viewed as an enemy because she had a cough? 2) The power of false and true stories we tell ourselves, the nature of lie and truth, the difficulty of interpretation, the necessity of doubt, dogmatic certainty as the origin of atrocity and dehumanization. 3) Death is our universal fate.  How best to live in the face of it?
c) The title is a tip off.  What is this “Plague” that is returning?  It’s a reference to Albert Camus’ novel, THE PLAGUE.  Also, the old man is the captured Heavy Metal Kid — a reference to William S. Burroughs… and his theme of “The Word Virus.”  This is referenced in the newscaster’s narration at the beginning of the story.

These would be played out as the story unfolds in future chapters, but the basis is all there as hooks… if you think about what I’m doing.  Which would require reading and thinking, not skimming the story.  Whether I pulled that off is one thing; whether the reviewer gave it a fair shake is another.  Decide for yourself.

I’m not a “conceptual artist” which, itself, is a disease in contemporary art — the substitution of a mysterious backstory to justify an impoverished presentation.  In fact, such artists just need to write down the backstory as an essay and leave off the visuals as that’s really all there is.

I’m not doing that, so one sees what is there symbolically and metaphorically or one doesn’t.  In this case, the failure is either in the viewer or in the artist, or both.  I remain unsure after the review.

Mr. Clough writes:
“Van Ingram’s visual sense is perhaps a couple of steps ahead of his ideas, like the Loser Tarot. It’s a funny concept that’s beautifully-illustrated, but the actual ideas “The Ex-Wife”, “The Republican” are on the bland side.”

If those were the only two images in the satirical tarot, I might completely agree.  Yet, they aren’t and, taken together, they are a sort of story in flashes of encounters; nor are they the entire set: it’s an ongoing project I began in 2004 (though I didn’t mention all of that nor need to do so):

A Tarot deck is many things at once; a satire of a tarot deck could be many things.  In this case, it is, as is traditional, a journey; the journey of The Loser into the world and all the things The Loser passes through and is changed by, must face, in the journey of experience.  That’s just basic tarot interpretation.  “The Loser” is, in part, me as a symbol for my generation, Gen X, (I am on the prow of that generation).  It uses some autobiography as a jumping-off point for universal and topical situations and experience… and private, absurd jokes.  I was raised in the US American South so images like “The Republican,” while stereotypical, are also ubiquitous and true.  Bland? Show that thing to a white trash Republican and tell me how bland the reaction is.  Good luck.

Mr. Clough writes:
“The Peanuts parody Chunky Brown is tedious at best, turning Charlie Brown and Linus into loser hipster types, Lucy in [sic] a capitalist femme fatale (in one panel, her nipples poke through her shirt for no discernible reason) who sends them to work at a used bookstore. ”

First, the title of the Peanuts parody is Chunky Brownuts.  Again, a sign someone skimmed and did not really read the “tedious” thing.  The title has been Chunky Brownuts has been since about 1980 and is written plainly everywhere in the book.  Secondly, there are four Chunky Brownuts stories in here in four styles, the latter two stories featuring the talking dog and his overgrown, anxiety-ridden rooster side-kick.

The Lucy-ish character does have nipples in one scene — she’s an adult, a femme-fatale,  and this is a damn underground comic!  “No discernible reason…” for nipples?! I’d love to see Clough talk about Crumb, Williamson, or nearly any other undergrounder.  Plus, Lucrezia (Lucy) is an archetype of laissez-faire capitalism (and a reference to Lucrezia Borgia, the poisoner) — it’s all a swindle that draws one in by looking appealing and then spits one’s corpse out after extracting all value.  As obvious as can be.  Nipples, indeed.  Plus, by this point in the book I’ve featured two nude women.  Suddenly, this bothers the reviewer?

We’ll look first, talk later.

That was Story One.

That’s Story Two. If that title isn’t large enough for a blind person to see, I don’t know what to do.

[Actual major flaws here: I should have lettered it with a nib.  The art could be much better – I was looking for a style and dropped back to how I drew in the 1980s… in high school.  Out of self-serving nostalgia. Bad move.]

Story Three. Notice, I switched focus to Skip Dog and Weirdstock.  Are these the “hipster losers”?  Most hipsters I observe have money to waste on all manner of stylish things: Hence, “hipsters.”  At best, these guys are slackers.  Losers to be certain, but read the title of the comic book.  I advertised nothing but.

[These are the offending nipples.  I apologize on behalf of Deity for creating us as mammals with interesting body parts and shapes I see little reason in pretending don’t exist.]

[Oops. More cartoon nipples. Beware.]

Here we go: Is this just an autobiographical bit (and autobiographical comix are too, too often tedious as hell.  If you aren’t a Justin Green maybe you should avoid them)?

As Clough writes, “…[They go] to work at a used bookstore. That latter development was clear [sic] Van Ingram’s way of getting back at his awful used bookstore job, which was probably cathartic for him but not especially relevant for the reader.”

It’s partially autobiographical, but it’s much more about intelligent adults working retail – or any other job – while being treated as serfs by authoritarian little Napoleons who’ve Peter Principled their way into managerial positions.

Is that relevant to any reader in the USA?  Beats me.  Clough doesn’t think so and is rather dismissive about it; perhaps it’s been awhile since he had to go take a shit job.  Or has just forgotten the experience, or had a better one.  They do exist.  But pleasant experiences don’t make for drama or humor.

“Tedious”?  Maybe… maybe not.  Again, the reviewer didn’t get the title correct and conflated four stories.  This suggests it just wasn’t his cup of tea, he skimmed along, and gave a superficial response more than a critique here.

I’m unsure.  But I am sure there’s more here than he strongly suggests.  It may not be any good — “good” in this medium has much to do with effectiveness.  You judge.

Mr. Clough writes of this story:
“There’s an accurate but tedious bit of social commentary about a yokel voting against his own interests by supporting Republicans.”

That’s it?

First, I’m from the South, born and raised in Southern Appalachia.  That “yokel” is a cartoon representative of the people I grew up with – and my sympathies in this comic are with him, oddly enough.  He believes in his country, sacrifices his kid to war, works like a dog – because he’s taught hard work eventually “pays off”; his sick wife is exploited by a super-wealthy church, they can’t afford to live like humans… yet he has been propagandized by a party of fucking liars who’ve sold him an empty bag of promises and cliched slogans all his life.  And he believes because he is a good person.  He’s trusting.  He doesn’t believe the flag and bible waving bastards would screw him over and use him for slave labor and could care less if he lives or dies.

Secondly, if The Stinkin’ Rich Dough Boy isn’t a prediction of the coming of Donald J. Trump & Company, I’ll give you a quarter.  He’s also a commentary on the materialist direction of The USA since Reagan and the rape of average working people.  His story is also a humorous primer on the 2008 economic collapse and the aftermath.

I did this in 2010 or ’11.  It was previously published in another magazine and received good reviews.

But it, too, is “tedious.”

At the mention of that word in Clough’s writing for, like, the tenth time, I was ready to send him a thesaurus.

Finally, Mr. Clough writes:
” Van Ingram works best when he works briefly, like a hilarious strip about Richard Nixon seeing the future and the Partridge Family sending a message from 3013 to 1973, thanking them for their help in ousting Nixon and establishing a utopia. A serious strip about the killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson wouldn’t have been out of place in World War III Illustrated, and here Van Ingram’s dense but colorful style and page design perfectly encapsulates the desperate quality of his text. Van Ingram has a great deal of talent, and it’s clear that he’s trying to find the best way to use it.”

Here, I have nothing to disagree with at all.  In fact, it’s flattering.

These were, chronologically, the last pieces I did before printing the book.  Factually, the Ferguson incident fired me up, to say the least.  It pointed the way for most of my work since 2014.

Epilogue
Why Did I Care Enough To Write This?

There is a unifying theme to this book, which is, at best, a potpourri; at worst, it is a hodgepodge.  That theme is antipathy to injustice, intolerance for intolerance.

It’s not a book to be read at one sitting — it’s dense.  It has diverse approaches.  It flips from one perspective to a radically different one.  It has intense sections and lighter sections, darker and more humorous ones… it is all horrific, in some sense.

And maybe that’s why Mr. Clough, with limited time, wound up skimming most of it (which is my guess): Perhaps he attempted to read it all at one sitting as one does a mini-comic.  It’s not a normal comic in that sense and, obviously, NOT a mini.  It demands some time and attention and consideration.  Whether it deserves such is another judgment; maybe it doesn’t and, if not, that is its failure.

Since then, I’ve changed my approach.  This was my first serious foray into comix since 1995 — the entire approach and market and audience has changed radically since ’95.   So radically, I’m bewildered.  I’m also older and isolated.  So, this was an attempt to sound out an audience as much as anything.  Comix is not a matter of “build it and they will come.”  In some sense, one has to attract an audience, but to do that, one has to understand the audience.

Attention spans and background knowledge are not what they were, once upon a time.  I thought my audience would be in its 20s; turns out, it’s largely 45 and over.  Surprise.  And folks in their late teens and into their 20s-30s are not the most politically/socially/philosophically interested bunch, as a group, it seems.  They talk, they protest: they do not read.

The line,  “Here we are now, entertain us,” was prophetic; and a pure Gen X  epitaph for a new generation yet to come of age.  But it has arrived.  It is Gen Y, The Millennials, a generation with interests that differ from my own, a different historical mission and outlook, a generation as multitudinous as mine is minute.

My work is vaguely entertaining, but only for a niche audience.  I don’t attempt to please everyone, can’t.  While my work is pop culture, it won’t be popular pop culture.  Making this book taught me that.  It’s aptly titled.  Proudly.

19-20 July 2017

Richard Van Ingram

Many of my books can be read, free, at:
https://comixunderground.tumblr.com/

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Achtung, bambino!

Spain Rodriguez

Spain Rodriguez — Agent of Something Better That Never Happened

Once upon a time, 40 years ago now, in a world long gone, I was 10 years old.

Being unsupervised by adults, something I now thank G-d for, this ten year-old kid wandered the streets of a very small and small-minded Appalachian town.  His mind, relatively uncontaminated by the surrounding ideo-sphere, wondered as much as he wandered: where did this come from, why are things as they are and not some other way, how did I get here, how can I get out, who should I be?

It was that wondering and questioning that made the ten year-old kid a weirdo, a stranger in a strange land, even in his hometown.  And, like Steve Earle taught us, nothing will bring you down like your hometown.  And that boy’s hometown was in overdrive to bring him down and keep him there — well, not so much him specifically (he was not that special and the world is not arranged around him, positively or negatively), but people akin to him.  People who question, people who look for answers to uncomfortable questions… and all genuine questions are right uncomfortable for them that well fit in.

People who make other people uncomfortable, especially when very young and alone, tend to get the shit kicked out of them literally and metaphorically.  So they go looking for refuge and allies and that child-on-the-verge-of-having-to-grow-up-really-quickly used to hang out at the saving grace of that town: the college.

Lo, and the college had a library well-stocked with classics, which he’d get into later, art books, which he began to explore, and some pretty hip titles — one of which turned out to be Les Daniels’ Comix: A History of Comic Books in America.  Long story short, it was in those pages that our disaffected anti-hero discovered Underground Comix and their historical context… and the concept of “historical context.”

Where it would have been easy to fall for Robert Crumb’s art and humor — it isn’t as if the kid didn’t — the artist that really held his imagination and got his attention was Spain Rodriguez and his character Tashman, Agent of the Sixth International.  Well, there was Trash — the kid wished he looked half as cool as that and understood what all this talk of revolution was about — and Trashman was there putting a knife through the neck of some futuristic Neo-Nazi SS son of a bitch.

“Wait!  Didn’t we kill the Nazis?” the kid wondered.

250px-TrashmanCover

At age 50, I now know we did not kill fascism or Nazism.  We just barely managed to stomp the shit out of the vermin who espoused those beliefs the first go ’round and the beliefs still floated around even in that world the child was sent to live within — that was part of the problem with the closed-minded town he was in; he just didn’t understand at the time.

Yes, obviously I get it now.  Thanks, in part, to Spain and his comix as I managed to discover more of them as I grew older and had opportunity to lay hands on them.  I sit here now watching cops shoot black people, round up latinos, the for-profit slave prisons bulging with the incarcerated poor while Donald Trump does his best Mussolini impersonation and Ted Cruz whines his paranoid right-wing theocratic Nazi tunes for enthusiastic audiences who just don’t know any fucking better.  And the RNC is starting to demand loyalty oaths from the voters who wish to participate in “their” primaries.

Seig heil, motherfuckers.

Where’s Trashman now that the future arrived?

Well, Marxism isn’t going to cut it — but Spain’s not here to disagree because he died.  Marx had many damn fine ideas and his critique of the labor theory of value strikes me as having a great deal of truth.  But Marx-ISM, like every other form of ISM is as dead as Spain — worse, ISMs ruin nearly everyone that gets sucked into them.  But that’s a bete noir for a different day, gentle readers.

But the symbolic idea of resistance to evil that Trashman represents… there’s the crux of the biscuit.  Spain’s generation, not Spain himself, but that generation, sold out back in the ’80s.  And so, here we are. The only “revolution” that happened was the Reagan Revolution and that flushed the rest of us down the toilet, down, down into the sewers to scrape a living doing the muck work for low pay that the Boomers suck up in the form of stock investments and rent and lending.  “I got mine.  Fuck you!”

Spain remains one of my heroes artistically and intellectually because he genuinely hoped and worked for something far better and stood the test of time and the temptations of sheer ambition.  Go look him up; this isn’t Wikipedia.  Or better, just read his work and look at that powerful, expressionistic art.  He died like he lived: with his motorcycle boots on.  You can’t ask for much better than that.

And he influenced and fascinated a nobody kid in a nowhere town who grew up to be a philosopher, an artist, an essayist, and a damn troublemaker.  Thank G-d and thank Spain Rodriguez for being there when I needed to find him.

Richard Van Ingram

30 December 2015

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On Reputation and Friendship

Take me or leave me — that’s up to others. I am an acquired taste for most and my reputation, like all reputations, is in the mouths of strangers. My intrinsic value lies in what I have overcome and what I do, which cannot be seen or understood by all. Prejudices create thick, distorting lenses, and fear of the stranger causes many to flee. Understandable. Emulating Marcus Aurelius to the degree a terribly flawed man of my background can in the 21st century, I take all as they come and labor to accept that many will pass by, though I’d prefer to know them. That is more my loss than theirs, I’ve learned.

Should anyone approach me in the spirit of friendship, I will not hide who I am. This is on purpose — a Rorschach Test of sorts and a small trial by fire. Because should one wish any level of friendship with me, they need to see who it is they wish to know, even if at a superficial level.

If that much is tolerable, then we are fine. If not, then pass by; no questions will be asked, no judgments will follow in your passing other than my regret (which is meaningless to you) and we will return to the state of simple cordiality we enjoyed before as far as I am concerned.

People think of one another what they will and we’ve no control whatsoever over what others choose. Or why. As a feature of my world every bit as unavoidable as what we call gravity or the weather, it simply has to be accepted. I try — try — to set a good example and constantly work at that… I cannot do much else aside from staying to myself.

Even the Deity has no direct control over others and their opinions: I cannot sanely hope for a better situation than that of the Divine.

5 September 2015

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