Monday, November 20, 2006

A Young Nihilist Speaks , by L.P

A few years ago I discovered ( via the TCJ board, I think) a young cartoonists’ work that was notable in a couple of ways; it was well drawn for a ‘newbie’ and there was lots of it-Over 100 pages, if I remember correctly, all posted on his very amatuer-looking website. In other ways it was sort of typical of a young , rebelious cartoonist; a social and sexual misfit discovers in comics a way to directly translate such frustrations in comic form.It was juvenille, but in the best sense of the word; unadulterated, unmitigated expression.
It was also notable for its out-and-out aping of the work of Erotic-Grotesque Manga master Sehuro Maruo, who’s mined themes that ( as you’ll read) the young cartoonist could relate to, and also saw a nail-on-the-head synchronicity in terms of the young artists’ style/craft aspirations.
At the time -maybe two years ago- I was planning on putting together a small press comics anthology . This anthology was to be a celebration of an overtly ‘underground’ sensibility that I thought woefully under-represented in the contemporary small press.
I meant to tap into the same vien that the original UG cartoonists tapped into; your S. Clay Wilsons and Rory Hayes, even you’re early Richard Corbens ( this wasn’ about “art”, it was about underground comics). Sex, violence, alienation, fantasy ( in the best sense of the word..). It seemed “Alternative”, or “Independent” were obsolte descriptors in comics- they’d been replaced by “Literary”, or “Art”. It may have been some kind of juvenille reaction on my part, but I wanted to kick this new paradigm in its hairless, shriveled, collegiate ballsack. Needless to say, this kid fit the bill; he came from out of nowhere with a big pile of finished underground horror comics.
As I was “editing” ( more like soliciting) content for the anthology, I was working on putting together material for a blog I set to launch concurrent with the publication of the anthology. Interviewing ( who we’ll call "Joel C.") seemed like a great idea.; solid content that potential fans might enjoy. I saw Joels’ comics as a centerpiece of the new anthology.The cynic in me saw a great “branding” opportunity. The idealist saw it as raising a defiant flag of sorts. This would be a glimpse into the suburban basement where I saw a lot of the artists I liked sweating over messy scraps of Bristol, all tapped into the same vein.
I asked if I could publsih a strip of his, and he agreed. I asked if I could inerview him, and he agreed. There’s no telling how it might’ve turned out had we spoken in person, over the phone, but, broke as I was ( am) , I couldn’t afford a long distance call. we settled on emailing. We did try to do it in real time, however.
What follows is a barely edited transcript of our email interview.It isn't "finished" as such. Any out-of-place responses should be chalked up to the vagaries of emailing.



Luke:
“…I need a short amount of biographical data from you- This
is the stuff that I'll build the introduction of the interview from. I
may or may not copy it as-is. In other words, if you could tell me a
little bit about yourself: age, location, all that, it would be good.
I'd also like to know how long you've been drawing comics . I'll be
back from work way late tonight, so the rest will have to go down
another time ( tomorrow?). But, a short bio is a good place to start.”

Joel:
“bio: I am 22 years of age. I live in honolulu, hawaii. I began
drawing comics at the age of five, but they weren't really anything
substantial until the age of 19, where I finally stopped drawing
anime.
Subsequently I have destroyed all previous comics except for one,
which was inspired by drugs. It wasn't anything special, but there
was a certain horrific aspect in that comic which I wanted to recreate
with more intensity. At that point I knew what I wanted to do, and I
also knew it would take a lot of practice.”

Luke:
“Joel- You mentioned a "certain horrific aspect"- Is the Horror genre
something you've dedicated yourself to? If so, why?”

Joel :
“As a very young child, violence and bondage exhilarated me. At the
age of six, the dissection of a large, restrained beetle in a
scientific documentary gave me an erection. Subsequently I was
aroused upon seeing other situations of restraint, such as a drawing
of a female cartoon character wearing a chain and collar, trapping my
cat under a laundry basket, or something comic book dorks might be
more familiar with: Princess leia.



Years have progressed and I have long ago come to the realization that
it's idiotic to dedicate one's life to gratifying one's own sexual
urges in artwork. Which may seem hypocritical since I love depicting
sexual violence in my art. This is because I hope not just to get
myself off, but also study just what it is about violence that
fascinates me. I want my artwork to be highly sexual, but relevant to
things beyond sex. I think the horror genre has pioneered this aspect
to the most serious degree.

I believe that making sex into something trivial and of no importance
might be achieved by overloading my work with it-- desensitization.
What I see in mainstream forms of art today is the looming issue of
sex which dominates the actions of artists in the background, unseen.
I want to bring sex into the open, demystify it, and make it into
something silly.

When I see footage of people being executed, or a dog splattered on a
highway... once you get past all of those emotions society would love
us to dwell upon such as pity, fear, guilt, and revulsion, you realize
on some level it's comical. On other levels, it's beautiful; I want
to kiss a gaping wound and take a bite out of it. The texture of
destroyed flesh, the way exposed fat and bloody tissues shines is
highly attractive, I can assign to it the same obsessive respect of
high rennaisance.

So no, I haven't dedicated myself to the horror genre, but hope to
embelish upon it more ambiguous and original concepts... I suppose
I'd rather invent a genre called "Disturbing." If I were to walk into
a video store and see a shelf titled "Disturbing," I'd go there
first.”

Joel:
“This is all we should keep:

"I haven't dedicated myself to the horror genre, but hope to
embelish upon it more ambiguous and original concepts... I suppose
I'd rather invent a genre called "Disturbing." If I were to walk into
a video store and see a shelf titled "Disturbing," I'd go there
first."

Fuck the rest of that blubbering. We can cover the broader things as
the correspondence continues...

Just send questions and I'll reply when possible. Timezones make this
difficult. Or we could just use a telephone.”

Luke:
“We'll use that edited portion.
next question:


I'd definitly go there pretty often too. I'm not exactly sure why I'm
attracted to that sort of material.I guess I haven't intellectualized
my motivations for consuming it, or the creators' motivations beyond
surface level. I've always thought -on a basic level- it had something
to do with satisfying some kind of nihilistic, anit-social urge.
Do you have any working theory as to why you are so attracted to that
kind of material, why you feel compelled to draw "disturbing" comics?

-LP

Side note:
I'll be around all day today. Once we dig into it, we'll figure out
the best ways to go about it. I want to maintain a conversational tone.”

Joel:
“I'm on a campaign to be nocturnal.
I'm staying up for the next 3 hours, will check for replies:

On the surface, "disturbing" forms of art appear to be nihilistic. I
suppose the most recognized examples I can think of are David Lynch
movies, or the work of Francis Bacon. While I cannot speak for
humanity, I can say that a lot of us want to be disturbed by art. And
if the artist, in creating disturbing art, is fulfilling a human want,
then you could say that it's not very nihilistic at all. The real
nihilists are commiting suicide, and recording mainstream
sports-metal.

However, there are those of us who as a result of some genetic or
environmental coincidence have an unusual taste for the stuff. Mine
is sexual. As a very young child, violence and bondage exhilarated
me.

-JC

Conversational, that's key.”

Luke:
“Two-part question

Pretty intruiging. So, it's essentially a kind of hedonistic excersice?
Do you draw a distinction between what you are doing and straight-up
pornography ( or "erotica" if you prefer) ?

Are your friends or your family aware of your comics and art? Do you
show it to them?
-LP”

Joel:
“Pure erotica is about as stupid as golf. I love it, but I'm aware
that it's a temporary pleasure, like eating. If I find something
sexual, I mutate it. I distort my sexuality if I obsess over it
through art. Mutilated women are just sexy. So I draw dog bondage.
My prick just leaps when I think about that now. So later on maybe
I'll draw dog headed women with their arms skin grafted surgically to
their torsos so they can be more easily fucked.

Anyone who asks me why I would save a picture of a tied up cat about
to be neutered can get the story. My best friends know about it, and
they're all feminists. I go over there for vegan food all the time.
My parents are definitely against it. All of my relatives would freak
out. My brothers think it's hilarious. I know when not to bring it
up. Definitely not at work, or with anyone who's really into Reggae,
or US military homophobes.”



Luke:
“Do you have a girlfriend?”

Joel:
“I had a few in the past, they were okay but I dumped them. It's no
big deal. I'd actually rather have a boyfriend right now.”

Luke:
“I guess I'm wondering how your rectify your proclivities with your
real life environment. I mean, if you saw a woman on the street who'd
just been mutilated, how would you react to it?

You are clearly interested in the stylization of violence in your
comics and artwork-you use manga to tell fantastic stories- so I guess
I have a hard time believeing that the realities of sexually violent
behaviors is something that you bring to the table while creating. Are
mutilated women sexy, or are depictions of mutilated women sexy? Or
both?”

Joel:
“Both. Anything can be anything. But I have a skill that is bestowed
upon everyone when they're no longer in grade school: I can separate
fiction from reality. If I saw woman who'd just been mutilated, I'd
call the cops. Then I'd definitely beat off about it when I got home.

I'm against sexism. I'm a feminist myself-- if I found some guys in
the middle of trying to gang rape some girl, I'd get my friends and
some baseball bats, break their kneecaps and call the cops.

Manga style is appealing to me, because of the ideas it advertizes.
It's sober, controlled, very zen, very proper. It's broadcasting to
the world: I'm capable of thinking and drawing anything I want, and
I'm not going to be nervous about what others are saying about it.”

Luke:
“You have a moral compunction against rape or actual violence against
women, but you fantasize about these very things. Doesn't that moral
compunction kinda ruin it for you? I don't know how I could maintain a
boner..
I understand the difference between fantasy and reality,
obviously, but for me the most "effective" fantasies are ones that in
some way attain a certain realism; I don't fantasize abut things that
I wouldn't want to happen in real life, even if it couldn't possibly
occur. I'm not saying that you do want these things to occur in
reality- I'm not trying to "bust" you- I'm just trying to understand .
I'm not sure how someone could feel empathy for the suffering of
someone else - in this case for horrific violence- and then masturbate
about it later. I don't understand how someone could be a feminist and
allow himself to indulge fantasies involving violence against women.
To what do you ascribe your proclivities?”

Joel:
“At the age of six, the dissection of a large, restrained beetle in a
scientific documentary gave me an erection. Subsequently I was
aroused upon seeing other situations of restraint, such as a drawing
of a female cartoon character wearing a chain and collar, trapping my
cat under a laundry basket, or something comic book dorks might be
more familiar with: Princess leia.”

“I don't sit around "training" myself to be more of a pervert. I just
am a pervert. So instead of whacking myself with a bible, I'm going
to draw some great comics. It's like some kind of perpetual energy
source for me. To exist in this society I have to be a total
hypocrite, a contradiction, a paradox. The only way to turn this
machine off is to kill me.
Funny you bring up realism as a requirement to jerk off. I highly
agree. That's why I plan to draw in a very realistic manner.

Joel:
“Side note: This is a pretty intense interview so far.”
Luke:
“Yeah I know. I think it's good, but we need to pace it a bit. We'll be
able to copy edit it at will, so maybe I'll
put the last question towards the beggining.”

Luke:
“We'll maybe come back to some of this stuff a bit later. A few
questions are formulating as we type.
Let's get back to basics for now- Are you in school? If so, what are
you studying? Do you have a job?
Do you live alone? Some info about your day-to-day is what I'm after here.”



Joel :
“I adhere to my own philosophy which is good-natured sadism. It's
still in the beginning phases, and I don't think it will ever be a
"complete" philosophy, because I don't agree with telling other people
what to do.
My comics will be the product of this philosophy.”

Joel:
“I currently live with my parents and attend art school at the
University of Hawaii. Studying history and drawing/painting. I work
in the library putting books back on shelves and am soon going to get
a job washing dishes. Planning to move out soon, it seems like the
only thing I don't like about my life right now.”

Luke:
“I'm not sure what this is in response to.Is it an addendum to your
last response?

Side note/ rhetorical question.Isn't "good-natured sadism" an
oxymoron? If somebody really wants to be struck with a whip, wouldn't
the most sadistic thing be to not hit them?”

Joel:
“Voracious consumer of books, movies, alcohol, and music. I go to bars
now and then. I recently befriended a packrat, who has an enormous
amount of interesting magazines and books she has acquired from thrift
stores... they have amazing examples of 60's and 70's fashion, and
she lets me borrow anything I want.”

Luke:
“That sounds pretty sweet to me. I'd milk it for as long as possible.
Are there any specific artists- comics, film, literature, visual
arts,- that are particiularly inspiring to you?
Also- I know you make music as well as comics.Care to talk about your
musical pursuits?”

Joel:
“Side note: Haha, this email thing is fucking everything up.

I adhere to my own philosophy which is good-natured sadism. It's
still in the beginning phases, and I don't think it will ever be a
"complete" philosophy, because I don't agree with telling other people
what to do.

My comics will be the product of this philosophy.

Side note/ rhetorical question.Isn't "good-natured sadism" an
oxymoron? If somebody really wants to be struck with a whip, wouldn't
the most sadistic thing be to not hit them?

The most sadistic thing would be to strike them with a white hot iron
chain and burn their flesh and rape them while they die.

But you're right, "good natured-sadism" is an oxy-moron. But of all
the philosophies thus far, it seems to be working the best for me
specifically. I don't even know what the hell to believe every time I
wake up. That's why I am known as a very energetic and strange
person.”


Luke:
“We'll leave this thread alone for now and go with the other one.If you
feel like you need to take more time with your responses, feel free. I
have to go to sleep pretty soon; I inexplicably woke up at 430 am this
morning, so I'm pretty tired. If I get a response from you in the next
couple of minutes, I'll send off one more question.If not, I'm saying
goodnight. Don't feel rushed.”

Joel:
“Gosh, there are so many. But the real aces are easy to pick out.
Seijun Suzuki's film, Branded To Kill has inspired me a great deal.
Also, The Seven Samurai by Akira Kurosawa. What I enjoy about these
films is the craftsmanship, and the blending of Eastern and Western
ideas.

Visually I've really respected the Ukiyo-e tradtition. Hokusai and
Hiroshige are endlessly impressive. Manga could not have happened
without Ukiyo-e. I also enjoy the rennaisance, in particular painters
like Gericault and Carravagio.

Comic books wise, I'd say my favorites are Clowes, Chris Ware, Maruo,
and Junji Ito. I love Katsuhiro Otomo as well. There really isn't
much going on with comics, but that's because it's a very new field.
The industry today isn't worth talking about in depth, but I think it
would help if people realized you don't have to like superheroes to be
a fanboy.”

Joel:
“For some reason, the thought of making music alone doesn't intrigue
me. I think I am really a closet socialite. I recorded a bunch of
music by myself but it never reached the level of excitement I wanted.

I love the electric guitar, I also love digital music, and classical
music. I'd love to start a band with several like-minded individuals
and do live performances of some sort... I have a person in mind, but
we're not in the same town. The future is bright...”

Joel:
“Side note: Okay, good night then. I'm actually learning a lot about
myself. I'm more fucked up than I thought.”

Luke:
“Allright- last question for tonight. I think maybe one more round of
this and we'll be set.

-Do you hang out with comics people? Is there any kind of comics/manga
scene where you are living (Honolul,is it?) ?
Speaking of which - To me most of us here in the Midwest, living in
Hawaii sounds like a dream, but- and I know this from an email you
sent me a while back- You don't much like it. Can you expand on that a
little bit?
Do you get to the mainland often?


-Tommorrow we'll get into your comics .
Talk to you tomorrow. (are you free ?)

Thanks for doing this Joel- Luke P.”

Joel:
“Lots of final exams and bullshit tomorrow. Then I have to do drugs.
So I'll see you on monday, pal.”

(The Next Day)
Joel:
“I don't hang out with anyone who draws comics. I would love to, but I
haven't found anyone who is compatible with me. I had a few run-ins
with comic artists here and tried to conform to their world, but it
ended up being a disaster (a pretty funny one, in my opinion.)

The unifying concept that made me incompatible with them was the fact
that they were all reeling from adolescent problems. Because comics
are a magnet for sensitive and lonely people, they fit the stereotype.
When I ceased contact with them, my drawings improved tenfold.

It would be ideal to meet other artists of my volition, but it's not
necessary. I can be friends with anyone.

I correspond with several artists through the internet, though they
are illustrators and painters.

I'm starting to actually like Hawaii in some respects, but I
definitely want to move. The only bad thing about this place is the
lack of events. I need to see some deathmetal live, and all we have
here are coconuts.

I hung out in the bay area last christmas, drank a six-pack on my
brother's couch. It was definitely an indicator that I need to live
in a big city. Somewhere colder. It's so hot in Hawaii I have to
draw all of my comics in my underwear.”

Joel:
“Edit: I can be friends with anyone who can take care of themselves.”

- And that was it.
Ultimately, the anthology did not happen. In Retrospect, I see in myself, and in Joel, the fatal ingredient , the poison in the vein I sought to expose; The adolescent urge to destroy, but the inability to imagine a way to rebuild. Maybe this isn't gleaned from the interview, but it's what was going on with me personally. This interview revealed a kind of myopic self-obsession, or obsession with ones’ own fucked-upedness that I now associate with certain kinds of art and comics- the kind that I was after during this period.
But, really, I dredged up in this interview much more than I was comfortable with. I didn't have any interest in continuing the interview. Bad vibes...
It kind of cast a nasty shadow over the whole project. I lost the focus, I lost the desire to see it through.
For the record, I bear no ill-will towards "Joel C." and when I talk about him aping Maruo, it's not mean as a 'dis'. I think it's perfectly respectable to start out mimicking your favorite artists.
( I sent this email minutes ago)

Luke:
“Hey Joel! Are you still out there? Are you still doing comics? this
is Luke Przybylski. We emailed a few years ago ( Maybe two years?)
about your comics.
Get back to me.”

Joel:
“”.It was rather disappointing that you abruptly vanished. But I do think you had a respectable drawing style and stance on the artform. If you are in the chicago area and interested in hanging out, call me at (Phone #). I don't go on the internet more than once every two weeks.”

Luke:

“I thought you vanished! WTF! well, whatever, that's settled.
I've moved back to St. Paul Minnesota, where I'm originally from.
Do you have a site anymore?”

Joel:

“I was emailing you initially to ask if it was alright if I put that
interview we did a while back up on a new blog some friends and I are
starting. If you'd prefer not to, I can keep it anonymous. I just
think it's an interesting interview.
Let me know.
p.s- what nieghborhood in Chicago are you in?
-LUKE P.
the new blog will be EatenByDucks.blogspot.com .
It's not up yet. It's going to be a great blog, with great
contributing cartoonists, writers and artists.
Do you have any interest in joining up?”

Joel:
“No, the internet is for faggots”

Luke :
“-I'll do it under a fake name then…”

THE END

9 comments:

Luke P. said...

Did anybody read this ?

Paleo said...

Well, the first thing that comes to my mind after reading this fascinating interview is that, Luke, this islander Nieztchean Maruo was trying to ahem, hit on you...




but really, i can recognize the nihilism, even if i moved far away from that stuff i still consider it... home

I can't be impartial as i actually read this kid's comics and i liked 'em a lot, he does sound like a a self important asshole during the interview but hey, young artist will always equals to...self important asshole..

He makes the pretty common mistake that his appetites are the foundation of his talent, a rather poor, and sometimes deadly interpretation.

Luke P. said...

Yeah, I agree with all that. I think he kind of thought that I was approaching him as like a fanboy kinda thing- that's why his tone was so , um, "forward".
I also consider that place to be 'home'- and don't want to leave it behind. But it's good to question it, to fuck with it a little bit. Or, to try to use it to build something you can live in comfortably, to keep with the analogy.
I was second-guessing posting this thing because the point is completely clear; I'm not trying to make fun of him, I'm not saying he's an ass, or that he's cool. I like his comics still, and don't dislike him personally. The whole thing was sorta strange, so I thought it was interesting.

aeron said...

I'm curious what his comics look like. Are there any pages online?

Luke P. said...

You know who the guy is, Aeron. I remember talking to you about him. His old site is down.
I don't want to reveal who he is here, for obvious reasons.
I'll email.

Robert Adam Gilmour said...

Why did you get bad vibes and why does his name have to be withheld?
If you want more insight into the minds of these types of people, go to the messageboard on http://gurochan.net/ , there are some racists there(I find that's actually quite common with anime fans, they seem to think Japanese people are higher beings but black people are some grotesque animals), but there are some really interesting fantasies spoken of.

I also fantasise about things I know are wrong, but it's just stupid to feel guilty, I'm a good person with healthy attitudes about life. My most fucked up fantasies should hopefully be coming soon, but in the grand scheme, it's lightweight stuff.

Luke P. said...

He didn't want me to post this interview.I can't say for sure why he was against it, but I thought 'Joel" was feeling embarrassed with some of the things he said, so I thought a middle ground we be using a fake name.
Call me "square", if you will, but I'm not comfortable with someone who claims to fantasize about mutilated women.
1- I can't say for sure if he does indeed feel that way or if it's a mater of exageratting for 'shock' points.
If this is the case, I'm not interested until he's being honest about all this stuff.
2- if he is being honest, he's got some serious problems.
There is no other way to slice it. You can say it's harmless- and it may be in certain ways; this guy isn't going to "hurt" anybody. But if you believe in any basic human value, it's difficult to rectify with ideas like his.
All in all, I think of the things he said as being really adolescent- that isn't bad, per se. He just needed to grow up a little bit, which I think he has and this is why he's embarrassed by the interview.
3- HIm calling himself a "feminist" was ridiculous- I knew at that point that I wasn't going to deal with this guy in an editor/artist relationship. I don't expect anybody else to resond to that part of the interview in the wasy I did, but I did, and Istand by it.
about the board; I'm notinterested in reading sad anime fans' weirdo fantasies, sorry. There's so much more out there to be interested in that it's hard for me not to look at it all as very sad.
I think there's room for a lot of material dealing with sex, but i think a more nuanced view than one guys' obsessive tics is needed for me to enjoy any of it.

Robert Adam Gilmour said...

I have to say it does make you sound ever so slightly square( but I suppose I was'nt the one to interview him, I might have felt differently then), but I'm even more surprised that you're not 100% sure of your stance on these things, you usually seem to have a finalised view on most things.

"But if you believe in any basic human value, it's difficult to rectify with ideas like his"

Do you really need to? I fantasize about some things that would make me incredibly furious if they happened for real. Though, it is the unwritten duty of anyone with bizzarre sexual fixations to analyse everything and try to take the most mature standpoint possible. In his case, it really is wise to fantasize about mutilated women so that no unhealthy feelings build up, art really is one of the best ways.

I'm doubtful that Suehiro Maruo really gets off on all the stuff he draws in the way that some of his fans do, but I really don't think that's what's special about his work anyway. F'r instance, there is a scene I thought was really special where a boy finds a finger and he takes it home and touches himself with it. For the effect that it gives, it may as well have been panties of a girl he liked, but since it's a horror story, a finger was more appropriate.

All in all I think shocking and disturbing horror is good, but it's a poor substitute for pure FEAR, it saddens me that the majority of horror creators would rather make people vomit than keep them awake at night for weeks.
I plan to get all my disturbing/violent/sex things out the way so I can focus on trying to think of ways to make people scared, happy and cry.

Luke P. said...

I don't know about any of it. the interview stirred up a lot of things that I hadn't considered in a serious way.
the distinction between "fantasy" and real-world desire isn't as defined to me as it is to someone like "joel"- that's the hump I couldn't get over.
I mean, it gets into pretty complex terrian; our notion of "reality" comes into question. I guess i'd like to believe in the idea of synthesizing an individuals' "fantasy" life with "reality" - so that they become one and the same. Otherwise we're segmened, disseced by our inward-focused fantasy.It's like Blakes' idea of divine vision- of human imagination being our connection with god- rather than dwelling in the myopic prison of "selfness", which depends on phantoms of memory and abstractions for meaning- which can only be abstract and therefore general, therefore w/o divine image, which is specific and universal. I've lost my mind..