Juan DonJuan's Mind Control Menagerie

Over the long period of blogging silence, I’ve undergone a bit of a transformation. The long and the short of it is that my ideas and goals for my comics are likely to be very different from the aims of any professional writers and so I will no longer be collaborating on comics. The way the comics industry is structured, it tends to give importance to the writer as they are the only one that will carry any project to the television or film development stage. There are many other factors but I suspect a big one is that many independent comics publishers rely on intellectual property rights to stay afloat. It’s just too bad that in this system, the individual spent doing all of the character design, acting, set design, action choreography, cinematography etc. is almost an afterthought as a project moves to another visual medium.

Keep your eyes on the Television game show prize.

As an artist working in comics, I’ve focused on only creator-owned projects because I felt that this was the sandbox where we could explore more idiosyncratic and unique ideas. It’s supposed to be an arrangement where the creators are just that…investing their creativity to a project. That’s my favorite place to be and for much of the time I worked with Joshua Hale Fialkov on the BUNKER, it felt like that. I don’t think I knew just how rare it is for an artist to have some input on the story. Too often we’re sequestered away to an inbox in which scripts are dropped into and send back various stages of realization/embellishment. That doesn’t feel as much like a creative situation when you have no say in what you’re drawing panel after panel, issue after issue.

Now I write comics and I illustrate my own writing. I’m not going to be writing for television. In my experience that places too much emphasis on the dialog (on the phone, in cars and in bars) to move the story forward rather than in the many inventive ways real comics affords. A drawing is not limited like a photograph and yet, that’s what many are doing to better help visualize their comics for tv. This thinking is a disease. In other words, it tends to limit the art to static stills similar to storyboards. I will not treat comics like a marginal medium to be used for some other medium’s goals. Instead I’m going to explore what comics can do better than anything else and follow where my imagination takes me.

Because I won’t be limiting myself to what can be expected to sell as a television show, I can grant myself the license to say what I want. I no longer have to appeal to the broadest consensus which I’ve found usually results in various forms of pandering (appealing to the most usually means going the lowest). Ultimately my goal is to raise people up with the stories I tell rather than trying to satisfy genre expectations, gratify misdirected ids and violent power fantasies. The goal is to bring people together by acknowledging that we all have more in common than we think and together we have very real power. That’s going to mean exploring a lot of the stresses we all share but don’t talk about; like economics, the validity of the myths we hold dear, our ideas of what it is to be a hero and more.

Fresh start! Let’s call it…Future Proof! SMH.

Earlier this year I turned around a ten page short story in quick time to fill a last minute opening in an anthology. That story was based on an idea I had simmering for some time and eventually became, Future Proof. I’m quite happy with it and I think it’s artists responsibility to NOT rubber stamp reality but to comment on it and stake a claim for a better one. Not in the most broad and generalized uplifting platitude filled morality yarn but in stories that are critical of the ways we fall short in focused and specific ways. You can’t be so in love with the status quo and be a true artist.

Ron DonJuan and Juan DonJuan break down the ‘news’.

That brings me to my most recent short, Juan DonJuan’s Mind Control Menagerie. It’s a caustic satire of the morality at play in our leadership class as surveillance freelancers chop it up over all the ways they keep the rest of us confused, disenfranchised and distracted by juvenile and puerile movies, television, news and more (some preview panels to the right).

In writing it’s very difficult to see your own story with the same eyes as your reader. It’s what makes editors so essential to the process. This morning after completing Juan DonJuan, I read it. I can never see it completely fresh but I think it’s good because it’s challenging and emotional, funny and acidic at various turns and sometimes all at once. It made me feel something no other story did and I hope you’ll feel the same.

Juan DonJuan’s Mind Control Menagerie will be available in print later this year in RAID.3!

Daily Warmup Sketch: Bill O'Reilly

Why Bill O'Reilly? Well, the folks at Drawbridge felt we needed to express solidarity with political cartoonist, Mike Thompson. Brigid Alverson of Robot 6 reports:

If you follow the national news, you may have heard that Juan Williams was let go from NPR for, NPR claims, a variety of offenses, just the most recent of which was stating on the air that he got nervous when he saw Muslims in Muslim garb on airplanes. This caused a firestorm over at Fox News, where Bill O’Reilly and other commentators complained that NPR was stomping all over Williams’s right to speak his mind.

But when the shoe was on the other foot, O’Reilly did a little stomping of his own: He took offense to his portrayal by political cartoonist Mike Thompson and … well, let’s let Mike tell it:

He then gave out my work e-mail address and instructed his viewers to “let him know what you think.” O’Reilly stressed that his viewers should take the high road in their e-mails to me, which is a little like placing a bowl of Halloween candy in front of kids and telling them not to gorge themselves. O’Reilly’s smart enough to know what would happen.

Yup, the high road was definitely the road not taken. Thompson received over 2,500 e-mails, many of them in all caps, discussing exactly what people thought of him and his cartoon and what they would like to do to him.

Thompson doesn’t mind having people protest his cartoons—it goes with the territory in his field—and he was even grateful for the bump in traffic. But there’s a larger point here, which is that O’Reilly and co. are really defining “freedom of speech” as “freedom of speech that agrees with my point of view.” Here’s Thompson again:

What it all boils down to for people who behave like this isn’t defending the concept of free speech, rather defending free speech that agrees with their partisan point of view. Many of them decry Williams losing his job because, in their view, he was too conservative. But then want to defund NPR and cause everyone else at the broadcasting company to lose their jobs because, in their view, NPR employees are too liberal. Many of them would stand silently next to people carrying “Obama = Hitler” signs at Tea Party rallies that O’Reilly encourages and promotes, but scream foul when I put the slogan on his shirt in a cartoon. These same people decry what they see as a journalist being punished because of political correctness, then turn around and exercise their own form of political correctness by sending torrents of disparaging, and threatening e-mails in a failed attempt to intimidate a journalist who doesn’t agree with their worldview:

He then cites some examples, which are depressing, and the comments to his post are even more depressing.

At times like this, it’s good to take a little refresher course in definitions of terms. “Freedom of speech,” when used in a First Amendment sort of a way, means that the government will not prohibit any sort of political speech. It doesn’t apply to other institutions, such as the media, nor does it protect individuals from the consequences of their speech. That includes getting fired for making incendiary remarks on the air, or drawing an unflattering cartoon of Bill O’Reilly.

However, it’s one thing to rag on someone on television and another thing to give out their e-mail address on the air—that borders on harassment. And getting all self-righteous about one person speaking his mind while trying to bully another? That’s straight-up hypocrisy, although I’ll bet O’Reilly was secretly pleased when he saw the cartoon, as it gave him an easy piece of red meat to toss to the crowd.

Thanks goes out, of course, to Bill Griffith, creator of Zippy the Pinhead. Go check out the rest of the sketches here.