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Monthly Archives: September 2013

Interview by Joe Hughes with Kelly Sue Deconnick about one of my most anticipated books for this year, Pretty Deadly(Emma Rios!)

“I talk a lot about how hard it is to do press on a book while you’re working on it. It’s like you’re making a painting, and every five minutes you have to stop and turn around to explain what the painting is about, but you don’t really know because you haven’t finished the painting yet. But because of this extended Image schedule we had we didn’t really have to do that. I talked about it at the announcement panel when the book was something very different from what it became, but we’ve had the luxury of really developing it and really discovering what it was about.”

I thought that was kind of interesting.  Because of social media, and the way comic press works, it really is kind of a weird process in this way.  It makes the creative process almost like live painting I suppose.

I also dug the parts here about listening to the work, rather than telling the work, if that makes sense.  It makes sense to me.  I like that approach rather than, in a lot of interviews it’s about what the writer wanted to bring to this project–or they want to change this, or revamp that.  It’s all very dictatorial.  And probably speaks to the level by which say…something like Uncanny X-men feels very crafted, rather than something that arises organically from listening to the world and the characters and letting them speak through the things that reasonate within you.  I think a lot of writers feel like they need their hand on the wheel, otherwise they’ll end up off the road(for a variety of reasons)–but if you’re really writing, it’s impossible to end up off the road.  Like Keroac said, “you can’t fall off the mountain”.  All is mountain, all is road.  Go places, make mistakes, otherwise what’s the point?  Are you a professional or an artist?

“So for me the struggle has been between the person I am – solitary, driven, obsessed – and the person I think I’m supposed to be: a grown-up who has dinner parties and makes a good impression on in-laws.  But the truth is, I’ve never made a good impression, and I hate cooking.  In fact, I practically hate food because it always becomes the focal point in relationships, and just symbolizes death to me.  I don’t want a partner to cook food with and get fat with and then go on diets with.  I just want to sit on the floor eating cereal and listening to records.”

Kier-La Janisse, House of Psychotic Women

This.  Every day pretty much.

I need to write a thing on the totality of this book.  It hit a lot of chords.  I also think this book is the real way to navigate art criticism as biography that a lot of pitchfork styled reviewers miss out on.  A lot of critics who put themselves in their reviews, only go so far.  It’s more about showing you themselves as they want to be seen, without true introspection, and what’s worse, little intersection with the work beyond “so I sat down to listen to this book”.  If you’re going to put yourself into your reviews, go full boar.  That was part of what let me down with that Matt Seneca(one of my favorite comic critics, who I’m glad to see writing criticism again) write up of Jupiter’s Legacy was that even though in the opening paragraph he talked about the work as it related to specifically him, and the whole review sort of alludes to that these thoughts on the book are coming from a personal space–I had read that review after this book, and was like “give me the real details!  who dumped who, and who cried where” otherwise, what’s the point?  Either you are a part of the critical journey or you’re not.

And maybe part of that is format too.  It’s hard to do that kind of introspection on a website you don’t own, in a short form almost blog format.

The amazing moment that happens reading House of Psychotic Women is when you start seeing the echoes of Kier-La’s life running through the films as she describes them.  It’s a special kind of magic, that I haven’t really experienced in many other places before.  If at all even.  It re-invigorated my love of criticism. 

I mean I’ve always said I view my criticism as part of my artistic process, and generally when I’m speaking about things, its through the lens of how I see things as an artist, and what I want to do with my own art.  I always feel guilty about that, because I also feel that criticism has to stand or fall on its own merits, and I believe in a close textual analysis divorced of things like “feelings”.  Which I mean when Kier-La is talking about film it has that close textual feel that I love from academia.  And maybe the strength is that you get that same close textual feel when she is talking about her life.  She is as precise and keen with her analysis on the whip and the body, as she is her own life.  So maybe that’s the contrast I’m talking about.  The whole review by Seneca of Jupiter’s Legacy was toned through his voice, and attitude, but it didn’t feel personal.  As close as we got was that he bought the book on his birthday.  And I mean, maybe there isn’t blood behind loving a book like Jupiter’s Legacy like that, or maybe the analysis hasn’t been brought around to its logical conclusion. 

This got way out of hand.  But it’s a lot of jumbled up thoughts I’ve been having while, now, re-reading House of Psychotic Women.

Daryl Ayo is one of my favorite comic thinkers on the whole freaking internet.  He is constantly challenging and questioning everything.  I sometimes treasure my disagreements with him even more than my agreements.  Anyways.  He asked this question on twitter and facebook today:

Serious question: what are the independent/alternative comics that people are meant to read when folks say “don’t read Marvel/DC, they are bad, read *indies* instead”

My response:

There’s very few actual replacements for what DC/Marvel make because what they make has to do with 50+ years of pop culture nostalgia spanning generations of iconography. When you read an x-men book today, you’re not reading it because of what is in the actual book–you’re reading it because it’s the X-men and the feeling it gives you reminds you of positive memories you have of the very best of the x-men stories.
But what I would argue is that that process is inherently destructive to an audience, and culture, and it perpetuates the worst kind of escapism, which is a non-aspirational escapism. These are not comics that take you forward to some fantastic place you could only dream about. They take you back toward the womb, they regress you.

So my answer is two fold: 1. that there are no replacements for DC/Marvel comics and 2. That they are bad, and reading a lot of them in place of more aspirational or challenging works is a fools errand.

Which is not to say escapism is bad. Only that regressive escapism is a tool used by fascists to try and produce a controlled and loyal populace. See also every creator that has ever gotten a death threat for some random thing they’ve done in a Spider-man book. That is brain washing at its finest. Corporations love nostalgia because it’s the least threatening way to subdue the consumer in a braindead loyal till death do you part kind of way. Buying a batman comic is not fundamentally any different in function than buying a batman lunchbox.

So I dunno. Maybe instead of X-men books you can start buying Alf lunchboxes?

For some reason I never really linked up Lycanthropy with repression before reading it in Kier-La Janisse’s wonderful House of Psychotic Women, today.  Which is weird because I always made that connection with Jekyll and Hyde and the Hulk.  I guess I saw the wolf as may be less repressed, than expressed

 

The wolf was always the real thing to me, so the human I viewed more as a skin.

So not so much repression as a deception, which is the same thing, but not the same thing.  And I mean deception in the sense of survival, not predation.  The wolf has to use the human skin, because otherwise the pitchforks and torches come out, and its being chased through the swamps time.

 

The werewolf is ostensibly an internalized doppelganger, though.  It is a double.  Or the human is it’s double.  It’s usually not until one side becomes aware of the other that the struggle begins.  If the werewolf kills its other half, it becomes a vampire.  A monster with no human skin, divorced of its history.

 

I think that the discord of the werewolf is in its inability to accept both of its halves as part of the same whole.  To be a werewolf is to have both the wolf skin and the human skin, concurrently.  The struggle that arises is often because of societal pressure to either be one thing or the other, and in doing so, divorce itself entirely of the history of the other.

I see it this way because I project my own transgender history into it, and think about how I am the same being that I was before I came out.  There are components to me that society has judged inappropriate in their conjunction, and the pressure has always been to divorce myself from one half or the other, and in doing so lose my history on either side.  To go from one closet into another.  The choice, the way it is posed culturally, is to either keep the wolf in its skin, or become fully monstrous.  To become a soulless vampire with no history before its vampirism, hunched stealthily in the shadows, hiding from the light.  I don’t really think that decision makes very much sense.  Part of identity is the way you order the events of your life, and you really do need the totality, to have any kind of agency in who you are, and what you can do with your life.  To abrogate large chunks of that, simply so things are clean cut and less threatening to people’s need for clear answers, and defined dichotomies is unhealthy.

 

A werewolf is a thing unto itself.  It is neither human or wolf.  It is both human and wolf.  It’s just wolf.  It’s just human.  It is the totality of all of those things as truths irrespective of their apparent surface contradiction.  I was born with boy parts, and lived my formative years being treated as a boy, and being expected to be a boy.  But I am a girl, and I was then, and I am now.  I’ve lived almost as much time in my life out as a girl, as I did as a girl who was expected to be a boy.  Who I am is an immutable series of experiences that were both shaped by who I am, and shaped me into who I continue to be.  That that doesn’t fit into the shoebox of column A or Column B, is a you problem, not a me problem.  

 

…I also think i read somewhere that werewolves came from witches and the devil getting it on