Mar 22, 2018

Comics bullshit 2017

I keep wanting to write about COMICS... because damn, so much shit went down in 2017! This is all going to be insider bullshit, so read it only if you're a nerd with nothing to do. I don't take myself too seriously... and you shouldn't either! I say this because talking about anything online is now a minefield of mass lynchings and people feeling personally attacked. The evolution of the "same" and "relatable" culture but taken to the world of politics. I've seen plenty of this from the corner of the comics world I'm part of ...and last year there couldn't be a more fascinating gossip for me as that whole thing with Drawn & Quarterly and the Argentinian cartoonist Berliac. There's just... so many layers to it.

First, let me give you a little background on where I'm coming from, as this is, after all, just my very subjective opinion! So, as you may or may not know, I am from Mexico City (born and raised) so my relation to Argentina and its culture is in a way closer but also just very different from the one people in the U.S., Canada or Europe would have. I wrote a bad joke about this before, but I think it was getting lost in translation... my point was to say that something mexicans and argentinians share is a taste for offensive humour! Which isn't something all of our Latin American neighbors would agree with, and even more unacceptable for "americans" and canadians. Some even think that South America starts in Mexico [Mexico is part of North America, and before the south there's still Central America and the Caribbean] ...wait, did you know "America" is an actual continent and not just a country? Crazy, right?!

Anyway! Going back the original topic (comics!) I respect everyone who is a cartoonist, just because I admire anyone that can put themselves under such strain for something that is one of the most underpaid and undervalued arts. So, there's Berliac, right? Regardless of if you like his work or don't, you cannot deny he is dedicated to the craft! And that's also something about Argentina, they're serious about cartooning there. But wait, if he comes from somewhere with a pretty decent cartooning culture, you would think he could draw inspiration from that instead of from somewhere so far away like Japan? The thing about colonization (everywhere and anywhere) is that it leaves us mestizos with a sort of detached relationship to our intersecting cultures. ["Mestizaje" is one of the founding ideas in Latin American countries, we are no longer just indigenous but we also don't want to identify with the colonizers, we are the mix of both. This nebulous concept obviously brings new complications, but that's a whole other topic, for now... you get the idea!] So, in that way I think anyone who can't relate to "the status quo" naturally relates to things with an evidently non-western aesthetic as can be found in japanese comics and animation.

Which brings us to Berliac, an Argentinian guy, living in Berlin, drawing comics... duh, of course he's gonna love asian shit! Someone said his work just looks like he copies Yoshihiro Tsuge, and... yeah, I can see that. I can see he loves the shit out of GARO magazine. Then there's that text he wrote “GAY-JIN: Manga is not a genre. It’s a gender” which is just... damn. Coming from Mexico, I get it: ha ha ha, offensive macho jokes, just another part of our lovely latino culture... not! Wake up, man: it's 2017 and you're on the fucking internet! You can't do that shit. Ok, but wait, how would you explain this whole thing to someone 30, 40 years ago? You can't, it's just crazy: Drawn & Quarterly announces they're publishing Berliac's book, "Sad Boy", and in about 24hrs. this news has already gone around the world and brought up a tumblr post Berliac wrote in 2015 (yes, that infamous "GAY-JIN" text) which devolved into a ridiculous public exchange with Sara Horrocks... this incident got him labeled as trans-phobe and now, returning to 2017, makes D&Q cut all ties with him and drop the publication of his book, like nothing ever happened. It just comes to show how disposable artists are... or should I say "content makers"?! Ugh. It seems like there was no contract involved, which is a crazy way to come out and announce a book... so if anything happens they can just back off...

So wait, him being dropped didn't actually have anything to do with the actual content of his book, or did it? A lot of people did come forward accusing him of cultural appropriation, because of the way he draws. Kim Jooha [A Korean comics critic based in Canada] claimed his depiction of asians is offensive, as he portrays them with the stereotypical slanted eyes. And although Jooha can't speak for all asians everywhere, she definitely has more of a saying in that than me or Berliac, who aren't asian. So, we are latino... but what does that mean? For Berliac it means that if he went to Asia, people could consider him white, but in Europe he could also be seen as an arab... we are by definition, undefined. So inevitably, this whole mess became more complicated once people started realizing that Berliac isn't your stereotypical "evil white man." But then, don't a lot of other western artists also draw tons of inspiration from Asia? The annoying difference with Berliac is just the amount of pretentiousness he adds to it. I asked him on twitter about why he re-purposed linguistic signs (as that's how I interpreted the way he spells out the titles in his covers) but I think at that point he was already feeling too attacked from too many sides and he just kind of denied it defensively. Anyway, I am not for lynching anybody, so I also preferred to retreat and keep observing from outside the drama black hole (and I call it that 'cus it can suck you in!)

And then came his defense... the juiciest part of this whole drama! He wrote a long, public facebook post (how else could it go down, really) where he detailed his suffering as a poor, immigrant in Europe today (which, as we know is in the middle of a big immigrant crisis, being overflowed with millions of refugees from Africa and the Middle East). A true, Latin American drama, all that justified catholic suffering come to life. Then at some point he off-handedly mentions how he forgot to renew his italian passport, which was why he didn't get all these european union benefits he could've had... wait, what? That sounds more like "# first world problems" to me! Haha. Oh well, sucks that his book didn't get published. After all this bullshit, I got kinda curious to read it since it is actually supposed to be inspired by these misadventures he had as "another poor immigrant in Europe". Eh, I can just read it in spanish if I really wanted to! After all, I think all this attention just benefited him as he got a lot of people from Europe as well as Latin America to defend him and take interest in publishing his "banned" book. Good for him! I guess... if the internet doesn't forgive you, it will definitely forget you, because someone else will fuck up next week and everyone will move on their hate towards them.


Speaking of "hated men in comics"... what about that whole Nick Gazin thing? All this people coming at him for writing the worst "best of comics list" of 2017? Like, dudes, where have you been? Nick has been writing silly, biased, lazy and yeah, sometimes straight up dumb articles about comics for like 10 years now... it ain't nothing new. Also... he has actually ran many genuinely good comics on the site and gets artists paid, so ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ Whatever, Nick knows no one takes him seriously, and that's why he doesn't give a shit! The exact attitude that was pretty much a requirement for working at Vice back when it started... and yeah, I'm biased about this too because (for better or worse) I was the comics editor of Vice Mexico for 5 years hahaha... All I'ma say is that if you want some real comics journalism, you're not gonna find it there, that's for sure.


Ooof, then there was that whole 2D Cloud thing... in which they fired and publicly cut ties with Blaisee Larmeé and Andy Burkholder for... fucking up. What do I mean by that? Well, I wish could say, but out of respect to everyone involved, I won't. So, yeah, let's just say they fucked up, and they fucked up bad. But then, does that mean we should completely ostracize them and exclude them from "the comics community"? I don't know, man. It's hard because I agree that victims should be supported, but also, we should challenge abusers to change and better themselves, and I'm not sure if shutting them off completely actually helps them do that. I don't know!

So, this one definitely ended up negatively for Larmeé and Burkholder, but for 2D Cloud as a publisher, it gave them a lot of positive attention from people, and I think sort of disguised their already existing financial problems as being caused by their well-meaning decision to fire them. Later on came Dan Nadel with some snarky remarks... which was just laughable for me! That was like the big dog going after the wounded little dog in the park. Yeah, 2D Cloud isn't perfect, but at least they're trying to do something to be better!


Something else that was very funny to me and seemed quite defining of the moment we are living in comics right now (or at least in our corner of "alternative" comics) was at the after party of Comic Arts LA in which I was hanging out with a big group of women. We were talking about who were the "hot single guys" of the fest and we were kind of bummed out because we could only come up with like two names. I said something like "There aren't any, they're all either gay or underage" to which I remember most laughed and agreed to. So yeah, this is it, this is what we've always wanted! This is our moment!


I hope with all this bullshit I'm adding something to the conversation and making ya'll question some shit and it's not just like,... me stirring up and warming some cold-ass pot of drama! hahaha
Anyway, I genuinely think we are living in an amazing moment for comics. There's so many new kinds of comics coming out by all sorts of people and I love that! Some of my favourite books from last year where...

* By Monday I'll be Floating in the Hudson with all the other Garbage by Laura Lannes

* Sec by Margot Ferrick

* Mirror Mirror II edited by Julia Gfrörer and Sean T. Collins

* Tonto by Abraham Díaz

* Dust Pam by Thu Tran

* How to be Alive by Tara Booth

* Portrait by Simon Hanselmann


There's so much going on in the internet all the time that it's hard to pay attention to anything, but here are some longer format things I've enjoyed reading lately have been...

* Austin English's TCJ column Interesting stuff for alt comics and zine nerds! Also Austin is putting out this comics mag that's gonna be more of that but on paper, it looks like it's gonna be fun, you can preorder it here! ...and yeah, he invited me to write something for it so I'm biased, but whatever haha

* Kim O'Connor's blog I don't necessarily agree with everything Kim says but I do find all of it fascinating to read. I don't think I've ever read a positive review from her, but she's so good at tearing everyone apart. There's also something sort of obsessive about her approach to dissecting everything that I can really relate to.

* I don't really listen to podcasts but I have enjoyed some episodes of Anya Davidson's Mindkiller podcast as well as some others of the Study Group Process Party podcast. They talk with some really cool cartoonists!

* Kind of hard to read long texts on instagram but I do enjoy taking my time to read all the manga related things Ryan Holmberg writes about.

* Not specifically comics but I really liked Jacob Berendes' 100% Publishing blog. Update more, man!

* Forge Magazine, which is also not just about comics, but has a lot of really good interviews with all sorts of artist people. It's edited by Matthew James-Wilson who is also now co-organizing Comic Arts Brooklyn (and that gives me hope!)

* not comics related, but one of my favourite links on the internet that I look at every day is THE UNDERESTIMATOR blog, run by Gus (aka Wally Nightingale on facebook.) Both places he posts the most insane pictures from original punk rock n' roll!

Thanks for reading, nerds!