Friday, July 21, 2017

The Alteration of Symbols and What They Represent

    When it comes to my love of comic books and comic book characters, nobody comes close to The Punisher. I love the artists that have done work drawing him(Joe Jusko, Steve Dillon, Goran Parlov) and some of his best comics are written by one of my favorite writers, Garth Ennis. So it
’s a point of frustration to see the above image used the way it is. In case you are unaware, this is a popular image used by some groups in support of the Blue Lives Matter counter-movement. I see the decals on the backs of people’s cars, I’ve seen patches sporting the logo, and of course t-shirts. Nothing makes me cringe harder than getting a nod from one of these guys when they see me wearing my regular black and white Punisher shirt. I just wear the shirt because I like the goddamn comics and the character, and you’re bringing some off-brand political reality I don’t affiliate with into this. I’m not here to argue against anyone’s belief systems or question why you believe what you believe, but I am here because this altered logo represents a fundamental misunderstanding of Frank Castle and the overall message that almost all of his comics send. The Punisher is not interested in justice, peace, or a better world. The Punisher is and always has always been chasing a war that will never end. That is the end all be all of his wants and desires: a means to quiet the deafening misery of his own existence. The character behind this symbol and the symbol itself represent a system of ideas that is inappropriate when applied to the real-world context of the altered symbol's use. 

    In 2011, Steve Wacker gave the Frank an official kill count of 45,802 people. An absolutely insane amount of people for one human being, and every single one of them was a character who deserved it in the narratives being told. And you know what he has to show for it? Nothing. The only impact the Punisher has had on the criminal universe is that people are scared of The Punisher. There is no universal justice or dignity in what he does, and his actions undercut the very idea of creating a better society. His process is "treating" the symptoms of criminality, but never the cause. Frank is absolutely reviled in the superhero community for this very reason. His mere appearance in other comics is enough to throw heroes into fits of rage, and there are plenty of stories that revolve around trying to bring him down. Why? Because he is no hero. He barely qualifies as an anti-hero, because the people he does help are only a by-product of his wanton cruelty. He is the catalyst responsible for the creation of more cruelty, more criminality, and a growing resentment towards the idea of reformation.
   Personally, I think the true function of a justice system is the reformation, rehabilitation, and reintegration of criminals back into society. This process starts by punishing offenders for what they have done, but the takeaway here is Frank Castle stops at step one. He is uninterested in the preservation of human life if he deems a life irredeemable. And this is reflected in almost every character he interacts with to a significant degree. They end up dead, psychologically damaged, or more vicious and irredeemable than they were before. The criminal underworld doesn’t go away when he murders every part of the criminal element in a city, a new criminal underworld is created…often one worse than the one the one he wiped from the earth. He defies the deeply flawed system of criminal justice by creating a brand new system of injustice that breeds suffering. And this is why I love the literary idea of The Punisher and the symbolism of his stories so much: they take that idea of vigilante justice and they see it all the way through. What you’re left with is an infinite chain of empty conflicts, with no discernible end in sight. And THAT is the heart of Frank Castle’s very personal, never-ending war.

    If you’re someone that rocks this Blue Lives Matter bastardization and you’re thinking “Well yeah, that’s the whole point of his character” then why the hell do you think this an appropriate symbol for a real life counter-movement? Kill em all is not an intelligent, ethical, or even pragmatic approach to criminality. It does not lead me to believe you have the social awareness to be a mouthpiece in support of officers of the law. In the comics, seeing the Punisher logo means one thing and one thing only: You are about to die. It definitely fires up that “hell yeah” part of my brain that kicks off when I see fictional vigilante justice, but this symbol has no place representing any group interested in justice in the real world.


Saturday, February 25, 2017

I Want Us All To Be Better Artists So I Didn't Proofread This

If you were to ask me(and it's my post so we can just assume you are asking me), finding your specific creative voice is one of those most difficult things to do in artistic work. It's easy to look at the body of work of your peers, look at what they've created, and feel like you aren't there yet.  I admire a lot of the people around me when I see how they're developing their work, to the point where watching some of you go at it is almost demoralizing. You'll meet a lot of people in your life that are just that goddamn good. And if you are one of those people, I want you to know that it's more encouraging than anything else. But it breeds an internalized insecurity in me when I go back and try to do something new. I feel embarrassed by my own voice, so I start to quiet it down.

Feeling blocked or particularly unskilled creatively is natural. You hear about it all the time; people looking at their instruments of creation, feeling absolutely benumbed. And a part of overcoming the limitations of your artistic self is working despite these feelings; sitting down and working everyday, being ready to create some of the worst work you're capable of. I know I feel that way when I push myself. I'll look at a page I worked on three days ago, and I'll get so embarrassed by it, you could probably use it to blackmail me. I'm not crazy about what I write every time I write, but I'm always glad to put the time in. It's easy to wait for the feelings of passion and mania to inspire you to pump out garbage, but pumping out garbage even when you're scared of creating garbage is key. But  sometimes, you really hear that creative voice of yours, and you make something you're actually proud of instead. It's important to take those little victories in stride. Once you start collecting all of those minor wins, you start seeing what regularly drives you to earn them. Even if your voice changes, where it comes from never does. And if you keep working, you'll inevitably hit it time and time and time again.

I like that this page still exists. Reading some of the old stuff is an great way to induce vomiting, and it's a great way to be real with myself. They aren't all going to be hits, I've accepted that. I think posting on here reminds me of a time when I didn't give a shit about making a lasting, good impression. I just wanted to have fun and play with ideas, maybe make at least one person identify with the complete nonsense I occasionally put out. Before times like how I feel now, where writer's block seems natural, instead of a meaningless self-imposed limitation. So I've already decided to post this no matter what, and maybe that's because I want to be more mortified of my own lousy writing, or maybe it's because I want to help ease the tension some people feel when posting creative work. If I can represent this, I hope that inspires you to express something yourself when all of your consciousness is telling you that it's not good enough. I want to help you fight against any self-decided sense of defeat, and I also desperately need to find my voice as well. And we all have to put out a lot of bullshit with no fear to realize what we want to be.

Or maybe just send me some cool shit and let me look at/listen to it if you don't want to put it out there. I wouldn't mind giving half my friends a good kick in the ass to remind them they're better than they think.