I saw The Phantom Menace in 3D this weekend, and it was about what I expected it to be. I enjoyed it, but honestly I’ve seen the movie so many times that it was a bit difficult to get completely engaged. I’m still glad I saw it though, because the perspective it gave me on the film was valuable: I might have not been that thrilled, but the six year old in the seat behind me was completely aquiver with excitement, and listening to his commentary made it fun.
Mentioning the week before going to people that I was going to see it, I think I heard approximately two billion people say, “Oh, fun Jar Jar in 3D!” I don’t want to be mean, because the comment was made by some people whose opinions I otherwise respect, but a free hint would be: If you’re trying to be clever, it helps to say something that’s not so predictable two billion other people already came up with it. Seriously, it’s a problem that people’s reactions to the movie are so knee-jerk and predictable at this point that you can voice their reaction for them before they say it. If you’re over Star Wars and you don’t have anything you want to say about it, that’s fine, but people *do* seem to want to say something about it, it’s just what they say is so lazy and predictable that it has no value.
As for Jar Jar, that six year old behind me on Saturday providing the movie with his own audio commentary, Jar Jar was one of his favorites. The other two times he got especially excited during the movie were at the first appearances of Darth Maul and Yoda, who, when he first saw him, the boy referred to as, “Master Yoda…” in a reverential whisper. The second Jar Jar first appeared onscreen, behind me the kid squeaked, “Jar Jar!” and, as soon as the scene quieted down he leaned over to his dad and whispered seriously, like he was explaining to his dad an important plot point, “Jar Jar’s *funny*, Daddy…”
If the dad was a predictable older Star Wars fan who hates Jar Jar, he might have done well to listen to his son’s point. Jar Jar irritates people because of what he is, which is obviously, transparently, a slapstick character there for the kids. In a lot of scenes, he’s there to explicitly be a point of view character for kids in the audience, and to voice their concerns. During the podrace, he’s continually going, “Careful, Annie!” or covering his eyes when Anakin’s in danger. He’s there to provide a point of view that the kids in the audience can empathize with. And as far as what he’s meant to do, provide a character for kids to laugh with and project onto, I think it’s pretty obvious that he’s a success.
It’s just that, in the movie that older fans wanted to see, there’s no place for a character like that. I think the whole problem people hadwith The Phantom Menace is that they’re watching an apple, and then complaining, in a lot of cases bitching and moaning to the point of mental illness, that they didn’t get an orange. It happens to be, though, a really well-crafted, and at times clever and beautiful apple.
This is what the complaints Star Wars fans have boil down to: they didn’t get what they wanted, and now they’re gonna cry, and stomp their feet and bitch about it. They’re really a lot less mature about it than that six year old behind me was.
Any valuable art criticism judges art based on how well it accomplishes its goals, not based on what it is. You don’t watch Citizen Kane because you were in the mood for a romantic comedy and, wow that movie was terrible, it didn’t have Meg Ryan in it! I only really find art all that interesting when you can tell that the artist was doing it for reasons that were personally important to them. I wouldn’t have made The Phantom Menace the way George Lucas made it, and that’s good. I want to see the work of an artist, not a sock puppet trying to do what his fans would have done.
All artists that I find really interesting have an attitude of what I would consider a healthy “Fuck-you,” to their fans. Bob Dylan doesn’t play the songs that people tell him to play, and that’s exactly how we’ve got all the amazing music that Bob Dylan has made. If he listened to the bitch-ass people throwing tantrums every time he didn’t do what they wanted, we never would have got Bringin’ It All Back Home, and then after people had got used to electric Bob, if he would have listened to those people we never would have got John Wesley Harding or The Basement Tapes, and on and on. His creativity would have died a Lonesome Death along with Hattie Carroll, and we would be hundreds of songs poorer. The point is, it’s not arrogant at all to say that your fans don’t know what they want. If your fans knew what they wanted, then what do they need you for? The point of an artist is to show them something new, and something they don’t expect.
In the case of Star Wars, I’m not even saying they’re the greatest movies ever, but I do think that, these six films made over 30 years, are pretty much the only time we’ve got something remotely at this scale in film that’s pretty much as the person who created it wanted, that’s not compromised. One reason I find comics much more interesting than films right now is that a couple people can make one. With films, there’s so much money at stake and so many people involved that often you can see all the compromises made in the finished product. Whether you happen to have the same taste as him or not, throughout the 30 years and the millions of dollars involved, what came to the screen with the Star Wars films was down to what George Lucas wanted to put out there.
And Star Wars fans have a really tough time dealing with that.
There’s this pathological obsession among Star Wars fans that something’s being taken from them, because Lucas hasn’t done with the movies what they’d like. This is the core of what really disturbs me, the trend of fans to try to take ownership of the art. In the arguments for Watchmen prequels, for example, the pro-prequel arguments often comes down to whether or not the person making the argument would enjoy reading prequels. The intentions of Alan Moore don’t seem to be much of a factor for them. I’m not sure how this divorce occurs for people, between the creation of art and their consumption of it. They don’t seem to think that the art they like actually comes from somewhere, they seem to think it’s magically created as something to buzz the correct electrons in their brain as they stare it at while they eat Cheetos.
This is disturbing to me because it’s such a stupid way to look at things, since it eventually isn’t even in the interest of the consumers of the art that look at it this way. Making decisions that foster an environment in which the artist isn’t a valued participant in the creation of art will, obvious, lead to the creation of less great art.
The entire argument over the Special Edition changes to the Star Wars films could be about several things, but ultimately what it boils down to again and again is, “Me me me, I want.” If you ever go to film messageboards where people are talking about it, this is really obvious. They throw out arguments about the value of history and film preservation, and that doesn’t really have anything to do with it for them. Those could be valuable arguments if they applied, but the same fans who talk about film preservation are also upset that certain changes *haven’t* been made to the films, because those are changes they *wanted* to see. Those same fans wanted on the Blu-ray versions to see the lightsabers fixed to be consistent over the six films, and the garbage mattes and more obvious artifacts of the special effects of the times in the original trilogy to be removed. They went to the point of being hostile and hateful toward Lucas and Lucasfilm employees for those changes *not* being made, saying that those changes not being made represent Lucas being cheap and not caring about his fans, and him producing a shoddy product with the Blu-rays, and it representing contempt and disrespect toward them from Lucasfilm. These are the same people that, in the same breaths, said that the *changes* made to the films in the various editions are indicative of Lucas being mentally ill, of him hating the fans, of him being an idiot, being creatively incompetent.
The tones of the attacks toward Lucas often, even a majority of the time, aren’t just about specific things that he’s done, they’re personal, they’re hateful, they call him an idiot or evil. The cognitive dissidence involved in being this obsessively in love with a movie, but then going out of your way to say that the person who made the movie is an idiot who can’t make movies, is absolutely amazing to me.
These idiots, on messageboards, at some point they think that their experience sitting in a theater *watching* the movie, is somehow more important to the existence of the movie than the actual *creation* of the movie was. This is where it gets really disgusting to me, where people who have done nothing other than bitch about it on the Internet, think they know more than the guy who wrote the script for the fucking thing.
This sort of attitude is exactly the reason a lot of movies suck. The notion that fan service is more important than art is also the reason that a lot of comics suck, obviously. There’s a disturbing anti-intellectualism implicit in the idea that somehow art and entertainment are mutually exclusive. If you make decent art, obviously people can be entertained by it. If you’re writing for yourself, that’s not selfish at all, because you’re also writing for everybody who is like you, and everybody who likes the things you like. But there’s this obsessive idea that somehow you have to choose between putting making a decent product first, or making your audience happy. Of course, this is obviously condescending to your audience, because it assumes that making the art you want to make, and making something personal and challenging, is automatically going to be a commercial anathema. Again, this is why so much mainstream entertainment sucks.
George Lucas is interesting to me because he made the films the way he wanted to make them and, despite the howls of wounded protest and raped childhoods from pathetic fuckups who will never make anything interesting themselves, Lucas also happened to manage to be ridiculously, ludicrously financially successful making these movies in a way that his “fans” say is so stupid and idiotic and incompetent. You “fans,” you get to try to make yourself feel smart by pissing yourself on messageboards trying to prove you know more about filmmaking than the guy who made Star Wars, and THX-1138, and American Graffiti. That’s what you get. George Lucas gets to make Jar Jar, because it amused him and he felt like it, and then he also gets to be obscenely rich from doing it.
Out of the two groups in that scenario, who wins? Exactly.
And I think Lucas knows that, deep down, you guys know you’re howling in outrage and lighting up messageboards for nothing, and that’s the real reason it all pisses you off so much, not anything he’s done.
So seriously, shut the fuck up already.
OK, I think one of the things I’m gonna do as I post portraits for the character guide over the next couple weeks is also post the non-colored versions of the portraits, because I’m going to be moving the colored ones to an earlier place in the archives. Generally, I think I’m going to be moving the order of the comics in the archives on this website around to make them into a more cohesive reading experience, so if links go dead that might have something to do with it. I might also remove some of the older comics that I don’t like anymore, but I’ll try to resist that temptation.
I thought that, with the non-colored versions of the portraits, I could blog a bit about the projects I’m working on and things. In general, I’d like to start blogging more, and we’ll see how that goes.
So, Damaged Goods. I’m calling my next chunk of work that for several reasons, the main one being that it’s about coming to terms with your past so that you can move into the future. It will involve dating strips, and the rabbit looking back on past relationships and now seeing them from a new vantage point. It’ll also involve the origin story for Prester the bear, which fits with the title in its own way because he’s a teddy bear that didn’t quite come out right, and so he didn’t sell as fast as the other teddy bears, which is part of the reason for his misanthropic attitude about things. It seemed to apply, too, to my frustration over how hard it is to earn a living doing the things you actually want to do, which in my case is make comics, so the name Damaged Goods is also a bit of a joke on my comics, like the name A Waste of Time also is, because I guess from some point of view my attempt at a comics career could be seen as me trying to sell faulty goods.
So, to that end, Capitalist Pig is gonna be a big part of the upcoming storyline, and will hopefully provide a good sounding board for me to talk about issues like creator’s rights, and what our society does and doesn’t seem to think is valuable. The recent controversy over the Watchmen prequels has led me to have discussions with people in which I’ve been astonished to see how little some people can value the contribution of the people who actually make a work of art. Some people don’t really seem to get that the artist might be important to the production of art, they kind of seem to think it’s all fodder turned out by some mysterious machine for the purposes of their enjoyment.
I’ve been writing comics with Capitalist Pig for a while, but I haven’t used him all that much recently as I’ve been spending a lot of time telling dating stories and stories involving the relationship between Rickets and Prester, and things like that. When Capitalist Pig was last part of a major storyline in my comics, though, Rickets and Prester tried to murder him, and failed, so obviously there is some tension there that’s going to continue to play out, and I think it will fit in nicely with the current state of the relationship between them. It also seemed to fit in nicely with a lot of the current zeitgeist of the World, and things that are going on with Occupy, and my own personal struggles to make a living as an artist. The relationships between money and power seem to be on a lot of people’s minds, and mine very much so, so it’s all going to play into some big plotlines involving Capitalist Pig.
In general, the ideas about career will fit in with a lot of what I’ve wanted to talk about as far as figuring out what it is you want to do with your life. The rabbit trying to figure out what it is that will make him happy will also include him thinking about relationships, so there will still be lots of comics about dating and relationships including, eventually, comics about the happy relationship that I’m in at the moment :) The comics usually take much longer to draw than to write, so sometimes there’s a lag of a few months between how I’m showing my life in the comics I post to the website, and what’s actually going on in my life at the time.
There will still be plenty of comics about sex, too, and actually the other big ongoing project I’m going to start talking about soon will have sex as one of its major focuses, so, don’t worry, I’ll still be drawing plenty of smut.
Capitalist Pig has been conceived as the villain of all these comics. Prester is pretty mixed up, but he’s got a bad past and he’s naive, and Rickets has his faults, but Capitalist Pig is that one that might have an amiable exterior but is really up to no good.
Capitalist Pig is a piggy bank, and his chest says Taiwan, which is where he was made. There’s a lot more to him than that, but I’m going to be gradually revealing it in stories that are coming up. There’s going to be something about him, specifically, in the next big storyline, the first storyline of Damaged Goods, that will be important to how exactly he relates to the other characters.
When last we saw Capitalist Pig, Rickets and Prester, paranoid that he might have Swine Flu, had tried to kill him. When they attacked him with baseball bats, they discovered that if they cracked him open he was, being a piggy bank, full of money. They’ve been living off of that money ever since, and it’s been funding their cocaine and drinking and general debauchery. That money isn’t going to last forever, though, and when Prester’s cocaine habit no longer has the financial backing it needs, it’s gonna become a problem. Capitalist Pig hasn’t forgotten that they tried to murder him, either, but his general approach to things is always to put on a happy face and take the long view, where he thinks that eventually he’ll come out on top.
The storyline where Rickets and Prester try to murder him, Swine Flu , is an older storyline at this point, and the characters look a lot different to me now and I’m not wild about some of the comics in there. It won’t be necessary to read that to understand the stuff that’s coming up with the characters, but there is stuff in the older comics that will probably make a lot more sense as the comics roll on. My general approach to how I write these is that I try to make most of the individual strips or smaller series stand on their own, so you can read as much or as little as you like, but there’s usually a lot more going on if you want to dig.
I haven’t used Capitalist Pig much in the comics recently, because I’ve been more focused on doing relationship comics and things like that, but I’ve had some big stuff planned for him for a while, and I’m finally going to get around to some of that with the start of Damaged Goods.
Capitalist Pig was originally created, as you might guess, as a way for me to bitch about capitalism. I was working a shitty retail day job, and I had a lot of complaining to do. That desire to complain about it hasn’t gone anywhere, and as I continue to explore the central themes of the comics, which are basically the characters trying to figure out what it is they’re looking for in life that would make them happy, the rabbit’s efforts to become a successful artist are obviously going to be a big part of that, so as he has more to say about how hard it is to make a living off of art, Capitalist Pig is going to be a good sounding board for those discussions. The ways that money plays into the lives of the other characters, specifically what will happen with Rickets and Prester once they run out of money, will make Capitalist Pig an important character to those stories, too.
So, over the last several months as I’ve been outlining and writing things, it became more and more clear that it was the time to tell some of the Capitalist Pig stories I’ve been planning, and for his presence in my comics to get bigger. Combined with what’s going on in the culture at the moment, and all the talk about corporate power and the Occupy movement, I had a lot of other things I wanted to say about Capitalism, too, and suddenly this character I made around five years ago was seeming very current and zeitgeisty. These are the perks of being a visionary artist with your finger on the pulse of things, I suppose :P
Out of all my characters, Truckstop is probably the one who really knows what he wants and is totally comfortable with it.
Truckstop’s biggest frustration in life is that other people aren’t as comfortable with themselves as he is, although he’s extremely patient and supportive with my other characters.
Truckstop came by to crash at the house with my other characters around two years ago, and it seems like he’s still there. I don’t really plan on him going anywhere.
One aspect of Truckstop’s character that’s only been hinted at so far is his past, and he does have a bit of a mysterious past that, like Prester’s, will get explored as things go on. I wanted to set up the idea of an ex boyfriend of his that we haven’t seen yet, and that will be explored later on.
Truckstop, specifically, was made to tell stories that people have told me that I thought would make good comics, but where I didn’t think it was the best idea to draw the actual person who told me the story. He seemed like a good way to use some of the more outrageous things that I’ve heard without divulging confidences. Mostly everything that Truckstop says is something that’s actually happened, but not to me. The story of his name, specifically, is a sex fantasy of somebody’s, but that one isn’t a story of something somebody actually did. At least, not somebody I know personally. I’m sure somebody’s done it as some point.
For those of you who want to follow Truckstop’s amazing escapades, check out the Facebook page I just recently made for him ! There’s not much on it yet, but it’s gonna be added to soon. Tomorrow’s gonna be another Truckstop drawing from my book that came out last year that I don’t think has been on this website yet.
Prester the teddy bear is a born-again Christian Conservative teddy bear who’s in love with Rickets the robot but can’t admit it because of his religious beliefs. He’s a recovering alcoholic and he justifies having sex with Rickets because he only does it when he’s drunk, so he can say he wasn’t in control at the time. Since he’s not supposed to get drunk anymore, he gets high first and justifies getting drunk because he was high when he started drinking, so he wasn’t in control of that at the time, either.
Prester has a bit of a dark past that’s going to be an upcoming storyline. He discovered Jesus, and also his favorite Christian Rock band Dove of Love , when he was in AA for his drinking problem.
Neither of them realize it, but Prester was made by Rickets when Rickets worked at a teddy bear factory, and right after Rickets’ traumatic breakup with the boyfriend robot he had been dating.
Because of the conditions of his creation, Prester wasn’t quite like other teddy bears.
His solution for his growing feelings for Rickets is to respond with growing devotion to his homophobic Christian causes.
Prester’s look has evolved over the time that I’ve been drawing him, and the drawing above is sort of a re-drawn version of the drawing below, which is in my book that came out last year, because I felt that Prester looks so different now from the older version that it should be redrawn.
Also, what’s on Prester’s sign now, “Faggots Burn In Hell,” is important, as it’s the title of a song by Dove of Love.
Next up, I’m going to be posting a few pieces related to things other than the character guide, and then soon after I’ll do a character guide entry for Truckstop.
The idea of Rickets is that he’s a robot that’s destroyed his memory chip, so he’s not quite right in the head. He destroyed his memory chip after a traumatic breakout with a boyfriend robot he had, and then set off on the road to find a new life. I wrote the story of his relationship with the boyfriend robot and him destroying his memory chip in a storyline called Marching to “The City,” which you can read here . The story of what happened next, and how he ended up living with the rabbit and Prester the bear is something that I’ll tell later on.
Before destroying his memory chip, Rickets was one of many robots that worked at a large factory where they created teddy bears. Rickets created Prester the bear after his breakup with the boyfriend robot, and so Prester was a little bit off to begin with, because his creator was in an off mood. That’s sort of my metaphor for how I created Rickets, because I made him after a traumatic breakup on which I based his storyline. Originally the cast of my comic was mainly the rabbit, and his boyfriend, who I drew as a monkey because I called my boyfriend Monkey as a pet name (Aw) and Capitalist Pig, who I used as a way to complain about my job and a lot of other things. After I broke up with the monkey, I wanted a new character for the strip, and I came up with the idea of a little robot who was broken and had been discarded. It seemed like a fitting, if somewhat dramatic, representation of how I felt.
Rickets is now in a highly dysfunctional relationship with Prester, wherein they like each other a lot, but Prester can never admit it because he’s a born-again Christian and professes extreme homophobia. Rickets doesn’t understand, because he doesn’t have his memories from those days, that he’s actually in love with the teddy bear he created himself. This is supposed to be my metaphor for an artist being in love with his own art, and it’s the same reason I find it funny to draw my rabbit lusting after twinky guys wearing rabbit ears. I think what I’m trying to say is something about a choice we have, which is to fall in love with a real person, and appreciate the people who are really in our lives, or to yearn for a kind of idealized romance that we’ve created in our heads and possibly doesn’t exist. The Narcissism of affection, and also of art. This is one of the reasons I like to joke about art and sex being the same thing, because they’re both forms of communication, or connection, but whether we’re truly forming a bond with somebody else or just talking to ourselves is the question about whether it’s healthy or not. Where Rickets’ relationship with Prester will go, that remains to be seen.
Rickets’ personality has evolved a bit. Originally in my sketchbooks as the discarded robot in the gutter, he was much more of a sad sack kind of character.
I think that’s about all I’ll give away about Rickets at the moment, although I do have big plans for his future, and also the future of the boyfriend robot character, and even a love interest that’s going to try to tempt him away from Prester. So check back, a lot more coming up.
Next up, I’m doing a post about Prester.
For the character guide on this website, I’m going to write brief biographies of each of the characters, and talk about their stories and personalities, and also talk about where they came from and why I made the characters. In the case of the rabbit, I realized I had already written a description that I liked for the introduction of my book collection that came out last year, so I’m going to put that here.
I still remember with vivid clarity the moment when I realized exactly what my cartoon rabbit was. Around five years ago, I had been drawing him a lot. He seemed to insist on it. For a few years after High School, I had decided that I was going to be an Important Novelist, and I had put drawing on the backburner, but since I was little I had always drawn, and I felt like there was part of my brain that was being neglected when I didn’t. The rabbit started as a little logo, crawling on all fours and drawn as simply as possible, and I thought he might be an icon I could use on things, like the signature babies Keith Haring drew early in his career.
I worked at Borders at the time, back when there still were Borders, and I would draw him on the schedules or papers, whatever was around when I was bored or listening to something inane from a customer on the phone and I had a pen in my hand. Really quickly, though, the rabbit started to stand on his hind legs, and almost right after he started to have word balloons next to his head and appear on the marker board in the store’s breakroom saying things like, “Fight the man!”
The moment I remember clearly like a lightbulb going on over my head was when I realized that the rabbit was just me. He was saying the things I wanted to say. All at once, I realized that I could draw myself as this rabbit, and draw my own life in comics, and it could be totally me at the exact same moment when it also wasn’t me, because I’m not actually a cartoon rabbit. I realized that he could be me just as much as I wanted, and then could also go on any adventure and do anything I wanted him to that I couldn’t really do, and it wouldn’t in any way be breaking character.
I called the whole thing I started writing A Waste of Time because, while to me it felt like this transcending liberating vehicle where I could write anything I wanted and live as close to or as far from reality as I liked, I could also see where to other people all these bizarre comics about this cartoon rabbit and his emotional problems might seem like silliness, and a total waste of time. I think that feeling was crystallized by my boyfriend at that time, who somehow didn’t immediately jump on board with my visionary genius. We were often fighting about money, since we just had completely different concepts of it. He was a few years younger than me, and while I was still working at Borders, he was already on the second new car he had purchased and felt naked if he left the house in jeans that cost less than $300.
Once, a friend of mine in Chicago emailed me to say she worked with Jeffrey Brown. She worked at a Barnes and Nobel there, and he worked with her. She sent me a handmade zine he had done, and this one degree of separation from somebody who did comics was a first and a thrill to me.
I showed my boyfriend the comic, “Look, my friend in Chicago, she sent me this, she works at Barnes and Nobel with Jeffrey Brown!”
“Who’s Jeffrey Brown?” my boyfriend asked.
“Who’s Jeffrey Brown?! He does autobiographical comics, and they’re great! It’s just the type of thing I’ve been wanting to draw! He’s one of the biggest people that does it!”
“So, this is one of the biggest people doing what you want to do. And he works at Barnes and Nobel.”
“Well, yeah. I think he needs the insurance or something.”
“Wow. This is quite a lucrative career you’re choosing.”
My boyfriend then, he just really knew how to boost your confidence.
But the thing is, if you choose to look at it that way, all anybody’s ever doing is wasting their time. We’re all just trying to fill up those hours until we die. But what I’ve always felt is, what’s so horrible about that? Because the choice we have is whether or not we want to waste that time with something awesome. I keep chasing after guys, even though I’ve had relationships much worse than that one, and I keep making comics, even though there are totally talentless people in other fields making more money than me, because these are the things I love to do. And if I’m gonna be wasting my time, I’m at least gonna waste it on something that fucking rocks.
-Rick Worley, 8/20/2011
Alright, so for the next couple weeks the posts I make will be character portraits for an ongoing character guide for this website. I figured I’d post this one first, because it’s just an image I’ve wanted to do for a long time as a little allegorical representation of the characters. Rickets and the rabbit being different representations of me, I liked this little image of them together, and Rickets with the flower, and all the little things in here that are kind of ongoing symbols I’ve used in the comics.
The next posts I do will be individual character portaits, and I’m going to attach little biographies to them of the characters that will hopefully catch up new readers a little, but will also talk a little bit about my thoughts about the characters, and also probably give some details about their backstories and what’s coming up for them that I haven’t talked about on here yet.