Monday 24 September 2012


I really can't stand politics.
Instead of just ignoring the subject, somehow I feel it would be better if I could just solve everything in a blog post and we could all move on with our lives.
So here it is.
For all our sakes, I hope it's good.

Political positions are broadly categorised as Right-wing (conservative, traditional and generally religious), and Left-wing (liberal, forward thinking, and generally better educated).
(The term liberal should not be confused with the Australian Liberal Party, who are not liberal. Fantastic.)

For the past five hundred years society has been moving left.

Who wanted to stop burning witches? The left.
Who wanted to end slavery? The left.
Who wanted to create a list of human rights? The left.
Who wanted the same set of laws to apply to the rich and the poor? The left.
Who wanted (wants) gender racial and sexuality equality? The left.

The reason that older people are broadly categorised as holding right-wing, conservative views (a woman's place is the kitchen, homosexuals are evil, non-Caucasians are inferior) is that their view of the world was once the established position (or even seen as Left-wing) but society is moving to the left, and over time the perspective passes from the Left to the Right.

The scale doesn't really stretch either, it seems to stay fairly uniform.

A long time ago it was normal to blame your problems on a local woman whom you assume is a witch and proceed to slaughter.  The liberal, educated advocates of the time eventually create an opposition to the killing of people accused of witchcraft.  Many years pass and witch-killing is viewed as an outdated, inhumane practice based on malicious ignorance.  At this point if anyone advocates it they're an extreme minority and would be considered a part of a cult.

The same thing happened with slavery.  It was normal, then there was opposition, then it was partially outlawed, then completely outlawed, then it was viewed as completely inhumane, and a shameful example of the ignorance of the past.

Nowadays the political Right no longer advocates witch-burning or slavery, but they do want to deny rights to homosexuals.  Once this view was completely standard, then it was opposed by the Left.  At this point we're watching the issue tip from Centre to Right, and then it will pass from Right to cult.

Eventually the only people who will advocating persecuting homosexuals will be the same maniacs who currently advocate witch-burning and slavery.

Society moves to the left.

People politically Left are currently advocating the paths that society will go on to take:
We will use more sustainable energy.
We will take more responsibility in protecting the environment.
We will stop treating the third world like our slaves.
We will not unjustly discriminate based on race, gender or sexuality.

The views of the political Right will be moving as well, always to the left, always at the same pace.  Left and Right are heading into the future together, it's just that one is up the front, charting a course, and the other is dragging up the rear, complaining.

This is politics.

If you're reading my blog it's very likely that you're a young person intelligent enough to hold liberal views about race, gender and sexuality.  But what about when we're old?  How can we be sure that we won't be future conservatives, burdening our society with irrational prejudices?

It would be ridiculous to imagine that in all of the past and future of human society, we will be the only ones with the objectively correct position.  We will have to always challenge ourselves to confront any irrational stow-a-ways in our politics.

For example:

People these days are wearing short shorts.  Some of them are young, some are old and some of them are overweight.  It's generally held as acceptable in social situations to describe those who reveal large amounts of skin to be offensive or gross.  But there's really no rational basis for this criticism.
What is the difference between you objecting to a fat person in a tube-top, and an old person objecting to a relationship between two men?  Both objections are based on a personal evaluation of what is socially acceptable and unacceptable.  But society is always changing (moving left, as I may have mentioned) so if you rely on your evaluations without challenging them you will eventually be opposed to the younger equivalent of yourself.

The same thing applies to personal feelings about:

  • public displays of affection - (even to the point of actual sex in public - what is your argument against this?)
  • extending human rights to other animals - (is eating a cow so different to eating a human?)
  • non-procreational incest - (when love is already separate from procreation, how would you argue against this?)
  • not allowing some people to be born wealthier than others - (how can we say that all people are born equal, and then accept that millions of children will die from poverty?)
  • love or sex with objects or other species - (as long as the issues of consent can be met)

The point is, you may feel that these things are wrong, and this makes sense, because that is the current views of normal people in society.  But as society changes, if an individual is not willing to accept that their views are not objective, it's likely that they will be the next generation of people who don't want to allow gay people to marry, or women to be CEOs, or people to be free from slavery.

Just sayin' is all.

Friday 7 September 2012

A Kind of Papery Film

Whenever I read about people who write graphic novels they always refer to the fulfilment of a childhood ambition.  They all seem to have grown up subsisting on food, water and comics, they have fond memories of the owners of their local comic-stores, and all seem to have attended every comic convention and club since Gutenberg’s 1452 invention of the death-ray.   

Well, I have some confessions to make:
1.  My measly graphic novel collection consists of 4 books I like (including one manga series and a Calvin and Hobbes collection), and about 12 books that are in between average and dreadful, and I acquired my first volume after I decided to draw one myself, no more than 5 years ago.

2.  I have never spoken to anyone in a book store of any kind, or ever attended any comic convention, club or online forum, largely because the thought of people who like comics fills me with equal parts fear and apathy.
And finally, the most shameful and strange of them all:

3.  As a kid I don’t remember ever saying that I wanted to draw comics.

I will now attempt to offer justification for these crimes against both comics and logic.

I do not love Spiderman, but I also don’t hate the guy.  
So many people who draw graphic novels seem to be fiercely defending traditional superheroes, or fervently distancing themselves from such base origins.  I just don’t feel that I have anything to do with the history of popular comics. 
Spiderman is also a film.  If you’re a film-maker does that mean you had to either love or hate it? Must you spend your life either devoted to it, or desperately trying to escape from relation to it?
Of course not. 
Different films are made for different people.  And the only reason that I want to make a graphic novel is that I like the idea of a kind of papery film that a person can make on their own. 

It’s true that there are so few graphic novels I like, and even less that I respect both intellectually and artistically (Calvin & Hobbes, why you so good?).  
I’m just writing for me, and any clones of me that happen to be out there.  Everyone who writes is.  The fact that I feel nothing for almost every comic book in the world, I believe is actually a positive thing.  If you like everything, how can you bring anything new to the field?
I love classical guitar music, it all sounds so great to me.  Every piece is a delight.  Due to this I could never write guitar music, because I don’t have the ability to critically deconstruct a piece and discern between functional and brilliant guitar music. 
I don’t like many graphic novels, which is why I’m not copying out something that already exists.  There are so many things I find devastatingly wonderful that I want to bring to the field.

As to why I don’t feel inclined to seek out conventions, clubs and other ways to interact with people who read comics; well, they’re a creepy bunch.  I dislike most people, and only a few of the people I like read books, or practice any kind of art.
According to Myers-Briggs the exact opposite of my personality is a type referred to as “The Artist”. 
Apparently my type is mostly populated with scientists, and that actually sounds pretty good to me.  My dream is to spend my days working in a silent office of anti-social people, ignoring one another and getting copious amounts of ridiculously complicated work done. 

Growing up I never said I wanted to be a comic-book artist.  I was surprised when I realised this, but actually I always did want to draw comics, I just never felt like I would get to because I didn’t know any adults who did art. 

When people used to ask me what I wanted to be when I grew up I answered with what I thought was most likely.  I don’t remember thinking about what kind of job I would work, or what awesome things I would discover or invent, because this would be imagining the real world, and I only ever imagined everything else.

Perhaps the one thing that unifies all of my childhood ambitions was the desire to make things.
I built tree-houses, cubby-houses, forts with walls of rocks and a vast arsenal of stick weapons.  I carved dwarf faces into tree-stumps, built strange cabinets and devices for my room, and pioneered the concept of the trampoline-board.  My dad had a box of timber off-cuts which I constructed into animals (the giraffe with a spring for a neck was a fan-favourite, the fan being my grandmother), I made a decent approximation of a pool table out of wood and old carpet and I created at least one, elegantly planed longsword with a proper hilt. I painted figurines, my face and various pictures on both paper and furniture.  I made assorted sounds that bordered on music, assisted with theatre productions and puppet shows, and I made drawings.  Oh my god, so many drawings.

I wasn’t good at drawing as a kid, I just spent a lot of time making pictures. 
When I was very young my older sister did a beautiful drawing of Bert from Sesame Street, which my parents framed.  I was so jealous that my dad consented to frame a scribbly piece of nonsense I produced for the occasion.
Some people will tell you that a child’s scribbles are genius in their own way, but those people are idiots.  When a child fails to tie their shoes properly, it’s not heralded as a brilliant piece of performance art.  The intention of the child was to successfully tie their shoes, and my intention was to create an illusion within the page of a three-dimensional space containing some kind of fantastical beast.  With enough attempts I started to be able to achieve some rudimentary form of this, and I just went from there. 

When I really think about it, I didn’t just idolise being praised as a skilful drawer, I genuinely felt a desire to create new things. 
One time at church I spent hours working on an elaborate picture of a giant basketball factory.  A girl came over and said that it was a nice picture.  Genuinely embarrassed, I folded up the paper and mumbled that it was a map, not a picture. 
I’m sure there was plenty of ego involved, as there always is in being shy, but there's always been another side, where the ego is about evoking a universe from nothing.

In highschool I started my first comic.  It was a hilariously inept rip-off of Evangelion. 
Actually, that’s not true at all.  I wonder why I wrote that.  The comic was a great effort, and I worked so hard on it and taught myself so much about drawing and writing and stories and life.  
A page of which I unashamedly submit before you.

(It's actually a page from the second iteration of this comic, done slightly later, yet still a million years ago, before humans invented foreheads.)

Every time I finished a page I would bring my folder to school and get people to read it.  Sometimes they would be genuinely keen to find out what happens next, which I found really magical. 

One fateful day a young Kyle Neideck read my latest page, (wherein it turned out that the demon attack was an orchestrated test all along), and he described it as “A plot-twist worthy of Triple-X” (referring to an abysmally stupid film of the time which starred Vin Diesel as some kind of skateboarding vigilante).   
It was a fantastically crushing response, to be sure, but he was absolutely correct.  I could see that I’d let myself down, and that I could do better, which I did.

Ah Kyle, a fairly enigmatic human being, he went on to teach me more about art than I’d thought there was to know.

That about wraps up the early years of my graphically novel career, or whatever other crap I was originally talking about.