So Thursday night I had spent the entire day
avoiding working on my cartoon--writing, cleaning house, running errands--all
the while feeling anxious and guilty. This is stantard operating procedure
around here but the level of anxiety was much higer than usual. I felt the
time had come to address the prisoner abuse scandal, but could not imagine
what I would draw about it. After last week's decapitation fiasco I was determined
to do something relevant and incisive. The first few ideas that came to me
were too obvious--the sort of thing that editorial cartoonists of the "weeping-statue-of-liberty"
school would think of. Both Jenny Boylan and Megan Kelso independently thought
of using the iconic image of the prisoner with the hood hooked up to electrodes
and standing on the box, with some grimly ironic caption like "SUPPORT
OUR TROOPS" or "MISSION ACCOMPLISHED." But, as Megan pointed
out, it is not my job to draw the cartoons that anyone else could think up.
I didn't want to draw anything merely angry and bitter, but, on the other
hand, I was also having trouble finding the funny side. Megan had suggested
that maybe I could draw something that obliquely addressed the scandal, only
thematically related--I've had a pretty funny cartoon about tortures of the
world in mind for some time now--but this seemed like walking instead of swinging
at the ball.
So around eleven o'clock Thursday night I was listening to Loveline and sifting miserably through my manila envelope of ideas and works-in-progress when I came across a half-completed drawing of me and Boyd dressed as Captain America and the Lone Ranger, except without pants. (And you know what? We're not even going to get into the question of why such a drawing would exist. For reasons of national security all I can say about that drawing is that it has to do with a highly classified project code-named Fort Sex.) It was one of those classic moments of inspiration you always see in movies about artists ("That's it, Pollock--you've done it! You've broken it wide open!") that never happen in real life. The caption appeared in my head: The Photos They Won't Let Us See. At the time of this writing, only George and Mister Cheney and some Senators have had the opportunity to view the rest of the prisoner abuse photos, in secure settings that sound like really bad stag parties, and they're still debating whether the public will ever be allowed to see them. One way or another, of course, they'll inevitably leak, and when they do no doubt we will all be puking in the streets, grabbing total strangers by the lapels and screaming "Can you believe this shit?!". Trying to imagine what could be worse than the photos we've already seen seemed like just the way to address what Megan called the "What next?" feeling--this numb exhaustion and the dread of what new atrocities we'll have to learn about in tomorrow morning's news. As always, I have no doubt that the truth will far outdo in grotesque brutality anything my own meager powers of imagination can conceive.
Anyway once I came up with the idea the photos pretty much drew themselves. Thanks to Ben Walker for pointing out that the Iraqi prisoner should be forced to hold the torch of liberty aloft for the duration of his sodomizing. I drove down to Baltimore feeling like an evil genius for yet another weekend of drunken hilarity with my friends.
Tim Kreider will be at Reptilian Records (403 South Broadway, in Fell's Point, Baltimore ) from 7 to 9 P.M. on Saturday, May 29th, to sign the first available copies of The Pain--When Will It End?, the collection of his best cartoons from Fantagraphics. The official book release party will be held immediately afterward at everyone's favorite family corner bar, Cox's Pub (1501 Covington St, at Fort Avenue and Covington in South Baltimore), a pleasant water taxi ride across the harbor from Fell's Point. Books will also be on sale at the party and Tim will happily sign them, although by then his hand-eye coordination will have deteriorated badly. Fellow cartoonists, rocket scientists, novelists, poets, punk rockers, dominatrices, transsexuals, hornswogglers, Satanists, at least one Buddhist, and Tim's mom will all be there. Tim's best friends, on whom his characters are based, will be drinking heavily and behaving in ways that will be uncannily familiar to regular readers of the comic. Basically, it will be exactly like being in one of Tim's cartoons, if that's your idea of a good time.
George and Mister Cheney have been invited but cannot confirm their availability at this time.