Below is the latest The Pain -- When Will It End?
Updated 3/14/07

Artist's Statement

This week’s real unifying theme: things that were incredibly fun to draw. This may actually mark the first time in The Pain’s history that I have taken readers’ suggestions (rather than stolen friends’ ideas) as inspiration for a cartoon.

Panel 1: 

Thanks to Michael Aubert of the UK for bringing this story to my attention. At first I assumed it must be a parody. It’s harder and harder to tell these days. But no. It is a joy to know that such things happen in the real world. Alas, they did not actually drive the stake through Milosevic’s heart; it was a three-foot-long stake driven into his grave about where his heart would be. In other words, more a politically symbolic desecration than a serious attempt to keep the undead down. Anyway, serious vampire hunters know that staking (with ash) plus decapitation is the only way to be sure.

Yes that is Hitler as the Wolfman and Stalin as Frankenstein’s monster. It was Alex Robinson who inspired me to make the two vampire killers Abbot and Costello—like all strokes of genius, obvious in retrospect.

Panel 2: :

I first learned of this story not from any official news source but from a former editor of mine now living in Moscow:

Putin keeps repositioning his likely successors, and journalists keep dying mysteriously. You may have heard about the latest reporter death. He was about to publish some stories about Russian arms sales to Iran and had already pissed off the Kremlin by reporting on a failed missile test. The official version is that he jumped five stories to his death in his apartment building while still holding his groceries. Everyone here just figures he was asking for it. According to most indexes, this is the second most dangerous country in the world to be a journalist, after Iraq. Sometimes Algeria beats Russia by a nose.

Regular readers will recall that Putin first donned the mask of Dr. Doom a few weeks ago in "Who Shall I Kill Next?" As he has more and more dissidents and critics murdered I intend to gradually gird him in all the armor, cloaks and accoutrements of Victor von Doom, until finally he will have become the feared Lord of Latveria. Speaking as a spectator on the world, rather than an inhabitant of it, I can’t help but love how Putin is morphing into a real-life supervillain out of Marvel comics or James Bond films before our eyes.

Dialogue stolen pretty much verbatim from the Baron Harkonnen in David Lynch’s Dune. I feel strongly that Putin should declare himself a Baron. This is the preferred title of most villains: Harkonnen, Zeno, Karza, von Richtofen. The very phrase "The Baron" summons up the image of a robust, hirsute, unsavoury man, quite probably in a fur coat, with many rings.

After meeting Vladimir Putin for the first time, Bush reported, "I looked the man in the eye. I found him to be very straightforward and trustworthy and we had a very good dialogue. I was able to get a sense of his soul." It seems that Bush is just as keen a judge of character as all the people who voted for him. You have to wonder, now that that Putin has turned out to be a ruthless Mafisoso and Stalinist sociopath, whether maybe Bush’s Presidential mind-meld technique missed something.

Panel 3: 

Thanks to Tim Wilson of New Zealand for this information. It seems unsporting of me to pick on the Japanese military, which has admirably left everybody alone since their cheeky attempt to conquer the entire Pacific hemisphere sixty years ago, but then again, since they keep refusing to acknowledge (let alone apologize for) the rape of Nanking and their other war crimes, fuck them. Plus the opportunity to draw cute big-eyed Mangafied characters bombing Pearl Harbor, raping and beheading civilians, and blinking dazed and blackened like Wile E. Coyote in the ruins of Hiroshima proved irresistible.

Panel 4:

The news about Captain America disgusts more than depresses me. In his rambling, personable, and wise preface to his collected stories, Slow Learner, Thomas Pynchon wrote (and you’ll have to forgive me for paraphrasing, as I don’t have my copy with me here at Winter H.Q.) that when we talk about seriousness in literature we are talking, ultimately, about attitudes toward death, and that he suspected that one reason science-fiction is so popular among adolescents—and one reason it has a hard time being taken seriously as literature--is that the whole issue of death can always be circumvented by time travel, parallel universes, cloning, or some other such wonky trickery. This dodge is even more blatant and shameless in comic books, which routinely kill off major characters (Robin, Batman, Superman, etc.) as a cheap attention-grabbing, short-term sales-boosting gimmick only to bring them inevitably back to life a year later. Which is one among several reasons why superhero comics can’t be taken seriously, either, for all their recent pretensions toward relevance and solemnity. If no one can ever die, if nothing is permanent or irreversible, then nothing that happens can have any weight or meaning. Even Gwen Stacey, Spider-Man’s doomed girlfriend, and Bucky Barnes, Cap’s boy sidekick--the Bambi’s mother, the Henry Blake of comics—were recently resurrected. Is nothing sacred?

I realized, after reading this news story, that Captain America has always been my favorite comic book hero. He’s the one I drew battling Prune Face as a seven-year-old. The first really naturalistic rendering of a human hand I ever drew was Cap’s Crayola-red glove. I vividly recall the issue of The Avengers in which the Swordsman—that dickweed--has Cap at swordpoint, tied and on his knees, at the end of a board hanging out over a drop of several stories from a building under construction, as though walking the plank, and threatens to kill him unless the other Avengers do his vile bidding. Anyway, rather than be held hostage and let the Avengers’ powers be manipulated for evil, Cap jumps to his death (except, of course, not really). In other words he was the most Christlike of the Marvel superheroes, to which I, who grew up with a book of gruesome engravings of martyrdoms in the house, responded on some deep and probably unhealthy level. Cap is the Marvel counterpart of Superman in his innocence and conviction—he stands for an ideal, rather than a nation. But, unlike Superman, he’s also fully human and vulnerable. Plus, the shield!

The drawing is a pastiche of Captain America #1, [ ] which showed Cap slugging that clown Hitler. (Another amazing image I found while looking for this cover is available at Ah, what I wouldn’t give to see Cap sock that traitorous little shit Bush right in his lying mouth. But then, this has always been Cap’s greatest power: to serve as an inspiration. As long as we keep fighting the criminals who have hijacked our government, refusing to sanction the traitors who are disgracing the name of America with their wars of conquest and their kidnapping and torture and spying, Captain America is not dead. This week, Dick Cheney’s errand boy, Scooter, was convicted of perjury; Chuck Schumer called for Alberto "The Torturer" Gonzales’ resignation; and Republican Senator Chuck Hagel mentioned the possibility of impeachment. Long live Captain America!

Next week: Space battle! (And this time I mean it; I promised webmaster Dave.)

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