Below is the latest The Pain -- When Will It End?
Updated 08/13/08


Note: July letters are posted. Because of the increasing number of messages I receive, I can no longer promise to respond to everyone who writes. (Ms. C.-H. is missed around here.) Please know that your kind words mean a lot to me, as they are about the only positive reinforcement I get for the work I do. Offers of payment/publicity, hilarious cartoon ideas, and naked photos are always welcome.


Artist's Statement

My old friend Dave Dudley, now the editor of the Baltimore-based magazine The Urbanite, commissioned me to do a piece for his August issue, whose theme was “True Stories,” which was to explore the blurry boundary between fiction and nonfiction. I drew a 2-page comic titled “The Stabbing Story,” which you can see here in pdf form or in actual print in The Urbanite, if you live in Baltimore.

This was only the second comic story I’ve ever drawn (the first was a story about the single meeting between Joyce and Proust, printed in The Comics Journal’s Special Edition, Winter 2004, Volume 4, for you completists). As intolerably dull as I find having to draw scenes of People Sitting Around Talking—which is why I’ve never even considered doing a graphic novel--I got pretty interested in this foray into the graphic essay. It seemed possible that this might become a new thing for me. So this week, bored just about to the point of retirement with drawing a weekly topical cartoon, I’m trying something different. It’s less like one of my traditional cartoons, with a premise and variations, than an illustrated essay--effectively, a cartoon and artist’s statement combined. Which pretty much obviates the need for an artist’s statement this week.

I would just like to point out some more striking examples of The Pain’s prescience: accusations that John Edwards fathered an illicit love child (back on 20 October 2004) and the fucking Russians up to their old geopolitical mischief (13 June 2007).

Rumors that I am John Edwards’ illegitimate love child are absurd, without any foundation in fact, based on the circumstantial evidence of my gross physical similarity to the Senator and the fact that I was adopted. However, Sen. Edwards would have to have been fifteen years old at the time of my conception, and as he was then in North Carolina and I was born in Maryland it all seems very unlikely. Nice that our nation’s tabloids and TV shows are making this the front-page headline at the same time that the Russians invaded Georgia. Which reminds me:

The fucking Russians, man! What’s that about? It’s an article of faith among free-market cheerleaders that capitalism and democracy go hand-in-hand, that the one always inevitably promotes the other by some unspecified mechanism. No real evidence of this on the world stage, however. Russia, making a killing on the world oil/natural gas/mail-order bride market, is a gangster state where the President can have you pushed off a roof for writing the wrong thing in the papers. China, a capitalist behemoth whose economy is the envy of the world, is run by the same cabal of scared, senile totalitarians who ordered college kids crushed under tank treads at Tiananmen Square. It’s looking like the immediate future, at least, belongs to authoritarian capitalist regimes—not exactly fascist, since the governments and corporations are not fused, but still hardly the Pax Americana or McWorld we were all halfheartedly looking forward to back in the nineties. In fact it occurred to me this week that the world map has come to resemble, to a disturbing degree, the one sketched out in 1984: the three monolithic blocs of Oceana, Eurasia, and Eastasia, their borders constantly fluctuating as they vie for influence in border conflicts. We took Iraq for the oil, Russia’s muscling in on Georgia for their pipeline, and China gets to keepTibet for whatever the Mandarin character is for Lebensraum. And as long as we’re not firing off nuclear missiles at each other it doesn’t seem like anyone’s going to “interfere in [each other’s] internal affairs,” as the Chinese delicately put it.

But Marcus Aurelius reminds us: "Nobody is surprised when a fig tree brings forth figs. Similarly, we ought to be ashamed of our surprise when the world produces its normal crop of happenings. A physician or shipmaster would blush to be surprised if a patient proves feverish, or a wind contrary." And the Jackson 5 are singing "I Want You Back" on the radio. So things could be worse.

That’s my colleague Tony Consiglio in panel 1---author of the minicomic series Double Cross, the graphic novels More or Less and 110 Per¢ (Top Shelf Books) and the ongoing serial Titanius, about an angry man encased in metal. He is also one of the two or three funniest people I have ever personally known. Buy his books. Even in a field composed entirely of people deserving of greater success, Tony is an egregious example.

The desolate frozen background in the last panel may have been influenced by a viewing of Robert Altman’s deservedly little-known Quintet. The framed item I am carrying under my arm is B. Kliban's cartoon "Dirty Fat Person Sits on President's Face," which I have successfully purchased, thanks in part to your generous donations. That's sort of my version of myself a la Steve Martin at the end of The Jerk, blubbering: "I don't need anything except this cat. This cat's all I need. My cat and this raccoon coat. I don't need anything else... except this cartoon! Just the cat and the raccoon coat and the cartoon. That's all I need!" This is actually a pretty rosy scenario. The reality will doubtless be far grimmer.


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