Big Moon

Today on the site, Matthias Wivel weighs in on Chester Brown's latest, Mary Wept over the Feet of Jesus, focusing on theological issues.

In Brown’s world, Paul is the villain of the piece, telling the Corinthians that "the body is not for prostitution but is set aside for the Lord" and thus censoring Jesus’ much more accepting line on the issue (p. 177–178). It is clear that Jesus did not condemn prostitutes anywhere in the Gospels, and we might therefore with reason extrapolate that he did not disapprove of sex for pay (although we cannot say whether he gave it much thought either). It is further reasonable to assume, as Brown does, that worldly prejudices and social mores informed later interpretations of Jesus’ words, not least in the case of the Evangelists. What does not follow automatically, however, is that Mary was a prostitute, but Brown is most intent on proving just that. This is the more fundamental reason for his retelling of the stories of the four women mentioned initially: Matthew included them in his—unusually female—genealogy of Jesus along with Mary, according to Brown because he wanted to slip the truth of Mary’s profession by the censors of his day—you know, those who were intent on furthering the idea of the Virgin birth.

I am not a theologian, nor am I a Bible scholar—I am not even Christian—but I think I know a contorted argument when I see one.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—Reviews & Commentary. Over at The Smart Set, Chris Mautner's also taking on Chester Brown.

The best hint of Brown’s offbeat take on spirituality can be found in “The Twin,” a short story collected in The Little Man compendium. An adaptation of a Gnostic text, “Twin” depicts a young Jesus meeting his “twin brother” (i.e. the holy spirit), and ends with the two kissing and then meshing into one being, the sacred and the profane combining to make a whole, newly self-aware person.

But it is in Mary Wept that Brown’s interest in Gnosticism, Biblical studies, and re-examination of traditional Christian doctrine comes to the fore. Designed to look like a little chapbook or pocket Bible, the cover image features a yoni or vulva-shaped center panel, the inset of which shows Jesus’s feet and a slow drip of liquid posed above exactly where, as critic Ng Suat Tong notes, the clitoris would be. Meanwhile, two phallic snake heads adorn the upper corners. While the imagery is subtle, it is also clear to the reader that we are a long way from Picture Stories from the Bible.

Sean Rogers has been busy, turning in a tribute to Darwyn Cooke at The Walrus:

Cooke, like Toth, devoted much of his creative energy to the cheap-jack, low-stakes world of corporate comics, where distinctive vision and personal style are not always valued commodities. Cooke, like Toth, bristled. His early projects—a Batman psychodrama from 2000, a revisionist take on the Justice League—would sometimes take years to come to fruition. Such delays arose partly because Cooke wanted to handle both the writing and drawing—a luxury the big companies rarely afford even to established auteurs anymore—and partly because he refused to be beholden to “continuity,” the editorial policy that dictates that each superhero character comes saddled with decades of inviolable history. Unlike Toth, however, Cooke did manage to steer ambitious, innovative projects through that recalcitrant system. The most significant of these was the six-issue, 400-plus-page, Eisenhower-era epic DC: The New Frontier (2004).

As well as brief reviews of Kramers Ergot 9, Aidan Koch, Rebecca Roher,

For more than a decade, editor Sammy Harkham’s Kramers Ergot anthology has been a standard-bearer for the newest, best crafted and most provocative pieces in comics. The latest instalment is a phone-book-sized behemoth, featuring more than three dozen contributors. Its prickly assortment of short gags and dense longer stories all seem united by a seething anxiety, distressed by violence and preoccupied with the past. Dash Shaw’s tale of Union soldiers raiding a “secession house” during the U.S. Civil War is elegant and morally murky, for instance, while underground legend Kim Deitch’s flashback to a massacre of intelligent monkeys is nutty and vaudevillian.

At The Paris Review, Robert Pranzatelli writes about the Belgian cartoonist Max de Radiguès.

When Max de Radiguès began making comics, he had never taken drawing lessons. “I loved to draw but wasn’t especially good at it,” he explains. “I quickly stopped trying to draw in a realistic way and went for an efficient one.” He wanted the reader to understand instantly what he was trying to convey, and as he pursued this goal, his drawings became simpler and simpler. Now, after more than a decade, and with a rapidly growing list of published works, he has begun, he says, “putting in more details and more backgrounds”—though nothing too elaborate; he still wants readers to be caught up in the stories rather than in intricately rendered, virtuosic panels.

—Interviews & Profiles.
Meg Lemke talks to Tom Hart about Rosalie Lightning.

When you experience something like this, it would have been easy to become self-destructive or numb. I wanted to let it be a part of me, not to deny it.