I saw something at ComiCon a few weeks ago and it's been bothering me ever since. I'm THE last person on earth to advocate any sort of censorship, especially since it gets me lumped together with evangelists, Harry Potter haters and other groups I can't stand.
But I saw a graphic novel (comic book for the uninitiated) that made every single Matrix or Schwarzenegger movie positively pale in comparison. The Matrix scenes where the bullets fall like raindrops seem grade school acceptable compared to this graphic novel. Every lame (is there any other kind?) slasher flick conservatively used fake blood compared to Crossed.
Here's what happened: I walked into Comicon and over to the Avatar Press booth (no relation to the film). Glancing at the covers of all the issues of Crossed on display I immediately thought: zombies. After all, their booth wasn't too far away from Max Brook's. So I prepared for decapitations of the undead and started thumbing through a copy.
A main panel (that's comic talk for large illustration) on page three of one issue showed a male character (mostly clothed) raping a female character (totally nude) from behind. That was on page three. Then there were stabbings, decapitations, slashings, more rapes, shootings and, oh yeah, a lot of these violent acts? Were being carried out by male characters (generally clothed) against female characters (generally partially nude). Chainsaws and fire axes included! I could be wrong, but I think there was a panel depicting a male character cutting a female character's nipples off. With a pair of pruning clippers.
I put the copy back in the display rack and glanced at the booth minder. I think he was one of the main artist/creators. He was busy working on a large illustration (fortunately it was just a character's face in a rictus of rage under the banner title). He was chatting into his cell phone. A few twentysomething white guys stood in a loose line waiting for him to autograph their copies or tell him how much they loved Crossed. They all had a slightly downtrodden, whipped dog look to them, like these were young guys who had been cashiering at the local AM/PM since high school. They probably also had subscriptions to Fangora and way too many speed metal albums.
I took a couple steps back from the booth to take a picture of it. As I did, a kid wandered up to the booth. To be fair, the artist was busy talking to his fans and signing books and the boy, about 10, was on the far side of the display rack. The kid, who was wearing a Green Lantern t-shirt, picked up one of the graphic novels and started thumbing through it. He had a piece of candy in his mouth and was crunching it loudly. My skin started to crawl. Finally, I walked away and as I did, I noticed the boy was still there, crunching away and flipping the pages of a graphic novel with the kind of gratuitous violence that would give Larry Flint pause.
I really hope I'm wrong, but I didn't see any "MR" label on the front of the graphic novel. Hopefully there was one on the back near the bar code. For the non-comic fans, MR stands for Mature Reader. It's basically an NC-17 for books and looks sort of like this one for video games. Again, I'm no fan of censorship but when (pretend) violence hits that kind of nadir, maybe it's time to reconsider?
I found Crossed on Wikipedia and read the plot summary. It's an interesting though not revolutionary premise. A futuristic plague wipes out most of humanity except for a few who survive with a weird cross skin rash. They are doomed to live out their days fighting the most depraved violent and sexual impulses that come into their tiny post-apocalyptic minds. So the majority of the violence in the graphic novel occurs only in the characters minds. Spiffy.
Apparently, this comic has some serious fans. So much so Kevin Spacey's production company is negotiating a film deal. Okayyy ...
I just keep wondering: is this the sort of thing Jared Loughner would like? Or is he more of a traditionalist Spiderman fan? Maybe Eric Harris or Dylan Klebold would have favored it, seeing as they were both avid fans of The Matrix? Or maybe they both had their rooms decorated in Care Bears and I'm just jumping to conclusions.
Finally, I want to say every time you produce art you produce two things; the art itself and the implied subtext of the art. I'm sure the creators of Crossed are very nice, talented young guys and I'm glad they've found success in a creative field. But I wonder about the subtext of their art and whether they are even aware of it?