It took me an hour and a half to cast my ballot in Chicago, half a block from Barack Obama’s house, where, thanks to the Electoral College concocted by our senile and drooling founding fathers, my vote matters, basically, not at all. But forget that. By this evening, if all goes well, my neighbor will be President Elect, and a new era of prosperity and peace will have begun. Snark, then, will be no more…so I thought I’d get the last little bit out of my system while the getting is good.
As I mentioned in the last post, I’ve been poking at the latest Comics Journal (that’s 293 for those keeping track.) The major interview this time round is with S. Clay Wilson, ye’olde underground cartoonist. It’s conducted by Bob Levin.
I’d never really given much thought to Wilson; when I’d seen his stuff before my reaction tended to be, “eh…whatever.” His art pretty much blurred into the overall underground aesthetic. I’m somewhat partial to crowded images, but his drawing didn’t do anything special for me, and the subject-matter seemed kind of rote — I don’t know. I guess I figured if it left me alone, I’d return the favor.
Skimming about in this TCjinterview really allowed my indifference and irritation to grow and take meaningful shape. Obviously, I don’t know what S. Clay Wilson is actually like. But the persona he’s got going here for public consumption is pretty thoroughly insufferable — from the name dropping to the constant I’m-really-too-cool-to-be-doing-this-let’s-just-get-drunk schtick to his defensive “Art is therapy” crap when Bob Levin mentions that somebody doesn’t like his work. Though the interview makes clear that Williams does read a lot and looks at a lot of art, the one influence he’s willing to specifically cop to, the thing he says that taught him that comics could be about anything, is acid.
And, on closer inspection of his work, that really makes sense. His drawings do have a cartoony energy, and they can occasionally make me smile. But overall, they look like he hasn’t really thought about much of anything, ever, and then he dropped a bunch of acid and suddenly had this amazing insight that all the incredibly mundane stuff in his head was really…far out! He’s exploring the limits of his imagination, and finding those limits extremely quickly — he doesn’t even need to take a sandwich or a bottle of water. The sex and violence is so repetitive and staid it makes the latest lame super-hero pamphlet look like a work of idiosyncratic genius. Hey…it’s a demon…and it’s fucking a woman in the ass! And…there are some scabby pirates! Wow, this is sure something else, isn’t it?
In the interview, Wilson gets compared to Bosch — but the thing about Bosch (and, for that matter, about Crumb) is that their cluttered images (A) resolve into a whole with some compositional integrity, and (B)have individual details which show invention, or at least thought. In Wilson’s pictures, it’s just a bunch of frat-boy gross-out and off-color clichés bunged together as best they can fit. It’s lazy and deeply unimaginative. The misogyny is the least of the troubles; sure it’s degrading to women, but really it’s so consistently pedestrian that it’s degrading to everyone. It’s degrading to demons.
I guess I should be grateful; it’s always good to be reminded of the extent to which the baby boomers are a blight on the landscape. Wilson genuflects to the 60s zeitgeist so obsequiously that it’s a miracle his spine isn’t permanently curved. The interview is all about self-aggrandizement; Wilson talks about making money, he talks about fame, he talks about personal fulfillment via the therapeutic act of drawing boring pictures of demons having sex and then about how he sells those pictures for money and gets famous. Parading your banal inner-life for fun and profit — the beats and hippies sure gave us the gift that keeps on giving. It kind of makes you want to join the Moral Majority, not out of outrage, but simply because those folks have to be more fun than this droning wannabe crank.