“From the very first, children are at one in thinking that babies must be born through the bowel; they must make their appearance like lumps of faeces.” That’s Freud from his Introductory Lectures. I found the quote in an essay by John Rieder called ” Frankenstein’s Dream Patriarchal Fantasy and the Fecal Child in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein and its Adaptations”. Like the title says, Rieder’s essay argues that the Frankenstein monster can be seen as a fecal child — literally, a piece of crap. Mary Shelley’s book is an elaboration and/or a critique of a patriarchal fantasy in which men dispense with women, creating fragrant, mottled life from their own blessedly demonic bowels.
Frankenstein doesn’t much like his shit baby — but that’s just another sign that he’s a weirdo. Most kids — boys and girls — like their poop. Or as Rieder explains:
When Jehovah looks at his handiwork he sees that it is good, and Freud tells us that children at the stage of development in question are far from feeling disgust at their own feces. On the contrary, they take pleasure in manipulating them and are apt to express pride and affection for these “children.”
Rieder goes on to suggest that it is normal for adults to express disgust at fecal creation — but is that really the case? Fecal children — those Frankenstein monsters — are, after all, readily analogized to that other marvel of sterile birth, artistic production. If Frankenstein’s monster is his poop, it is also his art — and who among us of whatever gender has not glowed proudly at our own glorious, smelly glob of suchness? Who has not grabbed friends and relations alike, hauled them to the glowing receptacle, lifted the lid and declaimed with pride, “Look what came out of me!”
If you are looking for gratuitously giddy anal celebration, you cannot possibly do more gratuitous nor more giddy than the amazing Axe Cop adventure, “The Ultimate Battle,” reprinted in the first Axe Cop trade. Axe Cop is a web comic phenomena drawn by artist Ethan Nicolle and written by his (then) 5-year-old brother, Malachai (or Micah.) Like most kids, Micah is a lot less chary of indulging his fecal obsessions than his adult peers, and “The Ultimate Battle” could not be much more frank in its fascination with what comes out of our bottoms. One of the comics best set-pieces involves Babyman (and yes, that’s a grown man dressed in a baby outfit), who flies by passing gas, chasing a duck which shoots exploding eggs out of its rear.
Later, Babyman and a young similarly dressed ally (Babyman Jr.?) chase a giant monster made of sentient candy who excretes tiny cars which grow into big cars and then when people try to drive away with them they explode. And, finally, a whole team of Babymen chase a giant egg with feet which poops out phones that ring and then people answer them and…well, you can probably figure out what happens next.
But if you think grown men dressed as babies dodging exploding poop is some bizarre Oedipal scatology…well, you ain’t seen nothing yet. The climax of the story involves the evil Dr. Doo Doo, a giant sentient piece of poop with a gaping mouth and a monocle. When he shouts “Poooooooh!” Micah says, “instantly everyone in London has an accident in their pants.”
The turds they poop turn into evil human-sized turds armed with swords, each of which quickly murders its progenitor, setting the stage for an ultimate battle between superheroes, ninja moon warriors, and good-guy zombies on the one hand and evil sentient poop on the other.
Obviously, an ultimate battle between superheroes, ninjas, zombies and poop stands on its own merits. But the diabolically summoned/involuntarily produced sentient turds which kill their father-mothers and take their places also works as a nice analog for Micah’s own precocious, volcanically natural artifice, which revels in conquering/befouling the world all the more joyously because he’s not even trying. Even Dr. Doo Doo’s poop command seems to mirror the collaboration between the brothers Ethan. Micah, says, “pooh!” and Ethan miraculously creates pooh by the buttload.
Not everything in Axe Cop is pooh-based — but everything does have that magical sense of being hauled out of the creators’ asses. People in Micah’s world are constantly transforming and morphing from good to bad or from dinosaurs to dragons or from unicorns to dinosaurs to dragons to cops or from weird hybrid thingees to other weird hybrid thingees. This trope reaches a quintessence of preposterousness in a sequence where Lobster Man (who we learn later used to be part dog) rubs his face in zombie blood so he can turn into a zombie. Then he gets his companions to dump good zombie potion on him so that he can go undercover with the zombies and eat his evil zombie sister’s dog brain.
In a world where creation is as easy as pooping, it makes sense that each self should excrete a new self like the phoenix springing newborn from its own bowels. Reality is a mushy mass to be formed and reformed, sculpted, smeared and flung in a gloriously manipulable mass.
Which is why the artist that Micah reminds me most of is Johnny Ryan. Where Axe Cop’s drawing is cartoony and clean, though, Ryan (as the above image shows) embraces the messiness of his scatological obsessions, As I said in an earlier post:
In Prison Pit each body is a busted toilet whose stagnant water births some mangled abortion dragging its placenta over the edge of the porcelain to flop wetly on the cold tiles. Tentacles erupt from vaginas, vomit spews from sentient arms, and dripping things that should not be tear open their mothers in an orgy of violent polymorphous ichor. Black blood drips like ink off the mechanical penis of Ryan’s protagonist and then pools in scratchy pen lines, half-formed half-assed nightmares drawn on the back of a middle-schooler’s history notebook.
Aligning Johnny Ryan and Micah Nicolle complicates them both, I think. If Ryan is like Nicolle, then he’s not just a simple shock jock” — and if Nicolle is like Ryan, then he’s not, perhaps, quite as innocent as we like to imagine 5-year-olds as being. Frankenstein building that monster — like Mary Shelley writing that book — is both an exuberant wallowing in the glorious Godhead and an ugly stain upon the divine prerogative. If the creation of art makes us human, then we are our own foul progeny — monster Babymen sculpting monster Babymen, like diapered Frankensteins.