The Oil Man

The Oil ManOn April 20th, the worst oil spill catastrophe in human history began.  Today this broken drill bit is still pumping 60,000 barrels of oil a day into the Gulf of Mexico off the coasts of Louisiana and Texas and now, Florida.   For years, off-shore drilling in Louisiana was discouraged and for a brief period of sanity, against the law.  It was thought that this practice would destroy the wetlands, which it has, removing from south Louisiana any natural or ecological self defense against hurricanes and levee breeches.  There is no silt build up or bedrock.  This geography is mostly swamp.

The “Drill, baby, drill” crowd eventually seduced President Obama, in the name of creating jobs; even hard, shitty, dangerous jobs.  The oil junkies made our President take leave of his better sense.

I don’t know what I expected from the President.  I was hoping for bold strokes and the audacity of new ideas, along with the stomach and will to foster these ideas into the world.  I knew that no human being could be equal to the onerous framework of hope bestowed on this President.  He could not be all things to all people.   His first year in office I reminded myself to cut  the guy some slack.  Still, I remembered the promises he made at Tulane University in 2008; how America would make New Orleans and the Gulf Coast its priority and how rare and special a place the Crescent City is.  He said all of the right things to get me drinking the Kool-Aid.  His only discussion about the Gulf War was about ending it; putting a halt to an immoral enterprise that has cost so many American and Iraqi lives for something that appears to be more and more every day; the easy flow of cheap gas.  It isn’t worth it.

This President knew that two years ago and now he doesn’t.

The oil industry has been rat-fucking the American citizens since its inception.  The early days of oil companies are rife with stories of them stealing land via eminent domain laws and slant drilling.  The movie, There Will be Blood was tame compared to how this industry actually behaved. What is most vile about BP is their bullshit commercial of the last several years; the “Hey, we’re the GOOD oil company that cares about you and environment,” shuck they’ve been trafficking in for years.

Three years ago they tried to ram a “Lets dump more shit into Lake Michigan” proposal on the city and the surrounding states.  These skeevy pukes spend millions on lobbyists to weasel their way around EPA regulations in order that they may continue to fist-fuck the American landscape and foul the world’s oceans.  We should be fighting these motherfuckers in the streets.

The oil companies have also done a brilliant job of branding anyone who opposes their continued  rape of the planet as  “eco-terrorists” and sadly, a great many Americans follow these bastards through the lookingglass where dark is light and light is dark.  there are a great many people working in the green tech fieds to try and lessen our suicidal dependence on oil and fossil fuels.  There are organizations like Greenpeace, who are often demonized as “eco-thugs” working hard to make sure maybe someday your kid can see a whale, or an eagle, or marvel at the natural beauty of our still fierce and lovely landscape.  I watched the show, Whale Wars, with great interest and realized none of these people get paid.  Their work is insanely dangerous, yet they do it because this planet and its creatures require some moral stewardship.   The BP spill should wake us up.  We should demand more of our President in the way of action,  and he should give us more.  He owes us. We voted in favor of history.  It is up to him to make some.

This is my scummiest superhero, The Oil Man.

Published in: on June 27, 2010 at 2:11 am  Leave a Comment  
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Pink Death

Pink DeathMy pal, Penn Jillette, once owned a vehicle named Pink Death.  It was a Ford Bronco painted a color Penn invented called “Stripper Inner Labia Pink.”  So candy-colored pink was this car, that the guy at the body shop made Penn  stand there and watch as they gave his formerly butch truck something like a hundred coats to get it the right blush of “Inner Labia Pink,” which is, “Stripper.”

I spent a week zipping around Vegas with Penn on assignment from Playboy and it was a holy hoot watching people’s reactions to Pink Death.  It were as if the goddamn thing were radioactive.

For years, Penn and Teller have had a bit where a rabbit winds up in a chipper and for years, Penn convinced me that they actually just threw the fucking rabbit into the chipper.  “Rabbits are CHEAP,” Penn would explain, and I believed him.  That’s a bad habit of mine; believing Penn when he’s pulling my joint.  He once staged an elaborate subterfuge to get me to believe that everyone got a discount from Federal Express, except me.  He surreptitiously e-mailed all of my friends to get them to go along with the gag and I believed them.  I called Fed-Ex and asked them if they thought I was a fucking mark.  I told them that I used Fed Ex almost everyday and that I should get the discount that my friends enjoy.

They asked me what I was referring to.  That while they valued my business, their rates were their rates and everyone paid the same.

I told them I wasn’t some douche-bag or a mark; that I knew how this game was played and I wanted in to the discount, and to quit working my stick.

The woman, Nora, assured me that there was no secret discount and that I was mistaken, which just infuriated me.  I started yelling, “I’m not a sucker, lady.  I’m not some fucking hick you can jerk-off like Dickie-Dope.  I’m not a mark.”

She asked me who told me this and I said all of my friends had told me, in fact, Penn. . .

Then I got it.  I swear I could hear him laughing his Newfie ass off all the way in Vegas.

The “Tony Called Fed-Ex” story was born and all of my friends know it.

I used to draw rabbits for my mother. As a kid, my sisters had them as pets and they got huge.  They were also not as gentle as you might think.  I saw one of our bunnies kick the holy dogshit out of a wild rabbit that had come into the yard and attempted to eat some of his food.  They’re nasty little fuckers and territorial as hell.  Whenever I felt the need to get out of the doghouse with my mom, I’d draw her a rabbit or a bird and she would then become convinced of my better side long enough to get me out of the house and back on the street with my friends.  I was good at charming my mother.  I once sold her a baggie full of Cheerios by telling her they were “donut seeds.”  She gave me a buck.

In the city where I live, you mostly see squirrels, though lately I’ve noticed a lot more rabbits.  I like them.  I love drawing their odd shape and when I spot one, the stillness of them is almost eerie.  Often they freeze right in the middle of the road and get creamed, which is kind of a dumbfuck way to get killed.  At least squirrels run away.

This piece is called Pink Death.  He is a radioactive rabbit.  His power is when he pisses on something in your garden. . . it dies.

Published in: on June 23, 2010 at 11:18 pm  Leave a Comment  
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The Fish Man

The Fish ManI like drawing fish almost as much as birds.  The big cartoony eyes and odd colors and shapes–they are a ton of fun.  As a kid, my friend’s  father would buy fish from the market during Lent and the guy who sold it, no shit, looked like a grouper.  He was a hairy fucker who wore a Dago-t  and had moles all over his face and neck the size of dimes and a lower lip that protruded and always had a Lucky Strike sealed to it with spit.  His name was Louie and whenever something surprised him he’d say, “Fuckin A?”  For instance:

“Hey Louie, the Sox won.”
“Fuckin’ A?”

“Hey Louie, It’s going to rain.”
“Fuckin’ A?”

“Hey Louie, the precinct captain is banging your wife.”
“Fuckin A?  Poor bastard.”

He was a funny guy who really knew his fish and once taught me how to eat a smoked chub right off of the bones.  I loved the fish section of the market; all of the different colors and pungent smells and pink fish flesh seemed alien and otherworldly to me.
When I went to the Tsukiji market in Tokyo, it was an all out assault  on the senses; a  blinding sensation of motion and temperature and speed and ice–the fish laid out for the restaurateurs, often still writhing in ice-bins, their scales a repository of refulgent, shimmering light.

Fish are mysterious and beautiful to me-.  Later in my Tokyo trip, I spent time feeding the koi in Ueno Park, which are considered the royalty of aquatic life in that culture even though they are basically carp.  I love looking at fish and the way they move.

My dad took me to watch the smelt fisherman on Lake Michigan as a little boy once.  He told me to notice how many different languages I heard at Montrose Harbor as we walked the dock.  There were Greeks, Mexicans, Poles, Ukrainians, Slavs, Swedes, Italians.  It was one of those activities that brought out all of the tribes in a peaceful collaboration rooted in their native countries.  It was also magical.  I remember looking under the dock and seeing the silvery whir of bait fish, moving so quickly as to be indecipherable.  My dad was not a fisherman, nor am I.  It was just something he knew about and shared with me.

I love watching those fishing shows like The Deadliest Catch, even though they’re fishing for crabs, it is dangerous and hard work.  In the fish market in Tokyo, I saw any number of guys up to their elbows in fish-guts; butchering tuna, amberjack and eels.  It is hard dirty work.

It is also a reminder that the seemingly pastoral world beneath the sea is actually  around-the-clock  murder-.  There is nothing gentle about the ocean.  The truth of it is  little fish get eaten by bigger fish.  Those fish are devoured by still bigger fish and on and on.  The salient lesson seems to be, “Don’t be a fucking guppy.”

This piece is called, The FishMan.  His super power is he eats the shit that falls into the pond.

Published in: on June 20, 2010 at 11:51 pm  Leave a Comment  
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The Baby Devil

The Baby DevilI always enjoy movies about evil children–The Omen, The Bad Seed, The Other and, of course, The Exorcist, featuring Linda Blair painting the local clergy from scrot to throat with green puke.

I love this kind of stuff.  Village of the Damned and Children of the Corn also set me off into fits of laughter.  In fact, all of the devil shit is hysterically funny to me.  When I was a kid, there was a grade-Z stinker called Mark of the Devil.  It might have been a Corman movie that got made for about six dollars.  They had an ingenious marketing campaign of handing out barf bags at the drive-in and the commercials cautioned the moviegoer to keep repeating to him or herself, “Remember, it’s only a movie, it’s only a movie.”  Damned if the thing wasn’t a hit.

The old drive-in movies were chock full of evil kids and toys, as were the comics; Creepy and Eerie especially.  Decades before Korn, Slipknot, and Marilyn Manson, the comics were full of satanic little fuckers doing evil at the drop of a hat.

The best bad guy is the Devil.  Satan, Lucifer, Beelzebub.  Whatever you call him, he leads the league in evil.  He is the catchall for all of the shit that men actually do to each other.  Here and there on cable there are shows where they have real-life exorcisms, always somewhere in East Bumfuck where the foreheads get wide, the chins disappear, and shit-kickers wave snakes around and drink battery acid as a testament to their faith.  Our country clings to its guns, religion, and hatred of those unlike them, and ascribes the wrongdoing in the world to the Devil.

Communists are the Devil.
Gays are the Devil.
Illegal Immigrants are the Devil.
Civil Libertarians are the Devil.
Non-whites are the Devil.
Anyone who opposes the NRA is the Devil.
Anyone who is pro-choice is the Devil.
Muslims are the Devil.
Atheists are, for damn sure, the Devil.
Rock and Roll is the Devil.

You get the picture. All of my peeps are, you guessed it, the Devil.  Years ago my pal, Penn Jillette, gave me a T-shirt that said “Team Satan 666.”  I loved this shirt.  It made your whack-job, bat-shit variety X-tian crazy.  They would walk by me with their mouth open slack-jawed and oafish and say to each other, “Can you believe what that shirt says?”  It was funny as hell.  I even had one guy roll up on me and scream in my face that I was a Satanist and that he was going to report me to the authorities.  I told him that I really wasn’t.  I just wore it to piss people like him off and, even if I was a Satanist, it’s not illegal to be so.  And he insisted that “it most certainly was against the law to worship Satan.”  I told him, “No pal, it’s not.  Sorry.”  He then said, “In Indiana it is.”  And I said, “Look, I realize you’re from Indiana, so I’ll speak slowly and try not to use any big words like “Constitution,” but Bunky, it’s perfectly legal to worship Satan in Indiana, if you so choose.”  He then pointed in my face and said that he was going to pray that I go to hell.  I gave him the Ronnie Dio devil horns and told him, “You have a pal in Satan, my man,” and he walked away cursing.  This T-shirt launched many encounters like this and finally I had to stop wearing it.

Needless to say, I don’t believe in the Devil, or his competition.  I don’t have an imaginary friend in the sky.

I believe nothing is more capable of evil than mankind.
I believe nothing is more capable of decency and kindness than mankind.
It’s that simple.
And it is that complicated.

Published in: on June 20, 2010 at 11:40 pm  Leave a Comment  
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The Top

The TopWhen I was a young idiot and in a hurry to assert my masculinity, I made stupid remarks about gay people and indulged in the unfocused bigotry of my peers.   In other words, before I actually knew anyone who was gay.  What I did not know is that there were gay people all around me and these remarks, however offhand, said a great deal more about me than anyone else.

Luckily, I grew up and in the world of art there were no shortage of gay folks who wanted precisely the same things in life that I did.  A good many of these people were heroic; Dr. Ron Sable, a Chicago physician who was one of the first activists on the frontlines of the AIDS crisis in the mid ’80s, Larry Kramer, who loudly refused to let gay Americans become marginalized as lesser citizens, Danny Sotomayor, the late cartoonist and Act-Up activist. . .these were brave people, and in the face of their struggle, they made the rest of America change with them. The gay and lesbian community still struggles with ridiculous and arcane and draconinan laws that other Americans stopped having to address a long time ago.

The right to marry. . .really?  The religious right claims that gay marriage is a threat to the instution of marriage.  Huh?  Hey Bunky, I don’t need gay people to fuck up my marriage.  I’m doing that fine all by myself, thank you.  It is beyond silly that this is even an issue.  Of course, gay people should have the right to get married.  Why should only straight people be miserable?

When I started the superheroes, my gay friends told me I’d not be able to come up with a gay superhero.  They also told me that in this genre of the superhero, there was a huge gay male subtext, which I get a little bit.  I think a great many new  superhero idioms probably come right out of the Tom of Finland pictures, which are amazing.   Beautifuly rendered and proudly sexualized, they are wonderful drawings.  There is a great collection of them published by Taschen.  Get them.  Others will tell you they are a window into a sub-culture and at one time they maybe were.  Now they are more a window into our culture.

This piece is titled “The Top” and his super power is, well. . .he always has papers.

Published in: on June 12, 2010 at 7:52 pm  Leave a Comment  
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The White Canary

The White CanaryI envisioned this superhero as a Japanese manga kind of hero; a woman superhero.  When I was in Japan, I’d notice that it was mostly men with their faces buried in manga  stories.  Titles like the ever-popular, Tetsuo, seemed to be the norm.  However, my friends who are Japanese women assure me that women read them as well and are just as fanatical about comics as the men are.  It took Americans a long time to realize comics as literature.  Art Speigelman’s Maus seems to be the tipping point.  It was the literature that made me most feel the gravity of the Holocaust; my doorway into that dark chapter of the last century.  I didn’t grow up with anyone who’d been directly affected by the pogroms of Europe except my friend, Joseph Hasiewicz, the marvelous painter who was the father of my best friend.  He never much spoke of this to us.  Speigelman’s book made the Holocaust real for those of us who grew up culturally removed from the suffering  of the Jews, gypsies, Poles, Italians, Czechs and others who were slaughtered by Nazi Germany. Speigelman did the second generation of Americans born after World War II an immense and humanizing service.

The Superhero comics were always at odds with what I believed as a young man — Might makes right– violence can only be disarmed with greater violence– things like that.

This is why my superheros are not super.  The White Canary cannot even fly or sing; she just looks good.  She’s in this game for the outfits–the couture of superhero-ness.    This is the beginning and end of her story.  One of the reasons I never became a comics artist is that I am an ADD guy and I’m too easily distracted.  I once started a comic book about a dog called “The Passenger” and it would have just followed his life from story to story.  I say, “would have,” because I abandoned it after the third page.  I wanted to draw something else. . .something new.

My friend, Daniel Ferarra, who I, on occasion, publish projects with, makes fun of me mercilessly when we wlk through New York.  We will be in the middle of a conversation and I will become distracted by something in a store window and stop and look,  At this point, Dan will make monkey gestures and say, in his most infantile voice, “Tony see something. Shiny! Ooooh!”  The bastard. But he’s not wrong.  This reason, and  bourbon, are why I no longer drive.

Years ago, when I was still a test pilot for Jack Daniels, I was a manifestly dangerous driver because I would stare at everything but the road.  Birds, flashing lights, bouncing tits, neon signs, strange people walking down the street. . .you name it;  it was all more interesting to me than the rules of the road.

I loved reading comics as a kid because on every other page something cool was happening.  It was the perfect narrative for an easily distracted child like me.

I still like reading crime fiction and stories with lots of action.  I love shoot ’em-up movies where lots of shit blows up.  All of these things remind me of the insanely action-filled comics I read as a kid.

I loved the comic novel, WATCHMEN, written by Alan Moore and one character in particular, Rorschach, a menacing vigilante in a fedora and and ever-changing ink-blot for a face.  It is a tale of the dystopian future, or it was.  Set in the ’80s, Richard Nixon is still President and there is a cadre of monumentally fucked-up superheros who’ve failed to save society from itself.  It is a cynical, funny, bile-laden tale that affirms the dark thought that a society gets as much evil as it deserves.  It is one of the greatest thisngs I’ve ever read.

This new superhero, with no super powers is called “The White Canary.”  she is only pretty and well-dressed and sometimes, this is triumph enough.

Published in: on June 8, 2010 at 6:00 pm  Leave a Comment  
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The Atomic King of Nothing

The Atomic King of Nothing

I grew up on comics.  The Sunday funnies, Marvel Comics, Mad Magazine, you name it.  I was enthralled with the grotesques and rogues who populated Dick Tracy.  As drawn by Chester Gould, the criminals were physical mutants and well as psychological mutants.   Their  transgressive biography manifested in their physicality.  The Mole, Mumbles, Flat-Top and such were ugly because their actions were ugly.  Gould’s drawing was marvelous, and it introduced an ugly kind of violence to the funny pages.  Criminals were  shot through the head in this comic; the fruits of crime were always a violent end, the law was to be upheld with Calvinist zeal.  Tracy’s justice is dispensed with equal proportions of righteous moral fury and abject cruelty and always upon pariahs and mutants and creatures of a kind of “otherness.”

Naturally, I was pulling for the geeks, mutants and criminals.  They were the fascinating part of Gould’s narrative and I suspect Gould, himself, knew this and he relished great attention on making his grotesques truly grotesque.

There was one  wrinkly criminal whose name escapes me, so bedeviled by loose flesh that he had a pouch of loose flesh in his neck in which he hid a small gun and jewels; just crazy stuff, and I loved it.

I think if you scratch any figurative artist, you might find a failed cartoonist.  It is certainly what I wanted to be.  I loved comics.  The early Spiderman ones, the ones drawn by Steve Ditko, amazed me, as did the story.  The misfortune that Peter Parker’s gift is born of. . .the idea that the extrordinairy human is born in the suffering child was something new to comics.  Marvel was full of mutants and wounded psyches–the dented-can people became heroes.

I also loved the subversive Mad Magazine. Guys like Don Martin, Sergio Argones, Harvey Kurtzman, Wally Wood. . .they broke it all open for me as a kid.  Art could be your satirical hammer-and-nails against the rest of the world.  I remember drawing mean pictures of the nuns and my teachers in school.  When I could make an unflattering characiture of an authority figure, it at least felt like I could return fire in the battles with these asswipes.

They knew I was doing it.  One assistant principal; a guy I’ll just call “Rubber Ed,” used to fuck with me on a daily basis.  He had a habit of spitting when he talked and a bit of a weird speech impediment in where he mispronounced damn near everything over two syllables.  He was kind of a cross between Pugsley, from the Addam’s Family and Norm Crosby.  He was also a straight-up ass-clown convinced that a cartel of drug dealing was going on under his nose and he decided to  turn sleuth and follow kids around in his car after school and on Friday nights.  Rubber Ed had me pegged for the Pablo Escobar of this  scenario. What a dipshit.

What I could never get this imbecile to understand was that I was always broke and dealing in substances required working capital.  He’d taken to frisking me when I’d come into the school, whereupon I would  humiliate him and pretend he was grabbing my balls.   I would shout, in full view of the student body, “Hey! Easy, Ed.  That’s my SACK.”  And then he would turn purple and start  spitting furiously while he was yelling, which for me was an opportunity to further hector him, “How about a towel with the shower Ed?”  What pissed him off the most was me calling him by his first name and leaving mean little drawings of him around the school with fusillades of spit accompaniying every mispronounced word, carefully rendered in talk balloons.  It made him crazy.  I would also quietly whisper, “fuck off” everytime I passed him in the hall.

As kids, me and my friends were fascinated by the idea of creating a line of superheros who weren’t good for anything.  They had no superpowers, they just liked dressing up.  Or they would have a power that was of no salient good to mankind.  We never did them.  Until now.

The  name of this piece is, The Atomic King of Nothing.

Published in: on June 6, 2010 at 9:00 pm  Leave a Comment  

The Acrobat

The Acrobat

In the mid ’60s there was a marvelous impressionist and comic named Frank Gorshin whose biggest claim to fame was playing The Riddler on Batman, the corny TV series starring Adam West and Burt Ward. Later, in his memoir, Adam West told the backstage account of the Batman series.  The amount of acid taken by stars and co-stars was mind-boggling.  A lot of counter-cultural figures found work on Batman; Wally Cox (the Bookworm), a Brando confidant, Tallulah Bankhead, the regally slutty bi-sexual Grand Dame of  stage and Screen, Caesar Romero, the elegant and deeply closeted Joker, Victor Mature as King Tut, and Lee Meriweather, who launched a million teen-age hard-ons as Cat Woman.

It was a goofy show and a lot of fun.  Gorshin appropriated Richard Widmark’s devious cackle from Kiss Me Deadly and made the Riddler limber, scary and kind of crazy.  Gorshin was a gifted actor in dramatic roles as well.  He also made a name for himself in Vegas as a crack impressionist and stand-up comic.  He was one of those old-school guys who could act, dance, and do comedy.  In short, he was an entertainer.   He was not a big guy.  He was rather built like an acrobat and his talent was rendered of this sensiblity as well.  Reflexive, quick, percussive are the words I think of when seeing old clips of him working four or five different personalities into his bits of mimicry.  The stuff today’s comics don’t do nearly as well.

Part of what I loved about the Riddler was the outfit;  a sickly green, laden with question marks.  As a kid I could not stop drawing this costume.  It intrigued me and it still does in an existential, comic kind of way.

We are all different identities to different people.  We are not the same people around our friends as we are around our parents.  Men are not the same way around women that they are around other men.  Our personas shift shape and we acclimate according to what is appropriate for the company we are keeping.

What if we didn’t do that?  What if, right in front of our mother we outed with: “That Angela Jolie is smokin’ hot.  I’d like to floss with her thong.”  This would probably be thought to be inappropriate, no?

I like certain costumes and uniforms.  They are there to function as a reminder, to the wearer, of who they are at that moment.  What the Riddler’s costume told you is that he wasn’t sure who he was going to be from one minute to the next, and boy, I liked that.  The whole nut-factor has some appeal for me.  I loved this kind of thinking as a kid.  Sitting in my Cathlic school with a bunch of twats dressed in Cub Scout uniforms like douchebags made me feel glad that I wasn’t one of them.  Like I hadn’t been captured by the hall monitors who wanted to tell you who you could be.  I only wanted to be like myself.

Published in: on June 2, 2010 at 8:05 pm  Leave a Comment  
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