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CAN’T WE ALL JUST GET ALONG? NO.  

“I don’t want everyone to like me; I should think less of myself if some people did.”
                                                                                                                                             – Henry James.

Many years ago, at the very start of my career, I was grateful to get a bit of buzz from a fan magazine published by a then still occasionally productive talent in the comic book business.  This initial gratitude was first tempered and then disintegrated by a “quote,” ostensibly from me, saying in sum that this first project of mine would clean the clock of the work of an artist on an already ongoing book in the same, then new to mainstream comic books genre.

To be clear, I never said any such thing, for a number of reasons.

First, it simply wasn’t true.  I was all too aware that this other fellow was vastly better at doing what he did than I was at doing what I did. I was a pipsqueak, and to this day, I’ve never gotten a satisfactory answer from that great self-mythologizer as to why he threw me into the scrum of a game of “Let’s You and Him Fight.”

Second, and most significantly, despite my vast, multitudes containing ego, I am an engine of doubt, self and otherwise, and lack the unassailable conviction, the certainty granting me the privilege, the sense of righteous endowment and, for some of you unjustifiably entitled mooks out there, the breathlessly highhanded responsibility, to take colleagues to task by name in print and ancillary media.

None of this should be mistaken for anything even vaguely resembling moral acuity on my part.  I talked shit then, and continue to talk shit now, about colleagues in conversation, off the record, up to and including this morning—where I indulged in a spirited discussion of that self-mythologizer who’d put me on the spot over a half century ago.

And just to clarify, in regard to movies, to television, to fiction and nonfiction, I am the audience, a consumer, a customer.  I do my best, in the expression of my opinion in these regards, to remember the gap of reality that exists between “favorite” and “best,” failing occasionally, to be sure.  And I make these critical judgments publicly, because, well, I can.  I’m not raining on the competition’s parade, but simply conveying my enthusiasm or distaste for whatever has come my way, by accident or on purpose.

But when it comes to publicly expressing an opinion about the work of other talents in the comic book business, people who serve the same Mammon and muse as I do, no.

I am not that guy…mostly because I really don’t give a fuck what anybody else does with their careers and/or their lives to any degree.  Those choices are their business, not mine, and I have a commitment to minding my own—a manner of living that is, apparently, growing thinner on the ground as the days and years go by.

The exception to this commitment, of course, is when such colleagues take it upon themselves to play the role of critic and come after me, in a venue for public consumption.  Not to be too banal, but fuck around and find out, as all the usual suspects were memeing only last year. I do not take attacks lying down, despite the self-righteous fervor that so recklessly fuels so much deadly earnest conviction based moral outrage.

And speaking of conviction, to digress only for a moment in order to support my point of view and to further bury the Lede, we were in New York City last month, and sitting in front of us in the theater one evening was Tyne Daly, then scheduled to soon open in a revival of John Patrick Shanley’s play, DOUBT—now unwell, and replaced in the role.  Seeing her brought to mind a memory of the experience of seeing the play in its original run, some years ago.

For those who don’t know it, DOUBT is about a not entirely unspoken but floating accusation, a simmering rumor of sexual predation on the part of a youngish priest, at a Catholic school in New York City in the early 1960s.

The student in question is the first black child in this archdiocese grammar school, underpinning the issue with an even more complicating gravity and gravitas, both in the play’s dramatic time and in the era in which the production was performed.

To be clearer than I would hope is necessary, but hey, nuance was collateral damage in the murder of irony so indulge me if this seems too obvious, the ambiguity of the accusation, that ambivalent suspicion, is the core and the heart of the play, hence the title.

DOUBT.

After the matinee, we pit stopped for a late lunch/early dinner at a familiar spot.  At a table a few feet from us, sat four old ladies, younger than I am now, but you know, old, whose animated conversation confirmed they’d just seen the Shanley play, too.

These ladies, all of whom looked, you should pardon so banal, reductive, clichéd, and potentially insulting an observation, as if they’d gone to Catholic school from kindergarten to the twelfth grade, had apparently seen a radically different drama.  For them, the play was, unequivocally, the equivalent of an Agatha Christie mystery, with not a shred of ambiguity in regard to the priest’s guilt.

He did it.

Case closed.

No DOUBT.

It pays to point out that this was years before the brutal onslaught of ongoing public revelations in regard to the monstrosity of priestly abuse that has dramatically damaged the reputation of Roman Catholicism, but clearly not before self-righteous conviction was deployed to ignore explicit meaning in lieu of implicit feelings.

Call me crazy, but I have a deep suspicion that none of these dames had ever read THE LADY OR THE TIGER at Saint Mary’s Queen of Peace High School.

In the years since this experience, those ladies must be regarded as the vanguard of a cultural revolution in regard to the driving away of doubt in the name of that self-righteous conviction, weaponizing fragility, using performative morality as a beard for philistine objection.

Such ranting is not criticism in any reasonable perspective, but rather the whining complaints of the easily offended, as if giving offense in writing, or drawing, or any creative endeavor is a component worthy of criticism, as opposed to a plastic and evolving notion of cultural acceptance and acceptability, having nothing to do with the work in question.

Hurt feelings don’t add up to criticism worthy facts.

As I frequently note, nothing offends me, but I insult easily.  Do with that what you will.

Over the years, I’ve grown wearily inured to the experiential banality of being branded “Problematic,” or, for that matter, its fraternal twin, “Controversial,” by both colleagues and consumers in the comic book business, as if these two words, the modern secular substitutes for “Blasphemous,” and “Profane,” were actual criticisms, as opposed to no more than demonstrative markers signifying an in implicitly presumptively purer and nobler perspective—a point of view that is, after all is said and done, puerilely philistine at its core. This perspective has metastasized over the years, to rest like the fog of war over an ever more timid cultural landscape, a battlefield for the self-righteous, but rarely the self-aware.

We in the comic book business are surfeited with a talent pool and a customer base which, to a discomfiting extent, all too frequently misidentifies chastity as virtue, misrepresents narcissism for sensitivity, and misreads prissy disapproval as a representative model of moral acuity.

At least one contributing reason for this is the simplistic, not to say simple minded and melodramatic, morality play, that completely dualistic substitute for actual characterization overlaying the Roadrunner/Coyote armature of narrative that is, for better or worse, the closure bereft paradigm of mainstream American comic books.

Producing ineptly made dreck for most of the first decade of my career, I was immune to any such public rebukes from colleagues.  Like most of mainstream comic books back then, and, to an alarming extent, now, the work was beneath criticism.  Such criticism was and remains akin to gambling on professional wrestling.  Some certainly do it, but really, now.  Really.

It wasn’t until I’d actually developed a point of view, alongside a skillset that demonstrated, finally, that I might be capable of work worth reckoning with, and that I might have something to contribute to a craft and medium that had owned my ass since I was barely post toddler, that the shit started to be thrown in my direction.

In all honesty, of course, my abrasive personality can’t have helped.  Nice has been and remains too often mistaken for good in my all too superficially ruled world.  Yours, too, I would reckon.  And no one has ever mistaken me for nice.

Situationally kind, at best. That’s me.

From the publisher of a comic book company in direct competition with the imprint delivering my material, scathing me with her objections to the book that made my name, disregarding the comical irony of her conflict of interest in such a situation; to the Eve Harrington of comics, at the beginning of his ascendancy—before his own career had been invaded, to my delight, by an Eve Harrington of his very own—taking me to task for doing precisely what I set out to do; to the more recent philistine rebuke of my work by know nothing colleagues who identified me, whether wittingly or intuitively, as a target of opportunity and went for it.

The comedy of some third rate non entity demanding I “…not be allowed to produce a variant cover in support of the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund…” was outdone only by these self-same censorious inquisitors trampling themselves in the mad scramble to perform their undying and public support of Banned Book Month.

That month is September, by the way.

I suggest we make October “It’s Only Okay When We Do It Month.”  That will go a long way to healing our great American divide, I would hope.

These ad hominem attacks were, for a few of these mooks, attempts to end my career and poison my legacy, to, you should pardon the expression, cancel me, in a rush of reckless hysteria.

As is obvious, they failed.  As per Carlotta in her FOLLIES act one bring the audience to its feet closer, “…I’m still here.”

And forgive me if, for a moment, I gloat.

Done.

As noted in a previous post, I invested, or perhaps more correctly wasted, a certain energy in an attempt at understanding this crowd, in trying to parse out the reasons for their inability to see past the navel gazing banality of their first impressions of what was an ongoing narrative, invested in character development absent from mainstream comic books.

This has, as noted, proven itself to be a waste of time.  I’m old, with less and less time to waste.

So, fuck these opportunistic shitstains.  She/her/he/him/they/them are dead to me.

And, while we’re at it, just to spread the wealth and joy, fuck the reflexively regressive shitwits on the other side of the aisle, as well.

In tandem with noting the revival of DOUBT, the bookend in regard to conviction and its accompanying presumptions of moral ascendancy, is the Facebook Friend request recently received from one of those kangaroo court judges, a powerful engine of self-promotion, beloved by some, loathed by others.

I was bemused, amused, stymied, and finally flabbergasted by this.

Bemused, because it seemed so inside, so clearly spoofery. A long walk for a short laugh.

Amused, because it simply struck me funny to even entertain such a request.  I can be an easy audience now and then.

Stymied when I learned the request was actually from this person, and was, to be clear, completely earnest.

The last time such a thing had occurred was when the LinkedIn banalgorithm suggested I link up with a particularly embittered talent free ninny who, well after the events that brought us both to each other’s minds, continued to fuck with me, giving a mutual friend a raft of shit for merely accepting my favor of a gratis variant cover in support of a crowdfunding campaign.  Really.

And flabbergasted, at the inexplicable capacity for such over confident self-acceptance, derived from so profound a guileless self-regard, as to clearly take no responsibility whatsoever for the reckless participation in that public attack on my work, my person, and my character.

Once more, with feeling, really.

When I posted my reaction to this curious turn of events, it was clear that she had achieved her previous goal of defaming me in her twitter feed attacks of years back to her satisfaction, generating the usual spate of likes from the anonymous swathe of torch bearers, and was now engaged in another attempt to gain coup from an entirely new angle—shapeshifting from socially avenging busybody with too much time on her hands,  to sad but no wiser bearer of an olive branch, which if not taken in good order, would indicate she and her fellows had been right about me along.

As noted, a target of opportunity, and now another potential shot at the accrual of further attention. A sequel, with a different point of view, imbued with the same attention getting intentions.

In the course of my posts in reaction to this risible nonsense, I was taken to task by a number of those who were clearly her camp followers, her easily flattered and pandered to base, one of whom accused me of “…misogynistic douchebaggery…”

…Pseudonymously, of course; convictions are no longer required to be accompanied by their kissing cousin, courage.

It seemed that there were quite a few people who felt that my resistance to simply let bygones be bygones in this regard made me the villain, in, of course, a real life that seemed freighted with the foolish notion that the good guy/bad guy armature of comics applied to actual human interaction.

“Life is too short,” “We’re all in this together,” “She means well.” Blah. Blah.

Blah.

Call it a character flaw should you so choose, but I hold a grudge, and firmly, certainly when there’s been no reasonable cause to release that grip.

Forgiveness, in my world, must be earned.  There is a vast chasm between an apology and an amends, neither of which, I might add, were tendered or forthcoming with all this “bygones be bygones” bullshit.

Rather, the impression given by the response to my understanding of what I had experienced here specifically trivialized the event, with no acknowledgment of responsibility or, for that matter, any regret whatsoever, for personal and professional smears that continue to have repercussions for me today.

To be specific, in this particular regard, don’t call a piece of my work “repulsive,” sniffily implying that the depiction of a horrific act is a validation of that act, gathering your base into a pitchfork waving swarm of righteous indignation, and then, in some sleazy attempt to gather further coup by appealing for reconciliation, refer to the consequences of such self-regarding, self-righteous and self-serving recklessness as, and I quote, a “rift.”

By my terms and definition, a rift is a disagreement between friends, between colleagues, a disagreement that can be surmounted through engagement, through dialogue, through occasionally grudging acceptance.

If you, as this hyena apparently does, believe that “rift” is an apt descriptor of the chasm that exists as a result of so weaselly a series of smears, of such busybodied opportunistic shittiness, then it might be time to check your privilege.

And I cannot begin to effectively convey my unbounded joy at typing those last three words.

As ever, I remain,

Howard Victor Chaykin…a Prince, and not to be fucked with.

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