Recoup some faith in humanity, it's Sick Little Suicide #28, "Carry On," in which we keep calm and ponder the nature of how we got here in an existential kinda way.
I have had an extremely low opinion of my native USA since the election, but this past weekend's Women's March almost brought tears to my eyes upon seeing that across the country, including the good ol' boy-riddled south US, and around the world, there indeed exists a thriving sense of good and a rejection of evil. Not only that, but combined with the joke of an inaugural reception, the weekend was a tangible repudiation of that fraud, concrete and undeniably quantifiable.
I wanted to do an illustration to commemorate the event and more generally celebrate females altogether, and I couldn't help but think of one of my favorite pieces by one of my biggest inspirations, Winsor McCay, the legendary yet criminally underrated comicser/editorial illustrator/animator from the late 1800s, early 1900s, whose surface-scratchingly most-known work is Little Nemo. He's been a huge influence on me since college, where I even got to study a giant-sized edition of one of his books for my Yale thesis.
Some of his stylistic depictions are indeed "of the time," but one of the coolest things about him is how he had quite modern views, despite the limitations of popular reflection of say, depicting black or African people. I don't detect hatred in his depictions, and he has been my go-to example of how you can bring artistry and beauty to what can otherwise be stinging imagery. For however trigger-happy PC culture may be today, he did his best with what he had at his iconographic disposal back then, evidenced by the content of his comics, not the strict depictions employed from that era, so I only have love for his work.
One of the reasons his illustration, "Who carries the load? Woman," stuck with me since college was because it was written and published just years into the outset of the 1900s, yet it was such an inspirational message of acknowledging the largely underplayed contributions of females to humanity from before women could even vote in the US! The comic even incorporates Native Americans, another population that is especially ignored in the US today, let alone back then. Maybe some people today might take issue with his depiction of them in the piece, but as someone with some Native-American heritage, I don't, and I even find it a beautiful and caring depiction, especially for early 20th century work.
Anyway, I decided to focus on the depiction of who he labels "Atlas" and "Mother." Note, he came from a generation that was still defining the very mechanics of comics--his stuff still numbered panels, for instance--where I've had generations of artists to study from, so I've always had a difficult time using blatant labeling in my illustrations. Even from when I was little, seeing editorial comics in the paper with screamingly prominent labels always bummed me out. Incidentally, Will Eisner does some incredible typographical integration in his stuff, that's more my speed.
Anyway, I was ok with how this turned out, but then looking back at it as I was about to post, it kinda choked me up! I couldn't believe it! After seeing the finished piece was when the emotion hit me. I was sorta imagining what they might be talking about, even if they aren't even saying anything; the silent understanding they must have. Whatever greatness or renown the guy achieves, he can only lower his head in gratitude and reverence to the female. He's on the shoulders of a giant, who closes her eyes in quiet pride. There's something so beautiful in a silently commanded respect, in doing honest, crucial, yet thankless work.
Here is famous Atlas, who everybody knows...but here is faceless Atlas, who lowers his head not from the burden of the world, but to honor his silent, noble partner.
It depletes me how males--my gender--voted so widely for that disgusting fraud, so I feel inexplicably guilty for that idiot's ascension in some way, however tangential. It feels like we betrayed no less than half of the planet, let alone future generations and our ancestors--not to mention ourselves as well, to be sure. Betrayal is one of the worst things a human can do to another and we collectively agreed to do it. But these marches around the planet Earth...what a reaffirmation that we can and will do the right thing. It will happen.
I loathe the hippy-dippy "love" rhetoric you often get with this generation because it feels so disingenuous or manufactured to make us feel better (just as that fraud's empty promises and fear-mongering tirades are meant to provide a hollow, insubstantial sense of perverse unity), but these marches, like a cheesy or nonsensical love song that finally clicks in meaning one day, make me believe we can be better, and that those vicious forces only won a game but not the match. Feeling emotional at the footage of the overwhelming populations marching around the globe must be related to what I felt seeing this image completed: we must do what we can to show that we know what is right, and further, we will pursue good as a matter of honor and duty.
Having thought on this for years now, I've come to see that I generally think greater of females than males, which is why my stories and art tend to focus on them as the heroes rather than the more "intuitive" male protagonist. The only dude I feel comfortable drawing/writing is Zero. I didn't major in US history but actively sought these classes anyway for the narrative training, and I found it just terrible what males are capable of. Obviously not all of us are evil or dangerous, but confronted with our historical cruelty, and being in a community of such incredible artists almost exclusively consisting of females, and seeing first-hand how strong women can be via my mom's incredible example, it all made me look to females for the "answer," certainly for the more compelling hero.
I believe favoring female protagonists also has to do with why I don't really buy into stories about grown-ups rather than kids, because it seems like a given that adults have an inherent advantage off the bat. So stories about males don't really compel me because we kinda have stuff already working in our favor--we're expected to be tough, fight, and win. That's not interesting. I want to root for the underdog, and I want to celebrate their well-fought victory, and it happens to be that females tend to exemplify these conditions. As far as through the narrative inherent in illustration, apart from that more plain in comics, I hope to bring honor to females in whatever inconsequential way I can, as I hope to have done in today's art, out of gratitude for what inspiration and support they've given me and humanity at large.
This weekend made me feel like a human again, for the first time in a while, and I cannot wait for us to unite against that disgusting fraud as early as the midterm elections next year. Seeing the recaps of the comically ghostownish inauguration was an excellent way to kick off the countdown, and the good times keep rolling...