TF: The book has a very cinematic flow. There is such a fluid movement to the panels and illustrations. Even ending with the flipbook sequence of the flying bird… when you close your eyes and retell the story, do you see it animated?
MH: ‘Magpie, Magpie’ is peculiarly a comic book experience. I was careful to customise the online and print presentation of the comic to showcase each medium’s unique characteristics. I used the book’s properties as a physical object to influence the comic’s rhythm and pacing, whether by exploiting a reader’s page turn, peripheral vision across spreads, or the cloudiness of the paper stock hinting of things to come. The concluding flipbook is another way of compelling the reader to experience the comic through the unique properties of the paperback – to move the hand from turning leafs to flipping through the stacked pages. I’m conscious about making comics that are an engaged act of life itself, rather than a passive discourse, commentary, description or argument on a part of life.
The flipbook appears as a looping animation in the online presentation, and the book compels readers who have been moving at the pace of a page turn to go back and flip through the sequence repeatedly once they’ve realised what’s unfolding in the final half of the book. It’s hinted at with the fore-edge equal parts black and white in an allusion to the magpie of the title. It felt almost inevitable that this gothic story – where the haunted are animated by spasming impulse and trapped in a purgatory of repeated memories and actions – would end with a tirelessly, looping animation.
TF: Through certain sequences, the reader really gets a sense of losing their mind and falling into insanity. It’s very effective and I’m curious where you drew your inspiration for that.
MH: This comic is obsessed abandonment and missing or being missing. There are the kidnappers on the run in a strange land, submitting to the violent storm bearing down on them, the daughter lost and alone in the desolate outback landscape, and a ghostly host waiting eternally for the return of his long departed lover. The comic is one specific emotional refrain that is hit and left ringing again and again.
The comic has at its centre a man who doesn’t realise he is dead, and consequently his earnest acts of chivalry become oppressive, unwanted expressions inflicted upon all those he mistakes as his lover and from living trapped a time that’s long gone. This hole in objective experience tangled with memory and emotion is something that I hope the viewer feels just as disorientated and confused about.
My last comic was about refugees and asylum seekers waiting in a detention centre for their fate to be decided, and with no sign of returning home – a torturous waiting and mystery. I’m occupied with this as the child of refugees. Mystery occupies my practice an artist staying attentive and open in courting my muse. It also is in the everyday struggle with emotional capacity and Keat’s negative capability, occupying uncertainty and life filled with chance and chaos without grasping for reason.
I’m certainly conscious of making work that can be experienced as sensually as pouring wine on your tongue or letting music vibrate in your ear. Something that suffers for reaching for sense and a simplistic rational line through the book, and benefits instead from letting the work wash over. Disorientating the reader, even if only from the counterintuitive line weights, is within the greater aspiration for work that’s an act of life itself rather than mere commentary from the sidelines.
TF: While the book is “only” black and white, your use of depth and tone in shading really drew me in. I’m wondering what your thought process was in deciding to commit to one color for this book, when of course you could have easily told this story with a broader color palette.
MH: Comic’s constraints demand an economy of words in balloons, sharing the same physical space as the characters in any framed moment. There’s a poetic reduction of detail, with a few marks becoming a smiling face. Working with black and white likewise allows for the Japanese idea of ‘Ma’, or the space consciously allowed for our experiences. We might recognise in this restraint that from all the richness flooding us at any given moment, only very minor details survive the trip through our conscious senses to reach our awareness, stay in our memories, and are constantly revised in our retelling.
TF: For general interest, what contemporary (and dead???) artists do you look to for inspiration? Anyone my readers should know about?
MH: My greatest influences are the artist friends I happen to keep close to me as guides and mentors and creative juggernauts, because they are such a presence in my life. They’re most in my life and whose inspiration lights a constant fire under me. I love listening to High Highs, Jolie Holland, Buck Meek and Adrianne Lenker, Appleonia, Margaret Glaspy, Black Ryder, Sui Zhen, Adam Brisbin, Shy Hunters, Invisible Familiars. I read Julie Koh, and I love anything by Marilynne Robinson. In comics it’s Paul Pope, Molly Crabapple, Farel Dalrymple, Eddie Campbell, Katie Parrish, Aidan Koch, Conor Willumsen, Sam Wallman, Pat Grant, Ben Hutchings, Jillian Tamaki, and I love Lorenzo Mattotti and Marjane Satrapi too. In illustration, it’s about James Victore, James Jirat Patradoon, webuyyourkids, Kate Banazi, Joana Avillez, Wesley Allsbrook.
Plumb has partnered with 826 National, the celebrated nonprofit that provides under-resourced students aged six to eighteen with inventive programs to explore their creativity and improve their writing skills. Plumb will donate $1 to 826 National for every Instagram photo, Facebook post, and Twitter tagged #artbreak, up to $2,500.
And then she rapes you.
Recently, there’s been another outrage outburst in the comics community. A woman criticized a sorta shitty comic cover, and naturally, she was threatened with rape. It feels pretty disgusting to write ‘naturally’, but sadly, that’s where we are at as a society. But just as naturally as guys throw around rape threats on the internet, then came the tweets, the blogs, the facebook comments. It seems now is the time, i’m serious guys! Lets start calling out when dudes we know do this! No quarter will be given to the sexists, the douchebags, the white cis male comic reader mouth breather! NOW IS THE TIME!
Give me a fucking break.
This shit is happening on the regular. And you know why it’s happening, cause it goes all the way to the top. We aren’t passive participants, we aren’t victims of rape culture, the comics industry is a manufacturer of rape culture. We’re expected to call out some losers on our news feed, with the naive hope that this will be the change that is needed. But this is what is what we sell, who pays our bills, who we give interviews for, watch his shows:
The explanations, the accomodations, the rationalization has already poured in. This is a rape of A MAN, so it’s turning the whole “Superhero Rape” cliche on his head. Nice Try. This is why men yell rape. Because it isn’t real to them.
Invincible #110 begins with some superboy coming back from being presumed dead, and his girlfriend is pregnant, and she’s breaking up with him, cause his superhero life is TOO MUCH for her. Single tears are drawn, hands being pulled away, a pretty white girl is pregnant and her life might be hard! And Superboy type dude just. can’t. handle. it. Then he flies away to cry, cause THIS IS A SERIOUS STORY! Please ignore the spandex, they are REAL CONSEQUENCES IN INVINCIBLE. And a super hot sexy superwoman decides to have sex with him, and so she rapes him.
You see, a steady stream of garbage like this, is what a man is fed from day one. Rape doesn’t happen to nice girls, to pretty girls, to your best friend, to your family, in your family. According to TV, and movies, and comics, men have been taught their whole lives that rape doesn’t really happen at all. Men don’t know what rape is, even when they are raping a woman.
“.. I say “Kiss it a little,” she says “No, all the massage oil is on it” and I take the back of her head and I push it down on my d**k and she doesn’t do it. And I say “Open your mouth, open your mouth,” and she does it and I start facef**king her.”
That is David Choe describing consensual oral sex from a masseuse. That is just another dude, some artist, who painted murals at the Facebook offices, living his life, 100% believing that holding the back of a woman’s head, in a private situation, and forcing his penis in her mouth, is not rape. If that’s what we’re dealing with, what do you think legions of comics fans think of rape, when it’s simply another plot point?
“Why should murder be so over-represented in our popular fiction, and crimes of a sexual nature so under-represented? Surely it cannot be because rape is worse than murder, and is thus deserving of a special unmentionable status. Surely, the last people to suggest that rape was worse than murder were the sensitively reared classes of the Victorian era … And yet, while it is perfectly acceptable (not to say almost mandatory) to depict violent and lethal incidents in lurid and gloating high-definition detail, this is somehow regarded as healthy and perfectly normal, and it is the considered depiction of sexual crimes that will inevitably attract uproars of the current variety.” – Alan Moore
Alan Moore, despite his cantankerous perceived personality, is still considered one of the greats in comics. And who’s calling him out? Last book he had published, was by what? Top Shelf right? His career is where he wants it to be. Yet, for him, rape is just another plot point.
When you’ve learned all your moral lessons from spandex-clad ubermensches, who never die, who are always resurrected, you can’t honestly say that “murder” is what we are seeing when we read comic book deaths. We are simply seeing a character take a break for awhile. But when you draw a person being raped, you can’t say it’s just another crime. People don’t live with murder. Although it may seem strange, when real people are raped, they have to live with it for the rest of their lives. You don’t just get to pull a Jean Grey and come back as a new character after a couple months.
But we want our cake and eat it too. Comics blogs want their interviews with Robert Kirkman, they want their sound bites from Alan Moore, aspiring artists want their chance at the next hit image book, and aspiring writers need that pull quote. Yeah, go ahead, and call out the 14 year old loser on your news feed. That ain’t gonna change shit. You spend 10 minutes at the next convention, and you tell me how many maxim magazine style pin ups you see. But you can’t call that out, dude just loves the female form. You read about “cosplay is not consent” but these barely clothed superheroines were manufactured without consent. It’s only a matter of time before they become just another sexual object in the comic, to be punched, to be ogled, to be sexualized, then victimized, then forgotten. How can we have a conversation about how dudes act at conventions, when every comic they read teaches them that women are simply tits & ass and if they aren’t asking for it, they didn’t say no either. A convention is akin to a strip club, but strip clubs at least have a very strict hands-off policy. But we can’t admit that we’ve created a strip club, so we won’t admit we need a hands off policy. There’s no bouncers at conventions, only creators and their fanboys who’ve carved out one of the last few bastions of pure male power. Don’t you dare challenge it.
The indie scene is much better, simply because its independence has allowed it to exist apart from the parasitic environment where one denounces rape culture, while giving interviews to Scott Lobdell, Brian Wood, Alan Moore, Grant Morrison, Robert Kirkman, Geoff Johns, Mark Millar the next week. When an argument about whether wonder woman wears pants or not is considered ‘feminist’, and where artists argue whether highly stylized figure drawings are anatomically correct. Who gives a fuck about the boob size of a teenager, when criticizing anatomy totally misses the god damn point. The titanic is sinking, but we’re talking about a cracked window and not the giant gash pouring ice water into the ship. Teenagers have large breasts, and small breasts, and some have breast implants too – the problem is the comics industry is controlled by large dudes, and small dudes, and right now, its women, that are the breast implants. That is, they are the odd man out. They are the thing that we say we love, we love our “strong female characters” which are all pretty, skinny, white, sassy, Scarlett Johanssons with no muscle definition, sexy, sex symbols, but OMG, SHE IS SO EMPOWERING.
Its like breast implants. We pretend to love them, but actual breasts, the ones that come in weird shapes and sizes. The a-symmetrical breasts, the areolas that are too dark, the stretch marks, or the blue veins, the breasts that aren’t the same since i lost weight. Ain’t no one wanna see that. We congratulate our male writers, editors, artists for giving us just enough, while they can still masturbate all the way to the bank, secure in the fact that they are still attracted to the women they write.
And that’s the rub. Women aren’t human to comics creators, to comics fans, to most men. Women are this subspecies of man. And the man’s gotta be in charge, gotta be on top. Why are we so surprised, that men who read these male-power fantasies, completely lose their shit when their power is threatened? What’s the thing that most dudes are most insecure about? Their goddamn dick size. And what’s the thing that men use to prove their power over others? Their goddamn dick size. The powerless man is a subspecies of man – a woman. A powerless man is a sissy, a bitch, a fag, a cocksucker, a queer. So when a man loses his power, all he’s got is the only thing he’s ever known. He better fuck something.
A man tells a woman he’ll rape her because its the only thing left where he can still have power. You ain’t gonna shame no dude into stop doing that. Shame is exactly why he does it. Dude knows exactly how offensive he is being. And if it offends his dude friends? They think, “That’s cause they’re little bitches too, so fuck them. I bet they can’t get laid, so they just pretend to be feminists to hang out with chicks.” Teach men not to rape is one of the most useless ideas, not because it’s not true, but because your target audience has learned just the opposite. The modern man is at an impasse. They don’t know what rape is, except from what they’ve learned from TV, comics and movies. They know that its extremely shocking, and so they can always rely on it to end the conversation. And they know they are losing their future.
Teach men not to rape? Too late. A rapist is a friend, a brother, a father, a cousin, a step dad. They truly believe they have never raped anyone. Those steubenville kids? Remember that they began crying only after they were put on trial. It was all fun and games before then. Call out your friends, fans, who make rape threats? No, call out the creators that keep making rape stories cause they figured out it gets them on the front page of comic book resources, bleeding cool, etc. etc.
These fans do not exist as an anomaly. They like what we make. We write stories that make them believe that rape is just no big deal. Dude, its a comic, don’t take it so seriously.
Invincible punches a woman in a face, then gets an erection, then is raped. Yeah, it’s the fans that are the problem.