Friday, July 8, 2011

My response

Here is a recent review of my book, Jesus Needs Help:

ForeWord Clarion Review


Jesus Needs Help

David Germain



One Star (out of Five)

The divide between free speech and hate speech is as uncomfortable to define as it is to discuss. When broached in casual conversation, passionate reactions often supplant a civil discourse about the context of the speech in question. David Germain’s graphic novel, Jesus Needs Help, falls prey to these rhetorical traps at the cost of detracting from his fable’s anti-censorship message. The story is straight forward. Jesus, attempting to deliver his Sermon on the Mount, is harassed by a band of censoring monkeys, each representing a different stereotype intent on suppressing freedom of speech. These include: the goose-stepping Nazi Monkey, the sword-wielding Not Muhammed [sic] Monkey, the Afro-sporting and gun-toting Black Panther Monkey, and the Feminist Monkey with deeply sagging breasts.

Shocked by the abuse, God declares “I do intend to put my son through a brutal crucifixion soon, but this is too much.” The Almighty cages the monkeys and forces them to watch winged beings enjoying forms of art and expression that challenge the very ideas they wish to suppress. Heaven, as experienced by the simian antagonists, is a hell of their own making.

An independent animator living in Nova Scotia, Germain produces comic strips for his own blog and, occasionally, for the Dalhousie Gazette. He has a great love for classic animation. And, as exemplified in both his blog and Jesus Needs Help, he ardently fights all forms of censorship and perceived threats to free speech through humor and illustration. His work challenges the idea of political correctness and demands the reader’s attention with a blend of shock and Juvenalian satire.

But when it comes to race, racism, free speech, and censorship, context is everything. In the context of Germain’s avocation, his Horrible Mother Monkey, for example, could be read as more than a Jim Crow-era mammy complete with hair rollers and a muumuu. Rightly or wrongly, she’s a homage to Hanna-Barbera cartoons of the 1940s and 1950s, now censored due to culturally insensitive blackface gags, cannibals, and the perpetually rodent-plagued Mammy Two Shoes. Sitting on a shelf at the comic book store, however, the context of Jesus Needs Help is reduced to an Anglo Christ whose sermon to an Anglo crowd is interrupted by a parade of brown apes.

Germain’s portrayal of Heaven faces a similar challenge. Intended as a celebration of free speech, punk rockers entertain crowds in one area of Heaven, while violent movies and banned cartoons are screened in another. And it works until the reader sees a drawing of a slant-eyed Asian in a sedge hat removing a victim’s brain presented in the context of protected speech as being equal to a staging of Oh Calcutta [sic] or a gangsta rapper dropping a culturally divisive and defining N-bomb on stage with no consideration for the difference between hate speech and free speech.

Germain attempts to use shock value as a way to raise awareness about the dangers of censorship in a society claiming to value freedom of speech. But his use of outdated and painful stereotypes obscures the noble cause for which he stands.

Joseph Thompson

Most people, upon reading such a review, would be screaming bloody murder right now (or "bloody redrum" if they were in a hotel in Colorado). "AW! He don't like my book. He must be one of them-thar jerks or something. Where's that vice of mine I use as a replacement for my mother's nipple? WAAAH!!"
But, I'd like to think I'm better than that. And besides, there's no two ways around it, that is a well written review. Joseph Thompson has obviously done himself some book learnin'. There is absolutely no need to assassinate his character. However, that doesn't at all mean that his review was perfect. There are more than a few things that he got wrong. That is what I am responding to with this blog post.

I'll start with the one really big thing that bothered me about his review. He made the egregious assumption that all of the monkeys looked like black people (no I'm not going to call them "African Americans" here because they live in other countries besides America don't you know). Ok, so then I guess he thinks that Tom Cruise is a black man.

If he is, then he's doing the greatest, most consistent white-faced minstrel show
I've ever seen (which, as a white man, deeply offends me >;P ). Or perhaps he thinks all the nazis were black. That must have been why they were all so pleased with Jesse Owens' athletic performance at the 1936 Olympics in Berlin. Or, perhaps looking at the American Monkey makes him think that all Americans are black even though they are considered a 'minority'. Ok, I think I've made my point with all that sarcasm. The truth is, all of my monkeys are exactly that: monkeys. Just monkeys wearing costumes, that's all. The Horrible Mother Monkey is NOT even close to an homage to Mammy Two Shoes. Case in point, here is the previous comic I did with these monkeys in-which they go after Tom & Jerry themselves. You can see Mammy and the Horrible Mother within the same comic to make your comparison. Or, better yet, here's a good shot of Mammy from the cartoon Saturday Evening Puss, the only time her face is revealed.

You're welcome. (Confidentially, my mom actually thinks that the monkey is based on her, even though I've never seen her wear a muumuu).

There was also something else about his objection to the monkeys that not so much angered me but more-so just struck me as odd. He seemed to find offence only with the more left leaning monkeys. Notice that in that review he singled out the feminist and black panther, not to mention the Not Muhammed Monkey whom most of your modern-day political correctness police would object to for making any kind of a statement about the actions of some people in another culture no matter how crazy or destructive they are. He didn't seem to mind my depictions of the more conservative right wings monkeys like the victorian, the american, or the preacher.
Maybe he thought those depictions were "spot on". Clearly, Mr. Joseph Thompson made the mistake of approaching this book with his own political bias. That is a big mistake to make with this book. The monkeys are designed to make fun of the extreme Ann Coulters and the James Carvilles of the world. If you are one of those two people, or a fan of one of those two people (or anyone like them), you will not enjoy this book of mine. You will consider me a "Kool-aid drinking
stooge for the other side" and then get angry. Chris Rock said it best during a stand up routine of his, "anyone who uses only one political ideology for every issue is a fool." There's no doubt that both Coulter, Carville, and most other out-spoken pundits like them fall under the category of those types of fools. However, it is my sincere hope that Joseph Thompson is not one of them. Hopefully he can rise above that type of petty bickering in his own life. I just wish he would have revealed that more in his review.

Oh, one more petty little thing he got wrong. That wasn't punk rock being played in Heaven, that was heavy metal. Though I wouldn't object to a punk rock concert upon entering the pearly gates, it was indeed heavy metal I was going for, more specifically the type of metal that had parents like Tipper Gore all concerned back in the 1980's. Like this.

But, in all fairness, like I said, Joseph did basically write a solid review of my book overall. Even though he disagreed with some of the philosophy within the content, not once did he assassinate my character. Heck, he even built me up higher than I think I am even. That is a glimmer of evidence that he is capable of rising above the petty partisan bickering I mentioned before.
I'm not at all bothered by Joseph Thompson's 1 star review. You can't please everybody. I'm secure in the knowledge that most of the people who have read my book have liked it. The people I really object to are the ones who quickly glance at the cover, assume it's some kind of a Jehovah's Witness pamphlet and then walk away. They are people with closed minds who are truly missing out. I certainly can't force anyone to buy or read my book. All I can do is urge everyone to look passed the cover. Read at least 5 pages in before you decide what type of book it is.
Or, for contrast, here's a more positive review of my book written by one of Todd Rutherford's staff. Don't just go by Thompson's opinion. Read both reviews, then read the book and make up your own mind. That's all I can ask of anyone with regards to my book. If you can't find my book in any stores, then you can definitely order a copy from Amazon.

Or maybe I'm being a bit too hasty. Maybe I can persuade Mr. Thompson into liking the book after all. Come, Joseph. Come over to my side. Come join the small intimate party of those who enjoy my book. It's okay. You'll enjoy yourself. Come. Come.

"Come play with us, Joseph. Forever..."


"...and ever..."


"...and ever."


"Tony, my big wheel bike is soaked with urine right now."


Leon said...

Excellent reply David.

Anonymous said...

I think you are a genius David and I for one found a lot of humor and truth to your monkeys. Great Job!! I think everybody should open thier mind and read this book