note: This is an old blog I wrote when I had decided to quit the irreverent Jesus Comic I was working on with my friend Eric back in March of 2009. I also decided to write this apology for it, which many people are interested to read, but was in my now basically defunct MySpace blog, so here it is if you have never read it and want to know about me and that Jesus comic, or if you want to get my outlook on humor, morality and keeping some things sacred.
Last week I finished drawing a 90 page comic about Jesus Christ coming back to earth to kill Nazis with Ernest Hemingway, and battle Werewolf Hitler to the death. It was the crudest, darkest, and most “edgy” comic I had ever drawn. I wrote it with my friend, Eric.
I want to say, now that it is behind me, I regret it. Its one of those things that was so obviously a stupid and bad idea, I have no idea what I was thinking going into it, but I am going to try to walk myself through my thinking. Not for the sake of justification, but for the sake of growth, and realizing where I went wrong along the way.
To some people, drawing a comic about Jesus with a machine gun is no more controversial or harmful then drawing a comic about a badger eating a leaf. I think that may have partially been the attitude I started out with. I started out with the attitude, “a joke is a joke. If you can’t take a joke, move on.” I guess I adopted the philosophy that humor makes anything OK.
For those of you who are new to me… I’m a Christian. Surprise! This is the baggage this comic brings me. People look at it and see it as the obvious work of an immature atheist kid, trying to piss off all the Christians. And I did. I think I did piss off some Christians, but the thing is, I didn’t want to.
Stupid, I know. I mean, yeah, I have never been real concerned about offending people- but those are battles you must pick when making jokes. If I make a joke about going to hell for smoking a cigar, it is because I have a prepared defense of that position. When I made the Jesus comic, I was not prepared to defend it… it was just sloppy joking, and that’s it.
The way I see it, it was a back porch laugh session me and Eric had together that should have stayed there. One of those situations where you are coming up with absurd “what if” scenarios that usually involve lots of blood and poop, and are good fun when it’s just two guys on a porch smoking stogies and drinking beers. But I had bought into the idea that whatever you do in private should also be public, or you are not being genuine. I reasoned that by being as crass and foul mouthed as I am at my worst moments in private in my public works that I was somehow being a truly genuine person. I had somehow placed being genuine above being decent.
It has since come to me that there really is a difference between micro and macro conduct. In the quaint setting of a back porch laugh session with a close friend (as Eric truly is) I would still make any of the jokes you would find in the pages of the Jesus comic. Likewise, among guy friends, I’ll fart my ass off. But in public I know why I choose not to fart out loud. It is not because I am attempting to be a fraud, fooling people into thinking I don’t fart. It’s a matter of decency, and of context. Similarly, the jokes shared over cigars with a friend whose boundaries for humor are as easily pushed outward as mine, should be left on that porch to die with the cigar butts and the empty beer cans.
They should be left there, because when you take that crass, uninhibited part of yourself and wear it on your sleeve, people will see it as the whole of what you are. They will not see it as your friend sees it, a silly moment, a passing crude joke out of the norm. They will see it as your very person. When they think of your name, they will think of that crudeness above all, and they will not only think of it as a synonym for your name, they will see you as an advocate of it. They will see it not as a joke you once told, but as a position you passionately hold.
And I don’t passionately hold any position someone might extract from the Jesus comic. I don’t think that God and Jesus are separate. I do not think angels are gay, or that God is the floating head of Marlon Brando either. The thing is, when you are careless with something, you communicate that you do not care about it. This could not be further from the truth about me… I care deeply for Christianity.
Of course, I am writing this all for me, the guy who had to learn it by drawing 95 pages of it to learn the lesson. Most of you would have the sense not to do that. And though you wouldn’t do it, I do want to say, without scolding anyone, that I was amazed how few people actually challenged me on it. I want to thank those who did, without chastising those who didn’t. I can’t, I told you not to.
With all this said, I do want to say a few other things. First, I don’t think any less of Eric. This project was Eric’s baby. He asked if I wanted to join him on it. I was basically in a deal with him where I did work for his company, and as part of that work, I co-write and draw a comic. This was the idea he was most excited about, and I jumped aboard. At first, it was fun, but somewhere around page 50 I started asking myself why had started it. This is a comic Eric wears proudly, I don’t. It is how we are different. This difference should have been more closely examined before we teamed up on a comic about Jesus. The fact is, when I started it, I didn’t know where I stood. In fact, it may have taken making this comic to bring me to a place where I finally began to see the importance of knowing my place, where my passions are, and what I want to communicate to people through my work.
Some of you are probably just confused as to why I would make such a big deal about this… if you are, you probably do not hold the Christian faith in high regard. I am not here to say you must, but I am saying that I do, and I have not done a very good job of showing it.
This project brought out a flaw in myself I have known, and ignored, for a long time, and that is my humor and it’s boundaries. I love crude humor, immature joking, pushing those walls… but it is a weakness, and if I did not believe that good truly existed in this world, it would not be an issue. But, since I do believe good exists in this world, and that we are all accountable to it, it is an issue for me. I will always think Jesus running up a piss stream and kicking a nazi in the face is hilarious, but I will not devote an entire graphic novel to that one chuckle in the future.
This is not the dawn of a new era in my work that will be nothing but stale puns and bible stories. I am sure I will tell jokes that offend some people till the day I die. That is not my point. I have not learned to give up on “edgy” humor, only that I must examine what my intentions are, and what the ramifications might be, once it is printed and sitting in stores. There are a lot of funny things in the Jesus comic, moments I created I am proud of… witty lines, some great art… but in the end I was more ashamed of myself for exerting so much energy on a comic that in the end was not something I would be proud of. I may have my most controversial work yet to be created, but if I do, it will be on a subject I will defend to my grave, not a willy-nilly mockery of a faith I happen to love.
So, to those of you who read the Jesus comic as atheists or agnostics, thinking I was rooting against the religious, mocking their silly ideas along side you… I was not intending to, but I am afraid I was. Forgive me for deceiving you.
And to my fellow believers… sorry for being the retarded, obnoxious brother in the family. Sorry for my pride in and recklessness in my art. Sorry for alienating you, and trying to make you feel like squares, when I was just being sloppy.
I am not going to disown this book, and I will definitely not be disowning Eric. We are going to start a new project together that is a little less, shall we say, sacrilegious. Something we can call our own. I think we did some great work together on the Jesus comic, and I am looking forward to focusing those strengths onto something I won’t be so weary of down the road. [note: as of 10-26-11 that project remains unfinished]
Part of my problem? These last few years I have really been hiding, trying to avoid truly, honestly saying if I am or am not a Christian. Well… I am. Saying that alone puts an enormous amount of responsibility on me to not be a total douche. That’s not a bad thing. That’s pressure we could all use.
Thanks for sticking with me.