Friday, 5 April 2013

Louis Riel

Louis Riel (Drawn & Quartely, 2000)
Art by Chester Brown
(from the 'Getting Riel' discussion with Chester Brown, Cerebus #295, October 2003)
I remember talking to Seth at the Now & Then Books anniversary party, enthusing about how [Chester Brown's new book, Louis Riel] was coming along and saying, you know, this could be sold in huge quantities in schools, libraries, universities and Seth saying to me in his characteristic dry-as-dust fashion, "Yeah, if everyone can just keep their pants on, it could be a real breakout, mainstream success." And I laughed, because it was such a Seth thing to say. His belief that you're this inherently contrary, inherently perverse being who will actively undermine his own chance at success by exposing a character's penis just for the sake of it. And then I mentioned the comment to you the next time you and I and Joe [Matt] and Seth were at Sushi on Bloor. And Seth was stricken. Absolutely stricken! He slumped over, grabbing his forehead. Seth! What! What is it, man? And Seth said that everyone had taken a vow of silence (practically) not saying a word to you and that, being Chester Brown, now you would have to expose someones penis because someone had mentioned what a bad idea it would be. And to me, this is nonsense! And the handling of the swearing scene, to me, exemplifies what nonsense that is. Eights pages of swearing and vile racial epithets, louder and louder and worse and worse. And how does Chet handle it? X's! You show him saying, "Imprisoned by a bunch of XXXXX XXXX XXXXX" (and indicate in a footnote that "these X's indicate racist comments and profanity.") which is fairly innocuous, followed by"I'm not scared of your XXXXX XXX guards!" You sort of go over the "PG" line with "They're too busy XXXX XXXXXXX each other to bother shooting me!" I mean, anyone can and will mentally fill in those particular XX's and I can picture any number of school librarians getting their noses out of joint over something like that. But then, you retreat back across the line to safety with "Riel, you XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX." And that's it for any recognisable word. Over four pages of mostly XXXXXXX. Not even a X@#$%&. Now me, I would have gotten to that part and thought, hm What insults would he be letting fly with? And I'd lean into it. When Cerebus was trying to improve to please God, I'd letter "no swearing" over a swear-word - indicating his own self-censorship - but most of the time, if its called for, I'll just use "fuck" or "shit" where I think its needed. Or even worse as far as most people, I think, would be concerned in this day and age, I'll use "faggy" or something like that which is probably a closer analogy to the "racist comments" you edged around. But it seems obvious to me that anyone who is being that careful is hardly a born provocateur.

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