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BAKER'S DOZEN for 10/27/2004
Note: Readers should be warned that today's column contains mature themes, thoughts and even some serious language. Oh, and there's some swearing and shit, too.
Bustin' on the Bush Leaguers
Josh Dysart on Tex!
A little while back I spoke with Josh Dysart about his work on a Demon mini-series for DC Comics [Baker's Dozen 09/10/2003]. Well, the success of that comic, combined with some interesting new ideas concerning a certain fan-favorite muck-encrusted monster, has lead to his recently being awarded a creative slot on a book that is both a reward and real challenge to a scribe: Swamp Thing, the one title that not only is arguably the flagship title of the entire Vertigo line, but also was instrumental in that imprint's creation and continued survival. And we will be discussing that assignment with Josh--in a future installment of this column.
This time, we're instead concentrating on Tex!, Dysart's incendiary examination of the policies and decisions made by our current President and his administration as filtered through the lenses of satire and super heroic action. And the resultant book has, as might be expected, generated more than its fair share of controversy, as well as eliciting some appreciative laughter from readers who are feeling rather shell-shocked this political season.
Bill Baker: How would you describe Tex! for those who haven't seen it?
Josh Dysart: Tex! is gattling gun attack cartooning. Firing out blazing accusations, facts, satire and venom at the President select (www.thenation.com/doc.mhtml?i=20010205&s=bugliosi) of the United States for his inept leadership. It's all wrapped up in the haphazard guise of a super hero comic book. But the real mission of the comic book is to ricochet the reader, with the force of it's slightly exaggerated accusations, to the back where a well-sourced five page appendix, done in a very small font, outlines the criminal politics of this administration. Most of the data in the appendix is indisputable and cited. Where facts are questionable, we state them as such. So if you want to know the skinny on the free speech zones (www.amconmag.com/12_15_03/feature.html); the record of Alberto Gonzales, who Bush might try to get on the Supreme Court (www.theatlantic.com/doc/prem/200307/berlow); the Project For A New American Century (www.disinfopedia.org/wiki.phtml?title=PNAC); America's use of depleted uranium munitions (www.sierratimes.com/03/05/02/article_io.htm); just how much US tax payer money Ahmed Chalabi was making to deceive the President (www.thenation.com/doc.mhtml?i=20040607&s=scheer0525); the plans for the Iraq war from 1998 (www.moderateindependent.com/v1i16iraqwar.htm); or the Diebold voting scandal (why-war.com/features/2003/10/diebold.html); it's all there. Unfortunately Abu Ghraib (www.newyorker.com/fact/content/?040510fa_fact) happened after we went to print (actually it's unfortunate that it happened at all) but everything previous to that is in there. So that's really what the comic book is, a vehicle for that data so we can transmit it to the voting public. CBS Radio and other mainstream media have understood that this document is the very heart of the comic book. An easily digestible litany of arguments for leftists to use to persuade undecided voters and actual conservatives who might be, just about now, starting to realize that Bush is neither a conservative or Republican in any sense of the word (www.amconmag.com/2004_11_08/cover1.html). Also the comic book has become an amazing organizing tool.
BB: So how'd you get involved in this project? Where'd it all start, and who are the main culprits behind it all?
JD: I created Tex! in 2002. It was meant to be less of an attack and more of a subtle send up. More character driven, fewer surface gags, more of an exploration of wealth's impact on politics. A sort of Neo-Con West Wing created by Oliver Stone and Stan Lee. It was going to be very sympathetic in its odd little way as well, depicting this Administration as caught inside the physics of power. Unfortunately, I perused it lightly. Pitching it in passing. One who received the pitch was Mike Wellman. He runs a company called Atomic Basement Press. He's a true independent. Unique aesthetic. He jazzed on it. Then it wasn't mentioned again for two years. In 2002 I was angry, by 2004 I was fucking pissed off. It's a good thing I don't believe violent revolution is a viable solution for change or I'd would've thrown a fucking Molotov Cocktail through a god damned Starbuck's window. Around this time I get a phone call from Mike. He's driving home from work, listening to the news on the radio, and it's all, "Gay marriage Amendment"; "Stem Cell Research Ban"; "Collin Powell admits world less safer this year"; "More Americans die"; "NO WMD's"; "Civilian casualties for Iraq and Afghanistan now exceed 10,000"; "9/11 commission says there's no connection between Saddam and Al Qaeda", etc. And Mike's head just fucking explodes. He calls me up and says, "Let's do Tex! But it's got to be a political tool, none of this intellectual Top Shelf bullshit that you're into! This is a leap into the fray!" And at the point, I felt exactly the same way. It was down to the wire. The Republic was/is in danger. Mike brought Brad Rader on. We got some of our friends together and laughed about what deep shit the nation we love was in, which is a very very hard thing to do.
Then I went off and wrote it. We went from zero to finished product in less than two months. Also involved in the project was underground cartoonist Carroll Lay, an amazing artist I've worked with on and off named Allen Gladfelter, and an artist and friend named Adriann Helton. Brad "Red Star" Kayl also threw his madness into the mix. Plus my best friend and research assistant, Julie Poulos, and funk band Jacaranda, who did the six-song CD soundtrack. That was the first incarnation of Team Tex. Many amazing activists have joined us sense.
BB: Why do a book like Tex! right now, when this war-burdened President so badly deserves the unquestioning support of each and every true American?
JD: Theodore Roosevelt said, "To announce that there must be no criticism of the President, or that we are to stand by the President, right or wrong, is not only unpatriotic and servile, but is morally treasonable to the American public." I read a lot of politics. The right and the left. I protested Clinton for his foreign policy agenda. I'm not a democrat. Having said all of that, this administration is un-fucking-imaginable. Running on a state's right's platform only to shut down the Florida Supreme Court with the Republican sympathetic National Supreme Court? Opposing the 9/11 Commission at every turn (http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2002/05/15/attack/main509096.shtml)? Giving historical returns to corporations on their campaign contributions (http://www.laborresearch.org/story2.php/362)? Not calling George Bush Sr. and Donald Rumsfeld up on the stand during the trial of Saddam, when they were unquestionably involved in the cases that Saddam is being tried for (http://www.dissidentvoice.org/Jan04/Nimmo0106.htm)? Letting Abu Musab Zarqawi go so as to bolster their argument for an invasion of Iraq (http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/4431601/)? Diverting resources from the Afghan front to the immediately unnecessary Iraqi front? Any one of these would undermine another presidency. In my lifetime I have never seen such mismanagement and incompetence regarding the use of American tax dollars and American lives. If now is not the time to raise your voice then when?
BB: Well, you can't deny that Our Man in Washington hasn't done his utmost to preserve not only the lives, but the liberty and best interests of not just us all, but the entire global village?
JD: Who couldn't deny that, other then the very global village you're mentioning of course. Three major foreign governments which have endorsed George Bush are Russia, where Putin is essentially moving towards fascism after that horrible Beslan school massacre (http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A21853-2004Sep14.html); the dictatorship of Iran, who have actually said that Democrats hound them too much about human rights issues (http://www.signonsandiego.com/uniontrib/20041020/news_1n20iran.html); and the UK, where Tony Blair is guaranteed to die a political death at the hands of his labor party constituency (http://www.theconnection.org/shows/2003/03/20030313_a_main.asp). Most of the rest of the Global village just isn't happy. Several studies have been done regarding Bush's global approval rating, and the fact is if the whole world could vote in our election--and lets not bullshit here, the whole world is certainly affected by our policy decisions--then the president would get less than one vote for every five people (http://www.iht.com/articles/537873.html).
BB: Now come on, Josh, there's got to be something positive that Tex's Real Life Role Model has done for the general good and welfare of each and every God-fearing American since taking office? Surely you can't deny that there isn't at least one or maybe even two bright spots in this administration's record?
JD: Well, Libya is a bright spot, but I do believe that could've been achieved in another way. Muamar Al-Khadafi has been moving towards respectability for years now. But the real bright spot is the political mobilization of Americans. Never in my lifetime have I heard so much political discourse in the streets, in the media, in the bars, around the dinner tables. And because this administration has pushed the universe so far right, much of the real educated discourse is starting to sound pretty left. It's all about balance, you know? So now, even if Bush wins, this new institutionalized and activated progressive army will continue its march. There is the potential for a real Social Justice Movement here. In the thirty-year aftermath of this dying neo-con movement I predict we'll see the first black president--perhaps Barak Obama http://www2.obamaforillinois.com/splash.php --as well as the first woman president. To everything turn-turn-turn. So the bright spot of this administration is that its very archaic politics and social narrow-mindedness has awoken the sleepers.
BB: Well, even if all that is true, why take such a mean-spirited approach when creating the satiric portrayals of the Leaders of the Free World, and the entire White House staff if truth be told, for the comic? Why not be more light hearted about it all?
JD: Because this administration is not funny. The future of the Republic, for which I do truly stand, is in jeopardy. It's time to redefine our notions of what a leader is, and unfortunately it's going to take deeper thought than four generations in a wealth bubble can muster.
I'm sick of the poor getting fucked by the rich, which is what this administration is all about. That can't last much longer, there's far more poor than there are rich, and they're starting to get really pissed off. In fact terrorism, which has been escalating globally since Bush attacked Iraq, is the combat tool of the poor. I don't think it's the right way to go. However, that's what it is. It's the poor and the uneducated of the world rising up against the rich and the exclusive. Remember the US is a very small portion of the world's population, yet it consumes a huge amount of the globes resources.
There is not an infinite amount of resources on this planet, so we are engaging in theft, essentially. That's not this administrations fault, but they're inability to think about the holistic nature of the human species and focus only on what is good for not just America, but actually only a select group of the very wealthy in America is no laughing matter.
BB: OK. So you got it all down on paper and got it out of your systems.
Now what? What do you hope that Tex! accomplishes?
JD: First and foremost, this is not a product; it's an organizing tool.
We've put on several live concerts in the LA area, we've registered hundreds to vote in comic book shops and bars, even passers by on the street, we've been a part of fundraisers that raked in thousands and thousands for the Democratic party--we are not Democrats, but we are pragmatists--and we've used the book to get interviews like this where we spew our views. Team Tex is now over 20 people strong, several of them professional activists and organizers. This comic book has created a community. The book itself is simply a focus; there is a storm of political passion causing real change that swirls around it.
Regardless of your thoughts or feelings concerning this administration's record, Bill and the entire staff here at WFC Central urge each and everyone of our readers to act like real and responsible Americans on Tuesday, November 2nd, 2004 and get out there and cast your vote.
Your vote, your voice, does matter. Never forget that...
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