Divided States of Outrage – a Commentary

Brandon Ruckerprof

~ by Brandon Rucker, the CBU’s Professor X ~

The CBU’s Executive Editor reacts to the event in which Image Comics announces the removal of a controversial cover to it’s new socio-political series, Divided States of Hysteria, created by writer/artist/liberal provocateur, Howard Chaykin.

~ First Things First ~

Image Comics issued a lengthy apology for . . .

. . . the distress caused by the cover to THE DIVIDED STATES OF HYSTERIA #4. It’s neither Howard’s nor Image’s intention to inflict pain on anyone already dealing with intolerance or hostility on a personal level. We ALL agree that any form of bigotry is wrong, and this comic exists due to anger and frustration over rapidly escalating injustice in a world filled with people too quick to judge others on the basis of their race, religion, or gender association. — via Image Comics.com

Okay. Perfectly sensible statement made there.

The purpose of this series is to sound alarms. THE DIVIDED STATES OF HYSTERIA is a comic book about the terrifying future we are heading for if our country remains on its current path. Far from an endorsement of the horrible violence depicted or the ugly language used by many of the characters, Howard’s goal is to give us a glimpse into a society crumbling under the weight of ignorance, hatred, and intolerance. It’s unsettling to be sure, but it’s difficult to convey the horrors of a world gone wrong without also showing what it looks like.

The replacement cover for Issue #4 by Chaykin.

That last line — no mass of outraged fans give movies and novels this kind of grief for depicting factual realism through a fictional lens. And both movies and novels are far more “big time” commercially than comics by a wide margin. I mean, there aren’t any comics titles selling in the millions anymore (Batman is that one title consistently breaking the 100k sales mark month in, month out), and this is all despite the fact that comics-generated movies and TV shows are pulling in millions of viewers worldwide. So, that being said, why is it that when something “controversial” happens in comics, it blows up into the kind of thing that should be reserved for product millions truly give a damn about (because nothing says “I truly give a damn about this” like putting your hard-earned money toward it)? Sadly, a multitude of millions of folks are NOT buying comics these days. Yet with this latest comics outrage you’d think Divided States of Hysteria was a New York Times Bestselling comic! Hysteria indeed. Has a comic series ever been more aptly-named?

Here’s more from the press release:

People have described the cover to DIVIDED STATES #4 as distasteful, and they’re right, in that: ALL hate crimes are horrifying, dehumanizing, and distasteful, and the intent of this cover was to challenge people to look at what we as a society have become. Every hate crime is perpetrated under the cover of willful ignorance, because there is always someone content to turn away from what is really happening or label shameful truths as “alternative facts.” What’s more, ignoring that these hate crimes exist—and that they are happening right now—watering down in any way how bad things have become, seems like a cop out, like turning a blind eye at a time when we all need to be paying attention.

At its heart, THE DIVIDED STATES OF HYSTERIA is revenge fiction set against the backdrop of a nation on the brink of collapse, with the greedy and corrupt people who brought it to that point in the crosshairs. If it was just a book meant to be provocative for the sake of being provocative, Image would not be publishing it. This series is supposed to make people angry about what’s happening in the world right now, and it’s supposed to make people want to fight back and resist the very real oppression bearing down on us all.

While Image as a company is committed to free speech and artistic expression, we also recognize our responsibility to be sensitive to all members of our readership. We listen to all feedback—from our creators, from our retailer partners, from our readers—but Image Comics recognizes that we could have responded to readers’ concerns about the graphic nature of this cover more quickly and with more empathy and understanding. We apologize for not doing so sooner.

But of course, as I’ve witnessed on Comics Twitter, an apology, no matter how well-thought, sensible and sincere, is still not enough for a lot of people. So naturally there were plenty of Tweeters with their feathers predictably ruffled and riled up into a tweeting frenzy and outrage. That’s expected these days, often to a disproportionate degree. However, what surprised me, though, was the number of comics creators who were condemning the art and by extension the artist, and questioning the artist’s and publisher’s judgment. I didn’t see too much in the way of defense of Chaykin and his artwork in question.

Arriving late to the shit/twit storm, the first defender I saw was Kaare Andrews (check out his creator-owned/produced comics Renato Jones from Image Comics).

~ Patch-ing It Up ~

Then I see that my main man, fellow Indiana resident Patrick Zircher (currently the artist of DC’s Action Comics) pretty much make every poignant point I could possibly make on this subject, to the point that I may as well just cosign all his words and present them here to speak for me on the matter:

Note: Nearly five years ago (wow!) I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Mr. Zircher for a promotional Q&A and I recently re-published it for posterity on my personal comics blog.

~ Ever the Scrapper ~

Of course, I was compelled to jump into the fray (late to the party, of course) and offer my own two cents plus tax to Comics Twitter on this heated topic. Using two different accounts, no less! To wit:

I could go on and on, but my guess is this is running long enough.

So before I bounce off, I ask again: why is it that movies, certain TV shows and especially novels can depict – historical or modern – events of violence, racism and what have you, but comics can’t without widely being scorned by the medium’s own fan base and the creator labeled a bigot or worse? I’m genuinely interested in a discussion about this. Not a debate, necessarily, and certainly not an argument — we’re divided enough on this and much else in our communities. But a mature, intellectual conversation on this topic just might be necessary for the overall enlightenment of the spirit, liberty and appreciation of art, whether we agree with it or not.

Author Info: Brandon entered the fray of opinionated comics journalism and commentary in the summer of 2011 and hasn’t been able to break away from it since. It’s a daily thing for him. Thus, the reason he finally decided to create the very site you’re reading as a fifth estate publishing home for the best comics community in the free world, The Comic Book Underground. He urges you to join the conversation.

3 Replies to “Divided States of Outrage – a Commentary”

  1. What happen to the notion that if something offended you that you simply changed the channel or did not buy the product?
    Why have we become a society that needs to be offended simply for the sake of being offended?


    1. Being offended is fine, it’s how we know whether things live up to, challenge or fall short of our standards. Problem is, we need to do it with context and with the proper perspective. All too often folks go for the visceral reaction rather than think things through rationally and intellectually.


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