Crossed, Misogyny, Torture Covers And Mad Magazine

cache_308_479_CrossedBadlands19wrapSo I found myself involved in a little back and forth on Twitter yesterday. Heidi MacDonald on The Beat, posted a piece criticising Avatar’s covers for the series Crossed, after fellow Beat writers Amy Chu and Steve Morris called me out for bias asking why I wasn’t calling out Avatar over Crossed covers such as this.

 

 

Avatar is the publisher of Bleeding Cool, folks. Well, if I’m damned if I do and damned it I don’t, I might as well be damned if I do. I’ve never seen a conflict of interest I haven’t run towards with open arms at full speed until it smacks me upside the head.

I hadn’t specifically written about Crossed covers, specifically the “torture” variants that Heidi highlights for particular shaming, for a number of reasons.

It’s a dog-bites-man story rather than a man-bites dog story. It’s not a publisher using characters familiar to kids in rather strange sexually violent fashions, but it’s a publisher known for putting out horror comics, putting out horror comics with horror covers for adults. It’s also a relatively small publisher, the impact it has on the market is less than a Premier publisher, say.

Heidi alleges that the covers are misogynist, and certainly the one she repeatedly highlights in a conversation with upcoming Crossed writer Justin Jordan on Facebook with a woman being speared by arrows from behind, in a prone semi-naked position is troubling, but it’s part of a series that shows men and women in similar states, sometimes with sexual violence, and the target of other men and women. It’s sick, it’s nasty, it’s nihilist, but women aren’t being picked out for this kind of treatment.

She picks out “torture” variants specifically, but after viewing a number, there’s no real difference between these covers and the others, but a name to differentiate one cover from another for multiple cover collectors. Crossed is a very nasty book, the covers reflect that, and the “torture” covers are no nastier than the standard versions. I wrote a comic for Avatar once called Holed Up, and we had “Homeland” variant covers for similar reasons. There was no actual difference in tone. Heidi repeatedly states its the covers not the content she has issues with, but seriously, some of the content puts the covers to shame. It’s a very nasty, horror comic.

But it’s a work of satire and, yes, that includes the covers. Now different creators handle it in their own way – and have different takes and different levels of taste. Some have issues with the covers as well. But here’s the thing about good satire, it should plumb the depths of taste. It was when Amy talked about Mad Magazine being satire but not Crossed that I suddenly realised what the problem might be here.

892117Because where I’m from, satire has a history, a reputation, a need to disturb. And often it achieves this in the most grossly offensive fashion. Whether that be early cartoonists Hogarth, Gillray and Rowlandson outraging society in ways Crossed can only dream of, Swift‘s modest proposal of child cannibalism in Ireland, Shakespeare‘s profane doorman in Macbeth, Scarfe‘s arse licking Harold Wilson, Steve Bell‘s shitting penguins, Spitting Image‘s Robert Maxwell turning everything he touched to poo, Chris MorrisBrass Eye Paedophilia Special or terrorist comedy Four Lions, they churn the stomach and focus a target.

It’s not the only way, But it’s a really good way. And Crossed, torture covers included, totally fits in that ballpark. The target is us. Our civilised sensibilities hiding our violent primal selves, only three square meals away, as well as our comfortableness with the portrayal of violence in entertainment. There’s a reason that Garth Ennis drew from Amnesty International litany of very real acts of wanton terror committed by human against human when writing the series. And in a world where violence and murder is sanitised into comfortable Sunday afternoon TV shows, Crossed is a continual reminder of the actual horrible reality of violence.

It is also, a commercial product. Gail Simone said;

For which you could reply “Robocop”? “Starship Troopers?” Great satire has often had it’s cake and eaten it… it’s often a defining feature, becoming the very thing it satirises. It often makes it even more effective.

Crossed is not a pleasant book to read. It is monumentally disturbing. But then that’s the point. And as for the covers, if we’re going to bring Mad Magazine into things, or at least what Mad Magazine was, this is where you should start quoting William Gaines at the Senate Subcommittee on Juvenile Delinquency.

Senator Estes Kefauver: This seems to be a man with a bloody axe holding a woman’s head up which has been severed from her body. Do you think that is in good taste?

William Gaines: Yes sir, I do, for the cover of a horror comic. 

Of course, he may have also been high at the time. But Crossed is in keeping with the spirit of Gaines more than the current incarnation of Mad seems to be.

Criticising a horror comic for having covers that are too horrific… well, if anyone’s biased towards Avatar right now, it seems to be Heidi McDonald. After all, they couldn’t have drafted a better press release if they’d tried.

Because if I were to run a piece every month highlighting detailing the extreme disgusting nature of every Crossed cover, I think Avatar would fucking love it.

Like I said, damned if you do, damned if you don’t.

More Crossed later today, I think.

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