Image Comics has been promoting Pride Month for some time now, with more than a few variant covers planned, even with one for this week's release of The Divided States Of Hysteria, written and illustrated by Howard Chaykin, best known for the political satire American Flagg!.
The first issue came out this week, the first week of Pride Month, and features a graphic, violent attack on a trans sex worker. We won't reproduce the image here, but Emma Houxbois pointed out the scene and posted it on their Twitter here. While the story is in bad taste any time of year, it's in especially poor taste to come out during Pride Month, complete with its own Pride variant cover. Magdalene Visaggio, creator of the Eisner-nominated Kim & Kim and Quantum Teens Are Go!, went into why this is in incredibly poor taste.
Really? Really? This? This comes out a week into pride month?— Magdalene Visaggio (@MagsVisaggs) June 9, 2017
We get SO LITTLE. WE GET ALMOST NOTHING.— Magdalene Visaggio (@MagsVisaggs) June 9, 2017
I spent my whole fucking life thinking this was what was at the other end of transition.— Magdalene Visaggio (@MagsVisaggs) June 9, 2017
Here on the other side of the trans tipping point nothing changes.— Magdalene Visaggio (@MagsVisaggs) June 9, 2017
When Bleeding Cool reached out to Image for a statement, they were given an essay written by Chaykin, which we've reproduced here.
"The history of the world, my sweet, is those who get eaten and those who eat."
STEPHEN SONDHEIM, SWEENEY TODD.
"Left wing faggot!"
SOME ANONYMOUS TROLL UNHAPPY WITH MY REBOOT OF THE CHALLENGERS OF THE UNKNOWN.
I first introduced the book you hold in your hand to a neutral, mostly uninterested audience at the IMAGE EXPO in Seattle, in March of 2016, before the events that define the year in question had occurred. My feeling at that time was that THE DIVIDED STATES OF HYSTERIA was the darkest thing I'd ever produced, a dystopic poison pill bereft of my usual snarky comedy.
Now, for those of you who've forgotten what life in these United States was like back in those dim lost days of early spring 2016, my issues, as the book indicates, include a fear of international and domestic terrorism, and an aversion to identity politics. I still felt that Hillary Clinton had a lock on the Democratic nomination and a pretty good shot at the presidency, and that the Republican nominee would be Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio, or heaven forfend, Ted Cruz.
Hey, who knew, right?
So now that liberal-center-left narcissism, with a healthy dose of identity politics, has lost the game to right-wing ignorance and hypocrisy-driven rage, and I find myself anticipating a future spent in a live-action dystopia, the book seems almost naively cheerful and filled with hope. Go figure.
When Thomas K., the man who edits my stuff at IMAGE first suggested I do this essay, we both anticipated the election of Hillary Clinton, and the near dissolution of the Republican party. Tonally, he suggested, "Well, here's what you almost voted for..."
Instead, we have cowardice on both sides of the aisle, as Democrats, in what seems to be an all too typically vain attempt to defend their position, take an inept pass at being as obstructionist as the other party was in its treatment of the previous office holder; and Republicans, who barely a year ago regarded their president as an ignoramus, are bending over and taking it in the ass in the name of shameless, craven, and nihilistic self seeking and self interest.
Now Liberals are weeping–even the ones who didn't bother to vote, or who cast a protest vote–really? Protest? Fuck that–while Conservatives gloat, sharpening their knives as they prepare to impose their misbegotten "values" on me and my cohort.
So instead of "Trigger warnings," "Cultural appropriation," "Safe spaces," and "Social Justice Warriors," maybe we on the left should have put aside all this balkanizing nonsense and been fucking Americans for fuck's sake, instead of allowing this nihilistic shithead to mainstream and legitimize the racist, sexist, bigoted and flat-out moronic sensibilities that have always been there, but were held in check by a common understanding that one doesn't get away with that shit in the United States of America.
Well, now one does–and while you were pissing and moaning about hyphenates, they got to own the USA. And for every voter whose candidate won who accuses Hillary Clinton of being a liar, I'd like to meet one honest enough to admit that he's a complete hypocrite who voted for a liar anyway–just the one who told him exactly what he wanted to hear. I'm not holding my breath.
So it's all too clear that H.G. Wells got it right. The Time Machine. Eloi and Morlock. One is eaten, the other eats. Look it up–it depresses me too much that neither side of this divide has any clue of what I type to bother explaining. Ignorance and stupidity got us here–and we get the government we deserve.
So maybe THE DIVIDED STATES OF HYSTERIA isn't quite as a dark as the world abyss into which we stare...isn't that a pisser?
Best of luck, thanks, and to end with another quote from Stephen Sondheim,
"...I'm still here!"
Howard Victor Chaykin–a prince.
Along with the release of the Pride Month variant covers, Image gave a statement on the importance of these covers, which part of is below and can be read in full here.
"We are so thankful for the opportunity to support the LGBTQ community during Pride Month this year by partnering once again with the Human Rights Campaign," said Eric Stephenson, Publisher at Image Comics. "It's never been a secret that Image Comics is supportive of creative freedom, but it's important that we also make it clear that we stand for inclusivity, diversity, and equality, now more than ever. We hope these variants will serve as a positive display of that ongoing commitment."
While the variant cover of The Divided States Of America #1 may be a positive display of Image's ongoing commitment to inclusivity, diversity, and equality, the inside sure isn't.