Deep. Meaningful. Epic. Words which may never be used to describe former CYD regular contributor The New Meat, but were indeed used to describe this comic review from early 2005. Jack, both written and drawn ham-handedly, is today's target.
Thursday, March 3. 2005
reviewed by The New Meat
Jack is a comic about the grim reaper, a giant green rabbit with a pompadour that makes him look like a reject from the Leningrad Cowboys. He’s named Jack. He lives in hell, a jagged rocky place that kinda looks like the Mojave desert. Jack also does double duty, for some unfathomable reason, as the personification of the sin of wrath, despite being, for all intents and purposes, a pretty calm and collected person. Jack lives with the soul of an aborted dog fetus and some other sins and lots of damned souls and other stuff. It’s written and illustrated by David Hopkins. It’s not very good.
Oh, people will tell you that “Jack” is good. They’ll tell you it’s full of depth and meaning and that it’ll make you reflect on the nature of sin and redemption and life and death. They’ll tell you that, after reading “Jack,” you’ll sit back, stroke your chin, and mutter, “Wow, I never thought about it that way before.” But you won’t.
It’s tempting to read “Jack” as a reflection of author Hopkins’ belief system. Tempting but almost impossible, since “Jack” is a nonsensical hodgepodge of touchy-feely new age gibberish and Dixie-fried Fire and Brimstone pissiness. To people who value glitz over substance, “Jack” can pass for a deep and thoughtful meditation on the meaning of life, death, retribution and punishment. But stop to think for a moment, and what once looked like depth is really just so much chaos. That’s too bad, because “Jack” is a comic that so desperately wants to be taken seriously, so desperately wants to shock and appall “the squares” with poorly rendered guts and gore, so desperately wants to be oh so edgy. That’s why it’s so tricky to figure out what Hopkins is all about. Whatever point he might be trying to make gets dropped almost immediately in favor of cheap shocks.
Hopkins has created an afterlife that runs according to a set of rigid, unknowable, and often times arbitrary rules. And when you apply those black and white rules to a world that comes in so many shade of gray, the decisions about who gets to sing in the choir invisible and who burns in the lake of fire seldom seem quite fair. In other words, it’s much the way that most major world religions see the world. Hopkin’s Chick-style microcosm could, in fact, make for a very interesting exploration of questions of free will, justice, and divine redemption.
Unfortunately, it doesn’t. There are only two sorts of people in “Jack.” There are decent folks, recognizable by the fact that they are all in loving monogamous relationships and can’t go for three seconds without saying “I love you, pookywooky!” Then there are complete and utter bastards, every which one of whom is a serial adulterer, a public fornicator, a brutal rapist, a spree killer, AND a psycho cannibal. They tear the wings off of butterflies while raping orphans and tying pale blond women to railroad tracks all while twirling their handlebar mustaches and going “Nyahaha!!” and can’t complete a sentence without ten “FUCKS” and the occasional totally fictitious swear word (See “Crotchfruit”). “Jack” is not a comic given to shades of gray.
As such, Hopkins’ comics don’t really serve as anything more than mean-spirited, vindictive revenge fantasies. Mostly. Occasionally, he does interesting work. To give some credit where credit’s due, the storyline involving a postal rampage through an office building was slightly more thought-provoking than his regular output (Note: I’m not talking about his Columbine rip-off storyline here. That was complete shit.)
Here’s a quick run-down of the denizens of hell:
1) Apparently a serial killer in life, Jack was punished in death by becoming some sort of minor deity in hell. That’s divine justice for you! Jack, as mentioned above, is both death incarnate and wrath incarnate. This makes even less sense when one considers how mellow he is.
2) Bob and Lisa combine together to form Voltron…er, the sin of gluttony. Gluttony is a pretty straightforward sin, you would think – it’s all about stuffing your fat buttertroll face beyond all reason. However, Hopkins, in his never-ending quest to make everything ickier, squickier, and nastier, has seen fit to muddy the proverbial waters with a host of other peccadilloes here. See, in life, Bob and Lisa weren’t just gluttons. They had a weird sexual fixation on cannibalistic murders. It strikes me as strange that they would be punished by being made representative of gluttony. Gluttony was really the least of their problems. But oh well. You see, in Hopkins’ world, you can’t just be a little bit bad. It’s all or nothing baby, and if you’re a fat sack of shit you might as well be a murdering cannibal fat sack of shit while you’re at it.
3) Drip, who is apparently supposed to be a rat from the fact that his full name is “Drip Rat,” embodies lust. In life, Drip was a serial rapist and murderer apparently. You know what’s weird? Both Jack and Drip were apparently serial killers and both apparently took on “apprentices” before dying. I’ve always assumed that serial killing was really a profession that you had to learn on your own, figuring stuff out as you went along. I had no idea a serial killer actually started out apprenticing for more established killer. It’s rather like blacksmithing. Must be a thrill, getting that first good serial killing internship after a grueling year of first year study at Serial Killing University. (1)
4) Vince, a sort of pig-thing, embodies greed. He was apparently some sort of medieval religious tyrant, something like Vigo the Carpathian. His cult wasn’t good enough to get him into heaven, though, so he and his followers wound up down in the fiery pits. Understandably miffed at not getting to join the choir invisible, said followers cut off his nose and sewed his eyes and mouth shut (2). Then they continued to follow him(?). I would have thought that whole “Winding up in hell” business would have soured this relationship, but apparently they got over it. Man, you don’t see that kind of sheep-like loyalty in followers these days. Are you paying attention here, kids? Take a good look at that. That’s what being a slavering minion is all about. Speaking of which, what the hell kind of name is Vince for a medieval religious tyrant? That’s like having a Pope named Larry.
5) Kane is the embodiment of…one of the remaining sins. I think he’s envy. He looks something like a mutant, desiccated mandrill, but he’s supposed to be a human. Dude, as envy, he, like, envies furries. For their fur. Dude.
6) The embodiment of sloth has yet to appear to my knowledge. Sloth is, of course, the sin of being a three-toed South American mammal of the order edentata, whose closest living relatives are the armadillo and the anteater. Haha, see it’s a furry joke! Actually, sloth is the sin of being a lazy good-for-nothing. Knowing Hopkins, though, it’s doubtful that’s going to be gory enough to satisfy him. Sloth will probably end up being some guy who raped and killed and dismembered and ate people while he was sleepwalking or some such retarded shit.
7) What’s left? There are seven sins, right? What the hell is that last one? Vanity, right? It’s vanity, isn’t it? I have no clue what Hopkins has in store for this one. Maybe he’ll draw him as a smurf. That would be pretty funny.
There are a couple of other people around here, too. Like Fnar.
I have no fucking clue how to pronounce that name. He’s a dog fetus in a sailor suit and he has no nose. Fnar hangs out around Jack for undisclosed reasons. He’s the voice of innocence in hell, a job he accomplishes by being completely stupid and oblivious to everything that happens around him. While most stories that people make up about the souls of aborted fetuses involve instant access to the paradise, Fnar gets send to hell. Apparently because God’s a jerk.
WON’T SOMEBODY THINK OF THE CHILDREN?!?!
Hopkins might be trying to say something about the morality of abortion with this character, but more likely he threw it in because abortion is a hot-button issue and what better way to get a reputation for being deep and edgy than by throwing in lots of those? Hey, here’s another: GUNS IN SCHOOLS!! COLUMBINE!!!
And, oh look, Hopkins did a story on that too.
Brian is a pissy high school student. He decides to shoot his classmates because he’s evil. Isn’t that just always the case?
Brian’s evil knows no bounds! The horror! The infamy! The humanity! Who will hasten to bring his reign of terror to an ending? Will you? Good constable, I pray, will you not apprehend this uncouth ruffian? Wave your billy club at him, like so!
Crazy NRA gun nut saves the day by blowing Brian’s head off. Um. Okay. First off, why did this other kid happen to bring a gun to school? Did he have some sort of premonition that there was going to be a homicidal rampage today and that he ought to bring his gun in for protection? Was he planning to hold his own gun rampage but Brian beat him to the bunch? Does he just bring guns to school with him everyday for no apparent reason? Yeah, that seems most likely. I guess Hopkins is applauding this sort of wild west vigilante justice where everyone’s got a gun, so the moral of the story is that the next time there’s a gun rampage, hope there’s a second gun nut around to take down the first. That’s all that’s going to save you.
That and prayer.
The drama here is undermined just a tad here. Some fur approaching. Yep. Just a tad.
Suddenly realizing that he really hadn’t thought this plan all the way through, Brian retreats away from the light, back to the physical world. Here, he is confronted by the departed souls of the kids he had just offed. Although their fragile young lives were cut short, it’s reassuring, at least, that in death they have all found peace.
I guess not. When you get shot, you get a “Go to Heaven for free” card. Still, nice of them to let these kids take some time out of their busy schedule of eternal bliss for some petty, vindictive rage. I was always under the impression that it was important to let go of those feelings once you got to the pearly gates, but what do I know? I certainly don’t have a PhD in theology like Matthew Hopkins does. Oh, wait.
And the final panel has Brian being tortured by some hell critters.
Hey, you know what else is hot these days? GAY PEOPLE!! WITH CANCER!!!
So deep and meaningful! Hopkins is truly a sage for our time! He has balls, yo! Hopkins’ two-dimensional characters and reliance on juvenile shock techniques pretty much doom whatever chance Jack ever had of being taken seriously. Some people would argue that the simple fact that it’s furry would be enough to do that, but I don’t necessarily agree. A better-written comic on this subject might still have some potential even if it still used cartoon animals. (3) That is, if there was some reason to use cartoon animals beyond the fact that the cartoonist cannot draw humans to save his life.
Really, it’s not that hard. It’s just like a furry without a nose and with the ears placed a little differently and no fur. Try it sometime. Expand your horizons.
But even if it were better written, Hopkins’ art style is not quite right for this subject matter. Unless you’re trying to be ironic, giant bulgy eyes and goofy smiles are really disconcerting in a comic about rape and child-murder. By the way, I hate the way he draws fur. It looks like spikes. But that’s just a personal bias. Oh, and have you noticed how everyone is always crying in every single solitary panel? See, it’s emotion! Do you feel it? Has it wrung an emotional response from you yet?!? Have your heartstrings been tugged raw?!!!?!?!?!?!?! NO?!?!?!?!??! Then maybe I need to draw…MORE TEARS! Why create fully developed characters that the audience actually cares about when you can manipulate them with tears??! It’s just like being a girl!
Oh, also the fact that Hopkins obviously wanks to all this gore rather undermines the seriousness of the whole venture.
Extrinsic evidence does bear out the one conclusion one might draw about the comic’s author: That he gets off on this stuff. After an artist has churned out a few years worth of lovingly rendered torture scenes and gratuitous rape comics, one might begin to suspect that he has a somewhat prurient interest in the subject matter. Every time I mention this, people get pissed at me for leaping to conclusions, but, c’mon, look at his VCL account! When Hopkins isn’t illustrating his rape fantasies, he’s…well, he’s definitely not drawing.
Here’s a nice sequence of Hopkins’ character Drip raping his girlfriend’s character.
Although the girl’s understandably scared at first, she soon comes to enjoy being raped (Wow, just like real life!) and, as she’s succumbing to throes of ecstasy, shouts something about how Drip’s cock is bigger than her ex-boyfriend’s. There’s a subtle message in this. Read that comic over and see if you can find it. Here’s a hint: DRIP’S cock is bigger than that of the girl’s ex. (4) By the way, kids, it’s not rape if she secretly wants it! (5)
I really think Hopkins ought to hook up with that crazy chick that used to draw “Rabid.” I think they’d make a cute couple.
In one of Hopkins’ many bids to be regarded as a genuinely creepy storyteller, he swiped this genuinely creepy tale from “Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark” and illustrated it. You may remember this story, it’s the one about two farmers out in the middle of nowhere who build a straw dummy to pass the time. It’s a short story, simple and elegant and, when you’re a eight years old, scary as fuck. It doesn’t help that the illustrations in those “Scary Stories” books are nightmare inducing by themselves. Hopkins, however, deluded himself into believing he could improve the story by adding a heaping dose of bodily wastes, gratuitous sex, and out-of-place swearing. Let’s compare:
Not Especially Scary:
1. Attention Serial Killing U students! Wondering what to major in? How about SERIAL KILLING?
2. This doesn’t appear to in any way inhibit Vince’s ability to talk, though
3. Here’s where we have the obligatory discussion of furry vs. anthro vs. funny animal vs. my gaping anus NOBODY CARES
4. The answer: Dave Hopkins wants you to know that his penis is, in reality, very very small.
5. Actually, it is. Don’t go rape someone and say it’s okay because we said so. Don’t drag us down into your moral quagmire.