Monday, January 19, 2009

Why I Swear So Much

I often get told by people who read my occasional blogging and follow me on Twitter that I swear a lot in my writing, and when pressed to explain these urges, my most frequent response comes out something like, "Well, I do's fucking BECAUSE, Goddamnit!"

Luckily, today I got a little help in explaining myself in this great interview with "Get Your War On" cartoonist David Rees at CBR. Here's an exchange between Rees and interviewer Alex Dueben that really hit home:

It's fascinating to listen or read to people discuss your work because people talk about how funny it is, and the profanity is almost always mentioned, but no one mentions how emotionally fraught so much of it is.

I don't want people to think I'm using bad words just to piss them off or shock them or come across as a rebel or something like that. One of the reasons I decided to allow the Rude Mechs Theatre Company to adapt “GYWO” for the stage was because they seemed to understand that the profanity was masking feelings of despair and vulnerability -- it wasn't just about the shock value of the language. I think people often use profanity when they've run up against the limits of language. When they don't know how to express their emotions within the framework of acceptable language, they turn to profanity, which doesn't usually convey semantic information -- only information about the speaker's emotional state.

But also, I gotta say one of the reasons I put so much profanity in those early strips was because I thought the discourse/language after 9/11 was really weird and neutered and I wanted to cut through that. Profanity seemed efficient in that regard.

The profanity stands in extreme contrast to the very measured calm statements that used to issue from the Bush administration about mushroom clouds and weapons of mass destruction. Was that conscious or was it just a question of listening to that and not being able to avoid swearing?

The use of profanity in “GYWO” came out of my love of profanity -- I had already been making comics with absurd amounts of cursing (“My New Fighting Technique is Unstoppable”). But also I wanted to cut through all the weird language we were hearing post-9/11. Everything seemed either very neutered and infantile ("The day America lost her innocence,") or witless and belligerent ("We will bring justice to the evildoers," or whatever Bush used to say to get everyone riled up). So I thought profanity was a simple way to cut through all the bullshit.

Now, obviously Rees' use of swears and my own don't match up all that strongly in general because he's writing about the heartbreaking reality that our world is slowly turning to shit around us and there's nothing we can do about it, and I'm writing about Batman or whatever...BUT I completely identify with him when it comes to having feelings of frustration (or even elation) butt up against your ability to speak in clear, concise sentences, sometimes the most effective option is a frenzied volley of curse words. I know that a lot of people will say my reliance of dropping the F-bomb belies a lack of solid vocabulary on my part, and yeah, there's a lot of truth in that argument.

Still, when I'm making my way through the mire of comic book superhero blogger-dom, the practice of so many to take their boyhood reading habits as high art whose every minute detail is worthy of melodramatic discourse just makes me want to take the fucking piss out of some shit, you know? And when I pop open a really fun, ridiculous comic and breath in all of its absurd, day glow glory, my immediate response falls somewhere in the range of "Holy shit! Look at these assholes go!" I think it gets my point across as well as any calm, measured approach will, but I'm really sorry if it turns some of you off. Feel free to tell me what you think, using any language you desire.

Above Image: The birth of a true classic. I'll miss it so after tomorrow. Relive the memories at

No comments: