Yesterday saw the publication of The Divided States Of Hysteria #3. At my local comic store, it had sold out, all copies had been reserved, they were trying to get more. Whatever damage the reaction to the comic may have done to the reputation of Howard Chaykin, it has done wonders for its sales.
The comic book continues to be a take on DC Comics' Suicide Squad, in which the Amanda Waller-figure getting a previous security threat wrong now has the death of three million New Yorkers, including his own family, on his hands and a nation that holds him responsible. And recruiting killers in some tangentially way related to the terrorists to take now the pan-racial Illuminati cartel actually responsible for the massacre.
And on the way, pulling triggers, pressing buttons and generally exposing much of the raw anger erupting around America at the moment. And using the comic book form to portray the emotional and stress effect of the 24-hour news networks and social media that both reflect and fuel the madness.
The Divided States Of Hysteria #3 doesn't let up either. It also ends with a non-apology. Image Comics had already issued an apology from both Image Comics and Chaykin for the now-removed planned cover for #4.
Image Comics and Howard Chaykin would like to apologize over 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.
But it seems that may have all coming from Image Comics' side. At the back of #3, in an editorial, Chaykin says:
"Yesterday, as I type this, I agreed without grudge with my publisher, as IMAGE opted to remove a cover created for the fourth issue of The Divided States of Hysteria and to replace it with an alternative. As some of you might be aware, this was a reaction to a roar of outrage from various factions of the self-identified Progressive, Liberal and Leftist communities, entities committed to protecting various identity-based sections and sects of the polity. This includes several of my professional colleagues–some of whom clearly agreed with the complaints, some of whom were suffering ad hominem attacks simply by dint of being published by the same house that had the gall to publish me."
As you can see, that's not quite not the apology Image Comics might have been putting over. And the panels from #3 I'm using show that Chaykin isn't stepping back as a result. Which means, yes, the T-word. And regarding any apology for such wider issues:
"In closing, I'd like to thank Eric, Robert, Kat and everyone at IMAGE, and to make an amends to them, my friends and my colleagues for the collateral damage they took from the shit that was hurled at me. These are stand-up guys–and I am humbled and grateful for the opportunity to be working with and for them. As for the rest, I'd be grateful to those of you who are actually reading the book to tell those people coming after me with their digital pitchforks and virtual torches that I remain unrepentant, and that apologies from me in that regard will come on a cold day in hell. Best, and thanks for your kind attention."
It is clear that my take on the series differs to some of my colleagues at Bleeding Cool. I find it a challenging and provocative comic, more Jerry Sadowitz than Frankie Boyle. There is plenty I don't like, but then, I don't think I'm supposed to. And I also admire and appreciate the craft that goes into creating something as jarring as this comic clearly is. I don't always think it succeeds in doing what it wants to achieve, but there is also merit in its attempt.
But then I've also been discussing the digital release of an old comic book of mine, Holed Up, which came to mind after seeing this photo and being asked to sign copies at the recent London Film and Comic Con.
Clearly it's time. But wondering what reaction aspects of that comic book would receive now…
Something like that.