In a tweet and press release entitled "CHAYKIN'S THE DIVIDED STATES OF HYSTERIA SPARKS INDUSTRY CONVERSATION", Image Comics responded to the controversy raised last week surrounding Howard Chaykin's The Divided States of Hysteria.
The use of "conversation" seems a little trite in this instance — while the comic certainly got people talking, it was pretty much all about the same thing: That the book is hugely transphobic, and on top of that, it was an outright horrible decision to drop it the first week of Pride Month as part of Image's Pride variants initiative.
Image Comics mentions in the press release that the issue is being rushed back to press, claiming Chaykin "turned the industry on its head" and with a quote from Chaykin himself:
"A fictional dystopia selling out in the midst of a real life slow motion societal collapse — how much more thrilled and grateful could I possibly be at this?"
It further included a statement from Eric Stephenson, publisher at Image Comics:
"The history of comics isn't exactly filled with political thrillers, but Howard Chaykin made his name in the '80s with American Flagg!, and The Divided States of Hysteria is very much in the same mold. One of the things I've always admired about Howard's work is his unflinching reluctance to pull any punches, and this series about a society, not on the verge, but in the midst of collapse is no different.
If you're looking for escapism, this probably isn't the book for you, as its warts-and-all depiction of the modern world reveals it to be an ugly place, governed by hatred, fear, and intolerance. Rooted in the worst aspects of reality, this is indignant, rebellious fiction, designed to make readers both angry and uncomfortable, but more than that, it's intended to provoke thought about how and why things have reached a state where the tools for progress — discourse, understanding, cooperation — are shunned in favor of treating anyone with an opposing viewpoint as an enemy combatant.
If The Divided States of Hysteria prompts just a single productive conversation about the present state of our society, then it has succeeded in its goals and is a story worth sharing."
It does seem to somewhat miss the point that most are making: that releasing this title that contains graphic, sexualised violence inflicted upon trans persons — wrapped up in Pride livery during Pride Month — is a major fumbling of the ball when Image is trying to market itself as an LGBT ally this month. Note the T, which stands for Trans.
At any rate, Image Comics' pride over sending this book back to press sure did initiate more "conversation" on Twitter:
Is it still a conversation when everyone is saying the same thing, and one party seems to be utterly and staunchly refusing to take part?
Some creators aren't too enthused with this statement, either:
In fact, some mirrored it with Marvel's own rather disastrous press surrounding Secret Empire:
Like Stephenson said, "it's intended to provoke thought about how and why things have reached a state where the tools for progress — discourse, understanding, cooperation — are shunned in favor of treating anyone with an opposing viewpoint as an enemy combatant."
You know, just like this part of Chaykin's essay from the comic in question:
"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."
Apparently, letting a creator put out a book that completely disregards people's criticisms for decades, and further giving him platform to accuse those who seek consideration and recognition of their identities and rights, is the reason "we got in this mess" and is "sparking a conversation" now.
"Ignorance and stupidity got us here…" Thanks, Chaykin. I couldn't have said it better myself.