Howard Chaykin's new series, The Divided States of Hysteria, which Chaykin previously bragged 'may very well get me arrested in the good ol' USA' contains some incredibly distasteful things.
Colour me surprised.
The first issue of the comic came out this week — the first week of Pride Month — and features a graphic, violent attack on a trans sex worker. The scene in question is NSFW, but can be found online thanks to Emma Houxbois who pointed out the unfortunate scene in question on twitter. But be warned – it is very graphic, violent and triggering.
Naturally, that this kind of story is being told is distasteful anyway, but to also come out during Pride Month, a time when we should be pushing and celebrating LGBTQ+ visibility, inclusiveness and hope for the future, is the height of bad timing and poor taste, as another comic creator went into.
Magdalene Visaggio, writer of Eisner-nominated Kim & Kim and Quantum Teens Are Go!, goes into exactly why this is another example of incredibly bad taste story-telling centering around the trans community.
And why this consistent, poor and offensive trope that continues to this day is damaging to trans audiences.
And exactly why Chaykin, in his efforts to court controversy in his latest title, just continues to victimise and fetishize the trans community in a damaging fashion with little care to whom that may be harming.
Of course, the comic was originally supposed to be released last winter, but was moved. Perhaps because it also contains portrayals of Islamic extremist terrorism, described in the solicitation blurg as, "a pulls-no-punches, dystopic suspense story about the dramatic downfall of the most formidable and globally far-reaching government the world has ever seen. In THE DIVIDED STATES OF HYSTERIA, a deeply troubled America is barely beginning to recover from a profound national trauma, only to be further destabilized by a worst-case terrorist attack."
When Bleeding Cool requested comment from Image on this matter, we were given this essay by Chaykin in response:
"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.