MIKE GOLD: Insanity, Thy Name is the Law
Outside of the sheer enthusiasm bubbling out of the building, one of the coolest things about going to the annual MoCCA (Museum of Comics and Cartoon Art) ArtFest is the ability to be turned on to non-corporate-owned comics that you probably wouldn’t see otherwise. Each year I come away with a stack of stuff and, being smack dab in the middle of the horrors of convention season, it takes a bit of time to get to the good stuff.
Of all the stuff I schlepped back from MoCCA, by far the best (and a tip o’ the hat to our own Martha Thomases) was The Salon, by Nick Bertozzi (Griffin Books, just released as such). The description, from Nick’s own website:
When someone starts tearing the heads off modernist painters around Paris, Gertrude Stein and her brother Leo realize that they may be next on the killer’s list. Enlisting the help of their closest friends and colleagues: Georges Braque, Pablo Picasso, Alice B. Toklas, Erik Satie, and Guillaume Apollinaire, they set out to put a stop to the ghastly murders–only to discover that an addictive absinthe that painters around Paris have been using to enter famous paintings may in fact be responsible for all their troubles. Filled with danger, art history, and daring escapes, this is a wildly ingenious murder-mystery ride through the origins of modern art.
Wow. Sounds intellectual and classy. Not the sort of thing that might trigger arrest, legal action, tens of thousands of dollars in legal bills, and put a man’s life and vocation on the line.
So why did The Salon get busted? Nick drew Picasso running around nekked, as was Pablo’s wont. Because Picasso did not swim in the same gene pool as Ken Doll, Nick depicted the famous painter as actually having a ding-a-ling. Not some massive, gross-out wanger that looked as though it was ghosted by S. Clay Wilson, just a little U-shaped stroke between Pablo’s legs. Less detailed by far than, oh, say, Michelangelo’s David. Or even the David as depicted on The Simpsons, on the Fox network.
I’m unaware of any blindness being caused by the inadvertent glimpse of anybody’s wazoo… at least, not physical blindness. But I survived the phony scandal over Janet Jackson’s evil areola, so nothing should surprise me.
On Free Comic Book Day back in 2004, Gordon Lee of Legend Comics in Georgia gave away copies of Alternative Comics, which included an excerpt from The Salon. Evidently, a nine year old saw it and the good people of the state of Georgia, or rather the ultra-suppressed religious-right idiots who they chose to act in their name, decided to bust and prosecute retailer Lee for two counts of exhibition of harmful materials to a minor (Georga Code 16-12-81). Gordon can spend six years in the clinker; the fines are a drop in the bucket compared to the legal bills. He could pay ‘em with the coins Scooter Libby dropped on the way to the bank.
All for a little U-shaped, historically accurate brush stroke. A fart in a blizzard. Screw free speech; we’re talking about a nation where the last Attorney General (not the current political hack; the previous clown) actually covered up the breast of the statue of Justice in the Great Hall of the Department of Justice because the tittie, and not he, was obscene. We have a difference of opinion over that; suffice it to say Ms. Justice’s nekked breast was okay for about 65 years before John Ashcroft showed up.
Ashcroft gave new meaning to the term “boobs,” and the fools who have spent the past three years trying to bankrupt and incarcerate Gordon Lee are no different.
The Comic Book Legal Defense Fund has been aiding Lee. I’m proud to have been a supporter of the CBLDF, and you should be, too.
By the way, The Salon is great. Buy it. Read it.
Mike Gold is editor-in-chief of ComicMix.com.
The Salon artwork copyright 2007 Nick Bertozzi. All Rights Reserved. The David is in the public domain; deal with it, you book-burning bozos.