At first when I went through the underground comics presented on our reading list, I didn't really find anything that appealed to me, which is actually what I want to talk about for this post.
Before taking this course my own perception of comics was that they are meant to be enjoyed. To be perfectly honest, the reason I never really looked into comics before is that when the word was mentioned, all I could think of was the stereotypical superhero comics; a genre that has never particularly appealed to me. And as a habit, if I pick up something I don't enjoy I tend to put it aside and not take a second glance. Something I in recent years have come to realise is a habit that significantly narrows my own mindset.
When I mentioned in class that I wasn't able to find any comic that appealed to me, our teacher made it clear that "These comics aren't meant to be appealing. They are meant to chock and make us question things." That was important for me to hear, because it allowed me to approach these comics differently.
As an example I want to talk about one of the comics I read, Robert Crumb's 'Mr. Natural'. A couple of the strips were fairly harmless and more sort of whimsical, but some of them where quite upsetting. Mr. Natural is by no means a likeable character and he exerts oppression and brutality on people around him and displays a general selfishness and inability to empathise with others. The strips that contained sexual content was particularly upsetting to me (though I want to make clear, not because the content is sexual, because after all that is something very natural, but because of the brutal nature with which it is presented). I was curious to the mindset behind the creation of the comic and did a bit of research. It seems that a lot of the things I found upsetting, was rather conceived as refreshing by a lot of the audience, which goes to show how different attitudes and perceptions can be.
One comic strip in this section, though not one showcasing Mr. Natural, is a breaking the 4th wall type comic. A somewhat overweight and scrubby man is walking down a street filled with attractive women. He starts talking about how in real life, none of these women would pay him any attention, but because this is a comic, the reality can change to his liking. With this attitude he walks up to a woman and asks her to give him a blow job right there on the street. She responds politely, saying that she would be happy to, but starts to protest. The man pays no heed to her protests, starts pulling his pants down and eagerly forces the woman's head to his crotch. After politely trying to evade his forcefulness the woman finally puts her foot down, explaining that this is a public magazine and that this sort of behavior is inappropriate within this venue. She then promptly walks off, leaving the man stunned and disappointed.
This kind of comic seems to be a clear uproar against the censure of mainstream publications. Though as I mentioned before, I believe in the importance of a variety of material, and that even heavy and upsetting topics is important to be exposed to. I do also however remain in the belief that some topics will be harder to digest if they're shoved in ones face, rather than presented in a timely manner. I also think it's good that there are different venues in which these subjects are handled, and that can be sought out or referred to when the want or need arises. Either way, holding a discussion is important.
If anyone reading this disagrees with any of my statements, or have insights they wish to bring to the table, I'll be interested in hearing your own thoughts in the comments.