Thursday, 23 April 2009

Penguins, Black American Activists and Pornography

As promised yesterday, here's a post that cunningly combines the three things in the title through the work of one artist. That artist is Ho Che Anderson, UK-born but now Canadian, named by his father for both Ho Chi Minh and Che Guevara, and thus probably more justified than even Joseph McCarthy in being annoyed by Communism.

Anderson's work is soon to be seen on the cover of yet another Penguin Deluxe Classic, this one being Huey P. Newton's Revolutionary Suicide.

Newton was co-founder of the Black Panthers, and their 'Minister of Defense'. A militant Maoist, acquitted of one murder and charged with another before the trial collapsed, a friend and supporter of Jim Jones, a convicted embezzler, a scholar and eventually a murder victim himself, he seems a fascinating and infuriating character. You have to admire a man who, upon earning his PhD, said, "My foes have called me bum, hoodlum, criminal. Some have even called me nigger. I imagine now they'll at least have to call me Doctor Nigger."

As for Anderson, his most famous work is probably his comic-form biography of Martin Luther King Jr, King. Here are the covers of the original 3 parts, the collected edition, and some interior pages (click for readable versions).

I first encountered Anderson's work in his collection of crime/gutter-life stories, Young Hoods in Love.

It's probably still his best work, aside from King. The reason for this is that, a short book called Scream Queen aside...

..most of the rest of his available comics stuff (at least the work that is still in print) is unashamed pornography in comic-book form.

I have to say that I find this vaguely depressing. I don't know whether it's a genuine commitment to porn as an artform, or just a need to pay the bills, but it seems a bit of a waste of talent. I know that porn will always be with us, and that there are a few examples of it that might also qualify as great literature or art, and that at least no actual human beings need to degrade themselves for drawn sex scenes. It's just that, given how long it takes to produce a page of decent comics art, and given that the same readers' needs could presumably be met by 10 seconds of Googling, it seems a shame that Anderson isn't turning more of his energies to work that's more worthwhile.

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