Friday, August 1, 2014

Letting Go Part 3: Sinfest

I've been reading Sinfest for over a decade now.  Been a fan for just as long.  Letting Go, that's something I NEVER thought I'd do.  And yet, I find myself doing so.

It's not something I do lightly, of course.  There are now 3 articles with the phrase "Letting Go" and the one about Achewood was more about lack of updates than anything else.

Sinfest, though, this has been something I have been contemplating for a bit now.  Reading my original article has given me a framework for the decision, and I will play to that now.

I think what initially attracted me to the comic was how closely it resembled newspaper comics, but with an R rating.  The comic originally did try to get into newspapers, but was rejected repeatedly, likely because it was rather crude.  Sex and drugs were topics of discussion, though never really all that explicit.  You never saw nudity in the comic, for example, but toking was there.  It looked good too, and definitely reminded me of Calvin and Hobbes, something Tatsuya Ishida, the artist, made of point of commenting on in a strip.  It was a homage to one of the greats, and it really fit what he was going after.

What that was is hard to really put into words, but I think the idea was to comment on the concept of morality, good and evil, life, sex and sexuality, everything related.  The word "fest" in the title is "festival," a celebration of sin, sex, drugs and rock and roll.  It asked the question:  why is this stuff evil?  Then it took the symbols of good and evil, God and the Devil, and put them into a depowered light.  God is a goofball hand in the sky, only able to really communicate via hand puppets.  The Devil runs a booth out of Peanuts, offering to take you soul for "anything you want."  Never seemed that anyone was selling, oddly, even Slick, who frequented the booth, never really signed on the dotted line.

Then there was the Dragon and Budda, who offered a more balanced counterpoint to the good vs evil battle, bringing harmony and peace.  Through them and the rest of the cast, the world was full of sin, but it wasn't a bad thing, it was just the way the world is, and as long as you are happy and not harming others, is there anything wrong with that?  That and the jokes were pretty funny.  A few fell flat, but for a comic that updates almost as regularly as Schlock Mercenary, a missed joke or two is to be expected.

Re-reading my Not-So-Wild Review of the comic points out that this comic was still this way a mere 3 years ago.  Sometime after this, the comic changed course, and became something else.  I suspect it's part of the greater internet "social justice movement" (the timing is actually quite close to the emergence of the blogs/tumblers for it).  The ideas are fine, generally trying to get equal rights for all persons regardless of gender, race, sexual preference, religion and whatnot, the same ground Sinfest was already exploring.  However, many of these "social justice warriors" often are misinformed about what they're arguing about, parrot ideas that are merely popular rather than true.  And of course, this being the internet, they want the change now, now, NOW!  When usually such change can take years, if not generations.

Sinfest delved in with the Sisterhood, a group of young women who were fighting the patriarchy, the male domination of the world, as led by the Devil, who moved from goofy neighbor type character, to actual villain.  They brought change with them, Monique went from being "It Girl" to being androgynous, Fuchsia left the employ of the Devil to pursue her love of the geeky book worm, and Lil'E drank from the Leth, and forgot who he was.  These are great changes, really, as they explored different aspects of their characters and what has been explored with them has been quite entertaining in and of themselves.  However, the Sisterhood itself has left a bad taste in the mouths of many, including me.

I reviewed a comic called Luz:  Girl of the Knowing, a comic about shifting to sustainable production in the face of peak oil, and I didn't like it because it beat it's message over the reader's head.  The Sisterhood within Sinfest did the same thing, and that annoys me even more.  I didn't care about Luz's message, but I had nearly a decade invested in Sinfest, and I KNOW Tatsuya can do better, but instead he chose a hammer.  Literally beating the ideas out, and I do mean literally as one of the Sisterhood bashes on a test dummy with a stick declaring "what else do you do to oppressors?"

The point that he can do better is why I kept reading, hoping to see the real message.  I remember back in the day, he did a storyline in which, in an alternative universe, the male characters fought against the Matriarchy, battling to drink beer, watch porn and eat fatty food.  Yes, these were real bits, and they were fun to read, which is why I didn't immediately think things were going to go this way, and even afterwards, I thought maybe there was something else being planned.

When the Dragon and Budda made a reappearance (including Budda turning that stick into flowers), I thought that FINALLY they were going to turn things around.  That was almost a year ago, and I think the one comment I got on that article is probably right.

I'm not sure it's going to right itself either.  Oh, I can think of ways, including the bit I wrote in that old article about the leader of the Sisterhood, Xanthe, turning out to be an androgynous man.  I can see the divide that would cause within the Sisterhood being, well, amazing, and break the hold it has on the comic.  I'm just not sure Tatsuya is going to try something like that.  The more I read, the less I want to read.

So it is with a heavy heart that I let this comic go.  Perhaps it will get better after I stop reading, but I think I may have given it far more time than I should have in the first place.  I once had this comic as an honorable mention for Can't Live Without and even gave it a Quasi-Award.  I've had Slick's favicon head in my bookmark file for so long I'm not sure what it would look like without it.  I want to follow it to see the side characters I love, but I just don't enjoy the rest of it enough to continue.

Until next time kiddies.  Hopefully I'll be less depressed then.

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