Thursday, November 27, 2008

Oh No, Pornography!

Alright before the comic here for you non-Greeks a bit of contextualization is required.

In Greece, the newspaper medium is in deep crisis. People just don't seem to read papers as much as they used to and regardless of the whys, the way papers have deemed it practical to respond is to bundle with their edition various 'gifts' for the reader, to entice them to buy the thing for the other thing. One can spot the various problems in this practice pretty much instantly (and how they will eventually result to complete disassembly of the newspaper form), but I'm not here to discuss that right now, I'm here to discuss a penis.

When I went to work for this paper where the material of this blog was originally printed in, they were bundling pretty mundane v-cds and dvds of old movies (Godzilla Versus Killer Pollution, yes)or tv-shows (Bonanza... seriously) and indeed, the temperamental success the newspaper had experienced at times was directly relative to the quality of the bundled-in material.

So at some point it seems readership was lower than usual and they decided to put some soft-core porno in with the paper and see how that goes. I guess it went well? I'm not sure, I did not follow the print run numbers. I was beginning to feel a bit uneasy even then for the reasons you'll see in the comic below, but hey, it's just soft-core, it's people pretending to have sex, more hilarious than vulgar. A few months later they started giving hardcore porn with the paper, stuck a "forbidden to minors" sticker in the front of the paper as a point of 'edginess' and then it sorta became a real issue for me. If I were some sort of established entity in the print media where my name would not be associated with the various transgressions of a publisher it would be a non-issue, but this was my first wide public work and a statement seemed required from my point of view. The statement is below:

Now, had this piece seen print, I would have continued to work with this paper - though perhaps things would have gone south sooner rather than later - judging my opinion clearly voiced. However this page didn't see print. They ran something awful by an in-house graphic designer playing comic artist for that day I guess and in the awfulness of that specific page (a pastiche of 'political commentary' ridiculousness, imagine a caricature of a wealthy man with the words 'government' written on his hat pocketing a symbolic bag of money, seriously) I saw exactly how little my work was understood or appreciated and what instead was expected from me. I received no phone call before the page was pulled nor was I immediately let go. I suspect that had I sent a different page next week (with more people with 'government' written on their hats) I'd have gotten paid as usual. However I did not send anything nor did I deem it fit to discuss the issue since they would not discuss it with me and in that way my run with that paper ended.

It seems I was correct to think comics ware unappreciated to begin with at the paper because a week or so after I stopped working there they let go the two other comic artists doing work there for them and I felt sad and responsible, especially for my friend Mike who needed financial stability at the time more than I did. However responsibility lies with the employer who chooses in the end what he wants to run in his paper. If they wanted to pretend to be a classy paper and then bundle porn along with it to desperately try to sell it somehow, then they dug their own grave as far as I'm concerned. The whole premise of ethical responsibility is that you can't have your cake and eat it too. And in any case I'd rather not be done the 'favor' being printed if it is without the understanding and support of my employer.

After I left the paper I didn't feel like making comics for nearly 6 months. Dry spell ended when Vavel festival came about and I did some pieces for them and for our fanzine (Free Your Line) but generally since then my rate of production of pages has drastically slowed. On one part, I am not being paid to make comics anymore and that does have its effect, believe me, especially when you've just grown used to considering yourself a 'professional' and then the rug is pulled under you and you realize that not only you're not considered such by your employer but they don't consider you worth basic human decency.

A big reason I took two years to get this blog together is because I believed the material to be worthless. It's been a slow climb back to being reasonably happy with it and of course it's due to the feedback I've gotten by you, dear readers and humans. Thanks! I am still very adverse to putting myself in a situation where I have to justify why my work is good or what exactly it is that I am doing because of the newspaper experience. Sadly, international readers, this happens more than you'd expect because Greece is a culturally retarded country, where any humanist venture one attempts has to battle against deeply ingrained inertia in the distrustful public. Greece has fallen to a self-fulfilling prophecy: we have been systematically robbed of decency by demagogues and thieves, liars and marketers, in every aspect of our every day lives. Professional domains, personal, political, emotional all jeopardized. The Greek has been degraded and conditioned to accept his degradation as stable truth and 'nobody is better than the worst'. Nothing good can happen here and nothing good we will allow to happen here but we will still complain how nothing vital and positive, happens although we ourselves do not allow for decency and humanity in any aspect of our daily lives. But we mock. We mock everything, we mock the good with the bad and to hell with everything. Our country is our dumpster, our internet is our dumpster, our inside is filled with garbage and nothing. I'm kinda rambling, but this is on my mind a lot lately.


The material you've read so far along with a boatload of comic strips also done for the paper (of varying quality! I'm not much of a strip artist, I find) is slowly being compiled in a print version which I'll shop around to various publishing houses here in Greece. I'm going to see my last page printed at least. I don't look forward to being treated like a visitor from outer space by most publishers I'll meet, but eh, I'll deal.

So, the bigger reason for making this blog has been fulfilled. Now I'll go even deeper back in time and start posting my very first comics made during comics school, where I met the wonderful people with whom I were to start the 'Free Your Line' fanzine. An altogether different part of my life, one which doesn't terminate at 2006 but instead is vital and ongoing to this day. More on this soon. Who knows, perhaps we'll even reach the material I'm doing RIGHT NOW! Such futurism, such promise! We shall raise our dream machines into the sky!

Well, soon. It might be a week or more because I'm still making my new page for the Vavel festival. I'm 35% done, heh. It's taking forever. I think it's good, I can tell because it's one of the few times I'm actually having fun making a comic (it's usually pretty tortuous!).

- Helm


Trevor said...

Problem is that practically the entire world has fallen to indecency and a huge lack of culture, as well as common sense. and not just Greece.

I think I can grasp your general thoughtstream, and actually share most of it. A pity is, however, that we as mere individuals have a right of speaking but no public to reach. People don't even care about the issue.

Your thoughts can cycle around people that care, that wish to understand, or that agree, but end up nowhere as none of these people have enough power or control to actually change anything.

Helm said...

Hi Trevor. Thank you for your communication.

I have been told by many foreign friends that there are similar problems elsewhere. I just submit that it's worse in Greece than a lot of other European nations because we have been the victim of a particularly nasty streak of... political beings... who have through their governance ensnared this nation with putrid tendrils of idiocy, indecency and baseness in all aspects. These people pretend to be socialists, people of the future, but what they are, are robbers and murderers. The Greek public has trusted them for the last 30 years and in turn, it has been shaped by them in their image. Our two major ruling parties in Greece are inherently the same party, and they have nothing to offer to a human being with self-respect and vision, so they worked hard to take away that self-respect and that vision, leaving only miserable wage slaves in their place to whom they have a lot to promise...


A pity is, however, that we as mere individuals have a right of speaking but no public to reach. People don't even care about the issue.

What we are doing right here, me and you, is a small battle against what I describe above. Just by sharing ideas without cliches and investigating what people feel and communicating with kindness, we are doing a little part to help. It may not be a major political movement, but it is vital because without it it's just barbarism ahead. We might not change the world for the better this way, each with our own little blogs and whatevers and discussions and nothings, but we are holding it together from being much, much worse.

Power and control are in toolset of history, they favor like winds those who are willing to shape the world after their image, seemingly randomly and only for a small time. No individual can control history. I do not care for leaders, not for their images. We can all hope for the best, but I just want to survive and for me survival requires honest communication, artistic expression and freedom of movement. I am trying to have these tools and I am doing a humble effort to create a space in which encouraging things can happen, that is all.

This doesn't go to say that I don't share your anxiety about the future, I am just trying to zen it out rather than attain any sort of control. I can bitch about the current Greek reality in matters of culture but the only thing I'll end up doing is what I've been doing up to now, making little comics and stuff, posting on my blog, putting out a book or two... if that leads to a fulfilling life, great, if not, something else will come to me later on.

Trevor said...

I'm living in the netherlands and what was done here by a failure regime was letting people in that were warvictims, poor, in danger, or just liars that pretended to be that, and just searched for a country with better benefits. Globally we have good healthcare and insurance, as well as care for homeless and jobless. Problem is that it is heavily abused, and the resolving of this issue seems to have such priority that any form of maintenance for intelligence is thrown away.

I don't wish to generalize here but loads of people in this country are not motivated to actually study afer their middle school, they just seek an easy job or live on governmently provided money, and there is a large lack of stimulation ruining this countries wellfare. Everyone that could be called intellectual is either not allowed into the country, or gets sick of living there and leaves.

I of course don't know Greece, and by the way you put it it's probably at least as bad as here, but indeed, globally, people are transformed into a machine. You can't do what you want and obtain happyness, slavery still exist, it's just replaced with a word that has a less negative meaning bound to it.

As a general person you can't have fun hunting in the forest, guns are forbidden, and hunting wild is forbidden. No, you are forced to work and obtain your food in that way, whether you like it or not.

Any type of ruling system failed, marxim being impossible, stalinism being inhuman, democracy is the leat failing one, but really has been in function for too long, leading towards this cultural depression. A revolution would certainly push things forwards and bring back a large amount of self awareness, but it's gone too far for that to be even possible.

What we discuss here may be stored towards a future generation, but it either won't be read and discarded with disinterest as we progress to becoming a centralized machine, or it will be read with interest and people will care, but if they would, the world will have been changed by then and this information is still kind of useless to them.

It keeps us at peace and serves as a possible sanctuary, to know that not the whole world is 'dead' but that there are people that do think about where we stand. Loads of the statements I gave are pretty bold and bluntly put if I re-read it now, but I guess that in the end is to blame by my lack of knowledge of the english language.

It's good to know this blog, it's philosophy, as well as emotions and goal is interesting to me. Though you stated the main goal is reached, do stick around a bit!

Helm said...

What we discuss here may be stored towards a future generation, but it either won't be read and discarded with disinterest as we progress to becoming a centralized machine, or it will be read with interest and people will care, but if they would, the world will have been changed by then and this information is still kind of useless to them.

I don't think this blog or any like it would provide for something directly relevant to a better future, but all these little places provide for humane communication, exchange of feeling and idea. These small strengths help us live better and perhaps when confronted with a really important choice we won't be as scared of otherness and do more right than wrong for our communities. It's a slower burning revolution, to just be open and decent with other people and not treat them like cliches, but at least it's a revolution that's within our capabilities.

I am glad you like the blog, and yes, I'll be sticking about. I'd be very happy if you also stuck around, Trevor.

Trevor said...

I think it is indeed very satisfactory for ourselves, and that that on itself redirects towards future thoughts and 'revolution' as you indeed could define it. I'll look forward for your next blog post at least!

Solar said...

Hey there,

I linked to here from today's RPS Sunday papers. While I rarely post much I felt I had to leave a comment, particularly as only Trevor has posted here so far (but RPS did say to scroll down), and what I think you cover is important. Anyway, back to the post.

The circumstances of loosing your job, and possibly your fellow comic artists as well, due to your statement comic is a horrible tale. For me I felt the comic held a simple apology and disdain for being associated with the the papers sell-out attitudes. Sex sells but the content is cheap and vacuous, despite the potential for it to contain a message. That the paper pulled it and fired you only reinforces the statement you made and the irony of the situation.

However, what motivated me to post was the larger political and humanistic angle you described, particularly in relation to public mistrust. And of course the sentiments echoed by Trevor.

Human nature is resistant to radical change, gaining security and prosperity from routine and the inherent predictability it provides. However, this also means that other aspects of human nature, such as adaptability and creativity, are sacrificed, often in the name of the 'greater good'.

Proponents of humanitarian ventures are often seen as a minority, or at least made to feel so. But what is most important is that those who want to make a difference, to embrace change, creativity or any other neglected aspect of our existence, find some source of support in the maelstrom of prescribed demands that society lays down. Of course not all demands are negative, some do support the very need to change, but for those that don't... well you don't need to feel alone.

I'm glad you have work on the horizon, particularly after scanning through the rest of your work and seeing the messages and emotions the seem to come so easily from your work. Needless to say I'll be checking back often and sticking my oar in if I've anything to add.


Helm said...

Hi Solar. Thank you for your comments, I appreciate them a lot.

I'm glad for the RPS mention, as I saw from the comments there a few people recognized me from my pixel art stuff and my AGS involvement, things I've mostly kept off this blog. In the case any other readers are wondering, I am the same dude that helps run Pixelation

I've made a few games here and there, the most recent with Umlaut Games here:

And I'm also semi-active in writing about Heavy Metal... I'll probably make a different blog about that at some point.

The reason I try not to put everything together is because I like writing and if I were to write about comics, pixel art, Heavy Metal, video game design all on one blog I would have to blog every day all day (though that doesn't sound like a bad thing, then it would become a matter of it being a job... and if it were to be a job, I'd have to get paid, somehow.)

About your comments:

I agree sex is not by default a bad thing to try to address and I'd be very willing to sometime make art that involves sex directly and with personal responsibility. I might make a videogame or a comic one day which while appearing pornographic would be more (check out this: for an example of the premise done well). This is a risk I intend to sometime take. But I didn't respect having it be decided for me beforehand just for shallow marketing reasons.

I agree that sometimes modern existence seems to not provide for both self-sustenance through routine and also some creative venture to feed the spirit. It's either one or the other, and as I sit here and write these things to you it is because my father is providing roof and board. This is why it was so important to me at the time, working at 'the newspapers', and why it was pretty devastating for me to realize the things I realized. I thought I could make a living out of being honest through my creativity and it turns out that is met with some hostility sometimes, as if the world wants to cut you down to size. Hopefully things will get better in the future. I can't remain in my father's care forever.

I'm happy you looked through the past work. I'll appreciate any communication on any older material or those to be. Every time someone risks a bit of themselves by commenting I feel it's all worth it.

Solar said...

:) No risk here, easy to comment on thoughtful and engaging work.

And goodness, you really do have a lot of projects on the go!

Regarding your comics I particularly liked 'There is no second rudder', 'robotboy' and 'watercolor yus'. 'Deep inside the earth' was very moving. I'll go back and add some comments when I've got some more time.

Helm said...

It seems to me that posting on the internet in any other fashion than as if one is a complete jackass involves a bare minimum of risk: risk of emotional and personal exposure.

It'll forever be amazing to me that readers find 'deep inside the earth' very moving. The least communicative comic I did for the paper seems to resonate. What do you know.

I'll be posting a series of older comics aptly named 'noncommunication'. If these get something concrete across as well I'll be pleasantly bewildered.

Solar said...

posting on the internet in any other fashion than as if one is a complete jackass involves a bare minimum of risk: risk of emotional and personal exposure.

Well I think you've got me there, but my opinion is that everyone should be comfortable in writing what they would normally say in the company of unknown others. Of course the internet will record it for posterity, perhaps take it out of context and attract attention you might never have intended, but then that's what an alias is for right? (That and reinventing yourself, pretending to be some kind of superhero or any other persona with added value... hmmm I say too much)

Can't believe I offer up one comment and you've got me making several. Stimulating as always Helm.

Helm said...

People write on the internet far more than they'd be willing to say in the company of unknown others in real life. It's not just the internet misunderstanding you that arrives to ugliness, it is that people use a platform for human communication to scratch their emotional wounds and problems. It's generally, negativeland. The places that are not are to be cherished, in my opinion.


Can't believe I offer up one comment and you've got me making several. Stimulating as always Helm.

that's what she said