Josh Simmons, writer/artist
There’s just no way to properly talk about this book without explicitly describing some of the things that happen in it so take that as a spoiler alert please
You know how in Martin Scorsese’s GoodFellas, we get introduced to Joe Pesci’s character with that whole hilarious “What do you mean I’m funny?” exchange, but in Casino, we get introduced to Joe Pesci’s character with him stabbing some guy repeatedly in the neck with a pen and then mocking him as he lies on the ground whimpering? You know how that difference kind of gets across the overall variation in tone between the two films? Josh Simmons’s In the Land of Magic has a bright yellow cover and starts with a fantasy parody sequence. Cockbone has a crumpled, grease-stained brown paper bag for a cover and stars like this.
“You pansy little bitch.”
“Kill the dog.”
“Kill the dog, faggot.”
Then–spoiler alert–the faggot kills the dog.
It’s safe to say that this comic contains the most extreme material I’ve ever actually come across in a comic. Imagine if the rape-murder sequence in Poison River were the length of an entire story and depicted with all the graphicness of Phoebe Gloeckner’s diagrammatic blowjob illustrations (where do you think the title comes from?), but with none of the clean, cool reserve of either. Even the blood splatter is angular and angry.
Cockbone is a non-stop litany of incest, animal cruelty, genital mutilation, murder, saturation bombing, homophobia, racism, and sexual depravity designed to make you as uncomfortable as possible, over and over again. The second you get over seeing a howling dog getting shot repeatedly until its ribcage explodes outward in jagged shards, you’ve got the main character’s brothers and mother repeatedly sucking him off to extract his hallucinogenic semen. Get a handle on the sight of a man’s wart-covered penis splitting apart and revealing a fishbone-like spine, and you’ve immediately got to deal with three guys peeling each other’s skin off as the beat each other to death, and then jetplanes bombing a city with little stick-figure people literally exploding from the heat. There’s just no respite, ever. And in the comic’s most memorable, haunting effect, it doesn’t so much end as give up–rather than actually showing what happens in the last two panels, Simmons superimposes simple caption boxes over the visuals that sum up their hidden contents in one or two words, as though the main character, Simmons, the world couldn’t bear to endure the real thing.
Simmons looks into the heart of humanity and what he sees comes wrapped in a grease-stained brown paper bag.