In a Land of Magic
Josh Simmons, writer/artist
In my experience most cartoonists trafficking in this kind of material (most filmmakers and writers too) can’t help but convey that as awful as it is, it’s also kinda hilarious. The gore, violence, sexual brutality, humiliation, torture, animal cruelty–there could be some kind of serious point being made somewhere in there, but just as importantly, that shit is kinda cool! It’s fun to scare the straights, it’s a hoot to “go there.” And indeed there are elements in Simmons’s fantasy-world minicomic In the Land of Magic that could, at first glance, make you think that’s what he’s doing as well. His characters have always been on the cartoony, comical side, and when you’re drawing stereotypical elf-folk and wizards straight out of Patton Oswalt’s RPGer parody character on Reno 911, it’s not like they’re going to get less silly. Silliness is in fact the point when it comes to their Stan Lee’s Thor faux-olde fashioned dialogue (“Lothar–What fore dost thou lookest at, my love?”). And when the elf couple Lothar and Hester journey beyond the borders of their magic land to start exploring the Dark Forest beyond, there’s a page consisting almost solely visual double entendres that make it look like they’re 69ing or fisting each other. It’s funny!
Then Lothar does battle with Arachnad the Terrible, a battle that ends with Lothar saying the following to his fallen foe:
Poor little baby…Baby done got a broken neck, isn’t he? Can’t move, can you? Awww….poor little guy JESUS CHRIST I HAVE THE BIGGEST FUCKING HARD-ON!!
From there, Lothar strips naked, cuts a hole through the underside of Arachnad’s chin, bashes out Arachnad’s teeth, and fucks the wound so that the head of his penis repeatedly thrusts out through Arachnad’s gaping mouth until he ejaculates.
You know, even then, you could probably think that maybe this is all an exercise in seeing just how far we can go with this sort of thing. But I think the end of the book tells the tale, when Lothar forces the horrified Hester to hold his hands and endure his lovey-dovey blandishments, insisting that she have sex with him even as his once-again hardening cock drips Arachnad’s blood. “I-I’ve never seen you like this before,” she stammers before he forces her out of the hiding place she’d retreated to. I think that’s what Simmons’s work is about: terror that this is inside him, and an inability to do anything about it other than put it on display.
What makes Simmons’s brand of taboo-shattering impossible to write off, or shake off, is that behind the transgression there’s no smile. No smile at all.