While in Mexico for the holidays, I brought along some comics to read, including “The Unwritten“, a surreal comic that explores the relationship between conscious reality and fiction. The main character, Tom Taylor, shares his name (Tommy), with a Harry Potter-like character in books written by his perhaps-adoptive father. As the comic evolves, it’s unclear where the line between the fictional Tommy and the real Tom Taylor lies, if it exists at all. Tom has a symbol on his hand, a sort of magical tattoo, of a compass, and in issue two (August 2009), in a page of fake news clippings and web blurbs, I was tickled to see that the author of the comic decided to include a parody version of BME, but instead of “BMEzine” it’s “BMZiney”! I always find these little cultural surprises very ego satisfying.
Sorry for my long absence by the way — I’ve been wrapping up my new (or old, since it’s been in the works for over a decade) book of interviews, which I hope you’ll see in the shelves of BMEshop and elsewhere quite soon. The book is complete; it’s just a matter of finalizing the deal with the publisher.
Anyway, I saw this new implant by Bruno (brunobma.com) in Italy and was quite struck by it. It’s intended to give the appearance of being similar to Wolverine right about to blow his Adamantium load. I enjoy this conceptually, and not just because I’ve become a comics superfan in the last couple years, but because I like any mod that makes people question the anatomy they’re looking at. I think a lot of people are going to look at this and have absolutely no idea what they’re looking at, what strange anatomy is in that hand, and whether it’s aliens among us, an odd mutation, or perhaps a weirdly healed injury… Holy headfuck. You don’t get that with a circular barbell!
I was reading the Ichi the Killer manga this afternoon and I was pleased to see what I’m quite certain is BME’s influence on it. Great comic and movie for anyone who enjoys the S&M side of body play, but I have to admit that I got a chuckle out of the Japanese interpretation of the word “meatotomy” — Meet Tommy. It’s like a codeword or something… “Pssst… have you met tommy?” I love it.
As many of you know, I’m a voracious reader of comics and have talked before on ModBlog about creating some sort of database of bodymod and body art in the illustrated world. Today I read last year’s graphic novel BleedOut, which tells the story of a world devolved into a sort of criminal feudal dystopia after worldwide oil supplies mysteriously run out in a matter of weeks — “civilization devolved 200 years in less than one”. The comic actually exists as a vessel to explain the post-apocalyptic 3rd-person-shooter criminal simulation MMO CrimeCraft (crimecraft.com), “believably” letting players know how the world devolved into gang-moderated hell so quickly. I’m actually glad I didn’t find out this was the purpose of the comic until afterwards because videogame tie-in comics are usually so terrible that I might not have read it at all.
Anyway, the comic is broken up chapters, each drawn by a different artist — with some great names like Nathan Fox, Zach Howard, Sanford Greene, David Williams, Gary Erskine, Howard Chaykin, Glenn Fabry, Vince Proce, and Trevor Hairsine. The book as a whole tells a story about this awful world, and most chapters are a sort of vignette on a different crime lord. The chapter that caught my eye for ModBlog was “Youth Bulge”, drawn by Ben Templesmith (you may know him from 30 Days of Night), which is about Arkady Kavchenko, who runs adult entertainment in the city where the story takes place — pornography and porn, with a taste for kink, the farther out the better. He’s also been infected with a genetic virus of sorts that gives him Wolverine-like healing. Before selling people a vice, he always tried it first, and this taste for kink would have killed a normal person “twenty times over”, but somehow he’s survived it. The apex of his dangerous perversion pyramid? I was amused to see that it was suspension!
Click to see the whole page, or better yet, pick up the comic. It’s not in any way body modification themed as a whole — there are a myriad of tattooed characters (they are criminals after all!) but it’s completely incidental — but suspension is rare enough in pop fiction that I thought it was worth a mention.
Something that’s been on my very long list of “I should do this” projects has been some sort of comprehensive wiki of tattoos and body modification in comics and graphic novels (and another one for film and television might be great as well now that I think about it — assuming it doesn’t already exist). Perhaps it would be a nice subset addendum to the BME wiki (wiki.bme.com). I’d love to see it cover everything from casual references to stories that build their central plot around body modification. A la Niven’s sex “what-if” sex conundrum Man of Steel, Woman of Kleenex, can Superman even get inked? Perhaps with a Kryptonite tattoo needle?
In any case, the “Body Mods in Comics Wiki” project came to mind again this afternoon as I re-read Alan Moore’s Hypothetical Lizard and saw the character “Book”, whose skin is covered in swirling spiraling patterns that are actually lines of text — a motif I’m surprised I’ve never seen explored this effectively in reality.
I was also recently prodded when Rafa changed his avatar to a picture of Spider Jerusalem, one of the greatest heaily tattooed comic book characters of all time, the “plausible dystopia” version of Hunter S. Thompson from Warren Ellis‘s brilliant epic 60-issue Transmetropolitan series (also available as a ten volume collection). Click the picture (and you can do this with the Mek and Skin Graft images too) to actually read the little excerpt, but trust me, everything I’m mentioning in this post is worth the purchase — especially this.
Speaking of Warren Ellis (the author of Transmetropolitan), it’s quite common to see body modification in his stories, and in the past he’s linked to ModBlog’s more “upsetting” entries. Also in Transmetropolitan is “Fred Christ”, leader of a “Transient” cult, a sort of transhumanist cyberpunk Church of Body Modification with a little inter-species fun thrown in for good measure. After Transmetropolitan wrapped up its print run, Ellis further explored these ideas in a short three-issue story — which I can not recommend highly enough — called MEK, as in “Massive Enhancement Culture” or body modification beyond simple aesthetics. I admit that I secretly (not any more I suppose) pretend that I was the inspiration for the main character who leans the MEK movement, because I feel like if you played a “who said this” quote game it would be easy for people to guess wrong — Lepht might also fit the role well. In any case, Mek is perhaps the best body modification themed comics, although it got unfortunately mixed reviews from the critics when it was released and is now out of print — although it’s not hard to find it used at inexpensive prices.
Another comic that’s got body modification as a central theme is Rick Veitch’s surreal masterpiece Can’t Get No, in which a failed businessman — failed, amusingly, because his permanent marker company was sued to death over the graffiti its product makes possible — wakes up one day covered in head-to-toe tattoos, drawn on with those very markers by cackling women as he lies passed out drunk. The comic showing us his psychedelic nightmare of a journey through post-9/11 America (the attacks taking place not long after his marked affliction).
More obviously — and a much more traditional comic — I’m also thinking of Skin Graft: The Adventures of a Tattooed Man a four-part horror thriller in which explores ideas like the the souls of a serial killer’s victims becoming consumed by the tattoos he wears — admittedly an overdone idea, but effectively tackled by writer Jerry Prosser — and sacred tattoos gifted by a master or teacher that give the wearer power.
There are many, many more examples, enough I feel to justify a wiki, not just blog posts.
And finally while I’m on this subject — and I think there may be a space in such a wiki for this sort of general trivia — I have to throw out a plug for artist Jacen Burrows. If I see him credited as the artist in a comic I always take the time to check it out. Before becoming a star in the comic world — you may know him from projects like Alan Moore’s Necronomicon or the notorious, over-the-top perverse and violent Crossed series — he was a tattoo artist. I suspect he’s not the only tattoo artist that has worked in both industries, because in many ways the demands are similar, namely, producing copious amounts of custom art on brutally short deadlines for demanding clients that need you to inject your unique artistic vision into a scene without betraying their original literary concept. Neither one is an easy life, but both bring great joy.
What do you think? Would you like to see this? And perhaps more importantly, would you be willing to help?
“We’re here because you’re looking for the best, of the best, of the best… sir.” – 2nd Lt. Jake Jenson, West Point, Graduated w/ Honors
– Men In Black
On top of the Punisher t-shirt and tattoo, IntoXiKate has an assortment of piercings, and if I’m not mistaken, a brass knuckles implant in her chest.
Not only is this a pretty awesome tribute to Sin City, but it was also self-done by Ominous Angus.
When it comes to Mortal Kombat, I always preferred Scorpion to Sub-Zero. Obviously that wasn’t the case for this Mortal Kombat fan who got this Sub-Zero tattoo from Zoran. I’ve got to say, this is a pretty great looking portrait of a cold-blooded killer.