Book Club / This Poor, Unlucky Pigeon

Crossed
Written by Garth Ennis 
Art by Jacen Burrows






Ok then. We’re off into the horrific world of the Crossed and things are going to get a little dark as we tackle such meaty questions as: Should this stuff really be giving you nightmares? What do we mean when we talk about the nature of evil? And – come on – wouldn’t every book be improved with a little added zombie apocalypse? NOM NOM NOM!

 

I can’t remember exactly how he phrased it but it was something like: “Have you read Crossed? Oh god – it’s worst comic of all time. It’s horrible. It’s disgusting. It’s totally completely depraved and absolutely evil. ” 

 
This was way back when I used to do the Islington Comic Forum at North Library. The guy talking was Stuart. Cool guy. I liked him a lot. He was funny and opinionated (always an excellent combination): and we mostly had the same taste in comics – you know: superheroes to whatever. Not too fussed about stuff just as long as it’s good. And so not someone who I would have thought would be easily spooked by a comic. But the way he looked when he talked about this comic – Crossed? The Crossed? Or something – I mean: it was like someone had made Mary Whitehouse read Saw. 
 
“It’s one of the most awful things I’ve ever read. I mean – it’s by Garth Ennis so I thought it’d be good – but it’s just torture porn. If you wanna take my advice: you should never read it ever ever ever.”
 
I mean – of course and obviously: I wanted to read it as soon as I possibly could. 

 

A little bit of context maybe: I mean – if Stuart had just said that all this same stuff and hadn’t mentioned Garth Ennis’ name then I wouldn’t have bothered. I mean – somesort of depraved torture porn comic that just wanted to see how extreme it could go? Yawn. Boring. Sorry – not interested. But Garth Ennis wrote it? Well – ok: now you have my attention. 

For anyone that don’t know: Garth Ennis is a bit of an odd man out in the comics scene (well – he is in my head anyway). While most comic writers tend to talk about themselves as being magicians and dream-scaping or whatever (see: Alan Moore, Grant Morrison, Warren Ellis and Neil Gaiman): Garth Ennis has always come across as just a “regular guy” who just wants to go and sit in the pub with his mates (my best guess is that like 75% of all of his comics are set in pubs). He likes mundane people doing mundane things: having a laugh and taking the piss. Yeah ok – he likes war (man he really likes war): but it’s always from the point of the foot solider – man on the ground type thing (emphasis firmly on the “man” – with Ennis it’s always about the bromance). And yeah – god: nearly everything he’s put his name on is layered with all sorts of excellence. I mean – if you’ve never read a Garth Ennis comic then I’m not even sure where I’d recommend you should start: Punisher, Hellblazer, The Boys, War Stories, Fury, Preacher, Hitman, Battlefields – it’s all real good / real entertaining / real quality (but yeah – maybe avoid his Judge Dredd stuff). 
 
So: what the hell was Crossed? And what exactly made it so awful and evil? (Can a comic book be evil??) Had Garth Ennis gone off the deep end or what? 
 
I have had a lot of conversations with a lot of people about Crossed. I mean – I will plant my flag in the ground now and say that I think it’s well written and interesting and thoughtfully made and yeah all that stuff that people mean they say that something is “good.” But yeah: as it would probably be best described as a “horror” comic I’d also say it’s completely horrible and nasty and kinda messed me up when I read it (and – seeing how I didn’t own a copy – I thought that for this I’d buy one: and when it arrived and I opened it up: I could feel the room get colder, places inside my stomach crawl about in strange ways and a tiny voice in my head go: “No! Throw it away! Get rid of it before it’s too late!). I mean – I’m fully prepared for some people to get in contact and say: “oh my god – why did you make me read this? It was the most awful thing I’ve ever seen. I hate you. I’m leaving the London Graphic Novel Network and never coming back and I’m going to warn all my friends to stay away.” So yeah – just to say now: I’m not trolling anyone and this isn’t somekind of sick practical joke and if you really don’t like being scared and horrified then maybe don’t read it – but hey: it’s a really well made book and I think it’ll be very very interesting to talk about for all sorts of reasons (but – let’s see shall we?). 

 

I mean – what is it about? Well – I guess the pitch is something like: “It’s like a zombie plague – only it makes people commit random and depraved evil acts.” And yeah – reading it is like reading a nightmare (it does not surprise me in the least that Ennis has said that it was based on a nightmare he had). But then I guess the point of it is to horrify and disturb you. 
 
But that sounds awful I can hear some of you say: why would you want to do that? Why would you want to subject yourself to that? To which I’d say: well – if you look at it one way – a story is something that works to make you feel a certain way. Romance stories make you go aaah and mimic the niceness of falling in love. Action makes you feel excited. Thrillers make you feel tense. etc etc. And well – obviously – Horror is supposed to make you feel horrified and awful (well – it is if it’s any good). And so Crossed yeah – is a comic that will make you feel bad and sick and scared and yes – it might give you nightmares (I’m expecting Mazin at some point will maybe talk about his Crossed nightmares): but hey – that’s what it’s trying to do. 
 
Is it torture porn? Well – no. I don’t think so. I mean – I’m against torture porn stuff (I saw Wolf Creek in the cinema and still rate it as one of the worse things I’ve ever seen): because well – torture porn is kinda mindless and doesn’t have anywhere to go but more and more messed up escalations while Crossed is more – well – thoughtful made I guess… And yeah: I find it really interesting that The Walking Dead is one of the most popular and almost universally loved comics out there (Huh? What? There’s a TV show too? Oh alright. Fine. But let’s not mention it again…) which deals with the same sort of set-up: post-apocalyptic fight for survival in a world of zombies – only one is something that you’d be happy to introduce to your family while the other feels like it should be kept in a brown paper bag and hidden under the mattress. Which yeah – I dunno – kinda strikes me as a little strange. Like: let’s have some post-apocalypse! Only not too much please… (or does anyone think it’s something else?) 
 
But whatever – I guess what I’m saying is hooray for Crossed. And hooray for anything that can worm it’s way into my mind so completely – even if it’s only to mess me up in ways that I probably still haven’t come to terms with. 
 
But hey – it has the best first line of any comic ever: “Remember Youtube?” 
 
So at least that’s something. 
 
 

 

A few standalone thoughts about Crossed seeing as I refuse to re-read it, and am not going to dwell on it either.

 
-Yes yes it did give me nightmares. This not as a bit of critic-ese hyperbole to just tell you I thought it was scary. As in, it gave me fucking nightmares.

Now, that’s not the biggest achievement with me, seeing as being worried I’ve upset someone with a text msg will get expressed through a nightmare of being chased by a laughing troll down hospital corridors.

But my odd psyche aside, Crossed has got a nonetheless potent line in two things: horrific images (cop burning in car) and horrific ideas (making a dumb decision that gets your wife and daughter murdered / having to decide whether to kill the infected before they kill you / the sense of humour of sadism)
 
-Is it torture porn? What do we mean by torture porn? I never understood to mean mindless. I took it to mean, ‘use of torture (extreme sustained horrific violence) for entertainment. Which is what Crossed is. BUT I don’t say that like it’s a bad thing. A horror is the horrific as entertainment. So: I don’t care whether you’d class it as TP or not, and in any case I don’t think it’s mindless, Crossed. It’s certainly clever in its escalation and the eeking out the dark nth’s of its degrees. The story’s overall, ‘point’, hmm, less so: but more on that later.
 
-Yes the commitment to the extreme is ‘admirable’ I guess. But, there’s one pulled punch. Now, I’m not saying this in the sense that I wanted Crossed to go in this direction, as it would have only made my reading experience even more horrible. BUT, if we’re going to applaud Crossed for taking horror up to 11, it sorta skimps on the sexual violence and violence towards children. There’s the double page spread murder-rape of the couple yes. And I guess there’s a lotta implied stuff. But in a post Brett Easton Ellis, Michel Hollebecq world, there are even worse stories / imagery / ideas out there. If books can go there, why can’t comics? (I don’t mean this in a books v comics picking-a-fight way at all – genuinely curious as to how comics ratings work and whether there were in fact lines the writer and artist knew that they couldn’t Cross (hurhur) if they wanted to get published.
 
– The sluice drain on the torture table of the old serial killer that used to kidnap young men was a detail that always particularly unnerved me. That nazi combo of horror and practicality. BUT his story arc was less convincing. I’m wary of this ‘to know something is to love it’ / ‘an enemy is just a friend whose story you haven’t heard’  (What’s the problem? Well maybe we need to learn to ignore each other). Still at least they shot the guy.

 

 
– “Mommy, you fucking cunt.” A strange moment. Jarring yes in its shock and a good gutpunch of a twist. But the more I’ve thought about it, is it really so bad? I’d rather my kid was minorly assaulted (presumably it was only minor, he seems mobile, looks relatively unscathed) in order to turn him into a little psycho, than tortured/raped/eaten/woah-fucked-up-man! to death. You know, if those were your only two choices…
 
-I like stories where all you can do is run and wait for the inevitable. Intrigued, in the abstract (I won’t read more) how the rest of the story pans / panned out within such a logic. I might squint at the Alan Moore sequels.
 
– I never bought the ending, It kinda smacked of ‘WE are the walking dead’. (Surely a moment so BUH that aliens will pick up the buh-waves in aeons to come like background radiation). I think it’s telling that commercial artists in the industrialised west like to believe that all humanity is deep down savage, harbouring psychopathic violence. It’s like when Conrad wrote The Heart of Darkness: hey, it’s ok to call Africans savages, because aren’t we Europeans, too, savages in our own way?
 
No, the people with the most money, power and guns are the ones guilty of the worst violence. Yes all humans beings are ‘capable’ of violence, in a boring Ballard way.
 
But it’s maximally-projecting for people in the most warmongering societies to tell a story where violence is natural and universal
 
When in fact humans are neither deepdown violent nor deepdown peaceful. There are societies and cultures that for 209387 reasons are more peaceable or more violent than others. 
 
Whie, in the main, the Crossed wear suits and eat at Pret and write polite blogs about how torture is more complicated than that any maybe we need another war.
 
– Oh and: ‘Remember Youtube.’ It is one of the best opening lines.
 
 

 

I’ll have more to say about Crossed later, but for now just to say that while I thought the serial killer bit was maybe the weakest part of a very powerful story, (way too contrived) I thought his ‘ending’ was very well handled, he wasn’t necessarily shot.  It was more ambiguous than that, they could have just left him (Stan?) there and it’s always interesting to see how different readers interpret that scene.



JEREMY
 

Hi Guys,

First time writer here – thanks for letting me take part in this – although I was added half way through the Sandman convo, I thought I’d sit that one out to get a feel for the kind of things you were talking about.

So, onto crossed…

I must admit I approached this with some trepidation.  I’d heard about it, but being a bit sick of Zombie stories (I haven’t touched based with TWD since 106, and although I’m up to date with the show will follow it, but not religiously) – but when I heard Alan Moore was writing issue 100 + of crossed my ears perked up, particularly as he said it was a profoundly moral story – If the grand wizard himself said that then maybe there’s something in this comic after all.

When I was a kid there used to be a video shop near my house, and at the weekend I’d go and rent videos with my next door neighbour.  I’d often go and see the covers to the horror videos – films like bad taste, fright night, nightmare on elm street and so on, and at night, being a somewhat imaginative child those covers would take flight in the dark.  When a little later on I managed to watch Nightmare on Elm Street, the last in my street to do so, I remember just being, well not disappointed as such…. the fact was that the horror in the films was nowhere near as bad as I had imagined.

The same thing applies to crossed.  I’d heard much about the horrific acts depicted, and they are pretty horrific, but they seemed more absurdly comedic than anything, thanks in part to Jacen Burrows’ artwork.  Like Nightmare on elm street, the worst scenes, including the infamous family scene were like rubber monsters, or obvious wires.  The horror is a fraud, played for dumb black humour.  It’s a frankie boyle joke, a carnival of the grotesque.  To co-opt Moore / Nietzche, it’s like looking into the abyss and laughing in it’s face, because the only other option is to be hypnotised with terror.

Writing this now, there was a news story about a viral sensation mocking ISIS by creating videos that parody their tactics.  This is the same humour.  Problem with humour is, like Frankie Boyle found out, not everyone gets the joke.




Don’t get me wrong, when I read those first chapters, I felt dirty, and certainly didn’t want to read on.  But when I did, I found myself more and more agreeing with Moore.  This isn’t a book about horror, or the evil’s that man does.  it’s not just about the shallow veneer of civilisation, or the revelation of the Freudian unconscious drives, it’s about the opposite.  It accepts their existence, but looks out at the horror of the world and says,  “but we’re not like that!”  Because if we were,  there would be chaos.  We simply would not be able to function as a species.

It posits the reverse of the sentiment we hear constantly – that without law, or order, or religion, or capitalism or some other external system to keep us in check then our lives would be hell on earth.  The way I read the whole “crossed” motif is that Ennis is attributing the madness, in part, to those systems themselves.

Why do the crossed commit such vile acts?  For pleasure.  For entertainment.  Ennis is presenting us with the lie given by Randian individualists.  Civilisation, and society is a product of our ability to co-operate, our ability to relate and empathise with each other, our ability to control the basest parts of our drives for mutual benefit.

Agreed that Ennis lays this on a bit thick when he talks about the horrors committed by the crossed as being nothing that man hadn’t otherwise created, but I think within the context of the book, this is “a necessary evil” (by which I mean that crossed is in some way didactic, and that it could not be otherwise due to it’s content).

Is it torture porn?  It’s excessive, definitely, but I don’t think of it as Torture porn.  It has no hallmarks of trying to festishise torture, like in, say, James Bond, or Zero Dark Thirty, or 24.   There’s no moody lighting, no extremes of black or white, no slow pans over the instruments.  The torturers are not rich or powerful, or doing it to save the world.   They don’t have almighty on their side.  They are not just.  There is no ticking time bomb.  

In short, there are no excuses.  

The torturers are just lunatics.  We see them in a harsh, absurdist light.   We poke fun at them: The weirdos.  The terrifying weirdos.

We are not supposed to identify them in any way, or look up to them as role models.  We’re supposed to fear and ridicule and be disgusted by them.

The inclusion of the sex murderer did seem clunky at first, but I think Ennis was trying to compare this guy with the crossed.  In the end, even this sick twisted individual taking pleasure in sick twisted acts, isn’t like the crossed.  His murderous drives were the perversion of his sexuality and his lack of place in society, manifestating as a symbolic act to try and reconcile these aspects of his psychology, not, just, simply to achieve gratification.  Furthermore, in the disintegration of society, he “comes out” to his gang, because he has trouble living with the shame – he displays guilt, which is a nuanced take on this kind of subject.  Ennis seems to be saying that not even sex murderers are wholly evil.  

Maybe Ennis is also asking us what evil is.  




Are the crossed really, truly evil?  They seem to be in control of their actions in so much as they can navigate the world – they’re not deranged – they merely seem to have no filter.  But in this respect, it’s odd that the drives for acceptance, for love and for belonging are not ones that are expressed as you might think would be the case for someone with no ability to repress their subconcious.  If they are evil, then evil is the deliberate, and most importantly the enjoyment in causing the suffering of others.

That definition could also apply to the murderer, but the difference as I see it is that the murderer kills to sublimate the social frustration of their own repressed sexuality – a symbolic psychological act.  Pleasure in this case is the orgasm sublimated and the by product of the kill, rather than the prime motive (although it could become an incentive for more).  

The Crossed on the other hand, kill purely for the sake of pleasure – and furthermore their pleasure is unconsenting sadism.  To the crossed, in order to derive full pleasure from the sadistic act, the recipient has to be unwilling – which is why they will always take an uncrossed in preference to the crossed.

Has anyone read Black Gas?  Warren Ellis had the same idea in a 6 part serial he did for Avatar which came out shortly before Crossed.  It would be interesting to do a comparison.



 

Hi all

First time post for me, anyway:
I quite liked Crossed; as graphic a graphic novel as I have read and the lurid artwork by Burrows strikes the right tone to match the storyline.
I hate the phrase ‘torture porn’ anyway and no this isn’t it; Jeremy puts it quite well about fetishising suffering although his examples of James Bond and 24 confused me, I think Saw, Hostel, Martyrs and the like better fit that role.

It does however deal with a world gone mad where the infected (I think they were infected) live to commit atrocities for their own pleasure, like some kind of sadism flu!?

Ennis is on record saying they have given in to the worst instincts imaginable.
It’s a bit relentless and some story arcs rang more true than others, yes Stan? (serial killer) was most certainly killed off screen – why expose yourself to risk, Anna? The defacto group leader would do anything to protect her son (so would I for my son) and I was moved by the murder of the class of schoolchildren who had turned to cannibalism to survive – murdered in their beds, truly horrible and unsettling posing the ‘what would you do’ question. They were doing the same as the other survivors – trying to survive by whatever means necessary so not entirely sure that rang true?
The book poses a number of questions on what it means to be human and in much the same way TWD does, highlights the risk within as much as the common infected enemy at the same time as being controversial and shocking also quite fun in its extremism.

I’m curious to read the Alan Moore take on the same premise + 100 years in the future.
Also, I’m not sure I believe anyone could have nightmares about this book, you must have left pretty sheltered lives!

I watch the news, that’s the real stuff of nightmares – ISIS beheadings and child abuse for example show the depths of depravity humanity is capable of, regardless of checks and balances supposedly exerted by ‘society’
Lets hope it doesn’t happen eh – I’m sure the reality would be much much worse than anything Ennis could conjure up.
PS: Don’t listen to Joel dissing Ennis Dredd stories – he must have not read Chopper or Judgement Day! 😉
 


JEREMY
 

“Jeremy puts it quite well about fetishising suffering although his examples of James Bond and 24 confused me”Yeah, I guess that was a bit confusing.  I was thinking along the lines of the scene in Casino royale where he’s in an interegation chair, and the homoerotic undertones with an oiled up bond, slick lighting and battle of wills between him and le chiffre.  The bad guy of course having at Bond’s man hood (which seems like an odd / inefficient / non traditional form of torture).

And 24 where the viewer is supposed to sympathise with the good guy breaking all the rules and resorting to torture to stop a ticking bomb… That kind of torture porn.


 

Again I haven’t read the book in a couple of years so assertions are based on memory rather than knowledge of the evidence but whatever here we go:
 
That ‘Remember YouTube’ line is purposeful, I think. Has been mentioned already that Ennis’s zombies are inhibition-stripped / basest instincts amplified maniacs (rather than the trad brain-hungry dumbos stupefied by consumerism). I remember Ennis saying somewhere that part of the inspiration for the story was the sympathy-depriving effect of internet culture, and some of the worse aspects of human behaviour the internet dregs up and facilitates.
 
I think this feeds into something mentioned above: there is a perverse Frankie Boyle humour to Ennis’s zombies that echoes the anything goes anarchism of a place like 4chan. The world of the Crossed is like a carnival in the ‘feast of fools’ sense – supposedly a day of revelry that acts as a safety valve syphoning off antisocial behaviour so that ppl can continue living their repressed lives policed by religion and tradition. But here the carnival is never-ending, and society becomes impossible. Hope this doesn’t sound too mental, but there is something appealingly liberated about the Crossed. The point is that such unbounded liberty is horrifying and ultimately results in tyranny.

I suspect these dilemmas get at why when Crossed first appeared people like Kieron Gillen were coming out in its defence saying: no actually this is isn’t amoral torture porn but a book deeply concerned about morality.
 
The other interesting thing abt the Crossed is they have crosses on their faces (not a subtle device, that!) I didn’t much like what I’ve read of Preacher, but Ennis seems to be a bit preoccupied by religion. I don’t think the metaphor here is that belief in God creates rapacious zombies though. Rather I think by laying on the horror to the nth degree, Ennis wants to punch the ‘problem of evil’ like a bruise. It’s not an accident that the last chapter is in an abandoned church. There is a sense in that convo of God (if he ever existed in the first place) having left the building. That final shot of a man and woman walking out into the world felt to me like a twist on Adam and Eve leaving the Garden of Eden – the Crossed as a metaphor for the knowledge of good and evil. I remember someone in the book saying God is a grade-a for letting this happen, which I suspect may be its theme in a nutshell.
 
 

 

Crossed is one of the best things I’ve ever read but I didn’t find it any more horrific than, say, Battle Royale, Barefoot Gen, history books about the Eastern front in WW2 or even old shlocky 80s horror novels I used to read by hacks like Shaun Hutson and James Herbert.
 

Moreover, the reason I find it such a remarkable story has nothing to do with how horrible it is, but rather the opposite, how the cast struggle to hold onto some of their values in such utterly futile, hopeless circumstances.  Why do people stubbornly keep going when they have nothing left to live for in the face of utter despair?

The story was clearly inspired in part by Cormac McCarthy’s excellent novel, The Road, but even that story has the loving bond between the father and the son to keep things bearable amidst the horrors whereas even that’s denied to the cast of this story as the boy becomes a Crossed.  That for me is the point when the story goes from being a good read to something special.

And yet the cast, (and the soliders shutting down the nuclear plants) keep struggling on, trying to do the right thing, taking care of one another (even though they’re barely friends), protecting a blind vulnerable girl and adopting a dog despite the risks of doing so.  I’m reminded of that Vonnegut line, when someone asked him the meaning of life, he answered ‘We’re here to get each other through this thing, whatever it is’  I found the ending, when the two of them are finally making a connection as the dog strolls loyally alongside them to be one of the most moving things I’ve ever seen in fiction.  If anyone else felt that, then I’d strongly recommend the film ‘Last Night’ about how people in a Canadian city spend their last night before the apocalypse which tackles similar themes from a different angle.

By the way, there have been plenty of other crossed comics since, by a variety nondescript artists and writers including Ennis and, currently Alan Moore, (crossed +100, set in 2108).  They’re a mixed bunch but none are as thoughtful or intense as the original.  Ennis’ stories are mostly about the Crossed virus in the uk and the original outbreak.  Probably the best one Si Spurrier’s ‘Crossed : wish you were here’ (about some survivors on a scottish island) which you can find here as a free webcomic

http://www.crossedcomic.com/

You can also find Ennis free webcomic ‘Crossed : DOA’ here.  It’s slight but worth a read if you like Ennis

 

This is my first write-up for the Forum – I’d already read Crossed years ago and wasn’t that impressed, so I thought this would be a good opportunity to revisit and possibly re-evaluate it. However, my opinion on it remains pretty much the same – having already been engrossed by The Walking Dead, Crossed seemed to feel a little too similar, albeit even more grotesque. I know that The Walking Dead features zombies and Crossed features totally immoral, id-driven humans-turned-monsters, but aside from that difference, the hook is pretty much the same – the survivors must keep moving, keep surviving, maybe try to retain their humanity in the process. There were a lot of moments in Crossed where I felt deja vu. I loved Garth Ennis’ Preacher series, which balanced a gripping plot with great characters and outrageous humour, and I was prepared for Crossed to deliver a far darker experience, potentially the final word in disturbing, fucked-up horror, possibly even The Walking Dead – The Hardcore Version.

Crossed definitely delivers on the unimaginably horrible violence factor, even though the sicko in me was surprised that it wasn’t that bad– but the shocks don’t linger in the mind, maybe because it omly works for me on a freak-show level. There is some genuine WTF imagery to be experienced, but it’s the kind of nastiness that’s close to Human Centipede 2territory – basically, heavily sexualised, barrier-bursting BLEURGH-ness. Given Ennis’ previous penchant for a gross-out image (usually in a wickedly funny context), the gore here sometimes felt like nothing more than an attempt to outdo the competition (and himself) – simply a case of ‘just how fucked-up can I make this?’ – which was quite jaw-dropping in Preacher and the early volumes of The Boys (which I grew pretty tired of after a while) but feels a little forced here. This stuff is horrible, but strangely remote – it has little emotional impact beyond the shock of what’s literally happening, maybe because the early wave of violence is all happening to people we know little about – now obviously that shouldn’t make it any less shocking to witness, but I think Ennis’ decision to go all-out and hurl us immediately into the chaos, whilst making for an instantly arresting opening, is too-much, too-soon for me. Kirkman went for the slow-burn, Ennis has gone for the grab-you-and-shake-you-up approach. Neither approach is intrinsically better than the other, but I know which one I prefer in this instance. There aren’t many interesting characters in Crossed, just plenty of functional ones– you know, the stoic one, the deluded one, the arsehole, the kid – it just felt a bit stock and by-the-numbers, and after The Walking Dead, the whole survival of the emotionally deadest is a bit old-hat. Maybe I’m just sick of epidemic stories.

Also, like The Walking Dead occasionally it also suffers from functional, lacking-in-flair A-B-C dialogue, but in the former I can forgive it because for better or worse it does propel the no-nonsense intensity of the story along, whereas in Crossed it feels aimless. Of course, these are meant to be real people like you and me, and that could be the reason for not having any larger-than-life characters to journey with, while the lack of plot obviously mirrors the lack of direction and hope for the characters, I suppose. It does make it a struggle to remain intrigued though, this whole dead-eyed approach. There are some moments which do go further into the dark than you expected it would go – yes, the kid turns evil– but who is this kid, really? Once you get over the horrible filth he’s saying to his mum and the bit right after when he gets his head blown off, I couldn’t really care less. He was just there in the background throughout, and now he’s being used as a shock effect. There’s no arc or draw to the characters – no gradual fall from grace, no tension between right and wrong, they’re pretty much dead inside from the off with a functional dash of regret after the latest abominable act of violence just so we can differentiate the good guys from the bad guys.

I think that if you are less fatigued by this kind of sub-genre, you know, the everything is fucked one, and if you’re prone to recoil from very nasty imagery, then Crossed will have a lasting impact, but I felt this had been done before, and better, if not nastier. Good artwork, mind you. 🙂

 

Hi everyone!

Wow. I’m surprised / impressed! There was me thinking that it was just going to be emails going: “What the hell is this god-damn awful comic you’re making us all read?!” (Who knows? Maybe that’s still to come?) 

Just some quick stuff I wanted to comment on:

There seems to be a lot of you who didn’t really seem to be that affected by Crossed (“I’d heard much about the horrific acts depicted, and they are pretty horrific, but they seemed more absurdly comedic than anything” “Also, I’m not sure I believe anyone could have nightmares about this book, you must have left pretty sheltered lives!” “Crossed is one of the best things I’ve ever read but I didn’t find it any more horrific than, say, Battle Royale, Barefoot Gen, history books about the Eastern front in WW2” etc) and yeah – well – I mean that’s a whole thing in and of itself right? I mean – obviously we all know that different people will react in different ways to the same thing: but speaking as someone who’s still scared to go back and revisit the book (I feel like I have to steel myself up to read it: like running a marathon through hell or something) I’ll admit that I’m kinda surprised. 

I mean – on one level its seems like you guys (and it does seem to be guys so far which is interesting – are there no women who want to comment? Or are they all staying away? I mean – speaking from doing Comic Forums in different places The Walking Dead enjoys a fanbase across all genders: and I wonder if the same would apply to Crossed? Or is it a much more type of “male-horror”? Does such a thing exist?) are mainly just talking about the images – but for me the nightmare comes across with the way that story works. The stuff with the salt at the start is so horrible not only because of that double-page spread (shudder): but because it’s preempted by the hope that this stuff is going to work and by the story awareness that the bad guys always have a weakness of somesort – right? (Especially vampires – man: garlic, crosses, holy water, sunlight etc – how do those guys even get out of the house?) and so when the salt fails to stop them and we get the consequences (with his wife screaming at him what a fucking idiot he is? I mean – like I said – I haven’t re-read it yet): yeah – I mean: that’s one of the most bone-chilling things I’ve ever read / ever seen. 




And yeah – hopefully not to be too much of a dick about it: but also – I think that’s how it’s supposed to work? Like: you’re supposed to read Crossed and be disturbed and horrified and maybe even have nightmares. I mean: it’s a horror comic. Like: do you guys see a comedy and then boast afterwards: “Yeah – I can’t believe you thought that was funny – I never laughed once! It was great!” I mean: scary things should be scary no? Of course maybe this is the different people work in different ways thing – the majority of horror movies have very little affect on me: you know – lots of silence followed by a loud sound just doesn’t do anything for me at all. And horror comics – well yeah – what other horror are even out there? I mean there’s Alan Moore’s Neonomicon which is – yeah: it’s alright (The Courtyard is better but yeah): but – that didn’t really leave me anywhere near as shaken as Crossed did. Crossed left me feeling bereft – like someone has turned a light off inside me. And if you didn’t feel that – then – well: I don’t know: I guess I feel like you missed the main point of it maybe? More heart less brain or whatever. 


JEREMY
 

I think a lot of that is down to expectations though – if you go into it expecting nightmares – nothing can really match your imagination in that regard.  It’s possibly experience, too.  When you see stuff on the news everyday that is similar or worse than depicted in Crossed then you’ve become immune to it in some degree, and a comic will never match some of the images we’re confronted with every day.

Maybe also this is down to Garth Ennis’ writing too.  Someone said earlier that there are no characters who you can relate or get attached too.  One of the great things in the TV version of the walking dead (and I’m thinking of the complexities of the Grove from Season 4 in particular), even more so the tell tale video game is that you really grew to like the characters so that when the inevitable happened, it really came as a punch to the gut.  By not having characters you can invest in their deaths have no meaning, there’s no emotional impact – they are literally dehumanised.  Even the death of the main characters son, and the way the mother just blows her son away – the scene has no resonance, despite the book leading up to that point.

You can tell I’m having trouble telling the characters apart as I can’t even remember their names….

It’s interesting to compare the events of The Grove to crossed.  For those of you who haven’t seen it, spoilers abound…

In the Grove, two of the survivors have taken in two children – pre-teen sisters, one of whom has become convinced that the Zombies are not a threat, and don’t really mean to hurt you. She feels deeply when the zombies are killed by her survivor comrades.  Whilst one of the survivors is away, one of ths sisters kills her little sister – an innocent – in order to prove her point.  When the two remaining adult survivors realise that there is no way they can keep this girl alive, having to struggle against zombies, and how much of a liability she is, they realise the only choice they have is to kill her.  The sheer hopelessness of the situation, the sense of how much of a sin it is, and also how unavoidable it is is effectively communicated by the acting and plot – and when it happens, although it’s not seen in the show, it really hits home.  Comparing this to the same type of scene in Crossed, the execution of the children in their beds seems unnecessary, and although it’s referenced later, it seems like something which hasn’t impacted on the executioners.  How can you relate to people that show no traces of humanity?

If there’s anything I took away from crossed, it was a kind of detached, hollowness.

Even the scene with salt guy and wife being raped rang hollow, with the wife berating her husband – it just seemed…. odd.

 

I think it’s poor form to suggest you have more ‘heart’ than someone else just because they didn’t respond to a work of fiction in the same way as you.  For what it’s worth, I was more affected by most of the things I mentioned such as Barefoot Gen because they were about things that happened to REAL people, (and even Battle Royale references a lot of stuff that happened in fascist Japan during WW2) which in my opinion makes them infinitely more horrifying than what happens to a bunch of fictional constructs in a fantasy situation, regardless of how well written it is.  But to each their own.

 

“Poor form”? Uh oh. I don’t want to be poor forming. I’m aiming for rich form (is that a thing? Because if not that should totally be a thing).

Maybe I should try and explain myself a little better (in fact – maybe next time maybe I should read over what I wrote before I click “send”? But then – hey – where’s the fun in that?): I guess the thing that I’m trying to get at – the point that I’m gesturing towards is about what affects us and why: Tam – you made the very good point that it makes more sense to be emotionally affected by the things that are real rather than the things that are fictional: and – well yeah: what can anyone say that? That just seems so obviously true and right and correct. I mean – there’s not even a way to put it anymore obviously than by saying the stuff that happens to real people is real and the stuff that happens to fake people is fake and obviously real is realer than fake and we should be more concerned and more emotionally invested in the real stuff (if anyone else wants to write this up in a way that makes more sense and doesn’t sound so obvious/dumb then – ha! – that would be a big help…).

Only – well: I’m not sure that I feel the same way.

What I mean by this is not to say that if there was a choice between saving a real person or saving a fictional person that I would save the fictional person. No – real life matters more than fiction. And it would be better to live in a world where all the real people were happy than a world where all the fictional people were happy (obviously obviously). Nah – what I’m getting at – is what affects me personally and how I respond to stuff and what makes me – well – feel things and if I had to sum it up then yeah – it’s stories and how the stories I hear are constructed. I mean – just to get the other disclaimers out the way: if I hear two identical stories about something bad happening to someone and I’m told that one is real and one is fake – then the one that’s real will make me feel worse (“That really happened to someone? Oh god – now I feel terrible.”) BUT – if the story that is real is not even a story but just a bland announcement of the facts and the fake story is an expertly constructed piece of fiction that plays with my feelings in a devious way then – well yeah: that’s why reading Crossed has more of an effect on me than watching news (but then I don’t really watch the news that much: which might have something to do with it – but that’s like a whole other story). 

And this is what I was getting at I guess with my ill-advised “more heart less brain or whatever” comment (and hey not to give too much of my psyche away or anything but if it was a choice I’d probably opt for more brain over less heart: but maybe that’s just me?): that even tho the news is real and Crossed is just colours on paper – the fiction affects me more. Because it’s constructed in such a way as to produce certain effects.

Like: a few folk have mentioned that “mother” panel where the kid turns around and you realise he’s gone crossed (is that how to phrase it? “gone crossed”?): and yeah – ok – just by itself it’s not all that much – but in terms of everything that has proceeded it: all that Cindy has been through, all that all of them have been through: and what her son means to her (not to mention the whole swearing thing): I mean – that’s a really really big moment. And to hear (what sounds like) people shrug it off and go: well – you know – it could have been worse or to say: well – try watching the news sometime. Well: I would say (in the politest possible terms obviously – rich form and all the rest) – that it feels like (to me) that a point has been missed or even (to go further) that you’re not reading the story properly. Because a story is not individual moments (because otherwise – yeah: a kid cursing: well – who cares right?) but with everything up until that point (with all the context) – well: it’s harrowing. And you should be harrowed. No?

 

Of course: you may all reply to just say: yeah – we know all it – it just didn’t do it for us. In which case – well: ok. To each their own. 🙂

I finally had a re-read last night. It wasn’t anywhere near as awful and horrific it was the first time round (but then I guess you can’t re-create that first ever sense of shock): but yeah – it’s still a really great comic. Much more hopeful than I remembered (going back to bury the kid: and the last few pages of them walking off into the mountains): but yeah – I agree with what Mazin said all the way back up top: that whole “we are all the Crossed” speech could have used just a little bit of toning down – but then I guess you can’t have everything huh? 

 

Okay, I avoided Crossed earlier because Joel gave me his opinion on it and I didn’t think I was in the mood for something that horrible. Fortunately/Unfortunately I borrowed it just before he announced it would be discussed so I have just finished reading it (and the previous posts). 

 
Joel, a part of me doesn’t want to say this in light of previous comments, but it really wasn’t as bad as I expected. Now I don’t know if it’s because of the proliferation of zombie/end of world/apocalyptic stories floating around in the ether, or if I have really reached a point were I’m seriously desensitised to violence and horror. The first thing I’ll say is I don’t think it goes out of it’s way to be torture porn because there were parts that could have been more graphic and were (thankfully) avoided. Such as what was happening inside the container where “Horsecock” and his crew were selectively raping, and then dropping people in together with weapons. That could have been very horrible and I was relieved the story didn’t feel like it needed to show all of that. 
 
The other thing is I am affected by fiction just as much as reality. For instance, I found the scene in Naruto Shippuden where Hinata is killed by Pain while trying to defend Naruto (after finally declaring her obvious love for him) affected me much more than any character’s death in Crossed. I’m not sure what that says about me but hey…That seen where she chases her son and he turned around surprised me twice. Once by the fact he had been turned (I thought it would be too obvious if he had) and the second time by her instant reaction. Aside from the original surprise I didn’t feel sad or particular affected. I just kind of thought “of course she would”, that’s exactly who she is.Their decision to go back and bury him properly made me stop and think a lot more. I suppose it could be that the author and artist did such a great hope of getting the feeling of hopelessness across, that I felt deep down the kid wasn’t going to make it, or even if he did it would only be a temporary thing. 
 
The story tries to touch upon the discussion about the nature of evil but I found it a little dissatisfying because I felt they didn’t give their opinion one way or the other. There are a few other loose ends like why “Horsecock” (I can’t believe I’m forced to use that name twice so if I mention him again it’ll “HC”) was different, persistent and able to delay gratification. I would have preferred a little more insight into the potential causes and ramifications of that in the Crossed universe. The ending was alright, and might have been more appropriate to me if the story had ended with the two last survivors stuck in situation they couldn’t survive. I feel that would have been more in keeping with the hopeless theme. If Crossed had been longer, and the characters had more substance, then their deaths might have had a bigger impact on me. The deaths of characters in Locke & Key was more shocking/sad for me (even the unnamed ones at the end). Which perhaps shows that violence itself isn’t the shocker it used to be unless the story sets it up well enough for you to become invested in the outcome.
 
This is another story about “fast zombies” but with the added bonus of sadism and an extra helping of sodomy. The introduction of HC and his weapon of choice had me chuckle and shake my head as I realised that even if I hadn’t read the name of the author, I would have known it was the same person who wrote Preacher. I wouldn’t go out of my way to recommend this. I might read additional Crossed stories even though I don’t care about finding out what caused the outbreak. It was an interesting option to consider for a few moments but that’s about it. 

 

 

The discussion of how much something effects you is interesting. I think seeing something for the first time has a strong effect. When I first saw Secrets and Lies (recommended) I cried buckets, but not the second time. When I first read the fight scene between Durkon and Malack in the pyramid in Order of the stick, the same. Now I’ve just bought and read the book, I’m not so effected. And outside influences can also change your response. When I read Shirley Jacksons The Haunting of Hill House (highly recommended subtle horror) I WOULD have spent the whole evening quietly freaking out, but a minor problem on my personal life distracted me. If I had been perfectly happy and content I would have been far more terrified. Also anything/everything about lovecraftian horrors from beyond the abyss, especially squid-faced horrors REALLY irritates me so any such horror will go unappreciated by me. 

 
However returning to Joel’s point about why only blokes are commenting, I HAVE decided to sit this one out because, Shirley Jackson aside, I DO avoid horror, I even deliberately avoided watching Titus Andronicus (a friend who watched it before did not seem to be happy with her decision). 
 
When I read American Psycho, I think Bateman quite cleverly draws you into the torture scenes. At first they are sex scenes with a tiny bit of torture that is barely described. Before you know it these horrible scenes are occurring, I slogged on through thinking, ‘when do we find out it is only in his head’. Turns out in the book the idea that it might not be ‘real’ is quite subtle and I probably would have missed it by myself, and secondly it didn’t matter whether it was Bateman or the character who made the stuff up, either way my head was full of horrible images, that quite literally took me a few months to get over. 
 
So while I am very interested to learn about crossed second hand, to know why it is good, or not, I’m NOT interested in reading horror. Apart from The Ring (the Japanese one) I don’t even watch horror (also thank goodness I didn’t have a tv at the time. I would have had to unplug it and turn it to face the wall. AND that was with me being distracted by having split my thumb open that evening and being in quite a bit of pain/discomfort).

So can you explain the ‘fun’ of discomfort/horror? What do you get out of it? Is it worth doing? Am I missing out? or being sensible? in not reading crossed?

 

I can’t comment on the book as I haven’t been able to find a copy. I find that with horror I avoid movies and TV because I have a real dislike of jump-scares, fiction isn’t so much of a problem with that, so I could happily read Crossed in a tumbledown cottage in the middle of a storm on a cliff-edge above jagged rocks, if I could have found a copy. I think the pleasure in it is the same as with all other fiction that gets pigeonholed as genre, it’s taking characters that you can often relate to and maybe sympathise with, depending on the type of story, and then subjecting them to extremes that couldn’t happen in every day life. It often makes me wonder why people make do with mainstream fiction, wouldn’t ‘Midnight’s Children’ or ‘On Chesil Beach’ be so much better if it was in the middle of a zombie plague?

Sorry Joel, gone a bit O.T. here…

 

‘wouldn’t ‘Midnight’s Children’ or ‘On Chesil Beach’ be so much better if it was in the middle of a zombie plague?’

I know what you mean Lawrence, but no it wouldn’t because literary writers are usually completely inept at genre fiction.  

A good / bad example of this would be Jose Saramago’s ‘Blindness’ in which everyone in a town goes ‘mysteriously’ blind, and societal breakdown, mob rule etc… results.

It’s one of the most deeply annoying books I’ve ever read because Saramago tells you exactly how you should be feeling at every stage and wastes far too much time going on about how tragic it all is just in case you can’t figure out that for yourself.

It’s hard to avoid the suspicion that Saramago’s read John Wyndham’s far superior ‘Day of the Triffids’ (the godfather of all zombie stories.  Read it at once if you haven’t already) or seen ‘Night of the living dead’ and thought ‘Hmmm, that was quite good but far too lowbrow.  I bet I can do it much better and be much more profound’ and then proceeded to show he couldn’t.

It did however win a lot of literary awards to be fair though so I’m clearly in a minority on this one…

 

It’s true that you don’t get the jumpscares with books. Just the trailer for the Locke and Key TV series was more directly creepy than the whole first book. If we are talking about zombies, let me add how rubbish Pride and Prejudice and Zombies is. It isn’t written by someone who loves P&P and loves Zombies and wanted to mash them up. It is written by a jobbing author who was gotten in to add words to the concept. There is no editor to tell the author that there are no chipmunks in the UK (my author friend’s editor was able to tell her that in the UK in the ’50s police cars didn’t have flashing blue lights, so she could subtract those out). The P&P&Z author has no clue about the representing a character in a letter, so they put Mr Collins’ words (the words of an idiot) in Colonel Fitzwilliam’s mouth/letter a sensible man, even better than Darcy in some ways.

P&P&Z could have been so much fun, IF it was adapted by someone who was a fan of either, but really of both.

 

Trigger warning: violence against animals.

So I’ve seen a lot of fairly positive stuff about Crossed on here. I’ve got a different opinion. I think it’s honestly pretty lowest common denominator stuff. I only read it once, and I said ‘never again’. For a similar story that I think is told rather better, check out Warren Ellis’s Blackgas.

Although Crossed has all this really horrific stuff in, none of it is treated remotely seriously. It all seems like cheap and easy stuff for people who like violence. Although I called it ‘horrific’, it’s not horror as I think of it.

Let me tell you about horror. A couple of nights ago, one of my cats brought in a live adult pigeon. I was woken up by the sound of the cat running around, which is usually a sign that something’s going on. So I went downstairs and there were feathers everywhere. I called my girlfriend down to get some help. She’s a veterinary nurse, so she’s probably a bit better with this stuff than I am.

Anyway, we managed to get the cat off the pigeon and get the bird in a towel. She had a good look at him, and could see that one of his wings was broken. He also had a fairly deep puncture wound in the other wing. So she was upset, naturally. And she was trying to get this bird to fly off, but it was too hurt. Basically if it’d been able to, it would have flown or crawled away. But it couldn’t.

 

Now my girlfriend is fairly used to putting animals to sleep. But she didn’t want to hurt this poor, unlucky pigeon. There’s a big difference between injecting some drugs and killing something with your hands. We knew that if we let it go, the cat would get it again, or another animal. This bird was going to die, but it was going to die slowly.

So you know what we decided to do. We wanted to end its suffering. My girlfriend had said that the best way to kill it would be to stretch its neck, severing the spinal cord. It should die shortly after that. It should be quick and painless. But she didn’t want to watch, or to be involved.

I was feeling sick. I took this bird outside, held it in the towel with one hand, and grabbed its neck with the other. I could feel its heartbeat, rushing with adrenaline. It was clearly very much conscious, but it wasn’t struggling. It was too weak.

I pulled the neck as hard as I could. The bird’s head almost came away in my hand, and a bright red spot of blood appeared on the feathers on its chest where I’d clearly torn the skin. The neck was easily four times longer than it should have been, and I must have broken its spine in several places.

The pigeon was still alive. I was looking it in the eyes, waiting, hoping that it would die. And it looked so panicked. Where before it had tolerated me holding onto it, it was trying to half flap its wings. It was alive, and it was suffering. Suffering more because of me.

I nearly threw up. It’d been maybe 10 seconds now, and the bird was clearly not going to just die. I’d done it wrong. I felt so guilty.

I didn’t know what to do. My girlfriend was calling and asking if it was dead yet, and I said nothing.

The pigeon was struggling to breathe. I could see it gagging, its tiny pink tongue was gasping and it was looking me in the eyes. I tested its reactions by poking its eye. This made me feel more guilty, but I couldn’t think of a better way to check what it could feel. It reacted normally.

‘Is it dead? Will? Will, is it dead? Did you kill it?’

‘No, I’m sorry. I didn’t… I couldn’t… It’s still alive.’

‘Oh my God… do something!’

I laid the bird on the ground and took a rock and I hit it as hard as I could in the head. There was a dull thud, and that was it. I think the heart stopped almost immediately. It was dead now. And I just… I couldn’t deal with what was happening and I started crying. And I didn’t know what to do. I’ll spare you the rest, but I didn’t sleep properly because I had hurt this animal on purpose.

And that’s just killing a pigeon – moreover doing it with the best of intentions. So I can’t empathise with the characters in Crossed, who do worse, but don’t seem to feel a shred of guilt.

I’ve been feeling guilty for two days. I will probably feel guilty for a long time yet.



 

You’re right Will, that is a horrifying story.

 

Ok – hey everyone. Hey Will. 

 
So. Let me try and write this right (I’m worried I’m going to mess this up: this is my fifth draft already: but reckon it’s better to type stuff and leave it be rather than just deleting and deleting again – but yes – apologies in advance – no harm or rudeness intended).
 
I realise that what I’m going to write might make me sound like a cold-hearted SOB (and hell maybe I am?) but I think that it’s important/useful/helpful to draw a line between the strange messed-up messiness of the real world and the neat much-more tidy space of fiction (oops- I was almost tempted to say “the Immateria” there but didn’t want Ilia to think I was trolling him *cough*). 
 
Will – thank you for sharing your story. I hope that in writing it down and sharing it with other people that it helps a little with dealing with it and helps to alleviate the guilt a little (also if it helps: I don’t think you should feel guilty – it sounds like you did the best thing you could in difficult circumstances you know? I mean – like you said yourself: you did what you did with the best of intentions so erm yeah: don’t punish yourself too much / if at all). 
 
But yeah: this is the bit that is probably going to make me sound like a cold-hearted monster (ok get ready deep breathes): if the intention in telling your story was to offer a kinda knock down (or whatever) on Crossed “you think Crossed is horrific? well – no – this is horrific” then I’m not sure I agree. 
 
Basically I guess because anything – any comic or any film or any book or any whatever is always going to pale in comparison to what life can throw out on you: I mean – anyone who tried to say that “oh yeah – that pigeon story is horrible but there’s this comic that’s much worse” would be wrong. 
 
Although (and aha! here’s when things get interesting!) I would imagine that the difference in the power of the pigeon story will depend on the emotional proximity to yourself (stating the obvious here maybe but what the hey): I mean – for you it’s not a story (or at least it’s a story now but not while it was happening: but hey – it is interesting how you wrote it down in a really dramatic way: I mean – fuck – reading your email is proper full emotional rollercoaster stuff) so you’re the one who really experiences the fullest power of it. For me – well – I’ve known you for a good few years now (shout out to the Islington Comic Forum massive) and so yeah – reading what you wrote was “oh my god that’s horrible!” and yeah – I want to say stuff like – “hey dude I’m sorry. I hope you’re ok” etc (I’m kinda sneaking that in here – I don’t want to sound too mushy or anything). But then – well – what about the people reading this who’ve never met you? I mean – I imagine that they will probably not feel the full impact of the story as much because yeah – emotional closeness and whatever (did I say something like above when talking about the news maybe? I don’t know – I can’t be bothered to check). But then but then: maybe they will because yeah – like I said – you really wrote the hell out of it (compare and contrast with another email where all you wrote was: “Yeah – I had to kill a pigeon. It was bad.”)

 

But then yeah – I guess that’s why I like stories and fiction because they let me deal with stuff in a controlled (if that’s the right word?) way. A good example maybe – I agree with everything Mike D’Angelo says in this thing about The Game (“Movies are magical because they create a facsimile of reality; invite us to surrender ourselves to imaginary, usually preposterous scenarios; and finally release us, blinking, into the light, none the worse for wear” – only you know: replace “Movies” for “Stories”). 
 
And bumping this into something that I’ve been meaning to write but haven’t so far: yeah – towards the start a lot of people were saying that Crossed was good because it made us look into the question of evil and themes and blah and all the rest. Well – yeah: I mean – on the one hand I get what a theme is and sure if you wanna you can say that Crossed is about evil that people do (only no – wait – that’s not quite right: in fact – if anything it’s more about the idea that evil isn’t really a thing that people do – rather – people just do things that are bad and the concept of “evil” doesn’t really do anything to help us understand that – you know: that big speech at the end (which is kinda alright until “Every smirking criminal in office.” but what can you do?) is totally unsubtle about how the Crossed aren’t some made-up fantasy – they’re just what people do anyway: which yeah – I mean – what you say?) but then again one the other hand: well – I think it’s a bit of a cop-out to say Crossed is about evil because if anything – the way the story works (as in the structure of it – it starts off bad but the heroes survive to the end – and are then literally holding hands as they walk off into the sunset) it’s actually a story about hope: but how you can overcome all the bad stuff and heal and make things better. 
 
Which yeah – was the last thing I thought I’d be saying about Crossed: but well – there you go.

 

I was being deliberately a bit antagonistic, I confess. I wrote a couple of sentences about Crossed, then spent some time thinking about exactly how I wanted to tell the story about the pigeon. I wanted to build a connection with the reader and, while I stuck strictly to the truth of what happened, I chose a dramatic style on purpose. That’s because the story of the pigeon is never going to be as horrible for me as the reality was. And my memories of it are obviously less horrible than living it was.

I guess your point is valid – the real world is always more horrible than fiction. But I also don’t believe in ‘evil’. Or, at least, I believe that bad things happen, and that people are responsible for some of them. But people don’t deliberately do bad things for no reason.

I killed a pigeon, but, as I said, I tried to do it for the right reasons. I think that even the people in DAESH are doing the same – if you genuinely believe that you need to follow a strict interpretation of sharia law (including literally taking slaves and ‘concubines’) or your god will hate you, then it starts to make a twisted sort of sense. Even someone defrauding people isn’t ‘evil’, they’re just selfish.  I don’t think the comic has anything interesting to say about evil because it tries to make it all very black and white – the Crossed are pure evil so anyone opposing them is automatically less evil, no matter what they do (even the serial killer is ‘better’ than they are). And I’m not sure you can argue that the Crossed are the freed impulses of the id or whatever. I feel it’s trying to read more into the comic than is in there.

I agree that reading something horrible that is fiction and that ends can be cathartic. I just think ‘why not read something a bit better, eh?’

 
 

 

I want to push back against this if I may:

 

“And I’m not sure you can argue that the Crossed are the freed impulses of the id or whatever. I feel it’s trying to read more into the comic than is in there.”

Since this is what a number of us have been arguing! Hate to appeal to authority (once again), but the fact that ppl like Alan Moore and Kieron Gillen have come out in its defence suggests Ennis is not aiming for the lowest common denominator (took two goes for Moore to get it apparently). Indeed, Mazin’s suggestion that Crossed pulls its punches in some areas indicates that thought has been applied to making sure the horror doesn’t get gratuitous. It’s all there for a purpose, and it’s good to think abt what that might be.
 
On an unrelated note: some ppl have mentioned Blackgas as a compare / contrast. Warren Ellis has said in relation to that how difficult he finds writing horror for comics, because unlike film you don’t have stuff like timing and music, so instead of jump-scares he went for maximum levels of bleakness – an enveloping mood rather than staccato frights. I guess Crossed builds towards the same sort of bleakness, but I wonder whether that’s the only technique available to the horror comics genre. (I guess something like Izumaki goes for gruesomeness instead??) Maybe Locke & Key is the example to use – doing the trad horror thing of establishing characters you care about and putting them in danger much more effectively than the full on hellishness of Crossed. Do you get something approximating jump-scares in Locke & Key? (I’ve only read vol 1 and seem to remember some effective over-the-page reveals…)
 
(Just to add: Will, you handled the situation you describe much better than I could have done.)
 
 

 

In Locke and Key 1, there was a pretty good over the page reveal, that IS scarier in the trailer. A horror comic will have to be calmer, though it might depend on your age. Don’t young kids scare much more easily? I remember my cousin being creeped out by quite a laughably trite cheesy movie, that I wouldn’t even call horror. I think a gruesome comic would get into their head quite effectively (also not just children if is gruesome enough, as you have described). So the effect of a comic would be to put images in your head that keep creeping you out over the longer term, which is quite doable even without (especially without?) stactto frights.

Hope this isn’t too trite, I was thinking about Will a bit as I was killing ants all weekend. Squashing each individual with my bare hands (only the ones trespassing in my kitchen).  Why is killing an ant not bad at all? I could see the survivors scurrying more madly, evidently responding to the panic pheromone that they give off (only for a short time, both because the pheremone is short lived and because the survivors were short lived. My kitchen is clear of ants now).

It would be too trite to say the Crossed vampires?zombies?whatevers, see people as ants, as that doesn’t explain why/how they do that.

 
 
 

 

In terms of horror in comics I’m thinking of the early days of Vertigo, Alan Moore’s ‘Swamp Thing’ (seemingly sucked into Vertigo after the fact), whoever it was that replaced him (was it Veitch?), Morrison’s ‘Doom Patrol’, the ‘Preludes and Nocturnes’ arc of ‘The Sandman’ and the Delano ‘Hellblazer’. They were largely taking their cues from the horror comics of the 60s and 70s that I know nothing about but the twenty four hours in the diner story from Sandman which we’ve talked about before was very good. I think the alternative to Ellis’ bleakness is to suggest rather than show, that Sandman story possibly gets it’s power from being almost all dialogue and seeing very little.
 

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