It bears acknowledging that Drunken Boat 24 arrives in the wake of a substantial loss. I know that many people, like me, have experienced waves of anger, despair, and dogged resolve, in the aftermath of the recent presidential election in the United States. And I, as many of you, have watched the range of reactions to the news in frustration, bewilderment, commiseration, and solidarity.
Amid the varied responses, I’ve noticed a subset of my friends on Facebook who have updated their profile pictures to a black square. In our increasingly globalized, increasingly visual culture, this act seems intuitive, marking absence, marking erasure, marking the digital equivalence of donning black in mourning, marking a kind of death. In comics, the filled-black panel has often been used as contextual shorthand for death—a kind of visual euphemism in the structural language of the form. Though, the black-panel-as-death does have predecessors: notably, Laurence Sterne’s famous black page in Tristram Shandy, following the death of Parson Yorick. Even so, the black-square-as-profile pic feels vaguely comics-inspired.
And certainly appropriate.
2016 has been palpably death-filled for many of us. We've lost David Bowie. C.D. Wright. Prince. Muhammad Ali. Geneviève Castrée Elverum. Leonard Cohen.
Alton Sterling. Philando Castile. Terence Crutcher. Alfred Olango. Lorne Ahrens. Michael Krol. Michael Smith. Brent Thompson. Patricio Zamarripa.
The victims of the Pulse Nightclub Massacre.
And in my personal life, the two kindest people I’ve ever known: my grandfather, Oral, and my mother-in-law, Sue.
These are a small number, confined by my personal and cultural experience and without taking into account recent bombings in Yemen, the effects of Hurricane Matthew in Haiti, the ongoing Syrian genocide and refugee crisis, and countless others, known and unknown.
We’ve suffered many deaths this year, literal and metaphorical, as we do every year.
So why am I mentioning all this here? Honestly, I’m not all-the-way sure. I’m still reeling, and likely overstepping a bit, editorially. But I think, at least in some small way, I’m expressing something of the importance of art: of art-making and of art-reveling. In his posthumously published notebooks, Nietzsche leaves us with this aphorism: “We have art in order not to die of the truth.” It’s a statement that bears an enormity of complications. Including among them the idea of art as a balm for, or antidote to, death, in its various iterations.
And so, as we’ve endured so many black panels this year, it’s worth noting that, in comics, all panels, black or otherwise, are given meaning by the panels that surround them. And how we choose to fill those panels, as artists and patrons, comprises the politics with which we envision humanity. I am enormously proud of the comics in this issue, and grateful to the amazing artists who've contributed them. I submit them to you as a means of survival.