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Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Everyone Loves Blasphemy Comics

Posted by Thomas Ross on Wed, Jun 19, 2013 at 5:15 PM

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A few weeks ago, I mentioned how much I like Kinoko's Gilgamesh comic. If you don't remember (Why don't you remember?), I praised that series' blend of authenticity and off-the-wall insouciance. Kinoko's translation worked its magic through playful irreverence, tickling but not skewering the source material.

Jezebel, Portland comics artist Elijah Brubaker's account of the Biblical story of Jezebel is not so subtle. Both strips recast their protagonist as a sort of modern everyman, but where Kinoko's Gilgamesh is a childish, overmasculine bro, Brubaker's, er, Elijah is something beyond that. He's a careless, shlubby, "rather loud and hairy individual." He's a champion of his religion perhaps out of sheer righteousness, but more likely out of pure self-righteousness. He listens to God, but only because God appears to him (God's appearance is... ungodly, and hilarious) and says He'll help him. It's worth pointing out that God, also, is just kind of a dick in this strip. Reverence does not Brubaker's goal here.*

Neither is accuracy, thankfully. If I'm not wrong (I'm probably wrong), in the Biblical story of Elijah and the widow of Zerapheth, the widow's son dies and Elijah prays for God to bring him back to life, which God does. In Jezebel, the widow and her son, tired of Elijah's grifting them for all their food and a room in their home, fake the son's death. Elijah's reaction is to "invoke the power of the lord" and wake the kid up with a series of belly flop bodyslams. I also might have failed to mention that Elijah is naked during this entire episode, so... NSFW or whatever.

The earlier pages show Ahab, currently King of Israel and not apparently super committed to being Jewish, meeting and getting to know his bride, Jezebel, via an arranged marriage. Ahab is so relieved his bride is not fugly (Ahab's word, not mine) (also not the Bible's) that he doesn't seem to mind that she worships Baal, not the God of Ahab's people. So he builds Baal some temples and monuments and stuff, which is what sets Elijah off in the first place.

Granted, it's mostly that irreverence that keeps Jezebel funny. Or maybe the funniness makes it irreverent... Anygoddamnway, they're inextricably tied. Either way, the jokes are funny as hell and even the very minimal characterization in the art (especially the faces) is enough to make every joke pop.

If it sounds like your thing, and you can face the risk of eternal damnation inherent in reading a comic where God says the phrase "Hey what up, Donkey Dick," you can check it out at Study Group. It updates Wednesdays. Today's update includes Elijah and God high-fiving.

*It is in his wheelhouse, though. Brubaker's other ongoing historical comic, Reich, is a fairly serious series about the German psychologist (sexologist) Wilhelm Reich. It's a probing, evenhanded biographical comic, and the art is stark, expressive caricature. The research is thorough, and Brubaker's notes make a point of admitting when the comic isn't exactly accurate.

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