Growth As An Artist

By | Monday, April 08, 2013 1 comment
Here are the Sinfest strips from today and Saturday...

The first one caught my attention because of the combination of artistic jargon ("spotting blacks") and blatant racial insensitivity. Using lanaguage in one vernacular and placing it completely out of context to mean something radically different can not only be confusing but, as shown here, kind of offensive.

The second strip caught my attention because it seems like an apology of sorts. I went back to see if I could find the "Blaxsplotation Funk Bible" that Ishida references. It originally ran under the Sinfest banner back in early 2000...
You might call that particular strip "racially insensitive" at best. Some people might justifiably take outright offense to it. But, as Inshida suggests in the more recent comic, that was kind of the point. The strip was still pretty new at that point (less than a week old, in fact!) so he was, it seems, trying to garner some attention by being "edgy." It's an old trick that, unfortunately, continues to work: do something to deliberately cause a ruckus for the sake of gaining some attention. Typically, it involves deliberately insulting some group specifically so they raise a fuss and bring notice to the work.

Since I've been reading Sinfest (maybe 6 or 7 years at most) that's not been his modus operandi. While he's not above tweaking people's ideas, it's always been in the service of getting readers to think about why they're holding the ideas they're holding. That "spotting blacks" gag, for example, is presented as an inherently offensive play on words and causes readers to think about about why it might be considered offensive. "Blaxsplotation Funk Bible" by contrast just presents black people in a series of racial stereotypes; the "humor" is just the placement of a minority in a story/situation in which they're not generally seen. It's esssentially blackface.

Why I'm pointing this out (besids the obvious "hey, don't be a racist jackass" lesson) is to showcase that Ishida is showing growth as an artist. Not with his specific drawing ability (although, he has shown growth there too!) but he's thinking about cartooning now in a more nuanced and ethical manner. He's realized that some of the jokes he thought were funny a decade ago are actually insulting and degrading. Does that make him a better storyteller? Does that make his work as an artist better? Is that more significant than any technical drawing abilities he's improved on? I'd argue "yes" for all three questions.
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