An Interview With The Slug's JR Conlin by Melanie Rada
What more can really be said about JR Conlin's The All New Adventures of The Slug?
Well, judging from this remarkable in-depth interview, perhaps it's best to just let JR Conlin tell you himself. His answers are deep, insightful, and will leave you a changed, changed reader.
Read on, and be forever enlightened...
1. Reading through the files of the astonishing tales of The Slug, I have come to note the meditative and even philosophical undertone of the comic as a whole. While the main character (The Slug himself) pursues his fight for justice, he passes a single tree. He remains silent, and tree prevails. It has been understood through Immanuel Kant's book, The Critique of Judgment, that what we know as beauty per se is in fact just agreeable. In other words, agreeableness is biased; one understands to like something over another something else. True beauty on the other hand, is not biased, and cannot even be understood. Beauty therefore exists in a type of vacuum, or in a perfect state of nature. By strategically placing the aforementioned tree in the middle of your strip, and by having The Slug pass this tree, are you inferring the fact that The Slug is in fact the epitome of Beauty? Could The Slug be misunderstood -- or perhaps even too stealthy -- to be comprehended by normal human beings in general, thus becoming beautiful (instead of simply agreeable) in Kantian terms? By using Kantian philosophy, are you attempting to describe the notion of the 'beautiful' superhero: The ULTIMATE superhero story?
2. It is clear from the start of The Slug that you have used a very interesting style of illustration for both the background and main characters in the story. The colors are very full, and overall basic, as are the forms. Purely in terms of illustration, the strip as a whole takes place in two dimensions. Like yourself, early 20th-century artists such as Manet, Picasso, and Braque (amongst others) removed the three-dimensionality from their artwork in order to create a new space that could only exist on the canvas itself. After having undergone their analytical cubist period, both Picasso and Braque were ready to say that this new space was in fact the destruction of time in art in order to create 'simultaneity of time' in the space of art. Are you, like such artists, attempting to create this simultaneity of time through your art, thus generating considerable irony with the conceit that your main character travels at very slow speeds? Shall we, the audience, come to assume from the above that our hero can in fact go as fast or as slow as he needs due to the fact that he has been placed in a two-dimensional and therefore timeless world?
3. I have come to note that our hero The Slug has no eyes but instead, has antennae. Are you attempting to reach the much-sought ideal of blind Justice? I noticed your iconographic diagram of our hero to have a helmet that actually blinds him much like the justice icon. Even though The Slug's blinding instrument works in the same way as our portrayal of the beautiful justice, unlike this maiden, it has antennae. Are you attempting to say that even though like Justice, The Slug is blind, yet unlike Justice, The Slug must also be able to feel the wrong-doings of humanity as well as their moral dilemmas in order to be able to justify some of the crimes themselves? Is The Slug in fact more than a mere justice fighter? Is he also a moral pillar for humanity as a whole? It is apparent (through his animalistic aspects and the aforementioned fact of being blind) that The Slug is a fighter for justice beyond race, age, or any other societal bias. What is less apparent though, is that through the antennae placed to replace his eyes, The Slug might in fact also be able to feel the morality behind whatever crime may be at stake. In his controversial book "The Social Contract", French Revolution philosopher and activist Jean Jacque Rousseau mentioned that in order to have a controlled society, people must give up approximately 20% of their freedom to laws and regulations in order to have a more peaceful society with 80% freedom. With this in mind, is The Slug the true Rousseaunian hero of justice and freedom?
Wow, that's a lot of questions. ;) Let me see if I can answer most of them by telling you a little story about myself. When I was younger, my father was stationed for a time in Kialua, on the island of Oahu, Hawaii. I was in Kindergarten at the time and being a red-haired brilliantly white kid surrounded by Asian and Polynesian kids, I sort of stood out from the crowd. I tended to hang out with my older brother a fair amount.
Downtown from where we lived there was a small pet shop. It was full of all sorts of animals and the guy who ran the shop always said hello to us. My brother would bring me there fairly often.
Near the door to the pet shop, there was a monkey in a cage. I don't remember exactly what sort of monkey it was, but I'm guessing it was the normal organ-grinder type. For the few years that my father was stationed there, the monkey was never adopted.
As I mentioned earlier, I have red hair, and much like the other kids in school, the monkey had never seen that many folks with red hair walking around in Hawaii. My brother would stop by the shop with me in tow and point out the funny monkey to me.
The monkey would look to my brother, then look at me. He'd then jump up and down on a little ball that was in the cage before lashing his arms through the bars, grabbing my head and tearing bloody clumps of my hair free of my head and into his screaming, jabbering maw. The little rascal's gore-soaked hands only pausing their near murderous tasks so that he could playfully bat away my childish attempts to defend myself with his inhuman strength.
Eventually, the shop owner would fire enough high-potency tranquilizer darts into the silly simian so that he would release my near unconscious body, and I would plop to the ground laying in a pool of my own blood and issue.
Then we'd go get some yummy ice cream.
4. I have come to note that even though (as mentioned in question 2) it seems that you are attempting the difficult task of creating simultaneity of time by creating a certain two dimensionality of space in your illustration style, it also seems that the illustration of our hero The Slug himself is rendered in a very iconographic style. As can be seen through icon images of Mary Magdalene, the first thing that can be mentioned about this type of image is that it is two dimensional, and is portrayed with bold outlines. After this, the analysis of the icon demonstrates the fact that it shows only what is necessary to depict this Saint. The Christian person (post-Byzantine epoch) understands that Mary Magdalene has an ointment which she holds (as is shown in this image) or that she has in close proximity. She also has long loose hair and is either portrayed naked (after the death of Christ) or in red garments. We also understand that Mary Magdalene is a saint by the portrayal of the golden ring around her head. As long as such images are portrayed, the icon will be understood as Mary Magdalene. The use of further detailing such as shadow work or backgrounds is not necessary to make the character recognizable. Since The Slug can be understood as the ultimate seeker of Justice that transcends the understandable notion of time, he could also be understood as one of the most important pillars of our times and therefore, could easily be "iconized". Is this what you are attempting to portray by recreating our hero in such a bold fashion? Is The Slug an icon of freedom, morality, truth, and justice?
Come to think of it, I really hated that monkey.
5. It seems that the adventures of The Slug have reached their apex, and that the story from here in will be a rapid denouement to its inevitable conclusion. One is reminded of the epic struggle writ small of Hemingway's Old Man in The Old Man and the Sea, and the reader is forced to grapple with the twin notion of the futility of being and the inimitable nature of death herself. It must be accepted as given that this voyage, as all voyages, must conclude: this fits the archetypes of the heroic journey as best elucidated by scholar Joseph Campbell in his classic The Hero with a Thousand Faces, and mirrored, perhaps, in the fractured dimensional cohesiveness of Moorcock's Eternal Champion. And yet, The Slug seems to conclude on a note not only of utter futility, but a glance -- however furtive -- towards a future that lies behind him (shades of Moorcock again, and the Wilson Loop theories expounded by A. Bassetto). Is The Slug true to its surface message of futility, or does it hint at a brighter future in the simultaneity of ahead and behind?
Oh my God! My brother used to feed me to monkeys? What the hell was he thinking!? Oh God! OH GOD!!!!!