Two From Josh Simmons : “Ghouls”

Horror and humor are often a potent mix — as any fan of films like Frankenhooker or Street Trash can tell you (and, for the record, I’m “guilty” as charged on both counts) —but, more often than not, humor is the “senior partner,” if you will, in the pairing, largely because it’s easier to make someone laugh at atrocious shit than to show them how frightening the stuff we laugh at can actually be. A pure half-and-half serving of each is perhaps an even more rare thing to come by — and the challenge to create precisely that when you’re dealing with subject matter that delves into the existential ? Well, that’s a fairly stiff one indeed.

Still, it seems that’s the task Josh Simmons set for himself with his just-released mini Ghouls, a self-published series of single-panel cartoons that begins with an “abandon hope, all ye who enter here — and don’t expect any to come along” premise and proceeds from there. The point of view he approaches these ostensible “gag” strips with is, then, an inherently nihilistic one, but hey — that doesn’t mean he can’t see the funny side of the void he’s staring directly into. And, even more importantly, it doesn’t mean he can’t show that funny side to you, the reader.

Now, I’ll grant you, all of this means you’ve gotta be wired a certain way to take a perverse sense of, for lack of a better term, “enjoyment” from this ‘zine, but if you’re familiar with Simmons’ work, you knew that much already. What ups the ante here, however, is the sheer weight of outside forces : I mean, who are we kidding? Seldom, if ever, has apocalypse of one form or another seemed as inevitable as it does now, and seldom, if ever, has that inevitability been raged against and resigned to in equal measure. Credit to the largely-youthful group of protesters and activists who are actually demanding real and substantive change in hopes of either preventing the end of all things or remaking our society into one worth fighting to preserve before it’s gone, but on the other side of the coin we’ve got very nearly as many people happy to permanently (that being a very relative term) hand the keys to the Doomsday Express over to our modern iteration of Nero and crash and burn along with him as long as he keeps them dazed out on a cocktail of racism, nationalism, spite, grievance, and mean-spiritedness. “Who cares about surviving as long as other people have it even worse than we do on the way out the door?” may not seem a very rational way to approach the death-throes of corporate gluttony to you and me — at least I damn sure hope it doesn’t — but it appears that it’s what at least 1/3, maybe more, of the folks here in the US want, and right now, they’re the ones in charge.

Trust me when I say these garden-variety observations only seem superfluous to mention in relation to this comic, because the sad truth is that they’re anything but : Simmons’ cartoons are very much the product of, and communicate the specific concerns and absurdities of, what’s conveniently — but accurately — been labeled as the “pandemic mindset,” and if you’re looking for some relief from that, it’s incumbent upon me to inform you that you won’t be finding it here. If, however, you’re looking to see it laid bare and to have a grim chuckle or two while you ruminate on its implications, well, you’re in for a hell of a time.

Notice I didn’t say “a hell of a good time,” because if Simmons makes one thing perfectly clear, it’s that even if we do stumble or earn our way out of this COVID mess, the same anxieties and stresses that plagued us before will still be there, whether we’re talking about money worries, relationship worries, or the spectre of our own mortality. We’re all doomed — it’s just a question of when and how. Ain’t life grand?

And on that cheery note, I’m actually giving this comic my highest possible recommendation, not just because it’s brutally honest, but because it’s brutally honest and brutally funny and functions as both a mirror of these brutal times and a brutal reminder that, one way or another, there’s no escape from the bullshit.

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Ghouls is available in a package with Simmons’ other new comic, Micky (shown above), by sending $10.00 via PayPal to joshuahallsimmons@yahoo.com.

Also, this review — and all others around these parts — is “brought to you” by my Patreon page, where I serve up exclusive thrice-weekly rants and ramblings on the worlds of comics, films, television, literature, and politics for as little as a dollar a month. Subscribing is the best way to support my continuing work, so I’d be very appreciative indeed if you’d take a moment to check it out by directing your kind attention to https://www.patreon.com/fourcolorapocalypse

 

3 thoughts on “Two From Josh Simmons : “Ghouls”

  1. Pingback: It’ll Do ‘Til The Mess Gets Here – This Week’s Links - Avada Classic Shop

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