“Please, God – Help Me Be Normal!” Will Make You Glad John Trubee Is Anything But

A lot of great art, regardless of medium, comes from a place of deep personal anguish. It only stands to reason, of course — profoundly disturbing imagery, writing, films, etc. are most authentically communicated by profoundly disturbed minds. But does that mean the artist in question can’t be having a good time making it, and that you as a reader or viewer can’t have fun experiencing it?

I ask this because, as the contents of the long-overdue career retrospective Please, God – Help Me Be Normal! (Mucus House Publications, 2021) make abundantly clear, something is up with John Trubee. the very title of his book is a cry for help, and it’s tough to blame the guy for having a constant urge to scream into the abyss. I mean, he sees things in a way that most of us simply don’t — hell, maybe he just sees things that most of simply don’t, period — but here’s where things get interesting : his art, while rendered with downright maniacal intensity, nevertheless exudes a kind of irreverence that in a push might be called tongue-in-cheek. The only thing is, of course, some of these freaks and geeks that he likes to draw probably have three or four tongues, maybe even more.

Which isn’t to say that his so-called “ugly men” drawings don’t both depict and speak to (or should that be for?) the — well, the ugly side of the collectivized human subconscious. Specifically, the male human subconscious. Many of the rant-style captions that accompany these deliriously grotesque de facto portraits are every bit as fucked up as the mutated monstrosities they depict, reveling in misanthropy, misogyny, licentiousness, and nihilism. Think of some bastard offspring of Rory Hayes and the most “black-pilled” adherents of “incel” subculture and you won’t be too far off the mark. And yet this stuff is so uniformly over the top and beyond the pale that if Trubee were to dial down its full frontal assault on both your visual cortex and your conscience it would ring false, hollow — even chickenshit. Trubee doesn’t “ramp things up to 11,” as the saying goes, he starts off there and pretty much dares you to keep up.

Which leads the rational, reasonable person to conclude that this stuff is in no way, shape, or form going to be universally appealing. And it’s likely to be those same “rational, reasonable” people who take greatest exception to the going-on in these pages. Fair enough. But this is no mere exercise in regurgitating the flotsam and jetsam of Trubee’s id, much less some droll display of “shock value” imagery with no intent behind it other than to raise the hackles of squares. I hesitate to pin Trubee down to having anything so pedestrian as an agenda, but his inherently confrontational artistic philosophy ensures that his work fits comfortably along a continuum of latter-day aesthetic terrorists ranging from Jim Osborne to Joe Coleman to S. Clay Wilson to Tom Crites to Mike Diana to Trevor Brown to the aforementioned Mr. Hayes. And yet —

At the risk of repeating myself (whoops, too late), this shit is so far off on its own wavelength that it’s often hard to tell how seriously Trubee himself is taking it all. Certainly he’s dead serious about his craft — the amount of time that goes into his cross-hatching alone would break the resolve of many an artist — but beyond that he never makes it clear whether or not he’s actively promulgating for, or just engaging in an extended “piss-take” on, what’s generally referred to as the “dudebro” mindset. Hell, he could very well be doing both, but what makes this volume (which functions as a “best-of” or “greatest hits” compendium going back decades) such a conceptually challenging one is that he never reveals the cards he’s holding in too obvious a fashion — nor, frankly, should he. If there’s one kind of art I hope we’re all bored to death with, it’s art that tells you what to think of as a precursor for telling you how to think in a more general, all-encompassing sense. Trubee lets his work speak for itself and leaves any tonal interpretation up to each individual reader/viewer to limn out for themselves.

Well, sort of. Truth be told, the essay by Trubee himself and the interview with the artist conducted by Barry Alfonso rather give the game away in certain respects, so while they’re enthralling reads that come highly recommended, it might behoove you to save ’em for after you’ve made your way through the drawings, simply because I think the impact of these images is, in my estimation at any rate, that much more acute if viewed through a lens of ambiguous amorality. The mere fact that Trubee’s been at this for as long as he has is a statement of intent by default in and of itself, it’s true, but it’s worth remembering that even the most profoundly cynical person is capable of communicating their outlook with a wink and a nod toward its (and, by extension, their) own absurdity. All I can say safely say with absolute certainty — and without tipping the scales much in either direction — is that what we’ve got here are a bunch of fucking insane illustrations of “party monster” types, with equal emphasis on both the party and the monster. I dug it — hell, I dug it a lot — but then, I always kinda wondered what would happen if the Garbage Pail Kids grew up, ingested a shit-ton of PCP, and started listening to Joe Rogan.


Please, God – Help Me Be Normal! is available for $24.95 from (try to quell your surprise here) Jim Blanchard’s Bigcartel site at https://jimblanchard.bigcartel.com/product/please-god-help-me-be-normal-art-book

Also, I’ve done a piss-poor job of promoting my Patreon lately, but don’t take that to mean my content on there hasn’t been damn good, even if I do say so myself. If you’re looking for three more servings of my cultural and pop cultural musings every week, this is the place to go is https://www.patreon.com/fourcolorapocalypse

8 thoughts on ““Please, God – Help Me Be Normal!” Will Make You Glad John Trubee Is Anything But

  1. John Trubee

    Forget the ad hominem (the term “incel” did not 34 years ago when I drew this shit) and simply ask yourself this: “Are the sentiments expressed in the captions true or false?” Getting at the truth is what matters. Any less is distracting noise.


  2. Pingback: Trouble Every Day – This Week’s Links - Avada Classic Shop

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