Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Desolation Low

Desolation Jones #3

Last week I wondered whether Warren Ellis' mind was wandering when he was writing Iron Man. Now I've got a good idea of the direction it was heading to.

I started reading Desolation Jones on the Newcastle-London train, and soon found myself covering up pages when people went by. After a while, I figured I was doing this because I was reading pornography, and felt rightfully ashamed of myself. It appears that writer Warren Ellis is entirely unable to distinguish between examining the dark side of the human soul and writing masturbatory sewage.

Desolation Jones is about low-lifes in the porn industry. Its "hero", Mr Jones, has grey skin - I'm not sure why, but I am sure I'm never going to seek to find out. He talks with a porn actress in a bar, then he hits someone. That's it, plot-wise. In the meantime, we have twenty or so pages of demoralising, obscene, misogynistic garbage.

Braving discomfiture for the sake of the blogosphere, I open this comic for the very last time. It starts with a film maker having an argument with an unnamed redhead about an actress (well, porn actress, but I'm going to abbreviate) who has a yeast infection. The redhead meets Jones, apparently a private investigator. They say "fuck", "dick" and "ass" quite a lot. Then they go to a bar. English gentlemen always get their dates drunk and stoned, says Jones, it's the only way we can get people to sleep with us. Speak for yourself, Warren.

In the bar, they have a seemingly endless conversation about the porn industry. I'll just give you some random snippets: "home-video", "neurotic", "jerked off", "letting some freak do you"...and so on and on and on. Then we get to the really ugly part: Jones is getting stoned as the actress talks. She drifts off into talking about all the things she would allow men to do to her, which is just about anything as long as they're violent or demeaning. This is a sneaky, cowardly trick by Ellis. By having her say these words, the writer risks exposing himself as a creepy, woman-hating moron. But the fact that Jones is on drugs means we can't judge whether she actually said these things, or whether Jones is fantasising. A sort of post-modern, ironic, lad-culture excuse for writing things that should be left unwritten. But it doesn't work - conversations like this should be left to alt.porn.sadmalefantasies. And as for drawing a child saying "I ripped my clitoris and labia when I was a kid. Gymnastics accident, would you believe. So it takes a little work to get me off", well, how nasty is that?

There's a certain clinical feel to this, which makes me wonder if Ellis has a subscription to Abstracts of the Royal Society of Gynaecologists. Or could it be that Ellis, apparently so desperate to shock, is unwilling to expose us to the actual language women in the porn industry might use for their genitalia? And no racial epithets either? Even in the bar scene, I feel he could have upped the ante in terms of the violence and level of coercion the actress was willing to accept. Warren, Warren, you shy little coquette, I almost get the feeling you're holding yourself back.

Following a short diversion with a woman with a sex toy dressed as a nurse (how unlike the dedicated professionals at my local hospital), Jones explains his mission in life: I just kill people, Frank. I kill them and fuck their heads and leave their bodies in the street as a warning. I was disappointed by this revelation, because I'd been guessing Desolation Jones was the story of a Bromsgrove pastry chef who comes to Los Angeles in order to find the perfect recipe for making petit fours.

Periodically, censorship-hungry right-wingers have a go at the comics industry. They can't help it, because it's just part of their nature. Thankfully now is not one of those times, because if it was, my heart would be made of lead as I stood up to proclaim the right of creators to produce comics like this. As Voltaire might have said, "I fight to the death to protect your right to say this, but that doesn't stop your work being an unadulterated pile of disgusting, vile gobshite" .

"Made in England Part 3" is the title. I wish it hadn't been.


Blogger Psychbloke said...

I'm glad it came off my standing order now...

10:00 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Uh, you didn't read any of the other issues, did you?

10:11 pm  
Blogger Disintegrating Clone said...

No I didn't read the first two: I walked into a comic shop and picked issue #3 off the shelf. But, frankly, I doubt that any back stories could make me change my mind about lines like "I like asphyxia, I like being spat on". Ellis is clever enough to create an intellectual framework that gives an impression he's saying something profound, but that's just wrapping. This is pornography, plain and simple.

Ellis, talking on his blog about writing masturbation-fodder, is happy to admit he writes it. So let's agree with him.

7:46 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You'd be wrong about that. Your take on the character is about 180 degrees off what the character is really about. Furthermore, the idea of the series has about zilch to do with porno--Desolation Jones is a sci-fi private eye series with an espionage backstory. The only reason porno enters into at all is because that's the case he happens to be working on right now. IMHO, this is a serious case of you walking into the middle of a conversation and completely missing the thrust of it.

4:16 pm  
Blogger Disintegrating Clone said...

IMHO, this is a serious case of people thinking that if pornographic material is wrapped up cleverly enough then it stops being porn. It doesn't.

What the series is about is irrelevant. What the character is about is irrelevant. The subject matter in this issue is portrayed in such a debased way that what might have gone on in previous issues is irrelevant. If there is no porn in previous issues, fine. In this one, though, there's plenty, as depraved as you like, and put into the mouth of a female character who is made to sound like she enjoys, no, is desperate for, her own degradation.

I don't care what justification previous issues might given this treatment, because it doesn't change one iota the fact that Desolation Jones #3 is porn. Porn with a intellectual excuse written in previous issues maybe, but porn nonetheless. Again: "I like asphyxia, I like being spat on". Don't you think that's porn? Because if it's not, I'm not sure what is.

4:41 pm  
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