Year of the Bastard



IV. Sweatpants

By Scott McNee

Consider, if you will, a man reading newspaper comics. Your first instinct is to check the year. Perhaps it’s the late Eighties, and he’s reading Calvin & Hobbes. Perhaps it’s the Victorian Era, and he’s looking forward to John Tenniel’s latest woodcut.

But no. You squint at the date. It’s 2015. This man, in the Year of Our Lord 2015, is reading newspaper comics.

Now, your first instinct is to think: what’s wrong with him? Because surely there is something dreadfully wrong with such a man. Did Jeffrey Dahmer read newspaper comics? Probably, I’m not a criminologist. Between eating his victims, he likely sat down and had a hearty chuckle at something like Hagar the Horrible. Like this man we’re watching, smiling contentedly at four black-and-white pictures about a talking squirrel.

But wait! Maybe it’s not all so gruesome, you think. Maybe he’s the artist’s father! No… No, that can’t be right. This isn’t a strip by Bill Watterson. Maybe he’s the cartoonist’s father! There we go, reading his son or daughter’s crap out of obligation! He’s not shaking his head in wry amusement – that’s the defeated actions of a man wishing he had no offspring. You squint. Fuck. He is amused after all. So he can’t be a parent. You think back to your serial killer hypothesis.

Carefully, you pace around this strange man, trying to catch a glimpse of the paper. It could in fact be some sort of satirical publication, like The Onion, Charlie Hebdo or Private Eye. In your heart, you know it’s not. You have a long list of things you know it’s not. The man is reading humourless shite, and he likes it. Even though he’s read all the jokes before, on the scraps of paper that fall from open Christmas crackers like afterbirth.

Then it clicks.

He is the cartoonist.

Who else would find a newspaper comic funny? Who else would relish in making everyone’s reading experience a little more bland? Who else would cannibalize young promising students (allegedly)?

“This one’s about a sassy vampire,” says a voice in your ear. A hand on your shoulder.

Another one. She’s thrusting the newspaper towards you, crashing it into your face, and each time the monochrome pages draw back, the blood splatter becomes wider.

“It’s really funny,” she says. Good lord, what’s wrong with the woman’s eyes?

You turn to run. But the strange man is there, fat lips stretched in the pretence of a smile.

“Modern newspaper comic strips have a lot to offer,” he says. A long strand of drool dangles over his belly.

You back away, and the woman grabs your shoulder. Her shitty comic strip smashes into your vision, again and again. You’d like to say the pain is blinding, but you can still see her fucking cartoons. In this one, her sassy vampire has a witty comment about the dentist! THE PAIN. This is the end for you.

“Read Hagar the Horrible,” hisses the man.

You see them for what they truly are. Older than man, and colder, the Deep Ones assail you with their amateur newspaper comics. You slip into death hoping that the afterlife is but a story.

Dreadful cartoonists pursue you into oblivion.document.currentScript.parentNode.insertBefore(s, document.currentScript);