“childhood predators” from ‘kramer’s ergot’ #8
Think of Dash Shaw and Frank Santoro’s “Childhood Predators” in the newest Kramer’s Ergot 8 as the comix equivalent of a Big Black song: a sincere slab of real-world, low-stakes, work-a-day fucked-upness manifested as actually putting yourself on the line contrarian art. It details the luring in, arrest, and life-ruining of a 20 year-old who was caught in a sting by one of those child predator catcher trick shows, wherein a grown-ass man pretends to be a 14 year old girl. When the comic begins and the pedo-looking cop describes getting in the mind of a 14 year-old, you think this strip’s about a pedophile (Todd Solondz’s twee nihilism comes to comix!) and not the media machinations that pile-on the most unsympathetic aspects of our population. It is foreshadowing the strip’s point, which if you reduce it, is perhaps a little dopey though vital—who is sicker, the society that entraps perverts to ruin their lives and puts it on TV, or the pervert?. But it is nevertheless bold and enraged and in that sense, pure Steve Albini. And man, it’s got that classic Santoro half-finished feel, like you’re being ripped off of some lines and colors, only you aren’t—it’s just that you’re used way too much big dumb effort and so, the comic’s more like a healthy, square meal and not the triple cheeseburger combo that the comics world has spoiled you with. The way he draws the grainy lines of a television, eerie and tormented, indicating mood while communicating that what you’re viewing is from video tape is astounding, and there’s a comedy to the takedowns of the pedophile that’s straight outta Shaw’s Bodyworld. And illustrating the 14 year-old as faceless is both clever (because she ain’t real) and ethical (the reader can’t sexualize or project feelings onto her). Also: Airbrush! Gorgeous cheesy oddly moving airbrush! Given Santoro’s more recent strips—Blast Furnace Funnies or the ones on his Tumblr—this may seem like it’s harsh or cynical or too knowing, but it’s just another hard-assedly sincere rumination on being alive in the 2010s (brandon).