Friday, March 24, 2006

40 Days of Lent - Day Twenty-Four

Good vs. Evil Comics
Who will emerge victorious?


A special tip of the crown of thorns goes to Karl for bringing "Son of Satan" to my attention

My favorite religious comic is Justin Green's underground classic Binky Brown Meets the Holy Virgin Mary. When I first heard about it, I thought it would be a blasphemous satire on all things Catholic. "All right!" Then when I learned it was one of the first autobiographical comics and an influence on Art Spiegelman's Maus and R. Crumb, I figured it would be a tale of a Catholic childhood and a coming of age, similar to Joyce's Portrait Of The Artist As A Young Man and old George Carlin routines. The book begins that way but subtly shifts halfway through.

As a teenager, Justin Green developed an obsessive compulsive disorder, although that term did not exist in the 1950s. He thought that having his penis point in the direction of any image of the Virgin Mary was a sin. Good boys don't sully the mother of Christ with the instrument of their pubescent "dirty" thoughts. He would turn his body so that his penis was never "pointing" at her, sometimes contorting himself ridiculously in the process. A situation where he couldn't help but point at Mary brought on great anxiety.

The compulsion grew worse. Soon, it wasn't just his penis that Green would re-direct, but any phallic part of his body: fingers, toes, arms, legs, feet, nose. Imagine trying to sit in church so that all of the above body parts point away from any picture of the Blessed Mother, and freaking out when you discover that part of you was pointing at her without knowing it. These accidents would lead to lots of guilt and desperate prayers.

It sounds funny unless you the one experiencing it. The compulsion continued to expand. Green would rearrange phallic objects (pens, pencils) so that they pointed away from churches, just on the off chance they might "hit" a picture of Mary. He began to memorize the location of all churches in his neighborhood so as to avoid any accidents. Since people weren't diagnosed with OCD, Green was left to fend for himself. It was only through willpower that he was able to maintain some measure of control over his obsession. In the first edition of Binky Brown, Green is fairly caustic about a religion that caused him so much pain. But later editions show him as more appreciative of the church, now that his compulsion is in the past, although he remains non-practising to this day.

4 comments:

Mom said...

Re: Binky Brown...Most of the O/C's I worked with just had the ordinary compulsions about hand washing or ritual steps they had to take before entering or leaving a room. Thank heavens!
And, given the choice between John Paul II and "The Son of Satan," I'll put my money on JP2 anyday.
Mom

Carol said...

Would it be too much of a spoiler to tell us exactly what happens when Binky meets the BVM?

k.c. said...

in Jersey City, this condition is common.

erin said...

"He thought that having his penis point in the direction of any image of the Virgin Mary was a sin. Good boys don't sully the mother of Christ with the instrument of their pubescent "dirty" thoughts."

"Seriously, I don't know how you guys walk around with those things."
--Elane Benes.