Sunday, September 30, 2012

Why Tarzan Matters...

Here's an essay I wrote a few months ago about Tarzan:

As a fictional character, Tarzan stands in stark contrast against modern Man.  Whereas Tarzan is fully integrated into the natural world of the Jungle, today's man only sees it from afar, as if through the wrong end of a microscope, as something outside himself, to be studied and probed with his Intellect and judged by his ego for whatever technological or monetary profits it may yield.

Authentic feral children have not as yet displayed many of the character traits of Edgar Rice Burroughs' Tarzan, although we cannot be absolutely sure due to their apparent limitations of language and therefore thought.  But it has been shown that they live fairly effortlessly in Nature compared to us, oblivious, for example, to our arguably paranoid notions about shelter and cold. 

Amazonian tribes today who have been insulated from modern civilization, and some Australian Aborigines, for example, function within their environments and know its flora and fauna intimately.  In comparison, we  know something about the flora in our gut only as it relates to our health and therefore our ability to contribute to the prevailing economic system, and we understand in generalities a few things about the Earth's lifeforms as they appear on the other side of the glass of our video screens.  But as a rule we live in a severe state of near-complete  disconnection from other lifeforms.

What we have failed to understand, or even feel, is that Nature does not stop at the edge of a TV screen, or at the outlying parts of our bodies, because Nature is our bodies.  And we deny this truth at our own peril.  Ours is an age of chronic ill-health, and everyone knows someone who suffers from its characteristic ailments: high blood pressure, diabetes, cancer, obesity, depression and so on.  Could Tarzan ever be "depressed"? 

Certainly Tarzan had emotions and could feel sadness and loss, but to create depression he would have to become a full-time astronaut completely disconnected from the Earth--exactly what we have become through our technologically-based lifestyles.  And why so much illness, and so little cure?  What is at the core of this epidemic of sickness that grows and grows no matter how much money and science we hurl at it?  And how can a fictional character almost 100 years old realistically help us?  Is Tarzan today obsolete--as ridiculous a figure as George of the Jungle?

Today, our predicament is that we become sick because we deny ourselves, our core natures, as a part of greater Nature.  When we use electric lights to artificially extend the length of the day, our minds may know it is night, but our bodies--and our endocrine systems and other light-sensitive cellular machineries--think that the longer days mean Summer.  And what is typically mammalian behavior in Summer?  To gorge on as much carbohydrates and sugars as possible to put on fat for the coming Winter. 

But today, for us, that "Winter" never comes, but the gorging goes on unabated year-round.  Grocery stores sell "low-fat" foods which still make us fat due to their high carb/sugar content.  A bear, for example, ready for hibernation, exhibits all the symptomology of modern man's ill health: high blood pressure, high cholesterol, pre-cancerous tissues, obesity, stress, depression and so on.  These "feast" traits all vanish after the "famine" of Winter, and the animal is healthy once more and ready to begin the cycle again.

We also are animals, and it is informative that animals in Nature do not get get cancer or diabetes, and they don't need to eat "low-fat" or jog to "keep their heart-rates up".  But our animals, our pets and most livestock, do get our diseases--and why?  Because they live with us, eat our food, and bask in our artificially long days.

Most if not all these problems can be solved by re-synchronizing our bodies with the Sun, waking and sleeping within the day-night cycle, and cutting out most carbohydrates and sugars. That is, eating and behaving like cavemen, or more singularly, like Tarzans. 

The other option is to continue on our present course of disconnection and sickness, in which the human organism basically evolves into a new form, a form that cannot connect with the natural world, cannot feed properly and cannot reproduce, because it is converting to a state of deadness.  Because, when Nature has no need for an animal, it kills it.  And the Nature in our bodies has decided that we are no longer necessary to it/ourselves and therefore we must die.

And we are doing all we can to help the process along.

My own experience with Tarzan started long ago with a Sunday afternoon movie on television in the mid-1960s.  I remember African natives being lashed to tied-down trees and then being torn in half alive as the ropes were cut and the bent-over trees released.  As a child I squirmed over that crotch-ripping horror.  But my next exposure was far more sedate--an abridged version of Tarzan of the Apes as published by the Whitman company.  I read it voraciously and spent hours studying its colorfully green cover artwork with its idealization of Tarzan, who I thought resembled my father only with hair on top.

Most recently I re-read Irwin Porges' entire Edgar Rice Burroughs biography and Phillip Jose Farmer's excellent Tarzan Alive.  With both of these books and some of the preceding elements of this essay in mind I dove into the green "jungle" of South Carolina for a two-and-a-half month vacation, spending as much time as possible synchronized with the Sun and Moon, living on "caveman" food like nuts, berries, fruit and meat, sleeping in a cave (my van) and wandering the river's edge in the heat.

What I found out there, alone and solitary like a real-life Tarzan, was an experience that didn't require
words or intellectual explanation; as I watched groups of buzzards scouring the shores for food, I saw
them not as part of a Wild Kingdom TV program but respectfully as my competitors for a limited food supply.  Animals like butterflies and baby turtles that were not in competition were seen with wonder and reverence, and like the plant life all around, not as separate selves but as all as part of a tapestry of Life at which I was the thoughtful and meditative center. 

Even as I later returned North to Wisconsin to reunite with my wife and children, driving hungrily past horrid and garish fast-food restaurants on the highway, I began instinctively looking at birds, possible fish in rivers, and even roadkill as sustenance.  At rest stops I saw people's pets and wanted to eat them.  I was returning to the Winter Land of the North, like some sun-browned Ice-Age cave man back from the hunt carrying nourishment for his family.

But while I was in those hot jungles of the South, where not another living man or woman was in sight, at those times I felt--and I could only express it in one way--that I was Tarzan.

My personal feeling is that Tarzan as a character needs to be put to rest, not only because he is so incredibly irrelevant today, but also so that new creations can fill the space he's occupying.  At this point, he is little more than a distraction, and a warm-and-fuzzy experience for fandomites which they grasp at over and over again trying to recapture some lost original thrill which now is forever gone.  It has become a meaningless, repetitive gesture.

My essay, Why Tarzan Matters, was, I felt, about the only authentically important thing that can be said about the character.  I predict that most Burroughs enthusiasts will likely find little use for it.

Tarzan was a picture of health but his followers are lingering.


Thursday, September 20, 2012

The Hero of Our Story...

I've had some acute insights lately about women, sex and porn, and this is from someone not only with an addictive personality but also who's been disconnecting from a porn addiction that goes way back to around 1970.  But Porn is something we don't talk about, isn't it?  For such a huge problem in our culture, the silence is deafening.

In America you're catered to at every turn with some well-marketed and potentially-addictive substance (or idea, or image) that will float your boat and help get you through the day.  Or so the unspoken claim goes.  Sure, have 5 teaspoons of sugar in a soda, or a cigarette, or some alcohol or drugs or porn.  Even if you ain't online at this very second, just looking-over a woman in public can imitate the porn rush.  And so fantasy spreads into reality.

In light of all these recent observations I've had not only deal with my own demons but also make decisions about my own work and its effects on the small society of comic art fans.  That's all lower-case, of course.  I've written extensively in the Orb books about the ill-health of the field, mainly its lack of ethics and derivative themes concerning sex and violence.

Getting away with brutality via trickery of human-shaped mannikens.

At any rate, after peddling thousands of titillating artworks over the years, and basically having been forced to by the marketplace in order to survive financially, I've modified my own work in terms of the sexuality in it.  To some the alterations might seem slight, but apparently to others they are simply not acceptable.  Recently, the following message arrived here via eBay's "ask seller a question":


I think Mike Hoffman is equally or more talented a draftsman than the inimitable Frank Frazetta, but here his execution is indolent, and he is obviously very bored and uninspired. I see mediocre women built like this drawing ALL DAY LONG.

When I buy fantasy art, (especially women) I want her body to be fantastical, waist tapered to near impossibility, manly or at least androgynous at the shoulders and tits reaching out to the heavens, but ALWAYS pretty!!. C'mon Mike, get your ass out to the titty bars again, buy some shots and get some lap dances and reconnect with what you do best, GODDESSES!!!

Hoffman is technically as good or better a draftsman than Frazetta, but currently waaaaaaay less motivated and executes lines with a lot less testosterone. I love your art and I own lots of it so get fired up again Mike with effeminate, physical surreality, please. Reality is boring enough.

Always, an objective fan (and collector).

And my reply?

Welcome to Reality.

This communication has reassured me that I am on the right track, as the irritation displayed by this person clearly shows that I am no longer adequately supporting his fantasy with my artwork.  In fact, I'm an utter failure in doing so.

 The uncooperative artwork in question.

Perhaps no one will wonder about the actual "personality" of Vampirella as depicted above, her likes/dislikes, her past relationships, her parents or her Astrological sign, but clearly the further we move toward a complete picture of any particular individual woman the less we objectify women as a whole.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Original Origins...

I don't post here much anymore, what with most people hogging Facebook all day long there doesn't seem much point.  Also, while I'm not running out of thoughts, I'm running out of the drive to communicate them.  And no one's really asking what happened to all the talking, either.  So?

Anyway, there's a new ORB book out, which hasn't been available long enough to make any waves, but probably it will sometime and certain folks will think I've lost my mind.  Why?  Because one of the articles concerns my experiences with extra-dimensional beings I call "The Blue People".  The Universe is a lot bigger than most may think, but I know now that it stretches infinitely in all directions, some we haven't imagined. But you can handle infinity, right?

The newest edition.

Other essays discuss the sad state of Comics and our culture, but who wants to hear about that?  More fun just to stay addicted to the electro-gizmos (smart phones/dumb people), continue chasing after increasingly elusive "warm and fuzzy" (or banal & fluffy) experiences, like Comics, or bouncing around like a freakin' pinball from the continuous din of pointless distraction on all sides.  I even went outside and sat under a tree to escape it all.

I wrote to the Rickford brothers to point out my last entry but got no reply.  Why?  I don't know.  I'm still interested in the race question, so I grabbed the book "A Modern Atlas of African History" recently and looked it over, astounded at the level of interference there by other nations.  The book is mainly maps, but imagine my surprise upon seeing the one below:

Neither you nor I are supposed to make light about the nation located between Togo and Nigeria named "Dahomey".  It is emphatically not where "da homeys" came from.  Are we clear on this?