By Tony Fitzpatrick
“The devil is only a convenient myth invented by the real malefactors of our world” —Robert Anton Wilson
Nothing makes religious types more twitchy than images of the devil. Even cartoons and caricatures make the fuckers apoplectic. It’s funny. As a kid I often drew naked devil women—it drove the nuns out of their minds. Years later, the artist Coop made himself a fortune drawing sexy, naked, porn-devil women. Needless to say, I love these. Some of them are WAY dirty and man, they are a good time. I still love drawing devils because no matter how comic or antic the image; there is still a transgressive charge that comes along with it. My art dealers used to get sweaty when I told them I was going to make some devil images. They often tell me, “But those birds you make are SO lovely.” This was their subtle way of telling me, “Devils are damn near impossible to sell, Schmuck. Make with the pretty stuff. Don’t shit on the birthday cake.”
Often I just kept drawing birds because I love drawing them and am happy to do so. But still I’d keep a private stash of devil images just because they made me happy.
A lot of this is from my Catholic upbringing—the taboo of devils, naked women, skulls, dripping blood—I couldn’t WAIT to draw this stuff as a kid, because it so upset everyone in a position of authority. I felt like making these images was my hammer and nails against the assholes—teachers, bosses and perhaps the biggest ass-clowns: guidance counselors. One counselor tried to talk me into joining the army when I was a junior in high school—he advised I quit school because I hated it—and join the armed services. I advised him to go pound sand up his ass and got suspended for three days. Three days of no school. Wow. Hurt me. Boo-Hoo.
My friend, Monte Beauchamp, published a beautiful book of Krampus images not long ago. Krampus also has horns, hooves, a long-ass tongue and a pointed tail, just like a devil. But is not a devil. Krampus was the messenger sent to rotten little kids in an effort to get them to straighten the fuck up so Santa Claus would bring them presents. You could have fooled me. The Krampus images are some genuinely scary shit; more devilish than the devils I’d ever seen before. As lighthearted as a lot of the Krampus images are supposed to be, they are extraordinarily visceral.
In America, a lot of our politics have been hijacked by the religious right. Devil images make them nuts. In fact, three young men in West Memphis went to prison because they were thought to be “devil worshippers.” They were accused of the notorious child murders of three little boys as part of a “satanic ritual.” The community was lathered into a righteous religious froth, and three young men lost eighteen years of their lives. There was next to no evidence, other than that they had been pegged as Satanists, mainly by the other prime suspect in the murders, a disturbo who kept showing up in the documentaries knowing way too much. The men were finally released in the last year. It’s amazing what kind of havoc a few pentagrams and a Megadeath T-shirt can cause. It took three documentaries and endless appeals to free these guys.
The religious right ought to be grateful for the devil. He is their catch-all. All of the evil these fucktards perpetrate on women, gays, the poor, the working class and immigrants is of no real concern to them. But let one of them get caught in a gay tryst or with a hooker or pulling their own cheeks apart for a lobbyist… and whoa, the waterworks start. The being-bamboozled-by-the-devil narrative goes into full flower.
It is always the devil disguised as a wad of cash, a young woman or, in the case of some Republicans, a young guy, a golf junket. The devil is always disguised as an intern trying to blow you or making you take cell-phone pictures of your dick and tweeting them to congressional pages. Then they cry like bitches on TV and get all up in Jesus’ crevices. These fuckers only have one play in their book: That devil—he sure is a slippery fish.
Me and my artist friends used to make jokes about making a whole body of “nice guy” devil pictures. Drawings of devils helping old ladies across the street, getting cats out of trees, being crossing guards and even the devil changing a flat tire for Jesus.
Flip the whole Christian mythology on its nut sack and piss off the religious drool cases.
When I was in third grade (the first time), the nun would watch me like a hawk while I drew during art class. She was always lurking like a carrion bird, waiting for me to draw something objectionable. I never kept her waiting long. The crowning achievement was a drawing of her giant melon in the talons of a harpy eagle. It was actually the first time I’d gotten a REALLY good likeness. When she saw her big sweaty head being carried off by a HORNED eagle, she went mental.
She ratted me out to my mom and suggested I be taken to a shrink. I remember going to Loyola. The door said “Psychotherapy,” and I asked my mother who was getting their head examined—Her or me? The shrink was a nice guy who liked comics and listened to me vent my spleen about the nun. At the end of my session, he told my mother I had an immense imagination and that it might get me in a LOT of trouble in the short term. But in the long haul, it would serve me well. Then he told her, “What I’d really like… is to get that nun in here.”