Challenging Taboos

Challenging Taboos

It never gets old:

Wham! Bang! Pow! Believe it or not, boys and girls, but the comic book industry has long been a battleground for freedom of speech ; starting in the 1950s with congressional hearings aimed at determining their supposed impact on rising juvenile delinquency. The publisher most heavily targeted during these witch hunts was E.C. Comics. Ultimately, the hearings resulted in the "comics' code" which basically sucked all creativity and intelligence out of the medium. Throughout comics' history there have been those who opposed the code ? mainly the underground era of the sixties and seventies, the magazine craze of the eighties and the birth of independent and alternative comics in the nineties leading up to the present. The comics' code has now been abolished, and E.C. Comics can be read in their full, uncensored glory. I could dedicate months of columns to the extraordinary books E.C. put out, as they've contributed more to our popular culture than one can possibly share in this small space. Some of their conributions include "The Crypt Keeper" and the television show, "Tales From The Crypt," originally an E.C. comic. George Lucas has cited them as a major inspiration in his work, and they served as a launching pad for such great artists as Wally Wood and Frank Frazzetta.

As much as I love E.C. and recommend you seek out these gems, this column has, and will be, dedicated to lesser known artists and books. Which brings us to Dennis Cramer and his unique sadomasochistic epic "Mara: The Celtic Shamaness," and his own struggles regarding that wonderful First Amendment. The first thing you'll notice when reading Mara is the incredibly bizarre world she inhabits, which blends both elements of dystopian science fiction and heroic fantasy. The bulk of her adventures take place in two locations; In-City and the Wilderlands. In-City is your typical futuristic totalitarian world, everything is controlled by the government - you aren't even allowed to go barefoot, which upsets Mara to no end. This is as good a time as any to mention that, although Mara is not entirely a foot fetish book, Cramer definitely likes his feet - cute, girlish feet - and isn't afraid to express his love for them.

The Wilderlands exists as a place not yet touched by society where people have taken a fancy for primitive delights. Mara is torn in her struggle between these drastically different worlds; she has grown up in In-City but longs for the freedom of the Wilderlands.
Mara is by no means a simple series. In fact there is a glossary of terms at the beginning of each book to help you out. Cramer challenges readers to grow as his characters do. It may seem overly complicated, but Cramer has stated many times that he continues to make sacrifices to write and draw Mara for those who love her, and that is what one must do to enjoy her journey. Even though she is a character, Mara is portrayed as complex as a living breathing human being, with thoughts, desires, hopes and dreams.

Dennis Cramer never found a niche in the comic world and has virtually been exiled from its domain, driven out by constant criticism and opposition from peers and fans alike. This is in large part due to his being ahead of his time. While most adult books are centered around the simple plot of a buxom, naked girl running around, Mara does this, but with considerably smaller breasts and a purpose to her nudity. It also comes as no surprise that a character who lives from thrill to thrill and feeds on pain for her passion and will to fight would be hard pressed to be accepted in most markets let alone one driven by men in tights.

Cramer has overcome these setbacks, moving into the realm of illustrated prose which has overall been an enormous plus for the stories, as the reader is able to get a better sense of each character's internal motivation.

Why bother taking a chance on Mara? It's not for everyone as it includes graphic scenes of violence and sex, notably due to its inspiration from the works of another maverick, the Marquis De Sade. But for those who aren't afraid of a little darkness and can identify with Cramer and his character's feelings of wanting to be free in a world that still has a long way to go to get there, than you might be pleasantly surprised.

Comicbookdb: Mara: The Celtic Shamaness
Dennis Cramer aka Justine Mara Andersen

Comments available by clicking on Title Post

No comments: