Who cares if Shultz is dead...we've got Keane

Former Satan-worshipper and convicted serial killer Bill Keane stuns the world again with this wonderful little piece of writing. Definitely one of my favorite books and you can bet that it will certainly top FTS's list of reccomendations, this is the story of a young boy's road to death. Keane has incorporated many personal experiences into this book, making it almost autobiographical. He excels in describing young Jeffy's late night Satanic rituals; after Jeffy's father discovers these practices, Jeffy is sent to jail, where the story takes a dramatic turn, as Jeffy develops a homosexual relationship with a fellow inmate that happens to be over 20 years older than him. The final scene is one of the best written pieces of literary mastership I have ever read in my life, as well as a culmination of years of suffering for Jeffy. Truly an amazing and inspired work.

However, it must be noted that 'Frightmare' was not well received by the media and in my opinion drew historic levels of misinterpretation. Bil Keane is a family cartoonist, not a pornographer or a horror writer.
Though I have never lived on the west coast, I can tell how accurate Keane's depictions are through my extensive viewing of Full House seasons 1, 2, and 4. It is clear to me that the vast majority of negative punditry centered around Keane is due to Pundits that haven't experienced the west coast, hollywood lifestyle - they are probably all from japan.

Frankly, there is nothing in the book to support Russia's argument that Keane's use of 'Not Me' consitutes some sort of solipsistic meandering. Because he is disemboweled by what is clearly the evil force in 'I Had a Frightmare', Not Me must be seen as the (non-)embodiment of the interconnectedness of identity. The very name "Not Me" mocks the consideration that identity is divisible; that identity is objective and not a social construct. This issue, of course, points the way to the heart of the questions that Keane is asking in 'Frightmare': What is reality (is life but a dream - a frightmare?)? What is morality? How much pain can a young child endure?

If the ONE IDENTITY that we all share - the Zen, the Shamanic, interconnectedness of all things - is destroyed (as it is in the modern world, Keane suggests), what are the epistemological and moral repercussions? Sicker than de Sade, more corrupt than Joe Coleman, Keane is a philosopher on par with a certain evil clown named Gacy.

Just because of all the graphic bestality you label him a pornographer; just because of all the demonic ramblings and pictorialized ritual murder you label him a horror writer. Get a life! Why are you trying to relegate such important work to somewhere outside the FAMILY domain - where we need it most? May Jeffy haunt your Frightmares.

Now, all self-respecting individuals have viewed American Psycho and thought to themselves, "why did what's-his-name put all those product names in between the good scenes?" Well, Bil Keane in 'Sing Me a Loveaby' is back again to show the literary punks how it's done; whether it's Dolly sealing up PJ's rear with a hot glue gun to hide the evidence or Mommy forcing raw hunks of still-squirming Barfy down Jeffy's throat as the rest of the coven watches, horror piles upon horror at a ridiculously relentless pace that can only presage an insanity plea at Keane's upcoming trial. Sensitive liberal-arts types, as well as Canadians, mince over this or that romantic suicide that leaves some fey scribblings to posterity: the blowtorch ferocity of Bill Keane, daring to live as he writes despite the possibility of execution or at least chemical castration, leaves weak-willed pansies in the dust in an awesomely illustrated fashion. I rate this book as a 97.63 on a 100 point scale.

In 'Daddy's Hat is on Backwards' Keane simply provides a classical retelling of the great American coming of age story. When one steps back a bit and focuses through the story, very much like a 3-D stereoscopic painting, the symbols and allusions become much clearer.

For instance, Lil' Jeffy's killing spree suddenly becomes not "random acts of violence...gruesome and inexplicable" but a brave and inevitable part of his maturation process from boy to man.

Take the disembowlment of Daddy's Hat IS ON BACKWARDS. Think about it for a moment. No I mean it, really think. Who is Backwards, and what is the Hat? The question alone echoes the first lines of Hamlet, "Who's there?" as the castle guard addresses what he thinks is the ghost of Hamlet's father and more directly is asking the very question of identity itself.

To kill, to completely and very viscerally destroy, all that is backwards is to assert that which is backwards in the clearest way possible. What Keane is doing here, as do most great authors, is bringing the intangible into tangible. By allowing Jeffy to destroy, murder and bludgeon his family, his playmates and his God he is simply illustrating the very real, but intangible process of destruction and creation that we must all go through as we create a self.

It just so happens that while on a social trip to SF to visit my ailing Nana last year associates of mine visited the wonderful Cartoon Art Museum in San Francisco (don't miss it!) where they had an outstanding collection of Keane's early works, possibly the finest state-side collection ever put together. Interestingly enough, the one panel that really stuck with them for long after they had left the exhibition was a rare unpublished strip. It featured a nude Bil Keane turning toward the reader from his drawing table, a quick glance down and the caption, "And they call me little Jeffy...". Perhaps with this look into Keane's soul "Daddy's Hat is On Backwards" more easily comes into focus.

Clearly this is a man grappling with his own rocky, but ultimately triumphant, passage through puberty. I'm just so profoundly glad that he chose to take us all along for the ride.

In Keane's 'Count Your Blessings', the reader relives the moments immiediately following a particularly lengthy free-basing session by Mommy and Daddy. A tragic moment that led little Jeffy to put crack into their pipe, leading to a predictable result. Brain damaged from impure crack, little Jeffy suffers from profoundly debilitating spirtual visions and has trouble speaking coherently. Daddy is thrown in jail for contributing to the delinquency of a minor, trafficking, theft, procurement, break and enter, and littering, and while imprisoned, is savagely and repeatedly raped by a long succession of supremely well-endowed inmates, guards, wardens, lawyers, priests, rabbis, psychiatrists, members of the media, uncles, cousins, friends, nephews, congressmen, senators, Marion Barry, Richard Pryor, John DeLorean, and George W. Bush.

This is an excellent start to Bil Keane's Gay and Lesbian Porn series. 'Count Your Blessings' is the first book in the series, and Keane has promised that if sales are encouraging, more books will come out. In the book's foreword, Keane writes:

"Ever since I first started drawing comics, I was intrigued with the idea of a gay and lesbian-porn series of comic books, but the idea was always at the back of my mind. My wife was always enthusiastic about the idea, but whether it was laziness or fear of its rejection, I just never started. But recently when my kids joined with my wife in pushing me to draw some porn, I thought, 'What the hell, people are much more liberal these days, I'll give it a shot.' And so, after three or four snifters of cognac, I got out my pencils and papers and set to work. I hope you won't be disappointed."

Readers won't be disappointed if every book in the series is as good as this one. The goals of this series are to:

"1. Present gay and lesbian pornography that is tasteful, a book you wouldn't be embarrassed to read on a bus or leave on your coffee table.
2. Present safe sexual practices.
3. Present a positive message to gay and lesbian youth. It's OK to be queer.
4. Present a celebration of sexuality.
5. Present porn as a way to comment on the evils of society."

This book easily achieves all of its goals. The sex is explicit as all good pornographic comic books should be, its drawings never given to merely titillate, but are integrated gracefully with the plot, mood, characters, and motivations of the characters. And while Daddy is always brutally raped, all of the assailants always wear a condom. I've seen students at SDSU with pornographic comic book collections that exceed 16,000, and this one is easily within the top twenty per cent.

"I'll Shovel the Cards" is undeniable proof that Keane is thegreatest artist/author alive today. The title alone had me hyperventilating with raucous laughter for I don't know how long. This book, like all of Keane's work, whisks me away to a magical place, where I like to pretend that I am Jeffy, and I endlessly relive the timeless comic in which Jeffy reveals to Dolly that he doesn't like to kiss Daddy on Saturday morning because Daddy's face is scratchy. How true that is! It's as if Keane has some technologically advanced cloak of invisibility, and moved undetected about my home during my childhood -- every comic is a literal reenactment of a scene from my early youth!

Guys, this is an essential buy. Before "I'll Shovel the Cards" I was a nobody, a loser, a lonely, pathetic man with no one to hold me. Now, by simply repeating "I'll Shovel the Cards" puns at strategic moments in bars or at bus stops, I have become every woman's treasure. What a blessing this book has been. I give this literary triumph 25 stars!

4612 individuals do not accept Bil Keane as an individual, but more importantly, a human being.
Does Jeffy's life parallel yours?

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