The entirely new re-mastered edition of OINK being published by Dark Horse Comics this month and is flying to stores shortly. I wanted to take this opportunity to explain the deeper meaning of the book. OINK has hung around somehow for 20 years, people have sought me out and remember the book fondly. When people contact me and express that the book was important to them it always surprises me. The reasons for that is the story was deeply personal for me, so I didn't really get how it could relate to someone else in that kind of way…but it has. I think there is an honesty in the book that is hard to come by in entertainment these days. In 1992 I was fairly fresh out of high school and these feelings I had about it were very raw to me. I was really angry and a lot of that comes out in this story. When I decided to re-master it 20 years later it was important that I leave that 'angst' intact. I wasn't going to de-claw it for the sake of commercialism and I felt like I would be doing a disservice to the original if I got too heavy handed with it. I did make changes but they were mostly janitorial to focus the story more on the main theme and reinforce what the story was actually about…education...or lack thereof.
I am the lucky pig who fell off the truck, ran for the fences and escaped. OINK is a survivor story and it is my testimonial and indictment of the public education system. The story of OINK is the story of my personal journey through that system, it’s also about how I overcame it, eventually finding my own version of Heaven. You might be wondering if I burned stuff down and killed stuff to do that…no, but I did burn down and destroy all the negative and false beliefs I had about myself and what they attempted to teach me in that institution…most importantly that I wasn't a stupid, below average, failure at 18. It wasn't until I did that I was able to have this vision for my life as an artist, the person I was always pretty sure I was before I was institutionalized in the PS system for 12 years.
OINK is rife with religious imagery, but OINK is not really an indictment of religion…the allegory for me was more about institutions and the quid pro quo of achievements as the gate keeper to all your hopes and dreams...of Heaven. In the story you could almost swap the word Heaven whenever you see it for America and the allegory will read more clearly.
OINK’s escape into Heaven was my graduation from the institution and the realization that the real world was nothing like what I was told it would be. The characters in OINK are actually people who were either helpful or hurtful toward my own journey escaping the slaughterhouse. The character Mary was my 9th grade English teacher Mrs. Christian who gave me 1984 and Animal Farm ironically this was required reading way back in 1984...maximum irony! Judas and his gang were the collective bullies who preyed on the weak. The villain Bacaar was my guidance Counselor who told me I could never survive as an artist. She showed me charts and graphs that were meant to prove that being an artist would be my undoing.
The character Spigot was no particular person. Where I grew up we had a really high number of deaths amongst our student body. Most were alcohol related car-wrecks but there was an unusually high number of deaths while I was in high school. Along with that body count there were so many kids that seemed to hold so much promise that were cut down mentally in the system…you know punished suspended for fighting, just troubled kids this system was not elevating. The system was just ‘sorting’ them for slaughter into modern life. It’s wrong and it’s vile, and we can do better today. Spigot’s crucifixion represents them.
The Butcher in the story was my dad, I think like a lot of young guys I clashed with my dad at that all important age of 17. We fought over everything, especially the idea of me going to Art School, the idea of me leaving my small town. The fight in the book with this character was about overcoming my father’s vision for my life and striking out on my own regardless of his warnings and expectations. We are the best of friends now and I'm thankful he challenged me on my ambitions and ideas. We never fought physically...just like I never burned down any buildings or killed anybody, haha. I think every kid who struggles, who doesn't fit the very narrow mold goes through this. We spend most of our young lives feeling like failures, like we're not measuring up to the super-narrow standards of success which are reinforced day-in-day-out at the institution...athletic, good grades, good looking...whatever it is. I think about that whole manufactured education system that was apparently built for 'my' wellbeing and the purpose of learning and conceptually these institutions are one of the worst collective ideas in modern history akin to insane asylums and factory farming.
With all this said I’m really hopeful about the future of education. I feel change is coming in the form of online education, getting kids out of these prison-like structures and into one room classrooms with a small capable staff of teachers mentoring a curriculum taught by the brightest minds the world has to offer. I believe this idea is going to happen in my lifetime because the education system is abhorrently expensive and has terrible performance....things like that cannot last in this day and age. Education I think is the next great frontier, more localized free-market choices, affordable choices on how to educate kids. I want to thank those teachers who did find time to help me along my own journey. My experience was terrible, but the teachers are what made the it bearable. Keep the teachers and innovate the delivery method.
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