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There Is Absolutely No Excuse for Image Comics’ Divided States of Hysteria Hate Crime Cover

Trigger Warning: Discussion of graphic violence, sexual violence, and racism

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We’ve written about Image Comic’s The Divided States of Hysteria series by writer/artist Howard Chaykin before, and their damaging portrayal of violence towards a trans woman. This particular issue happened during Pride month, and in a political moment that’s hugely hostile towards trans bodies. While we’ve never shied away from addressing issues that happen in real life, that makes it even more important that these topics are addressed with sensitivity, something the issue lacked.

Which brings us to the cover for issue #4, which continues this terrifying pattern of violence towards marginalized bodies as spectacle. I won’t put the cover in this post, because I honestly still feel physically ill from seeing it, and because it is hugely triggering. Every time I go back to the image for this article, I feel like I’m being punched in the stomach.

The cover depicts a Pakistani man being lynched, his pants down with his genitals mutilated, and a name tag with the slur “Paki” on it. You can see it here, but I don’t recommend it. This image is wrong for so, so many reasons. As a cover, it’s hugely triggering and at a time when brown men are literally being attacked in streets, it’s blatantly disrespectful. It’s neither “provocative” nor “edgy,” and if you think brown people need a reminder that the nation is actively hostile towards them, please take all the seats.

What purpose does this cover serve? Who is benefitting from it? Brown pain is not consumption for white eyes, and this image does significantly more harm than good. No one criticizing the cover believes that these kinds of topics are off-limits for comic creators, but there’s a hugely exploitative element to this art and a complete disregard for comic readers of color. Most horrifyingly, it replicates a very dangerous tendency within media to use public violence as a means of enforcing white supremacy, intentional or not.

If you’re brown person, it’s a reminder of the hate and terror that surround your everyday life. It brings nothing profound to your understanding of your place in the U.S. Instead, it instills fear—the whole purpose of lynching. Lynching within the United States has always been about spectacle. Individuals went to lynchings as public events and social gatherings. Attendees took photos and there are even postcards of dead bodies amongst white crowds to commemorate these acts of public violence that often were overlooked by law enforcement. Let me repeat that again, lynching has always been about creating spectacle so people of color know their place and stay there. Way to carry on that tradition, Image.

Comic stores, don’t put this image where people are unprepared to see it. Readers, don’t read this disgusting exploitation of pain.

(image: Image Comics)

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