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Artistic Expression Post-2015

Somewhere between Trump’s announcement of running for president and the COVID shutdowns in 2020, I started wondering who the artists would be who would guide us through the tumultuous times. I thought back to musicians, filmmakers, TV writers, painters, and yes, comic book creators who helped the country navigate through other significant events in modern history. I waited, and waited, and it seemed like we had just become too fragmented for any one thing to take hold. I found inspiration while attending the Women’s March in D.C. after Trump’s inauguration, powerful images created out of the trauma of babies and children separated from their families at the border and many of us watched over and over again the music video of Childish Gambino who demonstrated This is America. Each time there was a new mass shooting, or as the death toll from police killing black people continued to rise, I would think, where are the artists who are going to help guide us through this?

It never really seemed to happen the way I had expected. As a kid, I watched countless TV episodes and films around the horrors of the Viet Nam war, the dangers of unchecked capitalism, the inspiration and collaboration of space exploration, grunge music that told elites to go fuck themselves. I don’t know how much of those works actually changed anything, but they had an impact on my young mind. The elites still haven’t given control to GenX and it looks as though we might be skipped over by the time they finally die off or retire. I do think that images of the horrors we’ve experienced as a nation have led to some degree of change. A recent example involve the video of George Floyd’s murder that sparked a movement that have led to at least some police reform, more than has ever happened before at least. Images are powerful and can shift public opinion on a topic. It’s why I suspect that the Bush II Administration prevented images of flag draped coffins from being shown as they were delivered back to the U.S. It’s why images were prevented from immigration centers during the Trump Administration. If people saw the horrors, they might actually try to change things. I suspect it’s why we don’t see many images related to the mass shootings that take place around the country on a near daily basis. You might wonder where I’m going with this…

Where is the art that is going to put all of this into context for us?! When are things going to start making even incremental improvements again? We’ve all been so beat down and exhausted, torn apart by death from COVID and the misinformation swirling about every topic these days, and we no longer have the same shared experiences as a nation that we once did when there were only a few channels to watch and we all got our news from mostly the same sources. We will never again have a single national experience that we can connect to. I had hoped this would be different with COVID and that we would once again share a connection through tragic circumstances of over a million lost American lives to a largely preventable illness. We didn’t. People still can’t go out into public because they will be put at risk due to the fragility of their health or other impairment.

It’s too much to ask that we help take care of each other anymore. It’s going to take more than a single image or a folk anthem to bring everyone together again, if it’s even possible. I suspect more and more that it is not. Well, we now live in a world where AI is also creating art, but the thing about AI is that it’s predictable, it’s not necessarily insightful in anyway. Its programming doesn’t allow for that. By its very nature it is supposed to provide the most predictable outcome based on the prompts it is fed.

Some people like the security provided by predictability. I take a harsher view of that, kind of like Frank Herbert did when he wrote, “And always, he fought the temptation to choose a clear, safe course, warning ‘That path leads ever down into stagnation.” If we allow AI to guide us, we stagnate and eventually die. We must keep evolving. We can let AI perform the easy tasks, but it’s up to us to perform the hard ones. Something is going to have to break us out of this monotonous funk we’re in, because the machines aren’t going to do it for us!

I write this because I am ready for an explosion of creativity and art. When I saw Everything Everywhere All at Once, I felt like it was finally starting to happen. I want to be a part of that. With Dolorem, I hope to achieve something new, something inspiring, something unpredictable that entertains while it teaches us something about ourselves and our experiences.

Supporting this book means supporting the idea that artistic expressions matters; that they connect us and allow us to build community. In about a month, we’ll be releasing the first issue in its entirety. I have the first four issues written and plots planned out for the next ten after that. I’ve met a lot of great people throughout this journey already, through our soon to be successful Kickstarter campaign, to other creators on Twitter. I know that there is a place for this story and I’m so happy that you’ve come along for the ride with us as we continue to create.

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